The best cities to live in Ukraine are all quite different from each other. Ukraine is an interesting and often overlooked country in Europe. Until 2014, most people probably wouldn’t be able to point to it on a map. Fortunately, or unfortunately, Ukraine is a country that the world is familiar with now. Despite being a relatively small country compared to its neighbor, Russia, it still is the second-largest country in Europe after Russia.

In addition to being an underrated country in Europe, it is actually a fantastic destination for those seeking adventure. As Ukraine attempts to put itself on solid footing, there is more interest in living in Ukraine every day. 

Looking at the economic situation in Ukraine, you might be surprised at just how little people earn and how low the cost of living is right now. The truth is actually quite complicated. The average salary in Ukraine as of April 2020 is about $366. Due to the average salary, the cost of pretty much everything is also very low, resulting in a highly favorable cost of living for expats. That being said, Ukraine is making changes that will hopefully set it up for a better future.

If you are looking for in-depth information on living in working in Ukraine, check out our Ukraine Country Guide. Otherwise, let’s take a look at the top six best cities to live in Ukraine as an expat!

Kharkiv 

  • Population: 1,429,000
  • Average salary: 12,495 UAH ($460)
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 8,000 UAH ($300)
  • Expat cost of living: $700
  • International airports: 1
  • Average Internet speed: 62.99 Mbs
  • Number of expats: Low

Kharkiv is located in the eastern part of Ukraine and if you look at a map, you will see that it is quite close to the war-torn regions of Donetsk and Luhansk Oblasts. Do not let this scare you away as Kharkiv was practically untouched by the political uprising in Kyiv in 2014 and the ongoing war.

Kharkiv is easily the most underrated city in Ukraine and one of the best cities to live in Ukraine. It is the second-largest city in Ukraine and located in the primarily Russian-speaking eastern part of the country. Many people also don’t know that Kharkiv was the capital of Ukraine at the beginning of the Soviet Union before it was relocated to Kyiv in 1934. Despite many people still speaking Russian, Ukrainian is still the first language for most people and the language of government. If you speak Russian, you should have no problems adapting to life in Kharkiv though.

Due to Kharkiv’s influence during the Soviet Union, the city has a very well developed public transportation system (including a metro), many parks, and wonderful squares. This makes Kharkiv a very convenient place to live in Ukraine. Over the past few years, there has also been an IT boom in Kharkiv and the city has emerged as a tech hub in Eastern Europe. In addition, there are a number of international flights to Europe daily from Kharkiv. 

As for jobs, the city is usually marked as one of the bright spots outside of Kyiv in Ukraine. There are many emerging Ukrainian companies as well as large international companies that operate out of Kharkiv. For example, international companies EPAM and SoftServe both have large offices in Kharkiv and more than 7000 people across Ukraine. 

If you are looking for things to do, Kharkiv has everything you can imagine. There are many fantastic restaurants, bars, and nightclubs. Every day, the city continues to develop and because of the economic influence of the city, there is no reason to think this will change. 

Unfortunately, compared to other European cities, Kharkiv has a small expat population, but they still exist. Your best bet to connect with the expat community in Kharkiv is the Facebook expats group.

Vinnytsia

  • Population: 375,000
  • Average salary: 11,413 UAH ($420)
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 6,500 ($240)
  • Expat cost of living: $600
  • International airports: 0
  • Average Internet speed: 36.48 Mbs
  • Number of expats: Low

In many Ukrainian publications, Vinnytsia is always ranked at the top of the list of best cities to live in Ukraine.

If you are looking for quality of life in Ukraine, look no further than Vinnytsia. In the past 10 years, Vinnytsia has developed faster than most Ukrainian cities of its size. One of the main reasons for this is that it is considered to be the home base of the ex-president of Ukraine, Petro Poroshenko. For most Ukrainians, the first thing that comes to mind when they hear of Vinnytsia is the Ukrainian chocolate company, Roshen. Vinnytsia is also home to the largest floating fountain in Europe, which was financed by Poroshenko’s company, Roshen. Many of the locals will point this out to you as one of the main attractions of the city. It is also an administrative and industrial center for the region. 

Vinnytsia is located in the western part of Ukraine between Kyiv and Lviv. This makes it a Ukrainian speaking city. As in most of Ukraine, many people readily speak Russian, but if you are planning to spend significant time in Vinnytsia, you would be better off learning Ukrainian. 

You will likely find that English levels are very low in Vinnytsia, especially compared to the larger cities on this list. Don’t let that deter you though. Ukrainians, in general, are very friendly towards foreigners and learning a few phrases in Ukrainian will help break the ice. 

As for expats in Vinnytsia, there are a few, but there aren’t any real groups out there to find expats. Your best bet is joining some of the other expat groups in Ukraine, especially the Kyiv group. You could post there to find expats who are actually in Vinnytsia. 

In general, Vinnytsia is probably not a good city for local employment prospects. You should only consider living in Vinnytsia if you have a remote job and can comfortably work abroad while living in Vinnytsia. We found a decent list of coworking spaces in Vinnytsia for those of you who have a remote job and are looking for a place from which to work. You could probably teach English and make more than enough to live in Vinnytsia.

If you want to stay in Vinnytsia long term, your best bet is to open your own company where you can become the director and obtain a temporary residence permit. For further information about how to do this, check out our detailed guide to opening a limited liability company in Ukraine and a cost breakdown for obtaining a temporary residence permit in Ukraine

Kyiv

  • Population: 2,988,000
  • Average salary: 15,787 UAH ($580)
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 17,519 UAH ($650)
  • Expat cost of living: $1,450
  • International airports: Two
  • Average Internet speed: 66.5 Mbs
  • Number of expats: High

Kyiv is the economic and cultural center of Ukraine. The city has gone through an incredible transformation over the last 20 years. If you visit Kyiv for the first time in 2020, you will be surprised as to how cosmopolitan the city actually is. There are restaurants with cuisines from the entire world, night clubs, and bars that rival any large Western city. The center of the city is incredibly developed and infrastructure, at least in the center, is very good. Public transportation developed during the Soviet period is some of the best in Europe as Kyiv was the second city in the Soviet Union after Moscow. 

The metro system is incredibly efficient and has three lines that cover most of the city. The rest of the public transportation system continues to develop and there are bus and tram lines that touch every part of the city. In addition, the entire public transportation system is incredibly cheap by Western standards. For example, one trip on the metro, regardless of distance, costs just 8 UAH ($0.29).

It has been six years since the last revolution in Ukraine, which took place on the main street of Kyiv, Khreschatik. Fortunately, the city is very safe and there haven’t been any issues in Kyiv that warrant special care. That being said, it is a very large city and caution is always recommended. 

In terms of job opportunities, Kyiv is by far the best option for jobs outside of English teaching jobs. There are a number of sectors where expats work in Kyiv. Of course, as Ukraine is quite popular for its IT industry, there are many opportunities to work in IT in Kyiv. Other industries that are of particular interest are professional services and agriculture. If you have extensive professional experience in any industry, you will probably be able to find something in Ukraine if you are flexible on salary demands. 

An emerging trend among expats in Kyiv is to set up a limited liability company and run an internet business with clients paying in dollars or euro. This would allow you to take advantage of the very low cost of living in Ukraine while still earning a Western salary. Under Ukrainian law, it is very easy to open a company and obtain a temporary residence permit as the general director of a limited liability company. Check out our detailed guide to opening a limited liability company in Ukraine and a cost breakdown for obtaining a temporary residence permit in Ukraine

Lviv

  • Population: 724,000
  • Average salary: 13,151 UAH ($490)
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 8,500 UAH ($315)
  • Expat cost of living: $865
  • International airports: 1
  • Average Internet speed: 44.83 Mbs
  • Number of expats: Medium

Lviv is one of the best cities to live in Ukraine as well as being the cultural center and largest city in western Ukraine. In Lviv, people speak Ukrainian almost exclusively, which is different from Kharkiv where they predominantly speak Russian. Even in Kyiv, Russian can be heard from a large part of the population. Being the cultural capital of western Ukraine, Lviv has a very different feel from central and eastern Ukraine. The city was under the rule of many different empires over the last few hundred years. Up until 1939, Lviv was actually part of Poland. Before that, Lviv was part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and the Austro-Hungarian empire.

History has significantly influenced many parts of Lviv from architecture to language. You will see this in the various types of architecture around the city. It also has a fantastic central square with many interesting restaurants and bars. One of the most famous bars on Rynok Square is Kryivka, a secret bar that you need a password to enter. 

Lviv is also located relatively close to the Carpathian mountains. This is one of the most underrated destinations in Europe if you like nature. In 3 hours you can be in the small city of Yaremche, a beautiful little city in the Carpathian mountains. The cultural activities here are incredibly interesting, especially in the summer. There are so many tours around the Carpathian mountains from this part of Ukraine. 

In terms of job opportunities for expats, Lviv isn’t a popular destination. Unfortunately, the city isn’t a real economic hub for Ukraine and as such, there are few international companies. That isn’t to say there aren’t any opportunities in Lviv. You can certainly find opportunities teaching English in Lviv as there are a number of English schools there that are always looking for native English-speaking teachers. With that said, Softserve, an international consulting and software development company is based in Lviv. They also have offices across Europe and the United States. 

Odesa

  • Population: 1,009,000
  • Average salary: 12,876 ($475)
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 10,000 ($370)
  • Expat cost of living: $850
  • International airports: 1
  • Average Internet speed: 47.75 Mbs
  • Number of expats: Medium

Odesa is also one of the best cities to live in Ukraine. It is also a top tourist destination in Ukraine for Ukrainian travelers and historically, it was a hit destination during the days of the Soviet Union. To this day, many tourists from all over the former Soviet Union visit Odesa in the summertime. Its location on the Black Sea makes it the best destination in Ukraine to visit when the weather is warm. Even during the winter, Odesa has a more moderate climate than Kyiv, which is quite cold in the winter.

You will immediately notice the main tourist street, Derybasivska is packed with people in the summer. This is also the center of the action for the city. There are a number of fantastic tourist sights and parks around the center of Odesa. Unfortunately, when you leave the center of the city, things change quite drastically. The difference in the city’s infrastructure between the center and outskirts is very apparent. There is a certain charm to this, but it is recommended that you live in the center of Odesa if you want to take advantage of living there. 

In the center of Odesa, the nightlife and the restaurant scenes are very developed and you will find fun without looking very hard. In the summer, there is an area outside the city center called Arcadia, which is a resort area. You will find a number of hotels and beach-style resorts that line the Black Sea beach in Arcadia. 

There is a fair number of expats in Odesa by Ukrainian standards. The best resource to connect with them is the Expats in Odessa, Ukraine Facebook Group. In addition to an expat community, there is also a number of coworking spaces where local and expat freelancers gather. If you are an English teacher, there are always opportunities in Odesa to make a decent salary. 

Dnipro

Main square in Dnipro, Ukraine.
  • Population: 957,000
  • Average salary: 12,736
  • Average rent (1 bedroom): 8,540
  • Expat cost of living: $800
  • International airports: 1
  • Average Internet speed: 45.13 Mbs
  • Number of expats: Low

Dnipro is a Ukrainian city in the eastern part of the country, which is typically associated with the war in neighboring regions. That being said, just like Kharkiv, Dnipro has been unaffected by the war in Eastern Ukraine. Dnipro is also the fourth largest city in Ukraine after Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Odesa. Dnipro is also a predominately Russian speaking city. 

Like Kyiv, Dnipro is split by a river through the center of the city with multiple bridges connecting the two parts of the city. In the summer, locals enjoy going to the beach on the riverbank and it isn’t uncommon for people to spend lots of time enjoying nature around Dnipro. There are also many cultural sights and a few professional sports teams in Dnipro. 

Dnipro historically was an industrial city and that is still true today. The city is one of the largest centers of heavy industry in Ukraine, and there are several factories in and around the city. Metals and metallurgy are also very large industries in the city. 

As for expat opportunities in Dnipro, they are limited outside of teaching English. If you arrive with significant managerial experience, it might be possible to land a job in one of the Western companies that have an office there. Dnipro has a number of coworking spaces across the city and coupled with the very low cost of living, you could make Dnipro your base. There are also a number of Ukrainian and Russian language schools in Dnipro if you are looking to learn either language.  

Conclusion

These are the cities we think are the best cities to live in Ukraine. If you are willing to go off the beaten path to some of the smaller cities, of course, you can find many fantastic places to live in Ukraine. Kyiv is the largest city and has the most opportunities, therefore, we would recommend you start your Ukrainian journey there if you are unsure. If you have a background in IT and like adventure, Kharkiv isn’t a bad option!

For everything about Ukraine, check out our country guide.  

I lived in Russia for 5 years. Over those 5 years, I started a few companies, worked as an English teacher, worked at a large Russian tech company, and worked at an international law firm. I want to share my experience living and working abroad so you can do the same!

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