Things to Know about Driving in Ukraine:
Ukraine has a reasonably developed system of major roads, and an increasing number of travelers decide to cross the Ukrainian border driving from Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Romania. However, Ukrainian roads are not as well maintained and clearly marked as in the European Union. Road signs are mostly in Cyrillic. You will find that almost all roads outside of Ukrainian cities have little traffic, are quite narrow, and have one lane of traffic in each direction.
Major Ukrainian cities, and especially Lviv and Kyiv, suffer from frequent traffic congestion. Finding you way around in a maze of streets in an unfamiliar city can be a challenging task even with a GPS. Lviv, as well as other larger Ukrainian cities, have municipal buses and streetcars, so consider parking your car at a hotel and walking or using public transit. The downtown core of Lviv was developed before World War 1 with only horse drawn carriages in mind. Today the narrow streets of the city have a hard time coping with the daily traffic of new shiny fleet of thousands of cars beating the old cobble stone streets of the old Habsburg capital.
Seat belt rule and zero alcohol tolerance for drivers are now enforced everywhere in Ukraine. Although the recent disbandment of infamously corrupt traffic police has somewhat reduced the threat of being stopped for “documents checking”, chances of being pulled over by police for no apparent reason are still high, especially if your car has foreign license plates.
In Ukraine try to leave your car in guarded parking areas, and do not leave behind valuables inside your locked vehicle, which is a smart rule anywhere in the world. Try to be aware of scams involving a stranger approaching to distract the driver with some questions while his partner attempts to steal valuables on the passenger seat. Although rare, such scams may happen at traffic lights and gas stations.
When crossing Ukraine’s western border, be ready for delays that can last up to several hours on a bad day. Some border crossings have lanes designated for EU-registered cars where lines are generally shorter and processing less complicated.
Most Western car rental companies do not permit taking their vehicles across the border into Ukraine, so consider relying on your own car, taxi, Ukrainian car rental agencies, or hire a car with an English-speaking driver from Lviv Ecotour.
Several web cameras at the two Ukrainian – Polish border crossings near Lviv show live video footage of cross-border traffic in both directions.
DRIVING EAST OF LVIV
One of the ways to visit the castles, small towns and the surrounding countryside with wooden churches near Lviv, is by using our CAR WITH DRIVER SERVICE. We know the area and the local roads and will happily share our knowledge with you. The general information below is meant to give you a better perspective of what to expect while driving on the roads to the east of Lviv. Please email us your questions about specific towns and destinations in Western Ukraine. We are happy to hear from you and will help you find places in Ukraine that are not easily reachable by public transport.
Roads: highways to Kyiv, Ternopil and Chernivtsi
Two main highways lead from Lviv in the easterly direction. Road M06 is the most direct way to Kyiv, and road H02 is the shortest way for Ternopil and beyond in a south-easterly direction to Chernivtsi. M06 is a good highway that has been recently reconstructed. Some stretches of M06 are wider than normal Ukrainian roads. H02 to Ternopil is a bumpy and narrow road that gets especially rough before spring patching after a winter season.
Terrain: flat fields with villages in-between
The area to the east of Lviv is mostly flat. Wide fields dotted with villages is what you will see from the car for miles while driving east of Lviv towards Kyiv and Ternopil. This is not exactly the vast steppe of Southern Ukraine, but the area is flatter and has more fields than anywhere else in close proximity to Lviv.
Towns: it’s worth the drive to Brody
The old castles in the towns of Olesko and Pidhirtsi can be interesting destinations for anyone driving east of Lviv. Once in the area, other sites with wooden churches or historic cemeteries, such as Brody, can be visited along the way. Ternopil to the south of Brody is one of the largest cities in the area. The monastery complex between Brody and Ternopil is yet another destinations east of Lviv that is worth driving to.
Traffic: busy road linking Lviv to Kyiv
Most of the transit west to east traffic in Ukraine near Lviv follows along highway M06. This is also the highway used by fancy cars and SUVs driven by government officials and wealthy business people driving between Lviv and Kyiv. Stay alert and keep to the maximum speed limit of 60 km per hour in towns and 90 km per hour in rural areas, or as road conditions allow; and you will safely reach your destination.
What to Watch out For: cyclists and pedestrians
Police speed traps, stray farm animals, cyclists and pedestrians are the usual common sense things to look out for. Also stay alert and keep away from heavy trucks pulling trailers, and avoid dashing cars with Kiev license plates. Cars with Kyiv registration have plates that read “AA” followed by a combination of numbers and letters. Although M06 is the main transportation artery of Ukraine, slow moving farming equipment and horses are also frequent along the roads. They make their way to the farming fields east of Lviv.
DRIVING WEST OF LVIV
A good way to visit the area to the west of Lviv is by hiring our driver with a car. Our driver will tell you about the history of the area and stop at your request to see sites along the way. Our page on CAR TRANSFERS BY LVIV ECOTOUR has more details about renting our car with driver in Lviv. We offer advice below to help you navigate Ukrainian roads and to have a sense of what to expect should you decide to rent a car with driver from Lviv Ecotour, or choose to drive on your own.
Heading straight west from Lviv for about 90 minutes on roads E40 or M11 will get you to the border crossings in Krakovets, or Shehyni. Shehyni is the only place near Lviv where travelers can walk across the border to Poland. All other crossing require that people drive though or be aboard trains or buses.
Roads: main highway from Lviv to Krakow
Road E40 is the main and the most direct highway from Lviv to Krakow. Most of its length to the border, highway E40 runs over fields and forests, with only a few towns along the way. You will have to slow down in Ivano-Frankove where the road dives into the the old sleepy town and makes a few sharp turns. Similarly, road M11 will slow you down in Horodok and Mostyska. Both roads are good quality Ukrainian highway with some freshly resurfaced stretches.
Terrain: flat with some gentle hills
To the west of Lviv lie flat fields with a few gentle inclines. The area is known for its rich deposits of minerals. The pits have been closed years ago, but the terrain has several large abandoned open mines that over the years have turned into lakes. The road follows to the side of the mining area, and the heavy mining equipment is no longer driving on these roads.
Towns: Horodok and Mostyska along the way
Competing cars, buses and cyclists slow down traffic in Horodok and Mostyska. Recently a new road was built to bypass Horodok’s town center. Both towns, being in close proximity to the border, have many car insurance dealers dotted along the main road. Cars entering Poland from Ukraine need to have valid car insurance for Poland, which can be costly. There are many gas stations along the way, and especially on the final Ukrainian stretch of the highway before the border. Drivers do not miss a chance to fuel up on Ukrainian gas, which, at more than a Euro per liter, is still cheaper than across the border.
Traffic: many pedestrians in towns along the way
Drive slowly through Horodok and Mostyska. Children, street vendors, and animals may suddenly appear on the road in towns. Drive carefully over the railroad crossings. Automatic railroad barriers are lowered well ahead of approaching trains, but it is wise to slow down and get a good view of the tracks on both sides.
What to Watch out For: speed traps near the border
Heavy commercial vehicles heading to and from the border are hard to pass. Look out for police cars waiting for drivers exceeding the safe speed limit. Maximum speed in built-up areas in Ukraine is 60 km/h. If stopped for speeding or other traffic violation, do not try to offer bribe money to police. Not only this is illegal, but you may get yourself into more trouble for bribing police.
DRIVING NORTH OF LVIV
When renting our car with driver to drive north of Lviv, you will be heading in the direction towards Poland and the western part of the area in Ukraine called Volhynia. Road E372 runs to the Polish border crossing at Rava Ruska, past Zamosc and Lublin to Warsaw. Road P15 splits from E372 in Zhovkva and extends towards a series of towns in the north-western corner of Ukraine, to Shatsk National Park and further into Belarus.
Please visit out CAR TRANSFERS BY LVIV ECOTOUR page for specific details of the area where you want to visit. We will help you find the optimal route and point out places of interest along the way. We have put together the page below to help you on your driving trip to the area north of Lviv.
Roads: main highway from Lviv to Warsaw
As almost all roads in Ukraine, E372 and P15 are one lane each way. As a highway connecting Ukraine and Poland, E372 is a better quality road. Secondary roads to smaller communities are of poorer quality. The secondary roads are mostly paved, but occasionally they can be dirt roads that become almost impassable in wet or snowy weather. Roads north of Lviv are winding and run across communities where they merge with main streets of towns along the way.
Terrain: rolling hills outside of Lviv
Rolling hills outside of Lviv mark the Main European Water Divide. Roads to the north of Lviv run through open fields with occasional small forests.
Towns: Zhovkva a Town Worth a Visit
Larger towns to the north of Lviv include Zhovkva, Rava Ruska, Chervonohrad and Sokal. Zhovkva is worth a trip on its own to see the main square with a palace, several beautiful churches and a large synagogue.
Traffic: Heavy Trucks Heading to the Border
Unlike Lviv with its heavy and slow traffic, roads outside of the city have few cars. Traffic may be more intense near Zhovkva and in close proximity to the Polish border. Occasionally, heavy trucks heading to the border crossing may limit visibility and are hard to pass on narrow roads.
What to Watch out For: icy sloped roads in winter
Farm animals and pedestrians may walk on the roads. Also, hilly terrain to the north of Lviv can make driving harder due to slippery driving conditions in winter. Look out for trucks parked on road shoulders when approaching the border. Also, beware of police speed traps near towns, such as Zhovkva, Rava Ruska and Chervonohrad.
DRIVING SOUTH OF LVIV
Please consider using CAR TRANSFERS BY LVIV ECOTOUR service for trips south of Lviv. Hiring our driver with car is not only an easy transfer option between towns in Ukraine, but you will also have a driver ready to assist as a tour guide in the Carpathian Mountains or through towns of rural Ukraine.
Driving south of Lviv with Lviv Ecotour’s driver is the fastest way to reach the Carpathian Mountains from Lviv. For day trips to the mountains you will be going on Highway M06 directly south of Lviv towards Stryi. Road M06 is the best quality highway in Ukraine. It passes near Lviv connecting it to the westernmost tip of Ukraine in the town of Chop. The foothills of the Carpathian Mountains can be reached from Lviv within about one hour.
Roads: M06 is Ukraine’s main highway
While driving on road M06 to the south of Lviv, for a moment you may forget that you are in Ukraine. The highway has been recently resurfaced and widened. The road is so smooth that it takes some time to get used to driving without bumps and potholes that are frequent on most roads in Ukraine. Road H09 also leads to the south of Lviv, and is a good way to reach the Carpathian wilderness near the border with Romania. H09 runs through the towns of Rohatyn, Burshtyn and Ivano-Frankivsk.
Terrain: the shortest way to the mountains from Lviv
The area south of Lviv is mostly flat. The stretch through the mountains is winding and rises gradually to the Mountain Pass on Highway M06 near the old Hungarian border. Later the road dips towards the Great Hungarian plain with the towns of Mukachevo and Uzhogorod. The drive through the mountains in clear weather has some beautiful views of the terrain with distant villages scattered around the slopes.
Towns: skip Ivano-Frankivsk on the way to the Carpathians
Stryi is an hour’s drive south of Lviv along M06. The town has some interesting sites, but the main highway goes around it and then rises towards the mountains. Ivano-Frankivsk is a large city along Road H09. It is comparable in size to Lviv. If you do not need to see the town, choose a ring road and head straight to the mountain town of Yaremche. Gas stations are almost everywhere along the way. Ivano-Frankivsk is a good place to stock up on food for the trip to the mountains.
Traffic: many pedestrians in towns along the way
As the main east to west roadway across Ukraine, Highway M06 is busier than most other roads. Heavy commercial traffic crossing the mountains on the way to Kyiv and more easterly destinations rumbles along M06 day and night. Fortunately, traffic is still very light compared to a similar road in Poland or Hungary. H09 to Ivano Frankivsk is rarely busy with the exception of slower stretches through Rohatyn and near Ivano Frankivsk.
What to Watch out For: horse drawn carts after dark
From spring to fall, slow moving farming equipment can cause delays and is poorly visible after dark. Also watch out for horse drawn carts that are frequent in this area. With the price of fuel constantly on the rise, horses are widely used by small farmers as cheap transportation, for haulage and field work.