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 explains train times, fares and how to buy tickets.

Train times, fares & information...

small bullet point  London to Kiev & Odessa - times, fares & tickets.

small bullet point  London to Lviv - train times, fares & tickets.

small bullet point  Train travel in Ukraine, a beginner's guide

small bullet point  How to buy Ukrainian train tickets online

small bullet point  Trains from Kiev & Lviv to other European cities

small bullet point  Trains from other European cities to Kiev & Lviv

small bullet point  Useful country information: visas, currency...

small bullet point  Starting from other UK towns & cities

small bullet point  Kiev station

small bullet point  Hotels in Kiev, Lviv, Odessa & Ukraine

small bullet point  Odessa-Istanbul by ferry


large bullet pointUseful country information

Train operator:

Ukrzaliznytsya (UZ), www.uz.gov.ua (now also in English).  To buy train tickets in Ukraine online see 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 uk.mfa.gov.ua/en.

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: 

4 December 2020. Train times valid 13 Dec 2020 to 12 Dec 2021.

2021 times subject to confirmation...


large bullet pointLondon to Kyv (Kiev) & Odessa

Which route to choose?

It's easy to travel from London to Kyv (Kyv in Ukrainian, Kiev in Russian) by train.  It takes just 2 nights, taking Eurostar & luxurious German ICE trains from London to Berlin on day 1, a EuroCity train from Berlin to Warsaw on day 2, then the safe & comfortable Kiev Express sleeper train from Warsaw to Kyv overnight arriving on the morning of day 3.  Or you can now travel exclusively by fast & comfortable daytime trains with overnight stops in Berlin & Krakow.  The journey is an adventure in itself.  Why not spend some time in Berlin, Warsaw or Krakow on the way?

small bullet point  Option 1, using the Warsaw-Kiev Kiev Express - the most time-effective option, taking 2 nights...

small bullet point  Option 2, by daytime trains with overnight stops in Berlin & Krakow - if you prefer comfortable daytime trains & hotels to sleepers, don't mind it taking a day longer, and fancy a morning in Krakow into the bargain...

small bullet point  Option 3, using the Vienna-Kiev overnight sleeper - another good option, taking 2 nights including a day in Vienna.

Option 1, London to Ukraine via the Warsaw-Kiev Kiev Express...

This is the most time-effective option.  Departures are daily all year round except Christmas Day.  You get some time to see a bit of Warsaw, too!

London ► Kyv, Odessa

Odessa, Kyv ► London

How much does it cost?

 1. London to Brussels

     by Eurostar

 From 52 one-way, 78 return 2nd class.

 From 115 one-way, 199 return 1st class.  Child fares 

  

 2. Brussels to Berlin

     by ICE

 From 27.90 each way 2nd class or 69.90 in 1st class.

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

  

 3. Berlin to Warsaw 

      by EuroCity train

 From 27.90 in 2nd class or 39.90 in 1st class with a Sparpreis fare.

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

  

 4. Warsaw to Kiev

     by Kiev Express...

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

 243 zlotys (51 or 57) in a 3-bed sleeper.  Children under 12, 176 zlotys (37).

 280 zlotys (59 or 66) in a 2-bed sleeper.

 465 zlotys (97 or 110) in a single-bed sleeper.

 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.

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

How to buy tickets...

How to buy tickets by phone...

What's the journey like?

1. London to Brussels by Eurostar...

Eurostar trains link London & Brussels in just 2 hours, travelling at up to 300 km/h (186 mph).  There are two bar cars, power sockets at all seats and free WiFi.  Standard Premier and Business Premier fares include a light meal with wine (or breakfast, on departures before 11:00).  There's a 30-minute minimum check-in (10-minutes for business premier) as all border formalities are carried out before you board the train.  More information about Eurostar including check-in procedureSt Pancras station guide Brussels Midi station guide & short cut for changing trains in Brussels.

Eurostar e320   Eurostar e320 first class seats

A Eurostar e320 train.  More about Eurostar.

 

Standard Premier/Business Premier.  Larger photo.

Eurostar e320 2nd class   Eurostar e320 cafe-bar

Standard class seats.  Larger photo.

 

One of two cafe-bars, in cars 8 & 9.  Larger photo.

2. Brussels to Cologne by ICE3...

Germany's superb ICEs have a bistro-restaurant car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi.  In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  50 minutes after leaving Brussels the ICE calls at Lige, where you can admire the impressive station designed by celebrity architect Santiago Calatrava.  As you approach Cologne Hbf you'll see the twin towers of Cologne Cathedral on the right, next to the station.  More information about ICE3 Brussels Midi station guideCologne Hbf station guide.

ICE3M to Cologne & Frankfurt, boarding at Brussels Midi

An ICE3M to Cologne at Brussels Midi.  More information about ICE Advice on changing trains in Brussels.

2nd class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train   1st class on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

2nd class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

 

1st class seats on an ICE3M.  Larger photo.

Erdinger Weissbier on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE train   Restaurant car on the Frankfurt-Brussels ICE3M train

Food is served on proper china with metal cutlery.  I recommend the Erdinger Weissbier!  See current month's menu.

 

Restaurant car:  This is the small 12-seat restaurant on an ICE3M.  ICE3 classes 403 & 407 have a larger restaurant area.  Larger photo.

3. Cologne to Berlin by ICE2...

ICE2 trains have a restaurant car, bar car, power sockets at all seats & free WiFi. In 1st class, bistro orders are taken at your seat.  Immediately after leaving Cologne Hbf, the train crosses the Hohenzollern bridge over the Rhine.  It passes through the industrial Ruhr via Wuppertal & Hamm.  After leaving Hannover, the train passes non-stop through Wolfsburg - look out for the original Volkswagen factory on the left, built in 1938.  The train then travels at up to 280 km/h (174 mph) on the high-speed line to Berlin Hbf, where it arrives at the low-level platforms.  More information about ICE2Cologne Hbf station guide Berlin Hbf station guide.

ICE second class   High-speed ICE train from Cologne to Berlin

2nd class seats.  Larger photo.

 

An ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

ICE2 restaurant car   ICE2 bar car

Restaurant car.  Larger photo.

 

Bar car.  Larger photo.

ICE2 at Berlin   ICE first class

Boarding an ICE2 at Berlin Hbf...

 

1st class seats.  Larger photo.

4. Berlin to Warsaw by EuroCity train...

These comfortable air-conditioned trains have a restaurant car.  See the Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity page for more photos, tips & information.

Berlin to Warsaw train at Berlin

A Berlin-Warsaw EuroCity train at Berlin Hbf...

1st class car on the Berlin to Warsaw train.   2nd class open plan seating on the Berlin to Warsaw train

1st class compartment car...

 

2nd class open-plan car.  Some seats are in compartments.

Bar counter on the Berlin to Warsaw train   Food on the Berlin to Warsaw train

The bar...

 

Decent food, served on proper china...

5. Warsaw to Kiev by 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 See Tim Richards excellent blog entry about of the Kiev Express.

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...

 

1, 2 or 3-bed sleeper...

 

...with washbasin.

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Option 2, London to Kiev by daytime trains via Krakow...

It's now possible to reach Kiev using comfortable air-conditioned daytime trains with an overnight hotel stop in Berlin and Krakow, using the modern air-conditioned Przemysl-Lviv-Kiev fast train introduced in December 2016.  If you prefer daytime trains and hotels to sleepers, and fancy a morning (or more) in Krakow on the way, this is ideal.

London ► Kiev

Kiev ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

2nd class seats on Przemysl-Kiev train   The Przemysl to Lviv & Kiev train

The new express train from Przemysl to Lviv & Kiev, seen boarding at Przemysl.  Photos courtesy of Nicholas Brooke.

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Option 3, London to Kiev via Vienna...

This is a convenient and comfortable option which can easily be booked online.  It takes 2 nights, with a day to explore Vienna.  See Ukrainian news report showing the new Vienna-Kiev sleeping-car service.

London ► Kiev

Kiev ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

The Vienna-Kiev sleeping-car at Kiev Pass

The Vienna-Kiev sleeping-car at Kiev Pass.  Photos courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

Sleeper to Kiev about to leave Vienna   Ukrainian sleeper corridor   1, 2 or 3 bed Ukrainian sleeper compartment

The Vienna-Kiev sleeper about to leave Vienna Hbf... Courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

The sleeper corridor.  Courtesy Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment.

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large bullet pointLondon 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, 35-70 per night.

Option 1, 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...

How to buy tickets by phone...

Option 2, London to Lviv via Vienna...

This is a convenient and comfortable option.

London ► Lviv

Lviv ► London

How much does it cost?

How to buy tickets...

What's the journey like?

The Vienna-Kiev sleeping-car at Kiev Pass

The Vienna-Lviv-Kiev sleeping-car at Kiev Pass.  Photos courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

Sleeper to Kiev about to leave Vienna   Ukrainian sleeper corridor   1, 2 or 3 bed Ukrainian sleeper compartment

The Vienna-Lviv-Kiev sleeper about to leave Vienna Hbf... Courtesy of Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

The sleeper corridor.  Courtesy Helmut Uttenthaler.

 

1, 2 or 3 bed sleeper compartment.

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large bullet pointTrain 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 10 Hyrvnia, about 30p/0.35.  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 vagon 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!

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

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 at Omio.com (formerly GoEuro)...

Option 2, buy from Ukrainian Railways at 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.


large bullet pointKiev 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.

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large bullet pointFerries from Ukraine

Various ferries used to run between Istanbul and Odessa, appearing and disappearing.  Further feedback always appreciated!

Istanbul - Odessa ferry:  www.ukrferry.com

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large bullet pointRecommended guidebooks

Lonely 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

 

 

 

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large bullet pointEuropean 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 set up a private venture and resumed publication of the famous 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.

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large bullet pointHotels in Kiev & Ukraine...

Recommended hotel in Lviv:  The George Hotel...

Find hotels at Booking.comMy favourite hotel search site: www.booking.com

www.booking.com is my favourite hotel booking site and I generally prefer booking my hotels all in one place here.  You can usually book with free cancellation - this allows you to confirm your accommodation at no risk before train booking opens.  It also means you can hold accommodation while you finalise your itinerary, and alter your plans as they evolve - a feature I use all the time when putting a trip together.  I never book hotels non-refundably.  I have also come to trust their review scores - you won't be disappointed with anything over 8.0.

Tip:  It can pay to compare prices across multiple hotel sites:  HotelsCombined.com is a price comparison site which compares hotel prices on Booking.com, Hotels.com, Expedia, Accor, Agoda and many others.  Though if there's not much in it, I prefer keeping all my bookings together in one place at www.booking.com.

Other hotel sites worth trying...

www.tripadvisor.com is the place to find independent travellers' reviews of all the main hotels.

Backpacker hostels...

www.hostelworld.com:  If you're on a tight budget, don't forget about backpacker hostels.  Hostelworld offers online booking of cheap private rooms or dorm beds in backpacker hostels in Copenhagen and most other European cities at rock-bottom prices.

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large bullet pointTravel insurance & VPN...

 

Columbus direct travel insurance

 

Confused.com logo

Always take out travel insurance...

Never travel without travel insurance with at least 1m or preferably 5m medical cover from a reliable insurer.  It should also cover trip cancellation and loss of cash & belongings up to a reasonable limit.  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, feedback is always welcome.

UK flagIn the UK, reliable insurers include Columbus Direct.

UK flag

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

UK flagYou can use www.confused.com to compare prices & policy features across major insurance companies.

UK flag

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

 US flag If you live in the USA try Travel Guard USA.

 

Curve card

Get a Curve card to save on foreign transaction fees...

Banks often give a poor exchange rate, then charge a currency conversion fee as well.  A Curve MasterCard means no foreign transaction fees and gives you the mid-market exchange rate, at least up to a certain limit, 500 per month as I write this.  The balance goes straight onto one of your existing debit or credit cards.  And you can get a Curve card for free.

How it works:  1. Download the app for iPhone or Android.  2. Enter your details & they'll send you a Curve MasterCard - they send to most European addresses including the UK.  3. Link your existing credit & debit cards to the app.  4. Now use the Curve MasterCard to buy things online or in person or take cash from ATMs, just like a normal MasterCard. Curve does the currency conversion and puts the balance onto whichever of your debit or credit cards you choose.  You can even change your mind about which card it goes onto, within 14 days of the transaction.

I use a Curve Blue card myself - I get a little commission if you sign up to Curve, but I'm recommending it here because I think it's great.  See details, download the app and get a Curve card - they'll give you 5 cashback through that link, too.

 

Express VPN

Get a VPN for safe browsing.  VPNs & why you need one explained...

When you're travelling you often use free WiFi in public places which may not be secure.  A VPN means your connection to the internet is encrypted & always secure, even using unsecured WiFi.  In countries such as China where access to Twitter & Facebook is restricted, a VPN gets around these restrictions.  And lastly, you can select the geographic location of the IP address you browse with, to get around geographic restrictions which some websites apply - for example one booking site charges a booking fee to non-European visitors but none to European visitors, so if you're not located in Europe you can avoid this fee by browsing with a UK IP address using a VPN.  VPNs & why you need one explained ExpressVPN is a best buy and I use it myself - I've signed up as an ExpressVPN affiliate, and if you go with expressvpn.com using the links on this page, you should see a special deal, 3 months free with an annual subscription, and I get a small commission to help support this site.

 


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