Despite a decline in tourism in 2014, Ukraine still remains a destination for many. The drop in the hryvnia (the local currency) has made the country an attractive and affordable option for travellers. The local government is spearheading programs to attract foreign visitors to the country. Though it may take a while for tourism to return to the pre-2014 levels, the reduced costs overall may make this an attractive option for the intrepid traveller.
As with any travel, one of the main concerns will be access to money and this guide will provide a comprehensive overview of money and banks in Ukraine.
The currency in Ukraine is known as the hryvnia (UAH), pronounced gryvnia. The coins are kopecks.
|Names and Nicknames||none|
|Symbols & abbreviations||₴, UAH|
|1 UAH||One hryvnia is 100 kopecks|
|UAH coins (known as kopecks)||The kopeck coins are available in 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50. There’s also a 1 hryvnia coin.|
|UAH banknotes||UAH banknotes are available in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, and 500..|
There are several options available to exchanging foreign currency in Ukraine. Included are exchange bureaus, hotels, banks, and airport kiosks. Ukrainian hryvnia can be tough to acquire outside of Ukraine so be prepared to have to acquire the local currency once you arrive. The best way to access money would be via ATM withdrawal but note that some card issuing banks may limit which local ATMS can be used. Be sure to have some cash on hand (preferably dollars or euros) as a backup.
Currency exchange services at the airport or a hotel are likely to have the highest fees/costs so keep that in mind when making the decision of which option to use.
Finding a fair exchange service requires some advance research. The best options are:
- Local currency exchange service within the city
- A local bank ATM in the Ukraine
- Local bank
- Your home bank (as noted, hryvnia may not be available)
Local currency exchange services are pretty common in the city centers and provide competitive rates, although note that there will likely be a markup to the exchange rate. As ATMS or ‘bankomats’ are readily available, they’re a popular option for travellers and provide a good exchange rate.
Banks, whether your home or local bank may have the best exchange rates but tend to have associated fees which should be taken into considerations. Money exchange services on the other hand may use a marked up exchange rate. It’s important to review all the options to determine the one that will provide the best avenue for exchange. In order to avoid being on the losing end of a currency exchange, use an online currency converter or a Google search prior to agreeing to offered exchange rate.
The hryvnia may not be an available option in your home country as it’s often difficult to find outside of the Ukraine.
If exchanging foreign currency in Ukraine, ensure that your notes are in pristine condition. Damaged or worn notes won’t be accepted.
Withdrawing money from a local bank account is likely to provide the best rate in terms of currency conversion. If you know someone in Ukraine, consider sending them money using Wise. They will provide the exact mid-market rate consistent with the currency exchange rates you’ll find online or using a converter. The minimal fee associated with this service will likely be less than that offered by other currency exchange services. Then they will just have to withdraw the funds from their account before you arrive and provide you with the local currency.
As there has been some issues with local banks solvencies, be sure to check which bank your friend uses, the state owned banks guarantee 100% of deposits, eliminating the risk for customers.
An alternate solution with Transferwise is to set up a Wise Borderless account where you can hold and manage money in many different currencies. With this, you can hold 28 different currencies all in one account. It’s like having a local bank account which you can use to pay like a local, wherever you need it.
Travellers’ cheques can be used in Ukraine but the process can be cumbersome. The service is offered at limited locations and customers are limited to banking hours to complete these transactions. Local banks will also require a passport to complete the transaction.
Credit cards and debit cards are widely accepted in the Ukraine in hotels and restaurants. At smaller locales however, be prepared to pay cash. ATMs known as ‘bankomats’ are easily found throughout the country .
When using your credit or debit cards while on the road you might be offered the option to have the charges converted to your home currency. This offered ‘convenience’ is known as a Dynamic Currency Conversion (DCC) scam. It essentially allows the local bank to set the exchange rate in their favor. Choose instead the local currency to avoid paying hidden fees in the form of an unfavorable exchange rate.
Prior to leaving for your trip, remember to call your home bank and credit card companies to let them know that you’re travelling. Provide them with the exact date and locations of your intended travel. Another good practice for debit cards is to use them first at an ATM prior to using them for a purchase. This will save you time and stress by reducing the chances of your card getting blocked.
If you’re opting to use a local bank ATM as your exchange service, note that some home bank issuers may have restrictions on which local bank can be used. Opt for larger more well known banks to minimize the chances of issues cropping up. Have cash (either euros or dollars) on hand that can be exchanged as a backup.
The first of these are state owned with Raiffeisen Bank Aval being an Austrian bank.
When travelling outside of your home country, it’s important to thoroughly research foreign exchange rates and the services available to you. Ensure that you have all the information including rates and commissions in order to make the best decisions. Happy travels!
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