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» Information » Visas » Ukraine Transportation Guide

Crossing the Ukrainian border

Last update: April 2014 (proof of sufficient funds; customs)

All visitors to Ukraine must make a border crossing at some point. This can be a stressful experience for travelers, especially after a poor night's sleep. This page will tell you what to expect and give you the information you need to act confidently and get through quickly. Over the years procedures have slowly become more standardized.

Entering Ukraine

Foreigners may enter and exit Ukraine by airplane or at any international border crossing. These are along most major roads between Ukraine and neighboring countries and at all points where trains cross the border. Border crossings are forbidden in all other areas. In rural border areas local villagers are allowed to pass through the border, but foreigners may not.
Upon entering Ukraine you will fill out an immigration card (generally not required anymore — 2014) and customs declaration (if applicable; see below), and have your passport and visa checked (if you are required to have a visa). The border officer will ask you about your purpose for visiting Ukraine and may (as of April 2014) ask for proof of sufficient funds for your stay in Ukraine (more on this below). Then he/she will stamp your passport and immigration card. The stamp shows the date and location of your border crossing and serves as registration for a certain period of time in the country — generally 90 days.
The border officer may ask additional questions about what you will be doing in Ukraine, but this is more of a formality than an attempt to incriminate you. Then you pass through customs, where you are asked about what you are taking into the country. Custom's officers have the right to inspect your baggage to check that the amount of various items you are bringing into the country is within the duty-free limit. If they are not, you are subject to customs duties.
In recent years (2008-2014) the author has entered Ukraine via Kyiv Boryspil and Kyiv Zhuliany airports. For a long time customs was nonexistent or almost nonexistent for the "green line" (persons with nothing to declare). There wasn't even anybody asking if you had anything to declare; you just picked up your bags from the conveyer belt and walked out of the airport. Now there is a baggage scan and the possibility of a manual baggage check.

Proof of sufficient funds (new!)

As of spring 2014 there is a new government regulation being implemented requiring that most categories of visitors to Ukraine prove they have sufficient funds to support themselves during the duration of their stay. The current cash threshold is set at 23,520 UAH per month (approx. $2000 USD at the current exchange rate). There are a number of ways you can prove you have access to this much funds — bank statements, credit card funding limits, etc. As this policy is still very new, I have written about it at the TryUkraine blog and will wait for further reports and developments before writing more here.

Customs regulations and declarations

If you are carrying any valuables into or out of the country or more than $1000 USD in cash, you will be required to fill out a custom's declaration upon crossing the border. You are allowed by law to bring up to $10,000 USD in cash into Ukraine without special documentation. If you have no items to declare or less than $1000 in cash, you will not need to fill out a customs declaration. If you have filled out a declaration, hold onto it and present it when leaving the country.

Medical insurance in Ukraine

 
Days of coverage
Price (USD), 2008

 
30
$12
 
60
$23
 
90
$34
 
91-120
$41
 
121-150
$48
 
151-180
$56
  356 $100
     
Ukraine has a special emergency medical insurance policy for foreigners that most visitors to Ukraine are required by law to buy in Ukraine, either at the airport or at the insurance company's office in town. Some sources say you are not required to buy the insurance if you have an insurance policy of your own that covers you while in Ukraine, but I am not sure of this. See the Ukraine Minister of Foreign Affairs website for a list of countries and diplomatic positions that are exempted from this requirement.
As of January 2010 I am not certain that U.S. and EU citizens staying visa-free for under 90 days are actually required by law to get this insurance. It is necessary, however, if you register at the OVIR, which requires a Ukrainian visa.
In any case, this insurance is quite inexpensive (see chart at right for almost up-to-date prices), and all you need to do to sign up is present your passport and tell the worker the time period you need coverage for. There are instructions in English on the insurance policy about what to do should you need emergency medical attention. They have, for example, a round-the-clock phone number with English-speaking representatives.

Immigration card (usually not required!)

The immigration card is a scrap of paper that asks you to fill in the following information:
- name and surname
- citizenship
- date of birth
- passport number
- purpose of journey (i.e. "business," "tourism," "private," etc.) 
- vehicle (flight) # (i.e. train number, flight number, license plate number, or "on foot")
- *point of destination, company address (i.e. name and address of company or private person who you are visiting, depending on the type of visa you have; you must fill this out with some address you'll be staying at even if you are entering without a visa)
* Make sure you have the address you are going to stay at (or at least one of them, if you are going to be traveling around) in a handy location so that you can fill out the immigration card quickly.
You fill out this information twice, both halves are stamped, and you keep your half, which is "kept for the whole period of stay in Ukraine" and "must be presented together with the passport to Ukrainian border authorities" when leaving the country.
In actuality, you are rarely asked for your card upon leaving Ukraine and are not subject to penalties if you have lost it. However, it is wise to hold on to it and take it with you whenever leaving the country or entering border areas where you may have your passport and immigration card checked, even if you do not leave the country. This way you will avoid potential conflicts. For example, there are passport checkposts along roads in the Carpathian mountains next to Romania where you must present these documents, even though you are still in Ukrainian territory and are not allowed to cross the border there anyway (there is no international border crossing).

Leaving Ukraine

Exiting Ukraine is usually quicker and easier than entering it. You go through a quick passport check where you are usually not asked about what you were doing in Ukraine. Then you go through customs and are asked about what you are carrying with you, and present a customs declaration if applicable. Custom's officers have the right to inspect your baggage to check that the amount of various items you are taking out of the country is within the duty-free limit. If they are not, you are subject to customs duties.

Ukrainian Border Crossing Procedures

Arranged by means of transportation

Airplane

If you fly in by airplane, you will receive a customs declaration and an immigration card to fill out while on the plane, and you will make your border crossing in the airport upon arrival. First you stand in line for the passport check, then you go to the baggage claim to get your luggage, and finally you pass through customs with all your things. If you are leaving Ukraine, you will do all of this in reverse order.
In international airports near passport control there is usually a UkrInMedStrakh booth which issues emergency medical insurance policies to foreign travelers. You are supposed to buy this inexpensive policy if you do not have travel insurance that covers you while in Ukraine. If crossing the border by land, you will be expected to buy the policy on your own if necessary.

Train

If you are crossing the Ukrainian border by train, you will not have to leave your compartment; the border and customs officers will come to your compartment themselves. Most border crossings by train, unfortunately, are late and night and may involve up to four separate visits spread out over several hours — the border officers and customs workers of the country you are leaving, and the border officers and customs workers of the country you are entering. Border crossings are especially long between Ukraine and central European countries, because the standard width of the railroad tracks is different and the wagon wheels must all be adjusted accordingly.

Bus

How you cross the border by bus depends on its destination. If it is a local bus, the crossing may by long and tedious, as customs officials work over local contrabandists in a sort of cat-and-mouse game. Crossing the border is much easier on international buses. Before the border the bus attendant gathers everyone's passports and gives them to the officer at the border. If you are entering Ukraine, you will be given an immigration card and told to hurry up with it, since all the other passengers are usually Ukrainian citizens returning home. The border officer may or may not get on the bus to ask you about your purpose of entry.
Usually passengers leave the bus to pass through customs together with their luggage, but some buses have avoided this in the past by collecting money from passengers and paying a bribe to speed the process up. This only happens on the Ukrainian side of the border. Keep in mind that you will have to get out of the bus twice with all of your stuff to pass through two sets of customs.

Automobile

People who enter or exit Ukraine by car don't have to haul their luggage around to get through customs, but they often have to wait in line for hours. You shouldn't have to get out of your car much, but customs officers may inspect your vehicle to check that the items you are carrying are within the duty-free limit and do not break the law.

Bicycle or on foot

The author is not 100% certain that all international border crossings may be crossed on foot. Some people say yes, others no. However, borders may certainly be crossed on bike. The procedure is pretty much the same as if you were in a car, but you don't have to wait in line for very long. The author has crossed the Ukrainian border by foot at Schehyny (between Lviv, Ukraine and Przemysl, Poland) and at the Ukraine-Romania border between Chernivtsi, Ukraine and Suceava, Romania.

Ship

It is also possible to enter and exit Ukraine by ship. In this case, it seems logical to assume that your border crossing will take place at the port of entry to or exit from Ukraine, but I have no further information on the topic.