Whether you’re thinking of coming to Ukraine for a short holiday or a longer stay like us, knowing some information about the cost of living is very helpful. In fact, if you’re looking at travelling Europe for a while or spending some time as a digital nomad, Ukraine is one of the cheapest places you can stay. So here are the facts about what it costs to live in or visit Ukraine as a foreigner. All the prices below apply to our home city – Lviv. Lviv is the second biggest and most populated city in Ukraine. Almost anywhere else will be slightly cheaper than the costs mentioned. Prices in Kiev (the capital) are a little more, but not as much as you would expect.
10 uah (hryvnia) = 30p (GBP), 50 cents (USD) or 40 cents (euro)
Rent / accommodation
Obviously, as anywhere, one of the biggest expenses in Ukraine is rent or accommodation. As far as overnight accommodation is concerned, though, you probably won’t find it cheaper anywhere else in Europe. Here in Lviv, you can easily find a decent hostel or even hotel room for about £10 per night. We stayed in a great double room in a hostel (the room could have passed for a hotel room) for that cost per night. Of course, if you don’t mind sharing a dorm, the cost is even less – as low as £7 per night.
If you’re looking at staying longer, rent is still very affordable. We’re probably taking the absolutely most expensive option – a short term rent right in the city center of Lviv. We pay £250 per month for a one bedroom flat which is literally a minute or two from everything. And let me stress that this is expensive here. If you go a short bus ride or even a walk outside the center, you could easily be paying half that.
Bills and amenities
- Mobile phone / internet
The price of a SIM and a great monthly plan here is extremely low. With KyivStar (one of the biggest providers), you can buy a SIM for 40 uah (just over £1). You can then pay monthly (no contract) to get your data, calls and texts. Our plan gives us 1.5GB of data + a small amount of calls and texts for 70 uah a month. That’s £2. As for wifi or internet, our house doesn’t have wifi so we bought a SIM from the other major mobile provider, Life:) (yes the smiley is part of the name) which gives us 8GB of data a month for 250 uah. But any regular personal mobile plan won’t cost you more than £1-3 per month.
- Electricity and water bills
In our flat (which is fairly typical), we pay a communal rate for water, gas and electricity once a month. It comes to about 140 uah for everything (£4).
- Gas / petrol / diesel
We drive, so another large expense is diesel for the car. However, it’s considerably cheaper here than anywhere else we’ve been. A litre of diesel is less than 1 euro, and we can fill our tank for about £30.
Food and drink
Food costs here vary. Almost everything is cheap with a few strange exceptions. If you mostly shop at markets you’ll get good prices on things – a loaf of bread is around 10 uah (30p), a plain cake is about the same, you can buy a bag of homemade varenyky (dumplings) for around 20 uah, a large watermelon goes for about 30 uah and so on. If you’re lucky or you know how to bargain you can get deals like a huge bag of corn for 3 uah. At supermarkets, many products are literally dirt cheap – at Auchan, you can fill a huge bag of muesli or biscuits for pennies. Some vegetables cost so little they are almost free – an onion for example is about 7 uah. Beer is exceptionally cheap – huge 2 liter bottles often sell for around 25 uah. Watch out for wine though. You can buy a bottle for less than £1 (some are around 28 uah), but it’s almost unversally awful. The cheap wine here all comes from Crimea and all the reds are sickly sweet or agressively vinegary. If you want something decent you’ll need to buy an imported one from France, Spain etc, which will cost more like £3-4. Some odd things are expensive here, like jam for example: a regular jar of jam can cost about £2-3 which here is a lot to pay for food. Decent coffee too can be expensive – you can buy Lavazza for about £2, so watch out for rip-off merchants who try to sell it for double that. Anything above 70-80 uah for a regular bag of ground coffee is way too much.
Transport and travel
Here in Lviv it’s pretty hard to travel back outside Ukraine. There are few international flights and they’re all expensive. There are also trains to major cities like Krakow, which tend to cost around £30 for such a long trip. We generally travel by car, which is more affordable here due to cheap petrol costs, but it’s not always practical. For a start, the roads can be atrocious, and border control cause you endless hassle every time you come in and out. Anyway, we rarely use public transport here, but if we do, it’s 3 uah for the bus or tram. That’s less than 10p basically. The buses are quite small and old fashioned, but the tram is better. Anyway it’s a small city and you don’t need them often.
Going out and entertainment
Obviously this varies depending on your interests and the type of places you like to hang out in.
In terms of meals out, depending on the place they can range from very cheap to middling. A dinner at a self-service place like Puzata Hata or Food Factory can be around £1.50 per person including beer and dessert. At a nicer restaurant, we easily get a massive dinner for two for ~300 uah (£10). The most expensive meal we’ve had has been sushi – I think we paid about £15 and were quite shocked.
Drinks tend to be cheap, especially beer but also wine and shots like vodka. Beer can set you back about 30 uah for a large one in a good place, or as little as 20 uah in some places.
Clubs have deals like one night a week free entry for girls. For men or on other nights, it generally costs ~100 uah for entry (~£3).
Other activities vary in price. Some can be fairly expensive by local standards but affordable for foreigners.
Overall, speaking for myself, I spend about £300 total per month, including everything. This includes our fairly high rent. So as you can see, this is a great place for budget travellers to visit. If you have any questions about practical stuff like money here, just ask in the comments!