Going to Ukraine by car? Here is some advice on how to cross the border, how to refuel, what the speed limits are, and other tips about driving in Ukraine – you can find all this information in this article.
Honestly, driving in Ukraine is far from easy. You can enjoy landscapes of the endless fields and good food on your stops. At the same time, you’ll have to withstand potholes – the condition of the roads leaves much to be desired.
Several times a year I drive across the country from west to east. If you are up to something like this, I’ll try to help you with some useful information and common driving expressions. So if you are not fainthearted, get ready for such a challenge as driving in Ukraine.
How to cross a border to Ukraine by car
You can cross the border with Ukraine by car in 100 border crossing points, including Poland, Hungary and Slovakia. You can see all the working points on the map of the State Border Guard Service.
I would recommend avoiding very popular points such as Uzhhorod-Vyshnie Niemetske or Krakivets-Korchowa, which are usually overloaded but the traffic is quite unpredictable. The red points on the map are ones with a long queue.
After you have passed customs control of the other country, you proceed to Ukrainian customs.
- Митниця – customs
- Пункт перетину державного кордону – state border crossing point
At the checkpoint you normally take a so called талон, where a guard writes down the license plate number (номер машини) and how many people are there in a car. If you see a bit of chaos, don’t be shy to ask for advice.
First you come to the “cabin”, where you see
- паспортний контроль – passport control window.
Here you give the documents of all the passengers in a car to a customs officer.
You proceed to
- митний контроль – the custom control window.
Here the driver gives the documents, and a customs officer inspects your car.
What would you be asked at the border control?
- Куди їдете? – Where are you going?
- Що везете? – What are you carrying?
- Скільки в баку? – How much (fuel) is there in the tank?
- Скільки на одометрі? Який пробіг? – How much is there on the odometer? What is the car mileage?
- Дайте техпаспорт! – Give me a technical certificate!
- Відкрийте багажник! – Open the trunk!
- Відкрийте капот! – Open the hood!
At the last checkpoint you give your талон to a guard and can freely proceed. The guard usually says:
- Ваш талон – your coupon, please
- Щасливої дороги! – Godspeed!
In this intermediate Ukrainian Lessons Podcast episode, listen to Khrystyna’s voice message to her mom about their travel plan in Ukraine >
Driving Ukrainian roads
Ok, you’ve passed the hardest part and are already here. While driving in Ukraine please keep in mind these speed limits – обмеження швидкості:
- Dual carriageway – 110 km/hour
- H-roads (other roads, single carriageway) – 90 km/hour
- Highway – 130 km/hour
- Populated areas – 50 km/hour
Let’s talk about each type of road.
- Дорога з розділеними напрямками руху – dual carriageway
The full Ukrainian name of this road type is long and used only in traffic rules: дорога з окремими проїзними частинами, що відокремлені розділювальною смугою. But in fact, it’s simply a dual carriageway.
Sometimes these roads are called motorways. The longest are Kyiv-Chop and Kyiv-Odessa. There are two or three lines in one direction and a traffic divider.
Motorways often lead you through villages. There are no rules about how you should adjust your speed. Theoretically, you should drive at 50 km/hour since you are in a settlement, despite the way is divided from the populated area. However, many drivers settle for 60-70 km/hour while others stay at the maximum of 110. Patience is the only thing I can recommend. Slow down and be patient.
- Дорога, автомобільна дорога – H-road
There is no specific name for such roads. It’s a single carriageway.
If you travel from west to east you can probably use so called “Варшавка”, or автошлях М07 – the M07 road (“Warsaw road”). Most of the road is a well-maintained single carriageway.
But if you are going to some “province” parts of Ukraine, don’t forget to harden your nerves: potholes are really common on smaller roads. Once I even saw a rake forgotten on a way.
- Автомагістраль – highway
The only road of this type is between Kyiv and Boryspil Airport, called “Бориспільське шосе”. It’s a well maintained road with 4 lines in each direction. In traffic rules, the word “автомагістраль” is used, but in fact “Бориспільське шосе” fully covers the topic. When we talk about other countries, we use “автобан”.
- Населений пункт – populated area
If you see the white sign with a subscription, it means the settlement begins here, so reduce your speed.
The blue sign just informs you about the closest settlement, so there’s no need to change your speed.
Driving in Ukraine: At the gas station
Let’s imagine you are looking for a gas station. What is it called in Ukrainian?
- АЗС (автозаправочна станція) – literally “automobile refueling station”
You’ll see АЗС on Google maps, navigators and billboards.
- Заправка – gas station, used in spoken language.
Usually a worker would refuel your car. Here are some useful expressions:
- Бензин – gasoline
- Дизель – diesel
- Вам до повного? – Would you like a full tank?
- Скільки літрів? – How many liters?
After he fueled, and you can go pay. They normally ask:
- Яка колонка? – Which pump?
If someone cleans your windows or the license plate, he/she is probably waiting for tips. If you don’t want anybody to do any cleaning, say
- Не треба – no need.
Besides of a gas station, you might need:
- СТО (станція технічного обслуговування), технічне обслуговування – maintenance station
- Стоянка, парковка – parking area
- Шиномонтаж – tire service
- Евакуатор – tow truck
- Поліція – police
Driving in the city
So, you have arrived in the capital.
Kyiv is often “overcared”. Traffic jams (затори на дорогах) happen very often, especially on the bridges over the Dnieper. In the morning the roads are overloaded in the direction from the left bank to the right and vice versa in the evening. That’s because most business centers are situated on the right bank.
4 lines of traffic (смуги руху) on the roads in Kyiv are very usual, and when two roads join together there can be even more lines. Sometimes you find out which line you have to be on too late to take any actions. In busy traffic I recommend not to change the line in the last seconds before a crossing. Google maps and most gps-apps usually do not indicate the line you need to choose before the crossing. You could ask your passenger to help you watch the lines.
Many drivers ask what a green arrow (зелена стрілка) is. It usually points to the right. The sign means you can turn to the right if there are no cars approaching (which have the priority). Yes, even if you have a red light. If the arrow is a section on traffic lights, you have this right when it’s lit.
If it’s a sign, you always have the right.
There are exclusive lanes for public transport (громадський транспорт), marked by this sign.
If you see cars using it, the drivers are violating the traffic rules. Despite this, quite a lot of people do so. I don’t recommend this.
Водій! Звільни ліву (праву) смугу! – Driver! Stand off the left/right line!
Driving in Ukraine: Some more tips
- License – права: If you are in Ukraine for no more than 60 days, your license will be valid to drive or rent a car if your name is written by Latin letters.
- Headlights – фари: You have to switch on the headlights from 1 October till 1 May in non-rural and non-urban areas.
- Tires – шини: There’s no penalty for using summer tires in winter or vice versa because there is no specific date for tire-changing. Nevertheless there’s a penalty when driving on worn or damaged tires.
Driving in Ukraine is nothing like sitting on a coach but where else would you find such beautiful landscapes and so many adventures? If you end up getting overwhelmed, you can always pull over for a selfie in the sunflowers – соняшники – on the side of the road.
So, fuel up до повного, and go through the country.
If Kyiv is your destination, here are some ideas of what to do in the city > 5 Ideas of Things to Do in Kyiv
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