Driving in Ukraine
Bringing cars into Ukraine and driving
Last update: Sept. 9, 2011 (reader's contributions included)
Now that citizens of so many nations can enter Ukraine without a visa, more and more people are choosing to drive to Ukraine. This article will acquaint readers with the basic rules for bringing cars into Ukraine and tell about what it's like to drive a car in Ukraine.
Entering Ukraine by automobile
Any foreigner may bring a car into Ukraine. You will need to have the vehicle registration certificate from your home country, as well as your international passport. When you cross the border, you will be asked for the car's license plate number, and customs officers put a special stamp in your passport. The stamp is for "temporary import" of your car into Ukraine and will have your license plate number on it. This procedure is free.
Border police and customs officers will expect to see you leave the country on the same car as when you entered. In this case, they put another stamp in your passport with your license plate number. If you are leaving Ukraine temporarily without your car, you will have to explain this to them, but there shouldn't be problems. There will only be problems if they can see you have brought several cars in and are leaving without them, which would suggest that you have been selling them in Ukraine and should be paying import duties. Your vehicle information will be entered into the computer at your border crossing.
Steering wheel issues
Automobiles with steering wheels on the right side are allowed in Ukraine, but they may only be driven by their foreign owners or when the owner is riding in the car.
Auto insurance is not yet compulsory in Ukraine (this needs to be checked - 2011), and you will not be checked for insurance at the border. Even if you were, foreign insurance companies would almost certainly refuse to insure your car in a "dangerous" place like Ukraine.
You may buy 3rd party car insurance in Ukraine for as little as 130 UAH for 6 months ($26 USD — but that was in 2007). This will cover up to $5000 in damages to the other car in accidents where you are at fault. Fully comprehensive auto insurance policies might also be available for foreigners.
When car accidents occur in Ukraine, drivers are required to leave their cars on the scene of the accident until traffic police come and write up a report. This rule often creates traffic problems in large cities. When drivers don't want to involve police and insurance companies, they agree on a cash settlement on the spot. One party will usually call a family member or friend and have them bring the agreed amount of cash to the accident site.
Vehicle registration in Ukraine
According to my contacts who drive cars in Ukraine, there is a two-month registration rule for cars [info needs to be confirmed]. In other words, if your car will be in the country longer than 2 months, you are supposed to register your vehicle at the local DAI (Government Auto Inspection) office and receive a temporary Ukrainian license plate and registration number. This temporary number is valid for up to a year from your date of entry into Ukraine.
Driving a car in Ukraine
There are a few disadvantages to driving in Ukraine that car owners should be aware of:
- frequent potholes; poor condition of many city and country roads
- getting stopped frequently by traffic police
- incompetent and reckless drivers (many bought their licenses instead of completing driving courses, and driving discipline is low in most cities)
- driving at night (poor street lighting, people walk along the side of the road, especially in rural areas)
- bad signs (no street names on street lights, etc.)
Dealing with Ukrainian traffic police
Ukrainian traffic police — the ??? (Ukr.) or ??? (Rus.) — are quite active on major roads. Traffic police have long had a reputation for fishing for bribes. They may try to find something wrong with your documents, your mandatory emergency flares, or your car even if you committed no traffic infringement. Or they might scare you with a hefty official fine and lengthy procedures for a real violation, then offer you an "easier way out."
Until recently, fines for driving violations were ridiculously small, but they have jumped up to $50-100 USD even for many smaller violations. Note that there are now (as of 2010) numerous video surveilance cams in Kiev and on the highways.
After stopping you, traffic police will ask to see your vehicle registration certificate, driver's license, and passport (to check for the entry stamp). They are not paranoid about driver violence like U.S. traffic police and may have you get out of the car to talk. Traffic police are known to check for "warning triangles" and first-aid kits, which every car is supposed to have, and wheedle a bribe out of you if you don't have them. I have seen traffic police inspecting something under the hood (oil levels perhaps?). If everything is okay, they will let you go without a fee, of course.
In general, traffic police will not stop you more often for having foreign plates, and they are not prepared to chatter away with you in English. If you waste too much of their time, they will usually let you go. They have better things to do.
Driver's license issues
Many drivers wonder, "do I need an international driver's license to drive in Ukraine?" I have yet to obtain an official answer, but my sources say generally you do not. You will probably not be bothered because of your U.S., E.U., or U.K. driver's license. However, this depends on the traffic officers you meet. Occasionally they may be unable to read your license. For long stays in Ukraine for work, etc. it is highly recommended to have an international license. You can get one at http://idg-ua.com/.
Selling your car in Ukraine
With your "temporary import" entry stamp, it is assumed that you will not sell your car in Ukraine, which would qualify it for import duties. Also, you will be expected to leave Ukraine with your original car. You could theoretically find a buyer in Ukraine, leave the country with him or her and your car, and transfer ownership outside Ukraine. The new owner could then enter the country on the car and have it stamped into his or her passport. Ukrainians cannot enter the country with foreign cars without paying import duties.