My Fall Budget for Kyiv, Ukraine
PCON Program, Fall 2017
Whenever I prepare to move to a new city, I always have a general idea of how much my monthly expenses will be. Most of the time, my outlined budgets are fairly accurate. However, I was pleasantly surprised at how drastically I over-budgeted for my fall semester in Kyiv, Ukraine. On an average week, I do not spend over $50, and that’s without trying to be economically mindful!
Note: During my time in Kyiv, the conversion rate has been 1 US Dollar to 26.83 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH).
Food: My Favorite Part of Living Abroad
As part of the PCON Program, I am provided breakfast and dinner every day by my host family (note: this is not standard for SRAS programs; it applies only to PCON in Kyiv). This leaves lunch open for eating out and exploring different restaurants around Kyiv. On average, I spend between 50-125 UAH (~$2-5) everyday for lunch. NovaMova, the language school where my classes are held, is centrally located in Kyiv and is surrounded by a variety of restaurants. There are several pubs, cafés, and restaurants where you can find a cheap, yet wholesome meal. For example, two of my favorite Ukrainian restaurants are Puzata Hata and Marketplace, where the food is served buffet style and a full lunch will cost you less than $4.
From what I’ve noticed, most Ukrainians consume way more coffee and tea than water. There are coffee stands on pretty much every corner, and the average cost is 15-40 UAH ($0.75-1.50), depending on whether you get a coffee/latte/cappuccino. In regards to pubs and bars, most places serve 0.5 liter beers for 40-60 UAH. Smaller, more local pubs even serve beers for 30 UAH. (Note: Most bars in Kyiv accept credit cards, but you can’t leave a tip on your bill. Be sure to bring cash to tip your waiter/bartender! An acceptable tip in Ukraine is 10%).
Since my host mom provides the majority of my meals, my knowledge of grocery prices is limited. However, the prices of a few products I buy regularly are listed below.
1 kilogram of oranges: 27 UAH (~$1)
1.5 liter bottle of water: 9 UAH
Box of tea: 30-75 UAH
Various crackers/chips: 15-35 UAH
Bottle of Coca-Cola: 10 UAH
1 kilogram of apples: 17 UAH
Internet and Phone Service
One of the first things I did when I arrived in Kyiv was get a local sim card. Through SRAS, a small phone was given to me for local calling, but I wanted to have internet access on my own smartphone as well. I purchased a sim card from a guy at a small stand outside of the Zoloti Vorota Metro Station. For only 75 UAH (~$3), I received a month’s worth of unlimited data and local texting.
A couple of my classmates decided to keep their American cell phone plans while studying in Ukraine, but I strongly recommend students to get a local sim card. Not only is it cheaper, but most of the time American plans only supply 2G data, whereas a local sim will give you 3G speed.
A monthly metrocard is also included in the PCON Program, so this is one less expense I have to worry about. The NovaMova Language School reloads the metrocards every month with 60 rides, and additional rides can be purchased at each metro station, if needed. The Kyiv Metro charges a flat rate of 5 UAH (~$0.20) per ride. Kyiv also has a local bus service that costs 4 UAH per ride (cash only).
The local taxi service is reliable, but Uber is definitely the cheaper option in Kyiv. A ride from the city center to my homestay on the outskirts of Kyiv (35 minute drive) only costs me 100-120 UAH. Uber in Ukraine allows you the option to pay by card or cash, and they list your ride cost before you step into the vehicle. If you have to take a local taxi, just be prepared to barter, especially if you’re riding late at night. Rather than hailing a cab from the curb, it’s better to call the official taxi service (The Express Taxi Kyiv) and request a ride, because they will charge the standard price and the driver won’t upcharge.
Kyiv is a city full of entertainment! From all types of museums, concerts, and events, there is literally always something to do. NovaMova does a great job of providing students with information regarding different events taking place in Kyiv every week. They post details about concerts and exhibits on their “Event Wall,” and they arrange weekly excursions to various museums and historical sites. Most museums are free to enter, and the movie theaters only charge 50-100 UAH ($2-4) for one ticket. Kyiv Cinema is a popular movie theater that many NovaMova students go to on the weekends.
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.
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.
Gym & Sports
Gym memberships around Kyiv range in price, and it really depends on what kind of facility you’re looking for. My fellow classmate is paying close to $100 per month for his membership at Sky Fitness, but it includes just about everything (full workout facility, pool, sauna, jacuzzi, group classes, personal training sessions, etc.). However, my gym is more on the outskirts of Kyiv (closer to my homestay), and I pay only $30 for everything, excluding a pool. From what I’ve noticed, gyms in central Kyiv are more expensive due to convenience, not necessarily quality. Also, before signing up at a new gym, be sure to check the website for prices. Many gyms will upcharge you simply because you’re a foreigner, so be prepared to negotiate the price if necessary.
If you’re looking for a more interactive way to stay fit, there are several options available! There are a few intramural sport teams that practice around the city who love welcoming foreigners! However, these groups are taken very seriously among their participants, so they only accept students who will commit to weekly practices and games. They also require you to come with your own proper gear, in addition to purchasing a team uniform and practice wear. If this interests you, the NovaMova staff can assist you with finding the best team to play with! Another great place to look for various sports-related activities and hangouts is the SportGuide Kyiv Facebook page (СпортГид Киев).
Housing is covered in standard SRAS programs. However, if you chose to rent your own apartment here, the average monthly cost of an apartment in Kyiv is around $275-300. Hostels in Kyiv, in case you have folks coming to visit, are also very affordable, averaging 150-200 UAH ($6-8) per night, and the average Airbnb costs 400-950 UAH per night.
Travel: Last, but certainly not least!
During my time in Ukraine, I’ve traveled to both Odessa (included in the PCON Program) and Lviv (independent trip). Both experiences were surprisingly cheap, so I strongly recommend everyone take at least one weekend trip to a different city while studying in Ukraine.
Here is a breakdown of the average expenses that I encountered while traveling independently throughout Ukraine:
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!)
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).
All in all, my weekly expenses in Kyiv are kept to a minimum, and I’ve been pleasantly surprised at how little I’ve actually spent. Kyiv’s overall affordability is one of many reasons I encourage fellow students to study here!