Ukraine-Romania Border Run
By RJD, 2006
What do you do when your passport registration is running out in Ukraine and you no longer have enough time left to re-register? You make a run for the border! To avoid administrative penalties (i.e. fines involving rather lengthy procedures) you must leave the country within the period of your registration. As soon as your registration expires, you will face problems when leaving the country or extending your visa, and you will be unable to do any of the things that you need a registration to do — for example, become a private entrepreneur, start a business, or obtain a work permit.
Once this happened to me, and, being in Kiev, I decided to head for the Ukraine-Romania border just south of Chernivtsi. I could have gone to the Polish border outside of Lviv, but this seemed shorter.
So, I got on train No. 627, Kiev-Chernivtsi at 6:18 p.m. and arrived in Chernivtsi at 9:34. From there I took a taxi to the bus station on the other side of town and asked around for buses heading to Romania (Suceava). There weren't any "official" buses, but there was a family bus heading there in half an hour, and I joined them. They go every day selling Ukrainian stuff at the market in Suceava. Turns out quite a few Ukrainians who live by the border engage in this kind of trade.
When we reached the Ukrainian border checkpoint, a lady in our van was sent back because her 4-year-old kid did not have any papers. They let me through after asking briefly what I was doing in Ukraine. It was the last day of my registration period.
Either at the Ukrainian or the Romanian border the van was inspected and boxes of foodstuffs, a microwave oven, and other supplies were examined. Most of the discussion was in Romanian, so I didn't understand what was going on. Apparently the van was allowed to continue on its way, but it's possible some sort of duty (official or unofficial) was paid.
Crossing the Romanian border was easy, and the officers were somewhat amused to see an American traveling this way into their country — especially for just a few minutes or hours. The van let me out right after the last border crossing together with a Moldovan man who was trying to get his foreign bought car into Ukraine but was having problems with customs officials. After a chocolate bar and a cup of tea at the cafe next to the border, and after trying to help the man come up with a solution, I hailed a car with a Ukrainian license plate and drove back up to the border.
The Romanians quickly let me through, as well as the Ukrainians, who were excited to have a U.S. citizen visit their country who even spoke the language (Ukrainian or Russian — no difference). I don't know if they noticed that I had just left the country an hour or two earlier. I quickly filled out an immigration card and was let into Ukraine. They told me U.S. citizens no longer needed a visa to enter Ukraine, but, of course, since I actually do business here and don't just travel around spending my U.S.-earned money, I do need a visa (which I have).
The family I was driving with also engaged in small-scale trade and was returning home. They let me off about 20 km from the border, and I waited at the side of the road for the next minibus to Chernivtsi. There, after hanging out at the train station for an hour or two, I got on the train back to Kiev (of course, I had bought my tickets in advance) and was back the next morning.
And the purpose of all this hassle? Now I had an entry stamp in my passport that allowed me to be in the country for 6 months without having to register.