Kyiv (sometimes spelled Kiev, but most Ukrainians prefer the latter) is an interesting city that not everyone gets to understand. Some people spend a couple of days there, covering only the most touristy places and then leave with frustration and disappointment. Others wander a bit off the beaten track and realize they fancy a longer stay and begin wondering, what is the cost of living in Kyiv.
I spent 8 years of my life in Kyiv, studying, working and just exploring different corners of the capital of Ukraine. Recently I got a chance to return, rent a flat and experience this city all over again.
If you are planning to move to Kyiv for work or come and stay a few months as a digital nomad, there are some things to know. I am happy to share from my own experience how much it costs to live in Kyiv and what to remember when traveling to Ukraine.
What Does It Cost to Live in Kyiv, Ukraine?
When people ask me if it is cheap to live in Kyiv, I always wonder. What do they consider to be “cheap” and what do they compare it to? If I have to compare Kyiv to other capital cities in Europe then yes, it is probably the inexpensive one. But, if comparing to Asia or even a non-metropolitan city in Western Europe, for instance, the capital of Ukraine may seem to be not that cheap. So it all depends.
But let’s look at numbers and see how it costs to live in Kyiv, so you know how cheap or expensive it is for you personally.
Some people say the cost to live in Kyiv can be under $1000 per month. Yes, it is, if you tighten your belt, rent a smaller apartment away from the center, do not eat out and do not travel. In any other case, you’ll definitely need to budget more.
In my experience, to be able to live comfortably in Kyiv as a foreigner you’d need to have at least $1500 per month. And here is why.
Cost of Accommodation in Kyiv
Prices for accommodation in Kyiv, as probably in every other capital in the world, increase each year and depend on the location, how old or new the apartment complex is and what is the time period you are going to rent it for. Rent alone is going to be your biggest expense.
On average, a newly remodeled one-bedroom flat with furniture in a nice neighborhood closer to the city center will cost between $700-$800 per month. Keep in mind, that one-bedroom flat in your understanding actually means two-bedroom flat in Ukraine. A one-bedroom apartment by Ukrainian standards is more like a studio but with a kitchen being separated with the wall and door. This type of accommodation will cost less, somewhere between $500-$600 per month.
If you are planning to live in Kyiv long-term, I recommend hiring a broker who will help you find a home. His/her services usually cost half of the monthly rent.
Cost of Utilities in Kiev
When you rent a home in Kyiv (or anywhere else in Ukraine) usually utilities are not included in the monthly rent. How much you’ll end up paying will depend on the season and size of the apartment. During the summer months, I pay for my 40m2 apartment $35 per month for electricity, water, and gas. During the colder months when the heating is on, my monthly bill gets to $110 per month.
Additionally, I pay $4 for the Internet and $5 for mobile.
Kyiv Transportation Costs
The cost to live in Kyiv is favorably impacted because it has the cheapest public transport in entire Europe, although it is not always comfortable and convenient. First of all, there are a lot of old buses, “marshrutka” taxis, and trolleybuses. The subway trains have not been replaced since Soviet times.
There are new buses on a few routes which have AC and are comfortable enough but for the most part, public transport is old and doesn’t have any AC and heating. Riding in a bus or metro in a rush-hour is some type of a nightmare, especially on a hot humid day.
The price, however, is cheap indeed. A ride in a bus, tram, funicular, metro and city train in any direction costs around $0.40. Monthly passes are available as well but the price depends on a type of transportation. To give you an example, a monthly metro pass with the unlimited number of rides costs $25 while metro and tram pass goes for $35.
Considering that Kyiv is capital and all capital cities get pretty crowded during rush hours, taking anything than metro in that time is probably not the best idea.
Can I Use Uber in Kyiv?
- Cost of Living in Portugal
- What Does It Cost To Live in Riga, Latvia
- Cost of Living in Auckland, New Zealand
Uber and Bolt in Kyiv are cheap too and they are way better alternatives to taxis. A 5km long distance will cost you between $2-$3. A trip to/from the Boryspil Airport is roughly $15.
As for the car, I personally don’t recommend driving in the city since parking and traffic jams can be a real challenge. The only time when you may need a car is when you want to go to the mountains or on a few day trips from Kyiv. Bear in mind that roads in Ukraine are still in disrepair, driving on them can take all joy away. For all other trips, if considering to go to Odesa, Lviv, Dnipro or Kharkiv, you can hop on a train. Trains in Ukraine are very affordable and run on time.
Cost of Food and Eating Out in Kyiv
If you are going only to cook at home, expect to spend between $250-$300 per month for groceries for two people. This amount covers everything you need for a healthy well-balanced diet. If mixing things up and eating out as many times as cooking at home then your expense will be somewhere between $450-$500 per month for two.
What is really great about Kyiv it’s how many different foods within different price range this city has. Those who live on a tight budget can always find lots of street food options where one meal costs between $2-$3. Those who love going to coffee shops and cafes will be surprised to find many quirky places where the average price of a dish costs $3-$6.
Other prices are:
Coffee – $1, cappuccino – $1.5-$2, meal in a home-made style fast-food restaurant – $5, a three-course meal with a drink $10-$12, beer (0,5l) – $1-$1.5, a loaf of bread – $0.50-$1.50, a kilo of potatoes – $0.50, local cheese – $5 per kg, cured ham – $7-$10 per kg. Gluten, dairy, and sugar-free produce are ample but expensive.
A pack of almond milk, for instance, can cost up to $5 for a pack while in the countries of EU it’s less than 1 euro.
Entertainment in Kiev
As for the costs of entertainment, it depends on your interests and lifestyle. There is a lot to do on any budget.
You can go to one of the museums and pay $2, have a relaxing spa treatment for $20 or ride in a tank for $200. Whatever your heart desires.
Despite the fact that there is still no water park in Kyiv, this is probably the only thing which the city lacks. Other than that, you can find all possible forms of entertainment – shopping and entertainment centers, nightlife, cinemas, theaters, opera house, restaurants, ice rinks, skate clubs, etc. They all don’t cost a lot. For example, a ticket for the ballet or opera costs between $5-$20 (depending on seating,) 2 hours on the ice rink $5.
All major cinemas show movies in Ukrainian but there are a few smaller ones where you can watch it in English.
In addition, Kyiv has a popular holiday destination – Hydropark, an area on the river with the beach, and various ponds on the outskirts of the city.
Cost of Other Living Expenses You May Have in Kiev
Other expenses you may have, if living long-term, are healthcare, services like manicures, haircuts, buying clothes and traveling outside Kyiv.
For healthcare, it is easy enough to see any type of specialist whenever you need. If you are moving to Kyiv for work, the company most likely will provide insurance for you, otherwise, I wouldn’t worry about not having one.
Prices are affordable and it’s easy to set an appointment. On average, the entire check-up routine will cost less than $200, including blood tests, consultations, ultrasound, and even some minor dental work.
I recommend to budget another $100 for manicures, haircuts and some random shopping.
If planning to travel to other cities, don’t forget to add this expense to the monthly cost.
Pros and Cons of Living in Kyiv
One of the pros which I haven’t mentioned about yet is safety. Kyiv is a very safe and relaxed city. Even with all the traffic and crowds in the center, it still doesn’t feel like being in a metropolis. Another thing, if you are a freelancer who makes at least $1500 per month, this amount of money will guarantee a comfortable living in Kyiv. It is the most expensive city in Ukraine but one of the cheapest capital cities in Europe, and for the western world salary, you can afford a lot.
Other pros of living in Kyiv are rich culture, the quality of the food which for the most part is fresh and organic, amount of activities to do, central location for international trips, vibrant nightlife and receptive of new cultures and values people.
The problems a foreigner may encounter in Kyiv are lack of nature, bad quality of air, pretty bad smog in the summer, in some places poor infrastructure and that not many people speak English.
About the Author:
Anya writes on her blog Road is Calling about slow travel lifestyle while living and working in different countries around the world. Her main goal is to share her knowledge of hospitality business, online entrepreneurship and how to become an expat through finding jobs abroad. Also, she creates travel itineraries for everyone who is interested in Eastern Europe and the Balkans.