Money & costs
A decent double hotel room in Kyiv will generally cost at least $100 but more likely $150. (Renting an apartment is a great alternative) A basic meal in a midrange restaurant in the capital can easily cost 150uah to 200uah ($30 to $40) per person, without drinks.
If you choose cafeteria-style eateries or spend more time in the countryside, meals can set you back as little as 20uah ($4). Furthermore, if you’re prepared to stay in unappealing former-Soviet hotels and share a communal bathroom, you can get away with paying $15 to $20 a night. Decent hotels in the countryside usually start at about $40 to $50 a night.
Museum entrance is a bargain at between 3uah (60c) and 20uah ($4) and local public transport is even cheaper at between 50 kopecks (10c) and 3uah (60c).
Long-distance transport prices have shot right up in the past few years, but they’re still quite reasonable from a visitor’s perspective. A kupe (2nd-class) train ride across the entire country will rarely set you back more than 150uah ($30). Taxi drivers will usually escalate their prices when they hear your accent, so be prepared to haggle.
One extraordinary expense that even the most independent travellers may find themselves paying for, is a car and guide to some of the more out-of-the-way places of Crimea and the Carpathians. For this, bank on a sizable $60 to $100 per day.
The Ukrainian hryvnia (usually pronounced gry-vnya instead of the correct hry-vnya, or even just greev) is divided into 100 kopecks. Coins come in denominations of one, five, 10, 25 and 50 kopecks, plus one hryvnia. Notes come in one, two, five, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200 and 500 hryvnia.
That said, there is a chronic shortage of change throughout the country, so try to give the correct money whenever you can. Be patient, too. If someone seems reluctant to give change, or asks you for more money (to make up an even sum), they’re probably genuinely out of change, rather than trying to cheat you.
In some places, particularly in Crimea, people quote prices in roubles instead of hryvnia. Don’t be confused; it’s just force of habit.
After the Orange Revolution, Ukraine dropped its strict hryvnia–US dollar peg, but the local currency has remained fairly stable at about 5uah per US dollar. Many prices, particularly for hotel rooms, continue to be listed in dollars.
Officially, you can only pay for air tickets and foreign visas in US dollars. Some hotels and travel agencies will also let you pay in dollars or euros, although they probably shouldn’t. Your change will come in hryvnia.
It’s virtually impossible to buy any hryvnia before you get to Ukraine.
Automated teller machines (ATMs) dot the landscape in Ukraine in all but the tiniest villages. Hence the best way to manage your money here is to simply take it out of your account in hryvnia. Cirrus, Plus, Visa, MasterCard/EuroCard and other global networks are all recognised. Bankomats, as ATMs are known locally, are also found in major airport terminals, hotel lobbies, central post offices and Irish pubs, as well as on the street. At Boryspil airport there are several in the arrivals hall.
Your own bank will likely charge you a small fee for taking out foreign currency; check with it before leaving home. Some ATMs also distribute US dollars.
US dollars and Russian roubles are the easiest currencies to exchange, increasingly followed by the euro. The British pound is hard to exchange, except in Kyiv and, to a lesser degree, Crimea. In western Ukraine Polish zloty, Hungarian forints and Slovak crowns are widely accepted.
Whatever currency you bring, you should ensure that it is in fairly pristine condition. Banks and currency exchange offices will not accept any old, tatty notes with rips or tears, or US dollar bills issued before 1990. Even a fold in a bill might prompt extra checks for counterfeiting.
Travellers cheques should be avoided, or be brought only as a backup. It’s relatively hard to find banks that will accept them and the process is lengthy, involving lots of paperwork.
If you must use them, take Thomas Cook, American Express or Visa cheques in US dollars. Cheque-friendly establishments include branches of the nationwide chains Raiffeisen Bank Aval or UKRExim Bank. Expect to pay 2% commission.