Why is Ukraine So Cheap?

Ukraine used to be part of the Soviet Union, just like most countries in Eastern Europe. Today, the quality of life in Ukraine keeps developing, but the cost of living there is still low. What are the reasons behind this low cost of living in Ukraine? Why is Ukraine so cheap?

Ukraine is extremely cheap because daily expenses are way lower than in other European countries. Ukraine is the cheapest country in Europe. Spending one day in Kyiv, the capital of Ukraine costs around $30. This amount includes food, transportation, and accommodations.

Why is Ukraine so poor?

When it comes to the whole country, we can also say that Ukraine is a poor country. Indeed, it is not only that daily expenses are cheaper in Ukraine. It is also that the whole country is a bit underdeveloped, compared to other neighbors that also were in the Soviet Union in the past. So, why is Ukraine so poor?

Ukraine is poor because it was not able to develop quickly after the disintegration of the Soviet Union. Ukraine has a lot of natural and human resources, but the development of the country is still slow, making Ukraine the cheapest country in Europe, and a very poor country overall.

To show you how cheap Ukraine is and how poor this country is, I will dive into the prices of restaurants, hotels, and transportation. Then, I will compare those prices with other countries. This may make you want to visit Ukraine!

How much does one day in Ukraine costs?

So let’s detail a day for one person in Kyiv (Kiev). This is the capital of Ukraine and it is one of the classic destinations for tourists with Lviv and Odesa. During that day, we will eat breakfast, and two meals in restaurants for both lunch and diner.

We will also take a taxi from our hotel room to the city center, and another one back from the city center to our hotel. Finally, we will pay for our room for the night. After that, we will add up the numbers and see how much it costs to live one day in Ukraine.

In order to make this as realistic as possible, I found real prices from real menus on the Internet and real prices of hotel rooms. I also used the electronic receipts from my trip to Kyiv back in December 2019. When I was there for a week at this time, I was already surprised by how low the prices were.

First, the breakfast. I was able to find a coffee with toasts and marmalade for $2. Then, I used my receipts to know how much does a 15-minute drive with a Bolt costs (Bolt is the local Uber). The drive cost me $3, so I used this price.

Then, we eat a typical borsch on the main street for $4. In the afternoon, we wander in the beautiful streets of Kyiv up to nighttime, when we eat another meal for $4. We take a Bolt back to the hotel ($3), and we find a hotel room for $30. Since we only took prices for one person into account, we need to divide this hotel room by two. So the hotel room cost $15.

One day in Kyiv in Ukraine costs $31. This includes food, accommodations, and transportation. However, it does not take into account activities and drinks. Those are also cheap in Ukraine, but they can get expensive in very touristy areas.

Type of expenseAmount ($)
One breakfast, one lunch, and one diner$10
One night in a hotel room for one person$15
Two 15-minute long Bolt courses$6
Table giving the detailed maths behind the cost of living in Kyiv, Ukraine

Is Ukraine cheap compared to Southeast Asia?

Once I did the maths and arrived at this amount, I wanted to compare it with other countries. Thankfully, I already wrote articles about the cost of living in Bali, Thailand, Zanzibar, the Philippines, the Maldives, Cambodia, and Malaysia. But still, this was the cheapest country of them all!

For instance, one day in Phuket, Thailand, cost $48,85. One day in Phnom Penh, Cambodia cost $40. One day in Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia, cost $40. This helps you to realize how cheap Ukraine is. Of course, you can always find more expensive restaurants. But I always used the same approach in every article I wrote: living a tourist day in a tourist town. That means eating in restaurants (no street food), taking taxis (no public transports), and sleeping in hotels (no hostels).

Finally, in those articles, I did not take the cost of activities and parties into account. But if I were to do it, Ukraine would be even cheaper! Indeed, in some countries of Southeast Asia, there are high taxes on alcohol. Whereas in Ukraine, alcohol is also extremely cheap.

Budget Travel in cheap Ukraine

After those comparisons, I also wanted to check some real travel experiences. Of course, I used mine. But my experience in Kyiv in December 2019 was a bit different because it was part of an all-included trip with my university. So, I paid for a package including food, transportation, and accommodations (I was still able to realize how cheap the prices were, but not exactly what I paid for).

Since my experience was not perfectly relevant to this article, I watched other travel reports on YouTube. I was able to find a very good one. It is the following video from Indigo Traveller.

This video shows you the cost of food, beer, and other objects in Lviv. Credits to Indigo Traveller

It is interesting because he also shows the prices of local markets. However, the video is shot in Lviv, and not Kyiv. So I could not compare the prices with my experience. Thankfully, numbeo.com could do it. When you compare Kyiv and Lviv on this website, here is what come out:

Consumer Prices in Kiev (Kyiv) are 10.11% higher than in Lviv (without rent). Consumer Prices Including Rent in Kiev (Kyiv) are 22.33% higher than in Lviv. Rent Prices in Kiev (Kyiv) are 61.23% higher than in Lviv. Restaurant Prices in Kiev (Kyiv) are 22.08% higher than in Lviv. Grocery Prices in Kiev (Kyiv) are 2.62% higher than in Lviv.

Price comparison of Kyiv and Lviv. Data from numbeo.com

As you can see, Kyiv costs a bit more than Lviv. So, when this person in the video finds an $8 meal for 2 people, you can expect it to cost around $10 in Kyiv. It is also interesting to note that rent prices in Kyiv are much higher than in Lviv. This is because Kyiv is the capital of Ukraine and is the place where people want to work. Finally, we can see that grocery prices are almost the same in those cities. In fact, it is the case in the whole of Ukraine.

If you consider visiting Ukraine, you can check these three different additional resources:


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