Renting a Car & Driving in Ukraine – 5 Tips to Make the Most of Your Experience
Last updated on May 15th, 2023
Renting a car in Ukraine for a long time wasn’t completely the easiest and most fun experience. Ukraine was known for some of the worst roads in Europe and car hire surprisingly was too expensive.
But lately, finally, things have started to change. Yay. So today everyone who wishes to find a car rental and go driving in Ukraine can do it without any challenge.
Roads are being built all over the country, prices for car rentals dropped, and the entire process of car hire in Ukraine is now pretty straightforward. Just like anywhere else in Europe. And with good roads, going places is finally easy and enjoyable.
I can’t remember how many times exactly Mark and I rented a car in Ukraine. We hired a car in Kyiv and Lviv and we rented it quite a few times in my home town Khmelnytskyi.
Recently we started to think about buying our own vehicle, but at the same time, we are not sure we really need it. Since we are gone most of the time anyway, it is much easier (and cheaper) just to rent it in Ukraine whenever we plan a trip.
Based on our multiple experiences of car hire, I wanted to write this post and share a few tips. Some of you guys asked me to give advice on the rental car process and recommend the best company to rent a car from.
So here it is. I am talking about it below as well as about mentioning a few words about cheap car rentals in different cities (from Kharkiv and Kyiv to Ivano-Frankivsk, Lviv and beyond), documents you need to hire a car, what to know about insurance, parking, speed limits, accidents, and more.
Also, since this post is written not only by me but by Mark too, he is sharing details about driving in Ukraine and how it feels to drive here as a foreigner. Check it out and if you have any more questions, just ask in the comments, I’ll do my best to help!
Now, Do You Need To Rent a Car in Ukraine or Not?
That’s a very good question which depends on a few things. First of all – on the purpose of your trip. And second, what exactly do you plan to visit?
Are you planning to be mainly in cities and go on one or two day trips? In that case, you don’t really need a rental vehicle.
If you only plan to stay within a major city to explore it, then don’t get a rental car. As a matter of fact, that will bring unnecessary headaches in traffic and finding parking. I think even for personal comfort it does not worth it. If you don’t like public transport, get a taxi instead. Uber and Bolt work well in Ukraine.
Intercity public transport also works well in Ukraine, but it has yet to fully develop to the European level.
Local mini-buses (marshrutkas) are barely regulated and are not for everyone to experience a ride. Trains are popular and are being replaced with new and more comfortable models but the process is slow. Still, there are many trains still operating as the old metal remnants of the lost civilization of the USSR.
Trains are great options if you only need to get from point A to point B. But often, there are quite a few interesting places to visit between many cities, so you may want to have a car to be able to go on a road trip and make stops along the way (my guides to road trips in Ukraine are coming soon).
If your goal of travel to Ukraine is to see the country’s nature, go skiing or on road trips, explore Black Sea Coast, Carpathian Mountains, beautiful Northern part around Chernihiv, and countryside, then renting a car is your only option. No, technically you can hop on a bus or marshrutka, but those are not really comfortable (sorry marshrutka fans) plus often there is no official schedule between small towns and villages.
Plus if you want to go on a weekend getaway or a day trip, like on one of Kyiv’s day trips or Lviv’s day trips, renting a car is not necessary but having one with you will definitely help to see more in comfort.
The car makes it the most comfortable way of exploring the country and traveling in general. And Ukraine is no exception here! It has just so much to offer in terms of nature, sights from different eras, and true local life in smaller towns or countryside.
What is the Cost of Car Rentals in Ukraine?
For some reason, Ukraine doesn’t really have a high or low season as most countries in Europe, even those that don’t depend on tourism. Almost everywhere you go and want to rent a car, be it Spain, Germany, Slovakia or Turkey, for example, car rental prices in winter will be always much lower than in summer.
In Ukraine on the contrary, the price is pretty much the same no matter what time of the year you go.
Summer in Ukraine is considered to be the high season but when autumn comes, prices only go down by a few dollars. There is no dramatic change in price similar to other countries.
So here is what Ukraine car rentals usually cost:
1. Class Mini/Economy – from $40/day or $25/day from 3 days period (Nissan Micra, Ford Fiesta, Renault Logan, or similar)
2. Class Standard – from $55/day or $40/day from 3 days period (Scoda Octavia, Volkswagen Jetta, or similar)
3. Class SUV – from $70/day or $60/day from 3 days period (Nissan Qashqai, Volkswagen Tiguan, Toyota RAV4, or similar)
4. Class Full Size – from $100/day or $65/day from 3 days period (Toyota Camry or similar)
5. Class Van – from $120/day or $80/day from 3 days period (Hyundai H1, Volkswagen Transporter or similar)
I would highly recommend renting a car for at least 3 days, or more. For less than that the price is just too high, in my opinion. You can select two days period and then select 3 days period and the price might be the same.
If renting for a month, surprisingly, the cost per day also doesn’t decrease much, maybe by a few dollars only.
Ukraine Car Rental – Where Is the Best Place to Hire a Car
The tourism industry in Ukraine is on the rise and that affects the rental business as well, creating extra demand for rental cars. So more and more car hire companies are popping up on the market from small local shops in smaller cities to large international companies at the airport.
Although at this point, after renting cars in Ukraine many times, I came to the conclusion that it is best to go through an international aggregator in order to hire a car.
And the two best companies for that are VIP Cars and Discover Cars. Both of them have similar offers but they meet somewhat different needs:
VIP Cars – it pulls the best deals, offers 24/7 customer support, easy booking/cancellation process, and the cheapest car rentals among all companies in Ukraine. Booking through this company is best for people who look to save money because their cars are seriously the cheapest.
Discover Cars – is another great company for car rental in Kiev, Lviv, Kharkiv, Dnipro, Odesa, and any other city in Ukraine that has an operational airport. These guys also have a lot of rentals and excellent customer support. The only drawback is that their rentals sometimes tend to be more expensive. However, at the same time, the full coverage they offer is twice cheaper than from VIP Cars.
When booking through VIP Cars and Discover Cars, you always get unlimited mileage, complimentary second driver included in the contract, free winter tires, free cancellations, and any amendments.
It is worth comparing both of these aggregators and seeing what works best for you.
If you need to rent a vehicle in a smaller city or town where there are no international companies, you can try to do it online through a local car hire business. But for that, you need either to speak Ukrainian or Russian or ask a local to do it for you.
Many small local companies that offer cars for rent in Ukraine are still not ready for foreign tourists. They usually don’t speak any (or speak very little) English, their websites are mainly in the local language, and often they even require a local phone number to contact you back with an offer.
Also, by booking through them you get fewer amenities for often much more money. There is usually limited mileage, no complimentary second driver, and no free winter tires. All of these amenities cost extra. So keep that in mind.
NOTE: If you don’t want to pick up the car at the airport, what you can do is to contact your rental supplier (after reserving a car) and arrange a car delivery to your hotel for a fee. They usually charge €10 for this type of service.
Car Rental Insurance in Ukraine
Speaking about insurance. No matter where you rent a car – in Kyiv Boryspil airport, Lviv, Dnipro or any other city, this is what is always going to be included with your rental:
Third-Party Liability Insurance (TPL) with a maximum cover for personal injuries and material damages. This covers other parties in case of the driver’s fault.
Collision Damage Waiver (CDW) – this waiver reduces the customer’s damage responsibility to the excess/deductible amount.
The maximum excess amount depends upon the vehicle groups:
1) For mini, economy and compact vehicle groups are EUR 600.
2) For intermediate (4-5 door) vehicle group is EUR 750.
3) For intermediate SUV group is EUR 1200.
4) For full size and standard vehicles group is EUR 1500.
Theft Waiver (THW)
It is included in your rental amount. THW reduces the client’s financial responsibility for loss or theft of the vehicle up to a sum of the deductible amount.
Things to Consider About Driving in Ukraine
And now, let’s talk about driving in Ukraine. What is it like and what should you expect?
First of all, let me remind you that Ukraine drives on the right-hand side. Traffic laws and signs are all European, so if you’ve been driving in Europe, driving in Ukraine will be pretty much the same.
Some foreigners who visit Ukraine for some reason are afraid to drive believing stereotypes about aggressive Ukrainian drivers. When in reality driving here is standard.
Yes, it is more common for Ukrainian drivers to tailgate, take over, and cut off. But on the overall scale, nothing extreme. Just pay attention to the road as you would anywhere and if you see someone driving very fast tailgating you, just slowly move to the right and let them pass.
But to be honest, if I had to compare, driving in Ukraine is much more predictable than driving in Italy, Greece, and bordering Romania, for example. In Romania in particular, I have seen a lot more cut-offs, speeding cars, and impatient drivers.
Another thing that I wanted to mention is about the police.
They don’t stop you for no reason as opposed to popular among foreigners belief. The reformation of police happened in 2014 and since then they don’t engage in corruption activities anymore. They don’t stop you for regular inspections or with the goal to get a bribe. But if it happens and they pull you over, just follow the protocol as you would anywhere else.
Although in our experience, after driving thousands of kilometers in Ukraine on multiple occasions, we have never encountered a conversation with police.
Roads have always been Ukraine’s biggest problem. But since a few years ago that finally started to change. Hooray! A lot of roads have been already repaired and more construction is still taking place all over the country. That includes road works for major highways and smaller roads to more remote areas.
All primary and secondary roads on this map are in excellent or very good condition. Tertiary roads are under construction. Some are pretty decent and drivable while others are not so much and may have huge cracks and holes.
Ukraine doesn’t have multi-lane intercity roads or highways. Some that exist are found mainly around some major city centers. The country is mostly covered by two-lane roads in all directions.
There are many dirt or gravel roads. When trying to get to a remote village, be ready that the road leading to it will be bad. It may be a gravel road or an old asphalt road with huge holes. Most of the dirt roads to all livable villages though are flat enough to drive even a small car. However, remember that your tires usually are not covered by insurance (check the contract), so don’t go fast and avoid sharp rocks.
We personally have driven on a lot of such roads and everything was fine. The most important is not to go fast.
NOTE: There is now a new rule in Ukraine that requires you to always keep the headlights on outside the city boundaries.
TIP: If you damaged a tire on any road and want to avoid paying a higher price for it at your rental company, then find a local Tire service shop and have them fix the tire for you for a lot less. To find such a shop, put “Shynomontazh” on google maps. That literally translates to “Tire Service”. Such shops are very common in Ukraine and you can find them almost anywhere.
Unless posted otherwise, the speed limits are established to 50 km/h in a populated area, 90 km/h in unpopulated areas, and 130 km/h on intercity roads.
At this moment there are not a lot of speed cameras. And almost all of them are in Kyiv. Then a couple in Lviv. Yet. But a cop with radar could be anywhere at any moment.
In addition to the official traffic laws, there is a number of signals that facilitate communication between drivers in Ukraine:
- If the oncoming driver flashes your with the headlights, that means the traffic police is ahead, or you are asked to switch the headlights from the high beam to the low;
- Flashing headlights of a car behind you mean that the driver is asking to give him a way;
- If the moving truck ahead switches a left turn signal on in combination with brake lights, this is a warning that it is impossible to overtake, as there is a vehicle in the oncoming lane. And vice versa, the right turn signal plus brake lights mean the road ahead is clear and you can pass.
- When emergency flashers are used two, there times by a car in front of you, that means either an apology or thanks to you.
But of course, not everybody is going to follow the traffic rules and show courtesy on the road. So apply extra caution on twisty roads, when the road is taken by trucks, during the rain and bad visibility.
In the unfortunate event of a traffic accident, do not panic. In order to get out of this situation with minimal losses, it is enough to follow a few simple rules:
- Do not move the car off the road unless it creates a dangerous situation.
- Turn on the emergency lights.
- Call the police.
- Call the rental company as soon as you can. They will help you and guide you.
Most of the rental cars are contracted with a full-to-full fuel policy, which makes the most sense to me. You get a car with a full tank, drive as long as you need and just fill the car before the return.
The second but less popular option is same-to-same. You get the car with some fuel and return with at least the same amount. If you return a car with more gas than you had in the beginning, nobody will reimburse you for that extra gas left in the tank.
Most of the rental cars are petrol based. There are few diesel cars and they cost more.
When getting fuel in Ukraine, look only for branded companies. Or pretty much anything that looks modern and has a little store with coffee, snacks, and accessories.
Do not refuel at old shabby gas stations because they may have low-quality diluted petrol. Here is a list of some legit companies in Ukraine to get gas from:
When picking up the car, ask what gas type should you use. Most likely they will say 95.
Most of the gas stations are self-service. Park next to the pump by the proper side. Insert nozzle into the tank. Then go inside to the cashier and pay the amount you want to get and the pump number. Mention the number of your fuel pump and how many liters you need to get. Then return to the pump and start pumping.
If you want to get a full tank, you will need to pay a larger amount upfront, fill your car until the nozzle clicks and stops, then come back and collect the remaining refund. And keep in mind that a refund doesn’t always go on your card immediately. It may take a day or even two. Not very convenient but it is very common on gas stations in Ukraine.
More Guides For Car Hire Around Europe
- Renting a Car in Montenegro – 16 Main Things to Know Before Hiring Your Car
- Car Hire in Georgia Country – All You Wanted to Ask
- Cyprus Car Hire Guide – Best Prices, Deals & Car Rental Tips
- Renting a Car in Norway – brief guide with tips
- Hiring a Car & Driving in Spain – What is It Like?
- Renting a Car in Turkey – Things to Know & Avoid
I hope I was able to answer all the questions about the process of renting a car in Ukraine and give an idea of what driving is like. If you have another question, just ask below!