What’s it really like to live in Kyiv for a semester? Staying long-term in a city is much different from just vacationing there. You’ll need to navigate more of the practical, everyday services of the city and budget to include more miscillanious and long-term expenses. Thus, this guide covers everything from haircuts to pharmacies and from gyms to computer repair. Its advice comes from SRAS staff on the ground in Kyiv as well as graduates of SRAS Programs in Kyiv.
A Practical Introduction to Kyiv
Kyiv is lively and bustling without being hectic. Music from street musicians and snippets of conversation, in Ukrainian and Russian, echo through the streets. These mingle with the smells of an incredible, diverse, and affordable array of cafes. Kyiv is a city meant to be strolled, explored, and enjoyed.
For students interested in language, identity, or conflict, Kyiv is a fascinating case study. Despite the recent conflict that still simmers, Russian and Ukrainian live quite peacefully side-by-side in Kyiv. Kyiv is also a transport hub with easy access to Moldova and the Caucasus, which offer similar fascinating case studies of their own.
Like many post-Soviet spaces, Kyiv is a mix of ornate historic buildings and grey blocks. However, it’s also very green, with rolling green hills along its wide riverfront. There are lovely large parks along the Dnieper and Kyiv outskirts that have ample room for running.
Kyiv has a milder continental climate with four distinct seasons. Summers are warm and rainy but usually do not go above 70 degrees. An umbrella and good, waterproof hiking boots or shoes will always come in handy. Winters can drop just below zero for long periods. Having a snow jacket and snow boots is recommended for January-March.
Kyiv’s long history and recent push towards Europe have given it a unique feel. Its population is diverse and generally friendly. Lost strangers shouldn’t hesitate to ask for directions, and people are generally patient and kind with foreigners. Americans are somewhat of a rarity in Kyiv, so people are often excited to meet SRAS students!
Budgeting Basics for Kyiv
Students in Kyiv report spending about $50-70 a week average over the course of their stay. This covers food, city transport, school supplies, modest weekend entertainment, and other general living expenses. Note that this guide assumes 27 Ukrainain Hryvnia = 1 US dollar. Prices current as of November, 2021.
Packing beforehand: Bring appropriate clothing, any electronics you need, and any prescription medication you are taking in amounts to last your time abroad. Check our packing guide for more information on preparing for your trip.
Card Fees. Call your banks and credit cards! Let them know the dates you’ll be abroad, otherwise, they tend to shut them off when they appear abroad – assuming they’ve been stolen. Note that most US banks will charge fees for every transaction you make abroad. $5 and/or 3% for every ATM withdrawal, for instance, is not uncommon. Make sure you understand these fees and factor them into your budget.
Local Currency or “Your Own Currency?” Some ATMs, retailers, and cafes will give you this option. Always pay in the local currency. It may sound convenient to have your bill brought in dollars, but it will always be higher. You will be paying at the store/ATM/cafe internal exchange rate. This is always worse than the exchange rate you will get from your bank or credit card company if you simply use your card to operate in the local currency. Always use ATMs that are connected with banks. Avoid those machines that are unbranded or privately branded.
After You Arrive: Students live with homestays in Kyiv, which usually provide everything you need. However, you might spend $10 on pens/erasers/school supplies or perhaps $5-20 on an adapter or converter if you didn’t bring one. School supplies are generally affordable – basic notebooks run $1-2.
Flexibility: You should always plan some flexibility into your budget. There will always be expenses that you didn’t plan for – a new umbrella, a better coat, a short trip that a new friend invites you on that is too good to say no to, you get the point.
- See our Complete Guide to Managing Cash Abroad for more information.
Food and Shopping in Kyiv
Average weekly total food spending: ~$35-$40 per week
(Note: SRAS Programs in Kyiv come with homestays, which provide breakfast and dinner. Thus, food costs for our students tend to be limited to lunches and dinners out with friends.)
Groceries: Students in Kyiv are provided homestays with breakfast and dinner every day. Thus, grocery expenses tend to be for the occasional snack or packing a lunch. Average weekly grocery bill: ~$0-4 per week.
- Shopping in Kyiv – specific recommendations for groceries, clothes, electronics, books, and just about everything else from SRAS students and staff.
Lunch in the Novamova area: the school is centrally located and surrounded by a variety of options. Two favorites include Puzata Hata and Marketplace, both cafeteria-style. There, or at one of the “business lunch” specials around the area, lunch will cost you around $4-8. Average weekly lunch bill: ~$25-35 per week.
Eating out: For fast food or street snacks, you might spend $1-$7. A mid-range sit-down restaurant will run you maybe $7-15. Fancy sit-down restaurants have meals for $15-30.
Student Reviews of Eating Out in Kyiv
Transport in Kyiv
Google Maps is definitely your friend here. Addresses can be a bit confusing at first so we would recommend marking the location of your homestay in your favorites on Google, to always know how to get back home. Note that Kyiv also has an extensive system of underground malls, which adds to the complexity of finding addresses.
Public transportation: A monthly metrocard with 60 rides per month is included in Kyiv programs, meaning that transport expenses are often minimal for our students in this location. Additional rides for metro, buses, or trams can be purchased at each metro station, if needed, for a flat rate of 8 UAH (~$0.30) per ride or less if you buy more at once. Public transport uses the Kyiv Smart Card. Metro trains run from about 6am-midnight. Most places can be reached by metro/walking in around 30-45 minutes. You can check out a map of the metro system here.
Marshrutkas are another, generally less comfortable option, and cost 6-10 UAH (cash only), depending on the length of the ride, you will need to ask for the fare by telling the driver your destination when getting in.
Taxis: Use the Uber smartphone app. Rides from the city outskirts to center run about $4-5. Most other rides will be less. Use an app for hailing cabs. Do not use cabs hailed from the street. Always know where you are going (general direction at least). Taxis that wait outside of bars and clubs or which already contain other passengers pose a high risk for scams.
Communications in Kyiv
Average total MONTHLY spending for communication: $1-11
See our Packing List for more information about bringing electronics abroad.
Mobile service and data: SRAS will supply you with a simple mobile phone while abroad. Students that use only these phones to call and text report spending around $1 dollar per month. Students with unlocked smartphones who get local SIMs for data and calling report spending $5-11 per month for generous-to-unlimited data and local texting. Cell service in Ukraine is usually pay-as-you-go with a monthly fee or prepaid service. You will not need a long-term contract. Students can also look into international plans through T-Mobile, Verizon, or Google Voice that can be handy if you plan to talk a lot to folks back home while abroad. Activate these before coming abroad. Internet is free while at NovaMova and if you ask waiters at restaurants, they will most likely give you the restaurant password.
High-speed Internet: Homestays will generally have WiFi and Novamova has WiFi on premises.\
Computer Repair: Coming soon.
Post: Coming Soon
Laundry and Cleaning
Average spending on laundry and cleaning: $~1 per week
Homestays provide laundry facilities – keeping these expenses minimal.
Dry Cleaners: Un Momento is located very near the Nova Mova Center.
Health and Medicine in Kyiv
Gyms: Gym memberships vary depending on location and quality – but $30-100 will generally by an all-inclusive package (equipment, classes, pool, etc.) Fitness Life is an affordable option (~$20/month) for people who are looking for a basic gym without all the bells and whistles. Read a student review of it here. Or try is Kolizey – it has good facilities and is less expensive than Sports Life. Another great place to look for (often free) various sports-related activities and hangouts is the SportGuide Kyiv Facebook page.
Water/Water filters: The water in Kyiv is safe for showers, bathing, and brushing your teeth. For drinking, either filter and boil the water first or, as most locals do, stick to bottled water. Bottled water can be purchased for 30-60 UAH ($1-3) for 1.5 liters.
Pharmacies: Bring a supply of needed medications with you. However, if you need something, look for the bright green crosses which usually mark pharmacies. Note that most things are available over the counter, but usually known under different names and sold under different brands than you are used to. Try looking up your medication on Wikipedia and then switching languages to find out what it is called in Ukrainian or Russian.
Medical Services: If at all possible, call your insurance before seeing a doctor. Often, there are certain doctors they want you to see. American Medical Center is commonly used in Kyiv by international insurance companies. What’s it like to see a doctor in Kyiv? Read a student experience here.
Eyeglasses and Contacts: Coming soon.
Personal Grooming and Hygiene
Hygiene: Shampoo, conditioner, deodorant, and toothpaste – in brands you are likely to recognize – run about $2 per package. Feminine hygiene products are around $4 per box.
Haircuts: “Luxury haircuts” such as those at TAJ Barbershop can be closer to $20. You are more likely to find a barber that speaks English for that cost. This is about the top tier of most barbershop pricing in Kyiv, but they give a good haircut.
Banyas: There are several banyas around Kyiv, although most of them are more male-oriented. Women typically only go to the banyas on Saturdays, and are almost always in groups. Some banyas only allow women on certain days of the week, so be sure to research which location you want to go to beforehand. One visit to a banya costs around 200-250 UAH, and additional massages or scrubs cost around 100 UAH.
Manicure/pedicures: Coming soon.
Culture and Entertainment
Museums: Most state museums are free to enter. Otherwise, tickets are rarely more than $5 and tours can be had, even in English, for about $10. Movie theaters only charge 100-150 UAH ($4-6) for one ticket. Kyiv Cinema is a popular movie theater that many NovaMova students go to on the weekends.
- Guide to Kyiv’s Top Museums (by SRAS staff and students)
Nightlife: The Buena Vista Social Bar in central Kyiv is also a great place to go for cheap food/drinks and entertainment. They often host International Nights for travelers and foreign students. Many bars and pubs around Kyiv also host special concerts and karaoke nights, and admission is typically around 40-90 UAH. Pubs and bars serve 0.5 liter beers for 40-60 UAH. Smaller, more local pubs serve beers for 30 UAH.
- Guide to Kyiv Pubs (by SRAS staff and students)
Performances: A ticket to a movie will run about $5-12. Rock concerts can run from $8-infinity. Theater tickets can run about $3-200.
- Kyiv performing arts reviews (by SRAS staff and students)
Charitable Giving and Volunteering
Some SRAS students have, in their freetime, volunteered with church groups and charities on the ground in Moscow. You can find a list of charities and NGOs on this site here.
If you feel like you want to volunteer your time while studying abroad, Community of Sant’egidio opens an opportunity for you to do that. They accept donations of clothing and other essentials as well.
- Russian Orthodox: Pechersk Lavra
- Jewish: Brodsky Synagogue
- Islam: Ar-Rahma Mosque
- Catholic: St. Nicholas Roman Catholic Cathedral
- Lutheran: German Evangelical Lutheran Church of St. Catherine
- Ukrainian Orthodox: St. Michael’s Golden-Domed Monastery
- Mormon: Kyiv Ukraine Temple
Travel from Kyiv
If you are going to blow some money in your budget – SRAS recommends you do it on travel. See more of the country and wider region and meet more of the people while you have the chance to do it quite inexpensively. Look at travel options described on this for info about in (and out) of country destinations. Travel in Ukraine is quite inexpensive. You can generally expect:
Bus ticket (one way): 250 UAH (~$10)
Night train ticket (in sleeper cabin-pillow and blanket provided): 550 UAH
Note: Planning your weekend trip ahead of time isn’t absolutely necessary in Ukraine, but night train tickets are typically cheaper at least one week before departure.
Hostels: 125-200 UAH per night (I highly recommend Dream Hostel in Lviv- only costs 123 UAH per night, and is super cozy!)
Flights: Flights within Ukraine and to neighboring/nearby countries can be found for $60-120.
Meals: 100-250 UAH per meal (This definitely depends on your personal preferences, but finding cheap meals is not difficult to do around Ukraine.)
Souvenirs: 50-250 UAH (Again, this depends on your preferences. Small souvenirs and postcards also make for great gifts to bring back to your host families).
The SRAS programs in Kyiv do not usually include a trip to Chernobyl. However, many students have booked them independently through Chernobyl Tour. It is about $120 for a one-day tour. Another day trip would be to the Museum of Strategic Rocket Forces. This is an abandoned nuclear base in Ukraine that has left over weapons and machinery from the Cold War. There is even a simulated nuclear launch!
Find Out More About…
- Ukrainian Holidays
- Ukrainian Cuisine
- SRAS Students on Living in Kyiv
- Arrival to Kyiv, SRAS Student Impressions
- Kyiv Student Housing
- SRAS Kyiv Programs (Student Reviews)
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