Last Updated February, 2020
The truth is, I am connected to Ukraine in a certain way. My mother is from there, even though she doesn’t live there anymore. My grandfather does though. I also spent many months there as a child at a very young age. At some point in the past, I was thinking about moving to Ukraine but life worked out differently. Now I have Anya who is 100% Ukranian.
These days we roam around Europe a lot but even if we don’t want to settle down just yet, we still need a base of some sort. So we choose Ukraine. And not just because of our backgrounds and connections to this country but for many other reasons. And we want to share this information from the digital nomads’ point of view. Because we believe this is important and may inspire other nomads (or pretty much anyone else who is thinking to move to Ukraine.)
What’s interesting though. Right now I am writing this post from Poprad, Slovakia. Anya and I left Ukraine a few days ago to go travel a bit around Europe. But we are planning to return right before the holidays. It feels so much at home there.
So here are a few reasons why we keep coming back to Ukraine and why you may love this country as well.
Coming to Ukraine is Easy
Ukraine is not in the Schengen zone. Which makes it convenient to explore European countries since my stay allowance is only 90 days within 180 days limit. Ukraine offers up to 90 days stays every 6 months and visa-free entrance to 65 countries.
In recent years we have been seeing more low-cost airlines like Wizz Air or RyanAir opening up their routes from Europe. Also, since May 2019 a new local company SkyUp appeared on the market and started to fly to destinations where low costers usually don’t fly (like Georgia, for example.) Flying from the US is still more pricy but we saw some flights for around $300 one way from New York and Boston.
There are also newer trains that depart from countries like Poland, Slovakia, Czech Republic, Romania, Hungary, and Austria. These trains offer sleeping compartments which are fairly comfortable and not too expensive. Especially considering that the luggage is included and it is possible to have some sleep and rest.
Getting to Ukraine by car is relatively easy too. You probably heard that the roads are bad. It is true but not as bad as others like to portrait it. There is currently a lot of work being done to the roads throughout the country. Currently, if coming from Europe by car, the best point of entry is probably Korczowa-Krakowiec, which is the road between Krakow and Lviv. Although lines and wait are very common.
There are also a lot of buses that run between Ukraine and countries of the European Union. And for the last-minute options, it’s always easy to find somebody on BlaBlaCar. This really helped us out a couple of times.
Ukraine Is a Very Budget-Friendly Destination
Pretty much everything is considerably cheaper in Ukraine than in any country of the EU. We can get a fantastic meal at the restaurant for a fraction of the cost of what we usually pay in the western country, even nearby Hungary or Lithuania. Both of them are considered cheap in the EU but compared to Ukraine, they are more expensive in everything.
Since we are staying in Ukraine long-term, we also like to cook. In this case, our eating expenses drop down even more.
A bus ride costs about $0.2-$0.4 (depending on a city) which makes the transport expense close to nothing. In order to get from one city to another, we mostly use trains, which range from $5 to $20 depending on the distance and class type. In the last few years, the Ukranian railroad company launched new Intercity trains with comfortable seating and the European level of comfort. I recommend choosing these trains if possible.
Rent is also not very high, although it has started going noticeably up in most touristy cities, like Lviv, Kyiv or Chernovtsi for example. Still, even there you can get a nice accommodation on Airbnb for around $30 per night or $500-600 per month. One of the places we stayed in Lviv, and really liked it was this one where we had to pay less than $500 per month. The place was not big but very comfortable and the hosts made us feel so welcome.
Ukraine Has Amazing Coffee and Rich Cafe Culture
For some people, the number of coffee shops and the quality of coffee in a new city is not important, I get that. But for us, digital nomads, who work online, cafe culture plays a huge role. It is important for us to be able to get out and work in comfortable cute coffee shops where the food and drinks are affordable but delicious and healthy at the same time.
From our experience, each Ukrainian city has a lot of great restaurants, cafes and coffee shops where we can work, eat and relax. Some cities like Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv, Odesa, Chernihiv, Chernivtsi, Dnipro have so many places that you can pick a new one every day and still want to return to each of them later. Even Anya’s hometown Khmelnytskyi, where there is not much to do, has so many great cafes with fresh tasty sweets and food.
Sometimes you can order breakfast for $3-$4 and have a drink such as tea, coffee or juice included in that. A street coffee like Americano with milk costs less then 50¢ (and it is good most of the time). No matter which city we are in, I love going on a morning walk just to wander the old streets and get my morning coffee before starting a day.
Coffee, tea, and food are very delicious and cheap in Ukraine. Cafes are unique, cozy and in their own style and design. Working in any of them helps to concentrate and be productive.
There Are a Lot Of Things to Do
We come here to work but when the weekend comes, there are plenty of things to do.
Some people, who don’t know much about Ukraine, think this country doesn’t have a lot for a traveler. In reality, there are quite a few cool cities in Ukraine to visit, tons of activities to do and places to visit during the weekend or longer. Also, Ukraine is one of the best places to visit in Europe in winter for some magic.
First, there are a lot of things to experience in each major city. But besides cities, Ukraine is a large country and it has a lot to offer. There are beautiful forests, national parks, blue lakes, waterfalls, and reservoirs. You can go skiing in the Carpathians Mountains in the West or go swimming in the Black Sea in the south. There is even a desert. And don’t forget about the variety of wineries. Adding to that, there are castles and old fortresses. Soviet remnants to explore and the World Famous Chernobyl Zone.
There are many beautiful resorts with SPAs and pools where you can escape from the noise and chaos of big cities. Some of our favorites are Verholy Relax Park (in Poltava,) Edem Resort Spa (not far from Lviv) and GOOD Zone (very close to Dnipro.) If you get a chance to stay a night in any of them, expect a high-quality experience and lots of positive emotions. There are also healing sanatoriums with hot springs and mineral waters.
Ukraine is Very Safe
First of all, I would like to touch upon the topic of the war. There are a couple of regions of the country that have been or remain in conflict – Luhansk, and Donetsk regions. There is no reason for you to go there anyway. But understand, that all the nearby regions, such as Kharkiv, Dnipropetrovsk, and Zaporizhia regions are completely safe.
I’ve traveled through Zaporizhia region myself a few times during the last 2 years (which Anya was too worried about) and couldn’t even tell there was a conflict in the country.
Second, I would like to mention safety in general. Ukraine is a very safe country. It is actually safer than many cities in the US or Europe.
I do hear some concern in regard to people who have a different skin color or are gay. So, I would like to dispel myths on this topic.
People who seem different in any way are totally excepted in the country. However, you need to remember that when you go to distant places or countryside and you don’t look Ukrainian (or Eastern European,) people may stare at you. This is natural. When a person looks exotic or acts differently, we all tend to wonder and sometimes stare.
But honestly, when we were living in Vietnam, this is how Vietnamese outside of big cities looked at us. Some of them wanted to take a picture and get closer. So very similar can happen in Ukraine. No one will harm a person from a different culture. But again, giving you extra attention is common outside big cities.
As for gay people, there should be no concern. But do not expect it to be the same way as back home in Los Angeles or Amsterdam if you want to kiss your partner in front of everyone. The majority of people in Ukraine are not used to seeing gay couples kissing, hugging or showing too much affection. So they may stare too or giggle, or even make some comments. It may happen even in big cities if there is too much showoff. So just be mindful of that. But again, nobody will harm a gay person in any way.
It Has Best Cities for Digital Nomads
There are many cities that will suit well for digital nomads in many aspects. You will find most of the expats in Kyiv and Lviv and the communities there are huge.
One of the most beautiful cities in Ukraine – Lviv is quickly becoming a popular destination for digital nomads like us. Not everyone is a coffee lover. We are and we like to get out to coffee shops, order a big cup of cappuccino, sometimes food and work for hours.
Coffee shops for us are offices and a change of scenery. In this sense, Lviv provides an amazing variety of places to choose from. And there you can get one of the best-tasting coffee (this is not just our opinion but of a few nomads who we met in Lviv and even other countries.)
But Lviv is not the only city. Other amazing options are Odesa, Chernihiv, Dnipro, Chernivtsi, of course, Kyiv with some cool spots and even a smaller city Ivano-Frankivsk.
Ukraine Has High Food Quality
The quality of food is an important topic for us. Ukraine is one of a few countries in Europe which still has most of the organic and natural foods that cost little money. A lot of produce comes from the gardens and are homemade.
Until this day Ukrainians still heavily rely on the markets. So you can find a lot of those around the country in each city where people from villages come every day and bring what they personally grew or made. For example, fresh organic eggs, freshly gotten morning cow’s or sheep’s milk, cheese, yogurt, sour cream, etc. There are also freshly made foods like bread, pastries, cured meats.
If you buy cucumbers, tomatoes, lettuce or anything else, they are going to taste real not like plastic ones that come from greenhouses. Local farmers never use pesticides or antibiotics in their products. This is why you can be sure the food you buy from the market is going to benefit your health.
Besides that, if in Europe or US such types of markets usually mean higher prices, in Ukraine on the contrary markets are the cheapest places to go to. However the food on the markets is seasonal, so you won’t find tomatoes and pepper in winter, instead, you will find winter vegetables. You can definitely expect those to be fresh.
We love the fact that when we are cooking at home or going to the restaurants we know that the ingredients that are used are of high quality and reach flavor.
When I talk about markets, I don’t imply that there are no decent stores. In fact, there are many great shops including large ones like “Silpo”. It went through rebranding lately and today offers a big variety of organic and natural products.
Medical Checkups And Buying Clothing in Ukraine Is Easy And Cheap
Another reason why we keep returning to Ukraine is medical and dental checkups. In most EU countries and the US, you usually need to have medical insurance or be ready to pay a great amount.
In Ukraine, you don’t need insurance and you can easily see any specialist you need within a short time frame. Anya went to a few private clinics and paid about $10 for an appointment. All basic dental work with cleaning and some new fillings cost us around $100. There are many doctors in their 30s, early 40s who have studied abroad, speak good English and already have solid background and experience.
Clothes shopping is also a great reason for us to keep coming back. There are many modern shopping centers throughout the country which sell clothes from countries like Italy, Turkey, and France. Also, Ukraine itself manufactures clothing and shoes of great quality at very affordable prices.
But there are also clothes markets, including the largest one in Ukraine in Khmelnytskyi city. It is so large, you can get lost there for the entire day. But you will find everything you need there in terms of clothing and shoes. And you will be surprised how cheap you can pay for a decent item. In fact, this market is so popular, that people come there not just from all over Ukraine, but also from nearby countries.
We love returning back to Ukraine. Not sure though where we will end up eventually since there are still so many places we want to live in. But, for now, Ukraine is a great base and a country to be in.
Are you moving to Ukraine or have any thoughts on it? Anya wrote a post on travel tips for Ukraine that may come in handy. If you have any other questions, just ask!