Ukraine is filled with the most beautiful architecture, delicious food and the most stunning sights, no wonder it quickly became one of our favourite countries in Europe. And while it might seem challenging at first, getting around Ukraine is easy, comfortable and affordable, as long as you know where to go! As a foreign public transport system can seem a bit daunting and confusing at first we have tried our utmost best to write down everything we know about getting around Ukraine. From taking the train, booking train tickets online, knowing how to read your train ticket, finding your bus at the bus station, to public transport within the city, we have tried to explain it all. Book a seat in second class, take an overnight train in Platzkart, or find yourself in a bus on a bumpy road, in the end it is all part of the journey. So without further ado, let’s start with one of the best ways to get around Ukraine: taking the train.
Train Travel in Ukraine
Traveling by train is one of the easiest, fastest, and most comfortable ways to get around Ukraine. Not only does Ukraine have an extensive train network, it is also extremely affordable, making it a great option for those who are traveling Ukraine on a budget. However, taking a train in a foreign country can be a bit confusing, and perhaps even a bit daunting, but don’t worry we have got you covered. After having taken numerous trains in Ukraine, including third, second and first class, we have created a step by step guide for you from picking your carriage class, to buying train tickets, to how to actually find your seat/bed in the train. So without further ado, let’s start with step 1: picking your carriage class.
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Carriage Classes in Ukrainian Trains
There are a large variety of trains available in Ukraine, from sleepers to basic seater trains, to full on luxury trains with AC, it truly can be an adventure traveling around Ukraine. We took a large variety of trains, first class sleeper and seater to the more affordable third class sleeper and second class seats, in the end no matter what class, we just simply loved every single minute of it!
Sleeper trains: For almost every train ride you will have the option of picking between three classes. We took a third class sleeper train as well as a first class overnight train when traveling Ukraine. However, officially the classes have a different name in Ukraine, so to make sure you have all info we have explained them a bit below:
- ПлацкартП – Platzkart, or Berth (B) in English, which is considered the third class sleeper class in Ukraine. The Platzkart is a carriage that is completely open, with on one side open compartments with 4 beds (2 bunk beds on each side) and 2 more beds across the other side of the isle. You will find Platzkart trains available on almost every long distance ride.
- Купе – Kupe, or Compartment (C) in English, is what often is considered the second class sleeper in Ukraine. Here the carriage is divided into closed compartments, each having 4 beds (2 bunk beds) inside. This is the only style we did not take during our travels in Ukraine.
- Люкс – Lyux or De Luxe (L) in English, sometimes also called SV or SW, is what is considered a first class sleeper in Ukraine, which is a great option for those who are traveling with a friend or a partner, but also the most expensive option. Here the carriage is divided into compartments with each having two beds (one on each side).
No matter what class you pick you will be provided with a thin mattress, a pillow and a blanket. These are often stored below or above your bed (as you can see in the photo below) and on top of that you will also be given a pack of clean linen for your bed. When we entered our first class sleeper our bed had been made for us, in third class we were simply given a pack of linen after the train had left the station. You will find extra storage space below the bottom seats as well, as you can see in the photo below!
Seater Trains: Besides the sleeper trains we also took a variety of seater trains. We took two modern express day trains, also known as IC+, which was our preferred way of traveling around Ukraine as you get to enjoy the views during the day. The express trains are currently mainly running between cities from and to Kiev (if we are not mistaken) on for example routes such as Lviv – Kiev and Kharkiv – Kiev. When booking an IC+ train you can pick between first and second class seats, however, besides slightly bigger seats and slightly more leg space we barely noticed any differences! We also took a non express train between Rivne and Lviv, which was set up in a 3 + 3 seating arrangement (on both sides) that were facing each other. With no AC on a very hot summer day, an overfull train, and no personal space this must have been our least favourite train ride, but in the end still very doable for the short distance it was. So now that you are all up to date on the carriage classes, let’s continue with buying a ticket for the train!
How to buy a train ticket in Ukraine online
It is now easier then ever to buy a train ticket in Ukraine as you can simply book your tickets online, all you need is some internet and a credit card and you are good to go. We have booked our tickets through two different platforms, both having some advantages and disadvantages, so let’s start by booking through the official Ukrainian Railway website.
UZ Booking: The UZ Booking website is available in English and quite easy to navigate, simply enter the date, departure station and arrival station and you will see the available trains. The available trains will show you the route, departure and arrival time, and the available seats/beds. You will also be able to see the different classes here as we discussed above S1 and S2 for seats and L, C and B for the different classes of sleeper options. You now simply pick your preferred class and will be redirected to a screen where you can pick your seats. Upon picking your seats the price of the tickets will be displayed, not happy with the price? Simply try a different train to see if you can find a better deal!
Omio: Omio has been our preferred option of booking trains in Ukraine, mainly due to the fact that our credit card did not always like that we were using the UZ Booking website. The main advantage about using Omio is that they will show you the price of the lowest class per train so in a quick glance you can see exactly how much you can expect to pay for your journey. When selecting your preferred route you will be able to upgrade your seat or bed should this still be available. The only disadvantage of using Omio is not having the option of picking your own seats or beds, something that the UZ Booking website does allow.
In the end both websites have worked great for us and I am sure there might even be other booking websites out there which we have not tried. In the end both website have sent us our tickets directly to our email inbox in PDF form, a quick and convenient option. We had printed our tickets for all our journeys, which we do strongly advise. Be sure to check if there is a QR code on your ticket (like the example below), if there isn’t, then you might have simply received a booking confirmation, meaning that you will have to exchange your confirmation for an actual ticket at the train station.
How to read your ticket & find your seat in the train
So now that you have received your ticket in your inbox, the journey to your next destination can begin. But you might have realised that your ticket is in Ukrainian, making it slightly harder to figure out what it all means. So to make it a bit easier for you we have highlighted the most important info for you in one of our tickets below. When entering the train station simply go to the main hall to find the board of departures, using your train number, departure time and destination you will be able to locate the platform of the train.
Once the train arrives, have a look at either the front of the train (those with electric signs) or the signs on the side of the trains right next to the doors of the wagons (older trains) where you will be able to see the final destination of the train and the train number, this will help you to make sure you are getting on the right train. There will also be a sign right next to the door, may it be electronic or a simple paper sign, displaying the wagon number so you can easily find your seat and don’t have to wander through the whole train. Now simply show your ticket to the train attendant (often with your passport) and go find your seat inside, your journey can begin!
Taking the Bus in Ukraine
Another way of getting around Ukraine is by taking the bus, however, we would personally keep bus rides just for the shorter journeys as it isn’t the most comfortable way of getting around the country, but they are a great option for going places where the train doesn’t go. The roads in Ukraine are not of the greatest quality meaning that you will almost always be guaranteed a bumpy ride. We never took any larger buses in Ukraine and always seemed to end up in the smaller mini buses, but should you have any experience with long distance larger tour buses be sure to share your experience with us in the comment section down below!
Buying a bus ticket in Ukraine
Buying a bus ticket in Ukraine is not as straight forward as buying a train ticket. While there are several websites available that sell tickets, we ended up buying them at the bus station a day in advance to make sure we had the right ticket and would be sure we would have a seat on the bus. If you are planning to buy a ticket at the bus station we highly recommend checking out the bus schedule beforehand here. This website also allows you to buy bus tickets for the select number of destinations that are available on here, something we haven’t tried out ourselves yet. Should you go and buy the bus tickets in person then don’t forget to write down on a piece of paper the date, time and the destination you want to go to, preferably in Ukrainian to make it a bit easier when purchasing the ticket at the bus station.
Tip: download the offline Google Translate App so you can easily translate what ticket you need! This is what we did and it worked like a charm.
Should there be no ticket office available, perhaps because you are in a smaller city, then it isn’t uncommon to just pay the driver directly. Just look for the signs on the bus to find the right bus and pay the driver, this is what we did when we went to the tunnel of love from Rivne. Be sure to know your destination in Ukrainian, as signs on buses are almost always solely written in the Cyrillic alphabet.
Finding your bus
Bus stations in Ukraine can be chaotic and quite overwhelming, so make sure you ask at the ticket office which platform your bus is scheduled to depart from (if there are platforms). Be a bit earlier to give yourself some time to find your bus. Should you have any luggage with you then it isn’t uncommon to pay extra for this, on our bus ride from Odessa to Tiraspol it was 30 UAH per bag (±$1.20), so make sure to have some small cash handy. Now just head on inside and enjoy your bumpy ride to your next destination!
Transport Within Cities
So now that you know exactly how to get from city to city, let’s discuss your transport options within the cities. No matter what city you will find yourself in, you will find that there is always an extensive and accessible public transport network available. From metro’s to trams, busses to taxis, you will see it all. No matter what form of public transport you take, be sure to have some small cash handy, as credit and debit cards are not yet widely accepted every where. So without further ado, let’s discuss a bit what to expect within the cities of Ukraine.
Larger cities often have a metro system available, which is one of the quickest ways to get around the city and our preferred way of traveling within the city. We used the metro system in both Kiev and Kharkiv, and for both metro systems tickets were 8 UAH (±$0.30) per ride, no matter how many stops you take. Tickets can be bought at the metro stations, and at some metro stations in Kiev you could sometimes even simply “tap and go” with your credit card. What might be interesting is that you can find the deepest metro station in the world in Kiev, something you definitely should add to your Kiev itinerary. Moreover, for those who are big Soviet architecture lovers you might want to add exploring the metro stations of Kharkiv to your Ukraine itinerary as here you will find some of the most beautiful Soviet style metro stations of the country!
Trams & (Trolley) Buses
In many larger cities such as Kiev, Lviv and Kharkiv you will also find trams and (trolley) buses available almost everywhere, another great and affordable way to get around the city. Tickets for trams and buses can be bought from the conductor/driver in the vehicle itself or often from from a kiosk nearby as well. Ticket prices range between 5 UAH ($0.20) to 8 UAH ($0.30) per ride. This ticket won’t allow you to change trams or buses, you will simply have to buy a new one for the next ride. However, don’t forget to “punch” your ticket after purchasing or else your ticket won’t be valid and if checked you might be fined.
We took the tram in Lviv many times as it was one of the easiest ways to get around the city, it is quick, affordable and convenient and compared to taking the metro you get to see a lot more of the city. We simply purchased some tickets at the kiosk and stamped them every time we took the tram, for 5 UAH this was a great way to get around the city!
Marshrutkas are, in our opinion, one of the most adventurous ways to get around the city. Marshrutkas are like shared taxis that come in the form of mini buses that are almost always completely packed, and just like regular buses have a set route with stops. We took multiple marshrutkas in Rivne, and are still not sure if we ever did it right, but ended up simply doing what all the locals were doing. Just like the other above mentioned transport modes marshrutkas have a set price, often ranging between 5 and 8 UAH, a price that you can often find displayed near the driver on a small sign. No need to buy tickets here, you simply pay the driver directly with cash. In Rivne we ended up paying the driver when leaving the bus, but we are not sure if this is common practice in every city. Should you know the golden rule be sure to tell us in the comment section down below!
Last, but definitely not least, is Uber. While technically not considered public transport, it is one that we briefly wanted to mention as it is getting more and more available in the larger cities of Ukraine. While not as affordable as public transport, it is a great way to from stations to your accommodation if you are carrying suitcases and backpacks around like us! We often ended up paying $2 – $4 per ride, a quick and still quite affordable option.
Getting Around By Public Transport in Ukraine
And there you have it, everything you need to know about getting around Ukraine by using public transport. This is just one of the many things that you should know before going to Ukraine, so be sure to check out all our other Ukraine articles as well! Have you been to Ukraine before? What was your favorite public transport mode? Tell us in the comment section down below!
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