Buying a train ticket in the Ukraine
Travelling by train in the Ukraine is very cheap, but due to this, trains are often fully booked. This means you should buy your tickets well in advance, especially in the summer season.
Many long distance trains go overnight and usually have 3 types of classes:
- 2-berth compartment (Spalny, 1st class)
- 4-berth compartment (Kupe, 2nd class)
- open-plan compartment (Platskartny, 3rd class)
Probably the best and cheapest option is to buy your tickets in the train booking office at Hnatyuka Street 20, which is one of the side streets heading west from Svobody Prospekt.
Of course you also get train tickets at some travel agencies and the train station, but here you might be charged an extra booking fee.
Among others I have bought the following tickets in the Ukraine:
Lviv -> Kiev: 81,45 UAH (06.2007)
Ternopil -> Lviv: 24,14 UAH (05.2008)
Lviv -> Budapest (H); 283,08 UAH (05.2008).
Just as an example, the train Lviv to Kiev was an overnight train (#82) leaving Lviv at 23:20 h and arriving in Kiev at 9:58 h the next morning. We stayed in a 4-berth compartment (Kupe, 2nd class).
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To Lviv by train
On our trips to Lviv in 2007 and 2008 we arrived and left the city by train. Lviv is a major railway hub and you can get to almost everywhere in the Ukraine as well as to many big cities in other European countries.
Among them are Vienna (A), Budapest (H), Kosice (SK), Warsaw (PL), Moscow (RUS) and many more.
Travelling by train within the Ukraine is still very cheap, but also very slow. Most important it is always interesting and exciting, especially when arriving from a western European country because then the bogeys of the carriages have to be changed at the border.
Please also read my "Buying a train ticket in the Ukraine" tip for more info on this subject.
Lviv's main train station can be found approximately 2 km east of the city centre at Dvirtseva Square 1. Trams no. 1, 6 and 9 serve the route to the train station.
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Explore Lviv by public transport
Lviv's public transport system consists of trams, trolley buses and buses. During our visits of Lviv, we mostly used the trams as they cover most of the city.
The tram tracks and the vehicles themselves are in a really bad condition, but honestly speaking this adds up to the special charm of Lviv.
Tickets cost 0,75 UAH (2008) and can directly be bought from a conductor who is usually on the vehicle. If for any reason there isn't a conductor then you can also buy the ticket from the driver.
If the vehicle is crowded then just hand the money to the person next to you and so on. After a certain time a ticket will come back on the same way.
Nowadays tickets have to be validated in one of the provided stamp machines. On each vehicle a new ticket has to be bought.
- Budget Travel
A great Railway Station
Lviv is the most important hub for all visiting Western Ukraine by train.
If you want to buy your train tickets more comfortably you may do it in the booking office in the city (Hnatyuka 20) or in the nice and almost empty lounge upstairs in the railway station building. Be prepared to pay an extra 5 UAH for entering this room - and if you dont speak Ukrainian or Russian it might still be difficult to get what you want if you do not do it the way which is always best: to write the destination (you may do it even in Latin characters), the train number, the class and the travel day on a piece of paper and hand the paper over to the lady in the ticket booth.
And keep always in mind that you may ONLY buy tickets and make reservations for trains to foreign destinations as far as post-Soviet trains or carriages are running.
Train/Bus to Lviv
Train transportation available from Warsaw, Wroclaw, Krakow, Prague, Bratislava, Budapest, Venice, Zagreb, Lublana, Athens, Bucharest, Sofia, Berlin, Vienna, Petersburg, Moscow, Minsk.
Check the official web site of Ukrainian Railways http://www.uz.gov.ua/ or
Railway Booking Office 20, Hnatyuka St. Lwow (Lviv)
Lwow (Lviv) has regular long distance bus communication with Poland, Hungary, Germany, Great Britain, Italy, Greece, France, and Russia.Main international motorways E-40 and E -573.
The speed limit in populated areas is 60 km/hour. In other areas it is 80 km/hour (buses), 130 km/hour (motorways). There is no permissible content of alcohol in the drivers blood, so if you drink something take a taxi.
Fuel - Average prices per litre are :
diesel 1,15 UAH 0,25 Euro,
95- 1,65 UAH (0,35 Euro).
98 - 2,00 UAH (0,41 Euro).
Taxis usual waiting in the street are considerably more expensive than those hailed. It's easier and cheaper to hail a private car in the street, as owners often act as taxi drivers.
Important: I won't advise you to get in a private car with more than one person already in it. You also should set the price before getting in.
Rides are usually equivalent to about 2,5 Euro in the city centre, and up to 5 Euro to Lviv'v suburbs.
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Airplane to Lviv
Ukrainian Airlines (Lviv office)
phone +(38 0322)-98-69-77, 69-27-44
fax +(38 0322)-69-24-40
Internationals Offices of Ukrainian Airlines- check:http://www.ukraine-international.com/eng/worldwide/index.html
Lviv Airways (Tel. 436-2543) operates five daily flights from Moscow's Vnukovo Airport. One-way tickets cost ca. $150
Airport in Lviv is situated on the southern suburbs of Lviv. The cost of travel from Warsaw to Lviv is ca. 160 Euro
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It is possible to travel direct from London, direct to L'vov, thanks to a Ukraine-based operator.
The service leaves London Green-line, fortnightly, promptly at 20:00
(I emphasise prompt, because there is a UK-based, 'cowboy' operator, Eastern European Travel, offering a straight-through service to L'vov, except they change coaches in Poland, having left London an hour late, due to taking on-board parcels belonging to folk who do not board the coach - then this has to be delivered to home addresses after reaching Ukraine, adding 10 hours to the due arival time, where the full journey ends, in Kiev...)
If you travel with the Ukrainian operator, you'll receive a professional service & be in L'vov in the early hours of Thursday morning.
I would not care to do this distance on a full coach, but travelling out of season means a seat to yourself, so you can sleep when you please, though only the German autobahn section is boring & passing through the scenery of 5 different countries, is in my opinion, what TRAVEL IS ALL ABOUT. If you're not in a mad rush to arrive & want to savour the delights of cross-channel duty-free shopping, the many rest stops along the way, & the magnificent Polish pine forests, sprinkled with snow & a crimson sun glowing through a pink sky, then take the coach, not the plane...
- Road Trip
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super cheap flight from Kyiv to Lviv
this is the fastest and the cheapest option available so far - to get from Kyiv (Boryspil International Airport, terminal A) to Lviv for a 1.5 hour for as low as UAH 68 (around $15 one way; all taxes included). this is a SUPER PROMO price offered by a newly launched budget airline WIZZAIR. to get this lowest price, it's better to make a reservation (via internet) at least 2 weeks in advance, as the regular price might be as high as UAH 436.
the flight from Kyiv-Boryspil departs on 15:05 on M, W, Fr, Su., and arrives in Lviv at 16:30.
the flight from Lviv departs on 17:00 on M, W, Fr, Su, and arrives in Kyiv at 18:15
P.S. as of 2009, wizzair discontinued flight to Lviv and Odesa. currently, the airline flies only to Simferopol (Crimea).
- Family Travel
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Buing train tickets in the station
To Chernivtsi Kupe was €3,60, Platskartny was €1,50 (uncomfortable, but if you book on the same day Kupe might be only available for a train taking 12 instead of 6 hours)
Counter 3 and 4 are for trains on the same day
Counter 6 is for advanced booking to Chernivtsi (and some other places)
Counter 7 if you want to return your ticket (you get about 50% back)
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- Historical Travel
Krakow to Lviv by Afternoon train
Our trip from Krakow to Lviv was made all the more easier by Matts planning and organising-He sorted the afternoon and night departures for us, (so we could chose which one we preferred to travel on), organised who was sharing which carriage, setting up bank accounts for us to send the money, once the ticket prices were sorted, collecting the tickets for us, and arranging 'Train Captains' Matt would meet us at our hotel, as he was driving to Lviv.
Even for Matt, booking the tickets wasn't straight forward. You can't book online. Tickets to Lviv are purchased in person at the International Cashier desk at Krakow Glowny rail station. This can be done from 60 days prior to departure.
Initially I liked the sound of the night train,(Depart Krakow Glowny at 22.32, arrive Lviv 06.03) but then considered that I most likely wouldn't sleep, and if I did, the thought of being woken at the border, plus our planned morning walk around Lviv had me booking the day train. Also Ukraine time was 1 hour ahead of Poland!
Leaving Krakow Glowny station about 15 minutes late (Departure should have been 13.01) we settled into our carriages, which with our cases etc were quite compact. When the door was closed I seriously thought that I'd be exiting at the next station -as I was feeling a bit claustrophobic! However, with the door opened, I was Ok, and I had poons and toonsarah to chat to. All of the VTers were in the same wagon. I'm sure that the non-VTers on this train didn't quite know what to make of our international gang, who were like an excited school party, visiting each others cabins, taking photos of each other and our VA's, bobbing our heads out of the window etc etc.
So what to do to pass the time?
!. Make yourself comfy- Our carriage was for 3 people, with a bench seat, that converted into bunk beds, I should have thought to use one of the pillows for a cushion for my back, as it wasn't too comfy for a shorty like me - luckily I could walk around, so it wasn't too bad.
Bring a book/ music / snacks and drinks etc - Courtney brought her knitting.
2. Explore your carriage- There was a cabinet with bottles of water, and an electric socket - handy for re-charging phones/ Mp3's etc. A table top covered a wash basin (we didn't use this) individual lights for the bunk beds, and a supply of bedding. Lots of knobs and buttons-I think one was a call button for the train attendent
to be continued....
- Budget Travel
Taxi from Train Station to Hotel George
Our group arrived at Lviv station past midnight, the night train gang were 'on their way', and the road travelers had arrived.
We were all booked into Hotel George, in the centre of Lviv.
Not having any Ukranian currency, the first task was to exchange money-either at the ATM or at the exchange desk.
There were 5 of us and our bags, left looking for a taxi. The taxi rank is right outside the station. (An assortment of models of varying age!) SueT went to negotiate a price with one driver - he quoted 50 Ukraine Hryvnia (UAH) (about £4.30- though My brain wasn't upto converting at this time-I was still getting used to Sterling/Zlotys)
However, he thought his taxi was too small for us all, and pointed out another taxi. SueT again, checked that he'd take us to Hotel George for 50UAH - he repeated Hotel George, and agreed.
We piled in- Well SueT, poons, Gillybob and DavidGB piled into the back seat-I had the 'luxury' of the front passenger seat - a seat belt that wouldn't work, and a crack on the windscreen in front of me. I did feel quite bad though when I saw DavidGB realising that his train journey from Hell, was now quite comfy compared to this...
Now, I'd not been to Lviv before, and I hadn't really 'done my homework' before this trip, but I knew that our hotel was in the centre of town, and it was of a certain age.. so I was quite surprised when we eventually pulled into the grounds of a smart, and modern hotel.. trying to decipher the name, it didn't look like any version of Hotel George-The driver was out, and starting to unload our luggage (while the back seat occupants were untangling themselves)
We pointed out that this wasn't our hotel - which the driver took some time to understand!!! We eventually communicated that we wanted to be at Hotel George. With an air of reluctance he put our cases back and we resumed our seating arrangements.
A few minutes later we were at Hotel George-where the fare had now become 80UAH! (around £6.80) Again, it wasn't until much later that I realised that although expensive for Ukranian rates, for us it was a cheap journey-although at the time it seemed quite a lot!!!
We all put it down to experience - However a few minutes later, more of our party arrived, who had been stung for a lot more.
Returning to the train station early in the morning, our hotel reception organised taxis for us, which arrived promptly. Our fare was 30UAH
Apparently, only one company has metred taxis at present- presumably this will change in time for Euro2012, when Lviv is one of the host cities.
The usual price from the train station to the centre of Lviv is 25-30 UAH. (£2.12- £2.54) I'm not sure if there is a (legal) night time supplement as there often is in other countries.
So, have this money to hand.
Having the name of your hotel and address (and telephone number) on a piece of card, (plus in the Cyrillic alphabet) might help.
Some taxi companies
Express (+380) 32 221 65 65
Mif (+380) 32 241 91 11
Radio Taxi (+380) 32 240 44 55
Virazh (+380) 32 233 81 14
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A network of trams serves Lviv’s city centre but you are unlikely to use them a lot as most of the sights are within easy walking distance of each other. There are a few places however on the outskirts of town for which a tram or taxi will be needed. We took a tram to visit the Lychakiv Cemetery and found the system to be much as it is in many other European countries. You need to buy your ticket in advance from one of the many small newsstands to be found on the main streets. A single trip cost just one Hryvnia in June 2010 (about 0.10€) – buy two tickets if you know you’ll be making a return journey to save looking for a kiosk again at your destination. When you board the tram be sure to validate your ticket at one of the machines mounted high on the side wall (photo 2). I found that the machine tended to mangle the thin paper rather than punch it, but at least it was visibly stamped had any inspector wanted to see it.
The best tram for the cemetery is number 7, but number 4, which we took, also gets you close. Many of them pass through the main square and as there’s a tourist information office there I would suggest you check there if you need to find out about other routes, or see “Lviv in your pocket” for information on trams to specific sights.
To Lviv by train
I came to Lviv by train from Krakow with a group of other VTers, and it was quite an adventure – an adventure that some of us enjoyed more than others! I have to say that I fell into the first group. I have always loved travelling by train. There is a definite romance to it, and however scruffy the train and slow the journey, something in me responds to that – maybe my inner Michael Palin coming out!
Whatever the reason, I really enjoyed this journey, but I don’t want to ignore the drawbacks. The main one of these is time – you need a lot of it! We left Krakow at about 1.20 pm (should have been 1.01 pm) and didn’t arrive in Lviv until midnight. As the Ukraine is one hour ahead of Poland that’s a journey time of nine and a half hours. The return trip was similar, leaving Lviv at about 7.20 am and arriving in Krakow at 3.30 pm = just over 9 hours. These are quite elderly trains and consequently move slowly, but the main causes of the long journey times are the border formalities (especially clearing Ukrainian immigration) and the need to change the whole undercarriage (the bogey) to accommodate the different gauges used in Poland and Ukraine. This is a major operation. A few carriages at a time are shunted into a siding where huge jacks raise them to a height which allows the engineers to get underneath, detach and slide out one set of wheels, and slide in and make secure the others. You can stay on the train throughout (indeed the doors are locked I think) and watch from the windows, which is entertaining for a while, but unless you’re a real train enthusiast you may find the novelty has worn off long before the operation is complete.
All of the above also means lots of interruptions to your journey, which are welcome mini-events when travelling by day but (I gather from those who travelled overnight) a major irritation if trying to sleep. Talking of sleep, travel by day and night is in compartments which can be converted from seating to bunks, so having a lie down is possible at any time. We travelled in a second class compartment, which meant three people sharing, and managed to arrange things so we shared only with VTers. However the corridor was a great meeting place for everyone from the carriage, and on the outward journey we had fun chatting (as far as language limitations would allow) to some of our neighbours – a mining engineer returning from a conference to his home near Kiev, and a young Russian guy who had just said goodbye to his new Polish wife as they had to wait several months for her to get permission to come to live in Russia with him.
We also found the carriage attendants to be friendly and helpful (photo 3). They will brew up a coffee or tea (the first cup is free), sell small snacks such as chocolate bars or peanuts (and dish out free, and tasty, croissants as “souvenirs”) and help you on and off the train with your bags. A bottle of water was also provided for each passenger, but you may want to supplement the on-board catering with your own supplies – a bottle of wine will help the journey go faster for sure!
Finally, there are toilets at each end of the corridor, but some less salubrious than others, although the smelliest one was cleaned by the attendant part way through the journey. Smoking isn’t allowed in the carriage but is possible in the spaces between.
Lviv’s grand (if rather rundown) station (photos 4 and 5) lies some distance to the west of the town centre so you will probably want to take a taxi to and from it. If you do, make sure you confirm the price before you set off. Arriving late and tired from Krakow we made the silly mistake of not doing so, and nor had we quite familiarised ourselves with the exchange rates, so we were well and truly ripped off. On our return we had booked several taxis for the group and agreed on 25 UAH for the trip, which is reasonable.
I understand from Matt that it isn’t possible to book tickets in advance from outside the country – and from his accounts it’s also pretty difficult to book them from within!
Central Lviv is an extremely walkable city, I'm sure in our 2 1/2 days there that we covered almost all of it on foot. But if you are making a journey to the Lychakiv cemetery or the Museum of Folk Architecture and Life, you will want to take one of the trams that run from the center. We bought our tickets from a kiosk near our hotel, it's a ridiculously cheap 1hr to ride the tram, about 12 cents. Buy two tickets if you need a round trip as you won't always find a kiosk near the tram stop.
We took tram #2 and ended up walking a bit, there's another tram line that runs right in front of the cemetery which is tram #7.
I can't say we mastered the tram system as Matt guided us on the way to the cemetery and we caught a tram back and got off once we saw familiar surroundings but the Rough Guide and In Your Pocket both list what trams to take for out of the way sites and your hotel desk should also be able to help you get on the right tram.
A link to the tram routes is listed below
TRAIN TO LVIV - CHANGE OF AXLES
It was necessary to change axles on our trip from Krakow to Lviv and then again Lviv to Krakow. It took about 2 hours for the changeovers - quite fascinating really.
A Variable Gauge System allows railway vehicles in a train to travel across a break-of-gauge caused by two railway networks with differing track rail gauges, such as between Krakow, Poland and Lviv, Ukraine.
For through operation, a train must be equipped with special bogies (wheeled wagon or framework carrying wheels) holding variable gauge wheelsets containing a Variable Gauge Axle (VGA). The gauge is altered by driving the train through a gauge changer (photos # 1 & 2). As the train passes through the gauge changer, the wheels are unlocked, moved closer together, or further apart (as needed) and are then re-locked.
Variable Gauge Axles (VGA) help solve the problem of a break-of-gauge without having to resort to dual gauge tracks or transfer of cargo or passengers. VGA changes tend to occur more often at international borders.
My source of information was Wikipedia.