Most westerners will find driving Kyiv’s main thoroughfares relatively easy. The problems kick in when you drive anywhere outside these well-surfaced and signposted routes. The condition of most roads in Ukraine is basically wretched, especially after the winter thaw.
Another problem is the decrepit traffic lights. They are not all that bright, and sometimes it is difficult to tell which light is actually lit and which just has the sun shining on it to make it appear lit. Road markings, especially the all-important centre line, often go missing. In this case you should do what the locals do and decide for yourself where the line is. Just make sure that other drivers understand your intentions. No right turn on a red light, unless you have a special green arrow next to the red light, and keep an eye out for pedestrians.
Booklets containing all official rules of the road can be purchased in Ukrainian and Russian just about anywhere books are sold. Rules in English have been spotted at the book market near the Petrivka metro station.
The following is a short list of unofficial rules of the road: 1. If you’re running late during peak, feel free to drive on sidewalks, cut through the park or drive in the opposite lanes against the flow of traffic. 2. If your Lada overheats, just leave it in the lane where it stalled and come back later after the traffic jam you just caused dies down. 3. If you’re driving on the highway and miss your exit, pull over into the right lane, turn your hazard lights on and proceed in reverse until you get back to the exit you wanted. Don’t worry about the cars speeding towards you; they are likely to get out of the way.
In an attempt to eliminate theses and other idiotic behaviours that have led Ukraine to having one of the world’s worst road safety ratings, fines were increased in November 2008 by as much as 10 times. Drivers can now expect to pay from 51Hr for minor violations to as much as 3400Hr for major violations such as drunk driving. New seat belt and helmet laws will also be enforced, and fines for pedestrian violations have been increased. Traffic cops continue to take bribes, but no longer hesitate to write tickets. The days of getting off the hook just for being a naive foreigner are over.
According to Ukrainian law, foreign drivers must carry an international driving licence in addition to the licence from their home country. International licences can be acquired in your country of origin.
Foreign vehicles can stay in Ukraine for no more than two months. Extensions can be obtained via registration with the National Auto Inspector (DAI).
Parking is often impossible in the city centre, despite the ability to park on sidewalks. Many parking spaces are marked as pay zones and require special tickets. These parking passes can be purchased from parking attendants or from kiosks (usually nearby) that also sell bus, tram, and trolley bus tickets. Depending on the type of zone, expect to pay from 3-10Hr per hour (each ticket is good for one hour). Failure to display the proper parking ticket can result in your car being booted.
Carry your license and registration at all times to fully enjoy the Ukrainian driving experience. The official speed limits are 60 km/h in cities, 90 on secondary roads and 130 on highways. A zero tolerance drink driving policy applies in Ukraine.