All you need to know before moving to Ukraine



Last updated: February 2024

A former Soviet republic that gained independence in 1991, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe and has experienced significant geopolitical tensions, particularly with Russia. As of the latest updates, the country is facing ongoing conflict, marked by civil unrest, bombings, and violent protests. Governments worldwide have issued travel warnings and advisories, cautioning potential expatriates about the challenging situation.

In 2012, Ukraine welcomed around 23 million foreign tourists, mainly from Eastern Europe. However, the present circumstances make moving to Ukraine a complex decision. Reputable moving companies may still assist with the logistics of relocation, but potential expats must carefully consider the current geopolitical climate.

Despite being dubbed the "Breadbasket of Europe," Ukraine is grappling with the impact of the conflict on its economy. The nation boasts rich natural resources, a robust labor market, and a sound education system. However, the economic challenges have led to a slower recovery, and the country is navigating the complexities of civil unrest.

Strategically located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia, Ukraine shares borders with Belarus to the north, Russia to the east, and the Republic of Moldova, Romania, Hungary, the Slovak Republic, and Poland to the southwest and west. The country covers 603,700 square kilometers, with a 2,782-square-kilometer coastline. The capital, Kiev, is the largest city, housing 1,723,834 people, and the total population was approximately 46,011,345 as of October 2009.

While Ukraine may not boast one of Europe's strongest economies, it has made strides in the past. The nominal GDP reached USD$180 billion at the end of 2009, ranking 45th globally. After a significant decrease in GDP in 2010, the economy began to rebound, reaching USD$180 billion in 2014. However, the ongoing conflict has hampered economic growth, and the country faces challenges due to bombings and violent protests.

Ukraine's economy relies on its mining and agricultural industries, with abundant mineral resources such as oil, natural gas, coal, sulphur, iron ore, nickel, kaolin, manganese, magnesium, titanium, graphite, and salt. The country is a significant producer of steel and exports petroleum, transport equipment, turbines, chemicals, timber, and processed packaged food. Trade is becoming more diversified, with the European Union and the Commonwealth of Independent States as key trading partners.

The current situation in Ukraine underscores the importance of staying informed about the evolving geopolitical landscape and potential risks before considering any relocation or travel plans to the country.

Christianity heavily influences Ukrainian customs and the majority of the population practices Orthodox Christianity and Eastern Catholicism. Also, Protestantism and Judaism are also well represented.

Ukrainian is the official language. Russian is also widely spoken in Kiev and Crimea. 

To some, the first impression is that Ukrainians are cold. On the contrary, they are warm and friendly; most avoid drawing attention to themselves and is the reason they tend to appear restrained in public. Ukrainians are in fact a hospitable folk; expect to be invited into their homes and be well fed for any celebration. Family is considered to be the center of Ukrainian social life.   

Although Ukraine is a country that is presently suffering from political turmoil, it has a well-preserved identity that will capture the heart of any expat.

Essential relocation information


Moving to another country can be daunting if you are not prepared.

If you are relocating to Ukraine it is crucial to start by checking Ukraine's customs regulations at the nearest Ukraine embassy in your home country. However, it's important to note that various foreign governments and embassies have issued travel warnings for expatriates, urging them to exercise a high degree of caution due to the prevalence of crimes, armed groups, and security issues affecting life in the country.

Upon arrival at the airport in Ukraine, travelers will be required to fill out a form provided by customs. It is mandatory to declare all items, including cash on hand exceeding 1000 USD. Valuable items such as laptops, mobile phones, digital cameras, and video cameras must also be declared for personal use.

There are specific items that can be brought into Ukraine without incurring customs tax, provided the quantities do not exceed the allowable limits. Travelers are permitted to bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars, 1 liter of spirits, and 2 liters of wine. Cash brought into the country should not exceed 10,000 USD. If the amount exceeds this limit, prior permission must be obtained from the National Bank of Ukraine. It's crucial for expatriates and travelers to be aware of these customs regulations to ensure a smooth entry into the country and avoid any legal or financial complications. Additionally, staying informed about the current security situation through official travel advisories is highly recommended.

Relocating to Ukraine should be taken seriously, and it is important to stay vigilant given the delicate political situation that the country is in. By contacting one of the movers in Ukraine, you can now free yourself from worrying about how to pack your things and what shipping documents are needed. Movers in Ukraine can help you secure the shipping documents needed in moving packages from your home country to Ukraine. In the same way if you are exporting an item from Ukraine, removal companies can take care of shipping documents for you as well.

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How to live like a local



Though Ukraine still bears the scars left by the Stalin regime, many will still notice how this country gracefully recovered from its dark past. It now boasts a developing economy driven by the agriculture industry and its role as a top manufacturer of aerospace products and industrial machinery. Aside from its competitive job market, Ukraine is also popular for its untarnished natural beauty and rich culture that expats will surely love.

Surrounded by fellow expat magnet countries such as Poland, Belarus, Slovakia, Moldova and Romania, it’s no wonder why Ukraine is a magnificent patchwork of various cultural influences. This east-European nation encompasses a total land area of 603,000 square kilometres and scattered across its territory are stunning landscape and vast forests that are yet to be discovered. With such a colourful and rich cultural heritage, living in Ukraine can be as enriching and as unforgettable as you'd like it to be. Despite the charms that this country exudes, expats will need to keep in mind that daily life in Ukraine can be affected by the current political unrest.

Exciting Family Activities

Despite the ongoing conflict, expat parents in Ukraine still have numerous options for enjoying time with their kids. The country is home to well-preserved castles, medieval churches, and museums that can provide delightful experiences for the whole family. One intriguing site for children is the Caves Monastery, situated beneath the city of Kiev. This underground maze consists of catacombs, church artifacts, and mummies, creating a mysterious environment where kids can bring a candle and explore, fostering their sense of curiosity. While being mindful of the current situation, there are still opportunities for families to appreciate the cultural and historical richness that Ukraine has to offer.

To keep your child entertained, you can take them trekking the forests of Ukraine's largest national park, the Carpathian National Nature Park where Mount Hoveria, Ukraine's highest mountain, is located. You can also visit other national parks like the Shats'kyl National Park and Yovorivski National Park which boasts of mineral springs, lush forests, and cultural monuments.

Shopping Malls and Markets

Ukraine boasts an impressive list of shopping centres where expats can purchase their daily needs or spend leisure time with their friends and family. Retail is one of the most successful business in this country and its no wonder why its capital Kiev is a treasure chest of stores and botiques that shelf products from world renowned international producers. One of the most visited shopping centres in Ukraine is the Mandarin Plaza, a seven-level mall that features a numerous stores and a kids club where expat children can have fun while their parents shop. Another go to for fashion fanatics is Globus which houses 192 shops that sell famous brands such as Esprit, Tommy Hilfiger, Polo Garage and Adidas.

Local markets are also popular in Ukraine. One of the most sought after is the Andriivsky uzviz market in Kiev where expats can buy ethnic handicrafts, souvenirs and paintings that are made by local artists. The Privoz and Barakholka markets in Odessa are also worth a visit because aside from being a shopping haven, they are also considered as cultural treasures. People have been shopping for shoes and clothes in Odessa ever since the Soviet era.

Overcoming Culture Shock

Ukrainians may be aloof and distant at first meeting, but they are friendly and hospitable once you get to know them. They have small personal space, so do not be surprised if they lean a little too close to you as they talk. You should never shake hands while passing through a doorway, as the Ukrainians are quite superstitious. It is said that shaking hands while going through doorways will bring bad luck.

Living in Ukraine may give you quite a shock if you are used to strict traffic rules and public smoking regulations in your home country. Most Ukrainians are heavy smokers, and they smoke everywhere. Drivers don't necessarily follow the traffic rules - they keep changing lanes and drive like they own the road.

All of the things mentioned above are just small snippets of who Ukrainians are. What's important here is that you adapt better to an unfamiliar place if you get to know locals well. Whatever you do, never call them Russians. As much as they are proud of their heritage, they are also proud of their independence.

It is interesting to know that Ukrainians have a very rich cultural heritage of which they are very proud and wouldn't mind filling you in on their way of living, their history, their colourful traditions, music, and art.


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