Lviv is the beautiful cultural capital in western Ukraine and the 7th biggest city in the country.
It’s definitely not a very popular place for English speaking tourists and even less so for people from western countries looking to work and live in Lviv.
If you’re planning on living in Lviv in the future or you’re currently already living there and looking for some helpful information then you’ve come to the right place.
In this post I want to share with you some helpful tips and plenty of information on what you need to know about living in one of Ukraines most beautiful cities.
Living in Lviv
- Population: 720,000
- 7th largest city in Ukraine
- $370 USD average monthly salary
- Just 80km from Polish border
- Easily accessible from Western Europe
- Lovely architecture and old town
Where is Lviv?
Lviv is located in the western part of the country and the Polish border is just 70-80 KM away by bus.
Just outside of the city is a regional airport with flights to the rest of Europe.
Surrounding the city are the beautiful Carpathian Mountains and it’s here where you can enjoy lovely forests and landscapes if you’re looking for a quick day trip away from the city center area.
- Distance to Krakow: 330 KM
- Distance to Kiev: 539 KM
- Distance to Bucharest: 803 KM
- Distance to Vienna: 786 KM
Is Lviv Safe?
Yes, Lviv is completely safe for locals and tourists alike.
In the city centre and touristy areas there are always police on foot and in cars on patrol and private security is very prevalent.
The safest area is right in the centre and the Old Town area but even out in the suburbs there is very little crime that you need to worry about.
There might be some petty crimes against tourists or visible minorities, such as pickpocketing or taxi scams, though generally it’s unlikely that you’ll run into any issues regarding your personal safety.
The ongoing conflict in Ukraine is happening more than 1000 KM away in the western part of the country so of course you’re going to want to avoid those areas.
Even with the conflict, Ukraine and Lviv itself are very safe and much safer than comparable sized cities in the United States.
The city centre area itself is very compact and it’s easy to walk around everywhere so you really don’t need to rely on the public transportation system depending on where you need to go.
The city stretches just 17 kilometres in diameter with the Old Town only being a few kilometres wide with a few hills throughout the city.
Stretching across the city is a network of buses and trams and it’s very affordable to use this public transportation system for getting between destinations.
There are tram and bus stops everywhere so you never have to walk very far to get onto one.
During rush hour the public transportation is going to be very busy and during the day and in the evening it’s much more enjoyable to take since you won’t be fighting for space.
You don’t need to buy any tickets beforehand and to ride the bus or tram you just have to pay the driver directly when you get on so make sure to have some small bills in case there isn’t any change available.
As for getting around by bike, the roads are not in the best condition and cycling hasn’t really taken off yet in Ukraine so you’re better off avoiding it altogether.
You can also consider taking the taxi or using Uber to get around the city because it’s quite affordable and a lot faster than walking around or taking public transportation.
Cost of Living in Lviv
Apartments and Where to Live
As a foreigner you can expect to pay an inflated rate when it comes to finding a rental apartment, even if you are signing a lease for a year or longer.
Even then, rent and apartments in Lviv are very affordable compared to Western Europe and you can expect to pay anywhere from between $300 USD for something a little bit outside of the city centre that’s reasonably furnished up to $1,000 USD for a large, modern apartment in the heart of the city.
It’s a good idea to try and negotiate a rate that has everything included so you don’t have to worry about having to deal with paying bills in a foreign language.
When it comes to location, you’re going to want to try to find somewhere that’s as centrally located as possible.
In the center Old Town area are plenty of restaurants, cafes, tourist attractions, a few grocery stores, fresh markets, and there’s just a lot more going on compared to the suburbs.
Also, in the centre there are a lot more people that speak English so you’ll always be able to find somebody to help you if you ever need it.
Internet and Smartphone Use
The Internet in Lviv isn’t amazing but it’s also not that bad either.
The download speeds are pretty good with all of the different main providers and the upload speeds are a bit slower but still quite reasonable even if you’re looking to upload videos or photos regularly.
The prices for Internet are also quite reasonable and depending on how much data you need can expect to spend between $10 USD and $30 USD per month for a full Internet package.
When it comes to using your smartphone in Ukraine, getting a SIM card in Lviv is easy and affordable.
Phone plans are not a big thing so most people simply walk into a mobile provider and pick up a SIM card.
There are some options if you need talk or text but most popular are the data plans which start around 2GB and range up to 12GB of mobile data.
There are even big providers in the city, such as LifeCell, where you can walk right in and get your data set up in just a few minutes.
Simply asked for a data SIM card and the person working will help you get everything ready to go including the SIM card and activation.
As for the price, you can expect to pay anywhere from between $3 USD and $10 USD per month depending on how much data you need.
The main language spoken in Lviv is obviously Ukrainian, although many people will be able to understand you if you speak Russian.
Even without any knowledge of the Ukrainian language you can still easily get by with just English and most young people or those that interact regularly with customers will know at least a little bit of the English language.
Depending on where you’re going, you might be able to use Polish but you’re much better off with Ukrainian or English when you’re speaking to a local.
Outside of the city centre and in places like grocery stores, train stations, and even at the police station you shouldn’t expect to get by with English and you might experience times where nobody is able to understand you at all.
However, Ukrainians are very nice and welcoming to foreigners so even if you just speak English just make sure to smile and act out what it is you want and most people will be happy to help you.
Compared to North America and western and central Europe, the cost of living in Lviv is quite affordable.
Rent is reasonably priced, food is very cheap, and getting around the city and even the country doesn’t cost that much at all.
The currency that Ukraine uses is called the Ukrainian hryvnia and at the time of writing the current exchange rate is:
- 100 UAH = $3.70 USD
You’ll mostly be using bills everywhere and even after having spent a few weeks in Lviv I never had the opportunity to use the coins that they have.
The bills come in denominations starting at 1 and range up to a 500 bill with some of the more common ones being there 5, 10, and 50.
The city is a great place whether you’re looking to live large on a Western budget or save money and try to live like a local.
Here are some of the different costs (in USD) that you can expect when you’re visiting Lviv:
- Bakery items – $0.20 to $0.50
- Slice of pizza – $0.50 to $0.75
- One bottle of domestic beer – $0.35
- A kebab or chicken wrap – $1.25 to $2
- 2L bottle of water – $0.50
- Budget meal for 2 – $3 to $5
- Mid-range meal for two – $5 to $15
- 10 eggs – $1.50
- 1 lb of chicken breast – $2.50
- Cappuccino in city center – $2 to $3
- Two scoops of fresh ice cream – $0.50
As you can probably tell, these are definitely some reasonable prices if you’re traveling and spending money based on Western currencies such as the US dollar, Canadian dollar, or Euro.
Overall Thoughts on Living in Lviv
Lviv is a beautiful, engaging, historic, and interesting city that I would definitely recommend living in or visiting if you ever get the chance.
The cost of living is very low, the standard of life here is pretty decent, and it’s surprisingly modern city with a beautiful and picturesque Old Town area.
Ukraine, especially the western part of the country, is quickly developing and also becoming more popular with foreign companies looking to take advantage of the favorable exchange rate and central location between Europe and Russia.
Large scale developments and infrastructure improvements are constantly underway as Ukraine strives to compete on a more international scale.
Lviv is a wonderful place and is surrounded by plenty of beautiful natural areas so it’s a good idea to visit or live in the city sooner, rather than later, because who knows how long everything is going to stay the way that it is.
I have spent a few months living in Lviv so if you have any questions or concerns don’t hesitate to let me know down in the comments and I’ll be sure to answer as soon as I can.