Kiev, Ukraine.  Easy to get there by train!

Kiev, Ukraine

Take the train from the UK to Ukraine...

It's easy to travel by train from London to Ukraine, an adventurous journey that's also safe, comfortable & affordable, far superior to any soulless flight.  Eurostar and German Railways link London with Warsaw, then there is the comfortable and safe daily sleeper train Kiev Express from Warsaw to Kiev.  Change in Kiev for Odessa.  This page will tell you train times, approximate fares and how to buy tickets.

Train times, fares & information...

  London to Kiev & Odessa - train times, fares & how to buy tickets.

  London to Lviv - train times, fares & how to buy tickets.

  London to Yalta & Balaclava - 1945 & the Charge of the Light Brigade...

  Train travel within Ukraine, a beginner's guide

  How to buy Ukrainian train tickets online

  Kiev station

  Useful country information - visas, time zone, currency, dialling code

  Hotels in Kiev, Lviv, Odessa & Ukraine

  Odessa-Istanbul by ferry

Sponsored links...

 


Useful country information

Train operator:

Ukrzaliznytsya (UZ), www.uz.gov.ua (now also in English).  To buy train tickets in Ukraine online in UK, see www.ukrainetrains.co.uk or http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/.  For train times & fares in all ex-Soviet countries see www.poezda.netAll-Europe online train times     Eurostar times & fares

 

Time zone:

GMT+2 (GMT+3 from last Sunday in March to last Saturday in October).

Dialling code:

 

+380

Currency:

1 = 31 Hryvnia

Tourist information

 

Tripadvisor Ukraine page    Find hotels    Recommended guidebooks

Visas:

UK, EU, Swiss & US citizens no longer need a visa for stays of up to 90 days.  This visa-free arrangement was introduced in 2005, but has been extended indefinitely.  To check, see the Ukrainian embassy website ay www.ukremb.org.uk.

With the current situation in parts of Ukraine such as the Crimea, check Foreign Office travel advice at www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.

Page last updated: 

5 December 2016.  Train times valid 11 Dec 2016 to 10 June 2017.


London to Kyv (Kiev) & Odessa

It's safe & easy to travel from London to Kyv (Kyv in Ukrainian, Kiev in Russian) by train.  It takes just 2 nights, taking Eurostar & superb German ICE trains from London to Berlin, the Berlin-Warszawa Express to Warsaw next morning, and the safe & comfortable Kiev Express sleeper train overnight from Warsaw to Kyv.  The journey is an adventure in itself.  Why not spend some time in Berlin or Warsaw on the way?

London to Ukraine using the Warsaw-Kiev Kiev Express...

This is usually the cheapest option, depending on what prices you can find.  Departures are daily all year round except Christmas Dat.  You get some time to see a bit of Warsaw, too!

London ► Kyv & Odessa

Kyv & Odessa ► London

What's the journey like?

1)  London to Cologne by Eurostar & ICE3:  Watch the video guide

2)  Cologne to Berlin by high-speed ICE2...

Pride of the German Railways, ICE2s travel at up to 280km/h (175 mph).  The ICE2s feature both a cafe-bar and restaurant serving proper sit-down meals.  I recommend the weissbier!

ICE2 first class ICE2 second class High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin, at Berlin Hauptbahnhof

ICE2 1st class.

ICE2 2nd class.

An ICE2 at Berlin...

   

Treat yourself to lunch!

 

ICE2's elegant restaurant car...

 

ICE2's convivial bistro-bar car...

Take a virtual tour inside an ICEMore information about these ICE trains.

3)  Berlin to Warsaw by Berlin-Warszawa Express...

The Berlin-Warsaw Express train   2nd class seating compartment on the Berlin to Warsaw Express train

The Berlin-Warsaw Express has modern air-conditioned smooth-riding coaches in both 1st & 2nd class, most with compartments and side corridor like this, but some with seats in open-plan saloons. You can choose which type you prefer when you book.

Bistro car on the Berlin-Warszawa Express train   Sausage soup on the Berlin-Warszawa Express   A main course schnitzel in the bistro-restaurant on the Berlin to Warsaw Express train

The bistro-restaurant car is staffed by Polish train catering company Wars.  Treat yourself to a meal and kill a couple of hours over a beer and some food in the restaurant...  An excellent sausage soup, a main course of schnitzel, potato and salad, all served on proper china, a beer and coffee all come to only around 10.  You must pay in cash, not credit card, but both euros and zlotys are accepted.

4)  Warsaw to Kiev aboard the Kiev Express...

The Kiev Express has modernised Ukrainian sleeping-cars with 2-berth & 3-berth compartments.  All bedding is supplied, and washrooms and toilets are at the end of the corridor.  Berths convert to seats for daytime use.  A smartly-uniformed Ukrainian railways sleeper attendant travels with each car.  There's no dining-car, so take a picnic and your own supplies of wine or beer.  Photos courtesy of www.andybtravels.com.

Ukrainian sleeping-car on train to Kiev

A Ukrainian sleeping-car of the type used on the Kiev Express, warm & cosy...

The Kiev Express   1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment   Each compartment has a washbasin

Boarding in Warsaw...

 

A sleeper compartment...

 

...with washbasin.

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Berlin

 by Eurostar + ICE

 From 59 in 2nd class or 109 first class with a sparpreis London ticket.

 Fares vary like air fares, so book early for the cheapest rates.

  

 2. Berlin to Warsaw

 by Berlin-Warszawa Express

 From 29 in 2nd class or 49 first class with a sparpreis Poland.

 Fares vary like air fares, so book early for the cheapest rates.

  

 3. Warsaw to Kiev

 by Kiev Express...

 Booked in the UK through German Railways:

 93 each way in a 3-berth sleeper.

 123 each way in a 2-bed sleeper

 185 each way in a single-bed sleeper.

 Booked online at en.voyages-sncf.com:

 111 for a bed in a 3-berth or around 162 for a bed in a 2-berth.

 Ordered online through http://booking.polrail.com:

 432 zlotys (88 or 101) in a 3-bed sleeper.  Children under 12, 288 zlotys (61).

 505 zlotys (103 or 118) in a 2-bed sleeper.

 853 zlotys (174 or 200) in a single-bed sleeper.

 All these prices are per person per bed, berths are sold individually.

How to buy train tickets online...

How to buy train tickets from the UK to Kiev, the easy way...

How to buy tickets from the UK to Kiev by phone...

If you want to buy all your London-Kiev tickets together by phone, with booking opening 60 days before departure, the best agencies to call for this trip are:

To buy onward tickets from Kiev to Odessa & other Ukrainian cities, see the section below...


London to Lviv

  The opera house, Lviv, Ukraine

The opera house, Lviv...

If Krakow has become the new Prague, then Lviv is the new Krakow...  Lviv (spelt Lviv in Ukrainian, Lvov in Russian) is a beautiful city that escaped most of the ravages of world war 2.  For accommodation in Lviv, whether your budget is 1 star or 5 star, check out the faded grandeur of the excellent and historic George Hotel.  This is the place to stay in Lviv, 30-68 per night.

Option 1, London to Lviv via Warsaw...

The quickest most straightforward route is now via Warsaw, using a new direct Warsaw-Lviv sleeping-car introduced in December 2015.

London ► Lviv

Lviv ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

Option 2, London to Lviv via Krakow...

It's also possible to go via Krakow, using the daily Krakow-Lviv sleeper train, an ideal route to stop off in Krakow and see two great cities on one trip.  Why not go out one way and back the other?  Indeed, it's possible to go London to Prague, sleeper train Prague to Krakow, then this sleeper train from Krakow to Lviv - three of Europe's best cities in one trip!

London ► Lviv

Lviv ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets online...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Other options...

London to Lviv via via Budapest...

The Kiev Express   1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment   Each compartment has a washbasin

The Budapest-Kiev train... Courtesy of Alessandro

 

A sleeper compartment...

 

...with washbasin.


London to Yalta & Balaclava

These places now lie inside Russian-occupied Ukraine.  But for the record...

  The Livadia Palace courtyard where the photos of Roosevelt, Stalin & Churchill were taken at the Yalta Conference in 1945

Yalta...

A seaside resort and site of the 1945 Yalta Conference, Yalta has no railway station but it can be reached by trolleybus from Simferopol.  These run every 20 minutes throughout the day.  It's the longest trolleybus ride in the world, taking a very scenic (but bum-numbing...) 2 hours 40 minutes across the mountain range and down to the coast.  The fare is just a few hryvnia.

Livadia Palace, site of the Yalta Conference 1945:  Don't miss the Livadia Palace on the coast just outside Yalta town centre - the famous photographs of Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin seated side-by-side at the 1945 conference was taken in the courtyard here.  The photo on the right shows the same courtyard today.  For a mass-murderer, Stalin was pretty good at choosing cool conference locations...

Balaclava...

Balaclava, 7 miles from Sevastopol, also has no railway station.  It's most easily (and very cheaply - about 2) reached by taxi, but there are also buses (with a change of bus required from trolleybus to diesel bus at the out-of-town trolleybus terminal).  In recent times a submarine maintenance base, it was closed to foreigners until 1996.  During the Crimean war of 1854-55 the British used it as their supply port for the siege of Sevastopol.  You can climb up to the ruined fortress on the hill overlooking the harbour on one side and the Black Sea on the other.

The battlefield at Balaclava in the Crimea, site of the famous Charge of the Light Brigade in 1854.  

The charge of the Light Brigade, 1854... 

"...into the Valley of Death rode the six hundred..."  wrote Alfred Lord Tennyson.  Walking or taking a taxi the three miles inland from Balaclava town you can visit the site of the Battle of Balaclava, where the famous 'charge of the Light Brigade' took place during the Crimean war.  The battlefield is completely unmarked, so take a good map.

The photo on the left shows the site of the battle and the famous charge today, when the Light Brigade would find their horses hindered by the endless vineyards.  In the photo, the Light Brigade would have charged from left to right towards the line of Russian guns which were lined up across the shallow valley roughly where the line of tall pointed trees is in the distance.  Only about 100 of the 600 British cavalry survived.


Train travel in Ukraine

  Russian trains:  'Kup' class 4-berth sleepers      Russian trains: 'Platskartny' class sleepers
 

Kup.  Lockable 4-berth compartments.  This is an older train - newer coaches have more modern compartments.  Courtesy David Smith

 

Platskartny.  54 bunks per coach, arranged open-plan in bays of 4 (left of photo) & longitudinal bays of 2 above & below the window (right of photo).  Courtesy of

  2-berth spalny vagon sleeper on the Lviv to Kiev overnight train
 

Spalny vagon 2-berth, with two lower berths. This is on the overnight Lviv to Kiev train.  Courtesy of Tim Makins

What are Ukrainian trains like?

Classic Ukrainian sleeper trains offer the normal 'Russian' range of sleeping accommodation:

Whichever class of travel you choose, each coach is looked after by a pair of attendants called a 'provodnik' (male) or 'provodnitsa' (female).  The provodnik will check your ticket at the door to the sleeper when you board.  Shortly after departure, the provodnik will come round to take your ticket.  You may be asked if you would like a glass of black Ukrainian tea ('chai') - this costs about 3 gryvnia, or about 30p.  Bedding (two sheets, pillowcase and towel) is then handed out in sealed packs - blankets and mattresses will already be stacked in your compartment.  After a few journeys, you will become quite proficient at making up your bed!

A samovar with unlimited free hot water is available at the end of the corridor - pack some tea or coffee, sugar, cuppa soups or water-based drinking chocolate and bring your own mug.   Most long distance trains have a restaurant car serving drinks, snacks, and inexpensive full meals - reckon on less than 6 for two courses and a couple of bottles of beer.

There is no need to worry about security on Ukrainian trains, it's the way Ukrainians themselves travel, including families and women travelling alone.  Just use the same common sense that you would use anywhere, use the locks on your compartment door at night and don't leave valuables unattended.  In addition to the normal lock on the compartment door, 'Spalny Wagon' and 'kup' compartments have a security latch which stops the door opening more than an inch or two, and which cannot be released from outside.  There's also a safe place for your bags at night - if you have a bottom bunk, there is a metal box underneath the bunk which you can only get to by lifting up the bunk - in other words, for anyone to get to your bags, they will have to shift you off your bunk first!  Your provodniks will probably also lock the access doors at each end of the corridor at night to prevent any unwanted guests.

New fast InterCity trains...

Fast air-conditioned day trains branded InterCity now link a number of Ukrainian cities, in addition to the traditional overnight sleeper trains.  These InterCity trains have 1st & 2nd class and a bar counter.  For example:

To check train times within Ukraine, use the links for buying tickets below such as http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/.

Kiev station   Kiev station main hall   Kiev station, tracks

InterCity train...

 

First class seats...

 

Cafe-bar counter...

Photos courtesy of www.andybtravels.com.

How to buy tickets...

Buy Ukrainian train tickets online... 

Option 1, buy online direct from Ukrainian Railways at http://booking.uz.gov.ua/en/...

  The internet train ticket collection window at Kiev ticket office
 

The internet ticket collection window at Kiev station.  Note the break times, so don't leave it till the last minute to collect tickets & find them closed!  Though for many front-rank trains you'll now get a print-at-home e-ticket, so no need to collect.  Courtesy of David Aspa.

Option 2, buy tickets from http://travel-2-ukraine.com/transportation/train-tickets.htm or other agencies...


Kiev station

Kiev-Pas...    See location map

Kiev has one main central station, usually known as plain Kiev, officially Kiev Passazhyrsky, often abbreviated to Kiev-Pas.  It's one big central station but it has two terminal buildings, one each side of the tracks.  The classic station building on the northern side of the tracks was built in 1949 and is shown in the photos below.  The terminal on the southern side (sometimes misleadingly referred to as Kiev Southern Station) is a striking glass-and-steel building dating from 2002.  You'll find all the usual main station facilities at Kiev-Pas.  The metro station for Kiev-Pas is called Kiev Vokzalna.  Location map showing station.

Kiev station   Kiev station main hall   Kiev station, tracks

Kiev's magnificent central station.  This is the classic 1949 terminal building on the northern side of the tracks.  The sign on the facade reads vokzal, which is simple Ukrainian - and Russian - for station.  But yes, it really does come from the English place name Vauxhall, see here for an explanationPhotos courtesy of www.andybtravels.com.


Ferries from Ukraine

Unfortunately, it now seems there are no ferries at all between Istanbul and Odessa, at least none that accept foot passengers.  Further feedback always appreciated!

Istanbul - Odessa ferry:  Option 1, Princess Elena passenger ship...

Istanbul - Odessa ferry:  Option 2, Sea Lines truck ferry...



Recommended guidebooks

The Man in Seat 61 book - click to buy onlineLonely Planet India - Click to buy onlineDefinitely invest in a good guidebook. For the serious independent traveller the best guidebook is probably the Lonely Planet or Rough Guide.

Buy Lonely Planet Ukraine online at Amazon.co.uk

My own book, an essential handbook for train travel to Europe based on this website called "The Man in Seat 61", was published in June 2008 & revised April 2010, available from Amazon.co.uk with shipping worldwide.

 

 


The European Rail Timetable & maps

Thomas Cook European Timetable -  click to buy onlineTraveller's Railway Map of Europe - buy onlineThe European Rail Timetable (formerly the Thomas Cook European Timetable) has train & ferry times for every country in Europe plus currency & climate information.  It is essential for regular European train travellers and an inspiration for armchair travellers.  Published since 1873, it had just celebrated 140 years of publication when Thomas Cook decided to pull the plug on their entire publishing department, but the dedicated ex-Thomas Cook team have set up a private venture and published the first edition of a reborn European Rail Timetable in March 2014.  You can buy it online with worldwide shipping at either www.stanfords.co.uk or www.europeanrailtimetable.euMore information on what the European Rail Timetable contains.

A Traveller's Railway Map of Europe covers the whole of Europe from Portugal in the west to Moscow & Istanbul in the east, Finland in the north to Sicily & Athens in the south.  On the back are detailed maps of Switzerland, Benelux & Germany, plus city plans showing stations in major cities.  Scenic & high-speed routes highlighted.  Buy it online for 14.50 + postage worldwide (UK addresses 2.80) at www.stanfords.co.uk/Continents/Europe-A-Travellers-Railway-Map_9789077899090.htm or (in the Netherlands) for 13 + 5.50 postage from www.treinreiswinkel.nl.


Find hotels in Kiev, the Crimea & Ukraine...

 

◄◄ Hotel search & price comparison.

www.hotelscombined.com checks all the main hotel booking sites at once to find the widest choice of hotels & the cheapest seller.  It was named as the World's Leading Hotel Comparison Site at the World Travel Awards 2013 and I highly recommend it, both to find hotels in even the smallest places and to check that another retailer isn't selling your hotel for less!

www.booking.com is my favourite booking site.  It's really clear and you can usually book with free cancellation and so confirm your accommodation at no risk months before train booking opens.

Personal recommendations...

Other hotel sites worth trying...

Backpacker hostels...


Travel insurance & health card...

 

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

Take out decent travel insurance, it's essential...

Never travel without proper travel insurance from a reliable insurer with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover.  It should also cover loss of cash & belongings (up to a limit), and trip cancellation.  An annual multi-trip policy is usually cheapest even for just 2 or 3 trips a year - I have an annual policy myself.  However, don't expect travel insurance to bail you out of every missed connection, see the advice on missed connections here.  Here are some suggested insurers, Seat61 gets a little commission if you buy through these links, and feedback from using insurance for rail & ferry travel is always welcome.

In the UK, use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

If you have a pre-existing medical condition or are over 65, see www.JustTravelCover.com - 10% discount with code seat61.

        If you live in Australia, New Zealand, Ireland or the EU, try Columbus Direct's other websites.

  If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

Get an EU health card, it's free...

If you're a UK citizen travelling in Europe, you should apply for a free European Health Insurance Card, which entitles you to free or reduced rate health care if you become ill or get injured in many European countries, under a reciprocal arrangement with the NHS.  This replaced the old E111 forms as from January 2006.  The EHIC card is available from www.nhs.uk/NHSEngland/Healthcareabroad/EHIC/Pages/about-the-ehic.aspx.  It doesn't remove the need for travel insurance, though.

Carry a spare credit card, designed for travel with no currency exchange loading & low/no ATM fees

Taking out an extra credit card costs nothing, but if you keep it in a different part of your luggage you won't be left stranded if your wallet gets stolen.  In addition, some credit cards are better for overseas travel than others.  Martin Lewis's www.moneysavingexpert.com/travel/cheap-travel-money explains which UK credit cards have the lowest currency exchange commission loadings when you buy something overseas, and the lowest cash withdrawal fees when you use an ATM abroad.

 


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