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Moving to Ukraine

This guide was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Any plans to relocate to or visit Ukraine should be put on hold until the situation is stabilised, and all embassy safety directives should be followed.


Moving to Ukraine

Ukraine is a country of contrasts, where heavy industrial areas are interspersed with surprisingly beautiful architecture and surrounded by stunning and varied natural scenery.

Decades of Stalinist rule and post-independence economic and social problems continue to leave their mark on the country. However, recent reforms and a closer working relationship with the EU mean that the outlook for Ukraine’s future is promising. 

Living in Ukraine as an expat

Economic growth has shown impressive improvements over the past decade. The country is home to established manufacturing and commodities sectors, as well as an evolving agriculture industry, all of which look to improve as trade with the European Union opens up. In addition, Ukraine boasts a growing information technology sector. 

Before the political unrest, European tourism used to be an important contributor to the economy, thanks to Ukraine's abundance of hiking, skiing, fishing and hunting opportunities, not to mention plenty of ancient castles, Soviet-era monuments, vineyards and beaches. Today, these remain compelling reasons for many expats’ moves to Ukraine.

Ukraine's capital city of Kyiv is fast becoming one of Europe's most exciting cultural hubs owed, in no small part, to the energy of the city's inhabitants who have worked hard to resist Russian influence and forge closer ties to the European Union. Now, Kyiv abounds with sophisticated cuisine, vibrant nightlife and contemporary art that all acknowledge the country’s fascinating history.

Cost of living in Ukraine

Kyiv in particular has a lot to offer and is the city chosen by most expats, but it does come with the highest cost of living in Ukraine. Still, most expats find that Kyiv is substantially less expensive than other European capitals.

Expats looking to relocate will find that housing can be particularly affordable, and healthcare is free to residents.

Expat families and children

Major structural reforms promise to only improve the standard of government services and the quality of life. This is also true for education. Expats who relocate to Ukraine with their families will discover that there are several good public Ukrainian schools, although for those who are just passing through, and who can afford it, there are also a handful of private international schools in Kyiv.

Climate in Ukraine

As is the case with many Eastern European countries, Ukraine's weather is on the chilly side. Expats should therefore be sure to bundle up well in the winter months and take care to remain inside during especially heavy snowfall.

While Ukraine isn't the most typical expat destination, those looking for a less beaten path are sure to be richly rewarded with a truly unique experience.


Fast facts

Population: About 41 million

Capital city: Kyiv

Neighbouring countries: Going clockwise, starting from the southeast, Ukraine is bordered by Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia.

Geography: Ukraine's geography is incredibly diverse, consisting of everything from plateaus and steppes to mountains and highlands. The country also has a vast southern coastline, stretching around 1,700 miles (2,700 km). 

Political system: Unitary semi-presidential constitutional republic

Major religions: Orthodox Christianity

Main language: Ukrainian, though Russian is also widely spoken.

Money: The official currency is the Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH), subdivided into 100 kopiyok. ATMs are commonplace in Ukraine, particularly in Kyiv.

Tipping: Though there isn't much of a local tipping culture, it's usually expected in areas popular with foreigners. 10 to 15 percent is the norm at restaurants, though sometimes this is already included as a charge in the bill.

Time: GMT+2 (GMT+3 during summer)

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz. Plugs have two round pins.

Internet domain: .ua 

International dialling code: +380

Emergency numbers: 112

Transport: Driving is on the right-hand side of the road in Ukraine. Expats may, however, prefer to use public transport as it is easily accessible and affordable, as well as safer than driving.

Embassy Contacts for Ukraine


Ukrainian embassies

  • Embassy of Ukraine, Washington DC, United States: +1 202 349 2948

  • Embassy of Ukraine, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7727 6312

  • Embassy of Ukraine, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 230 2961

  • Embassy of Ukraine, Canberra, Australia: +61 2 6230 5789

  • Embassy of Ukraine, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 12 460 1946

  • Embassy of Ukraine, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1 668 5189


Foreign embassies in Ukraine

  • United States Embassy, Kyiv: +380 44 521 5000

  • British Embassy, Kyiv: +380 44 490 3660

  • Canadian Embassy, Kyiv: +380 44 590 3100

  • South African Embassy, Kyiv: + 380 44 338 2602

  • Honorary Consul of Ireland, Kyiv: +380 44 279 3200

Public Holidays in Ukraine

 

2022

2023

New Year’s Day

1 January

1 January

Orthodox Christmas Day

7 January

7 January

International Women’s Day

8 March

8 March

Orthodox Easter Sunday

24 April

16 April

Orthodox Easter Monday

25 April

17 April

Labour Day

1 May

1 May

Victory Day

9 May

9 May

Orthodox Whit Sunday

12 June

4 June

Orthodox Whit Monday

13 June

5 June

Constitution Day

28 June

28 June

Independence Day

24 August

24 August

Defenders' Day

14 October

14 October

Catholic Christmas Day

25 December

25 December

Pros and Cons of Moving to Ukraine

This article was written prior to Russia's 2022 invasion of Ukraine and is therefore not reflective of the current situation. Any plans to relocate to or visit Ukraine should be put on hold until the situation is stabilised, and all embassy safety directives should be followed.


Pros and cons of moving to Ukraine

Ukraine is one of the largest countries in Europe, both in area and population. It's a country with a rich, albeit conflict-heavy, history. Things are constantly in flux as Ukraine navigates its future. The country is establishing closer ties with the European Union and reimagining itself as a cultural centre of Eastern Europe. 

Ukraine's Soviet past has given many expats the impression that it is grim-faced and gloomy, but those who stick around for a while will discover that the pros outweigh the cons in this misunderstood country. Individuals who enjoy a good challenge will find life in Ukraine to be a new and captivating adventure.


Accommodation in Ukraine

Expats moving to Ukraine will find that accommodation can be inexpensive, even in metropolitan areas. However, buying and renting property should be done with caution and possibly a lawyer, as there are frequent reports of expats being scammed.

+ PRO: Cheap housing

Compared with the rest of Europe, Ukraine has an astonishingly low cost of living, despite it becoming slightly more expensive in the larger cities.

- CON: Finding an apartment can be difficult

While it is possible to find an apartment on one's own (using online or printed classifieds), many people opt for a realtor. Realtors run the real estate game in Ukraine: some merely provide the phone number of a landlord, while others will escort house hunters to the apartment and interact on their behalf, but fees can be high. Meanwhile, Ukraine is riddled with real-estate scams that go mostly ignored by the government. Expats should be cautious and never hand over money before finding out exactly what is being offered.


Culture and lifestyle in Ukraine

Ukraine has a rich cultural history and the lifestyle of its people is characterised by good food, deep friendships and a love of nature. That said, the near constant threat of conflict is among the problems that face expats in Ukraine.

+ PRO: Captivating history, art and architecture

Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine, was founded approximately 1,400 years ago and was a major centre of cultural and political influence even into the Soviet era. Throughout the centuries, Ukraine has seen rich, global influences on the entire country's art and architecture: from the fluted domes and spires that crown Kyiv to the industrial modernism of later years.

+ PRO: Amazing food

Ukraine is making the old new again by using traditional methods to make food that appeals to the contemporary palate. Expats should try local favourites such as a steaming bowl of borscht (beet soup) with a creamy dollop of sour cream on the side. If this does not appeal, thin pancakes filled with anything from strawberry jam to garlic-fried mushrooms will hit the spot. Everything from cherry dumplings, cabbage rolls and cold summer soups to delicious honey cake is on offer.

+ PRO: Beautiful landscape

The geography of Ukraine is bewilderingly diverse, and this means there is a lot to see and do. Summertime beaches are packed with families on a fun day out and young adults looking to party. Aside from the beautiful beaches, there's a virtually unlimited supply of castles, ancient ruins and caves to explore. Meanwhile, the nighttime party circuit is legendary. 

- CON: Corruption and bureaucracy

Unfortunately, corruption is still commonplace. Police often hassle foreigners for a 'small gift'. Shady businesses operate with seemingly no repercussions. Getting anything done officially takes a lot of time, patience, and the occasional 'extra fee' for officials.


Transport in Ukraine 

+ PRO: Train travel

Getting around Ukraine is easy. While a small number of people prefer to fly or drive, most travel by rail. Trains criss-cross the country on short day trips and overnight journeys.

+ PRO: Easy access to transport

Private cars are almost prohibitively expensive on the average Ukrainian salary, so many people rely on public transport. Because of this, it's impossible to go more than 15 minutes without seeing a taxi, city bus or tram. Larger cities, such as Kyiv, have metro systems that are affordable, incredibly clean and convenient.


Cost of living in Ukraine

+ PRO: Cheap alcohol and travel abroad

Alcohol (especially locally produced beer and wine) retails in Ukraine for much less than it does in other countries. All this means that unless a huge amount of luxury is involved, a night out on the town will leave partygoers with more than enough money for breakfast the next day.

For those who have a holiday coming up, travel packages are sold at local travel agencies. All-inclusive vacations to Turkey and Egypt are hot sellers, while outbound plane tickets from Ukraine to other destinations in Europe are available at a low price.

- CON: Expensive electronics and clothing

All the newest electronic devices are available in Ukraine but at a premium. For this reason, expats often ask friends travelling abroad to bring back electronics when returning to Ukraine.

Clothing is another popular item to buy abroad because the quality of fabrics sold in Ukraine can be rather low. This can be partially avoided by buying more expensive articles, but this isn't always a sure bet.


Healthcare in Ukraine

+ PRO: Affordable medicine and healthcare

The word is getting out about healthcare in Ukraine and each year brings more medical tourists to the country. Dental work is one of the most common requests and English-speaking dentists are becoming increasingly common in large cities.

- CON: Healthcare is still ironing out some problems

While the healthcare situation in Ukraine has improved radically, some remnants of an inefficient past still remain, particularly in terms of bribery – in some cases bribes may be expected in order for patients to receive proper care.