In the beginning of June I had to travel from Warsaw, Poland to Lviv, Ukraine. The same question came up once again: What’s the cheapest way to get there?
And as usual the choice consisted of flying, going by bus, train or car. First of all I checked out BlaBlaCar. A few rides were available, priced at around 60PLN ($20USD). However the dates didn’t work out for me and the single convenient ride was cancelled a few days before departure.
Flying was out of question because the plane tickets were at $300USD. The train seemed like a good option. I like trains because they are comfortable and often overnight. Get on, fall asleep, wake up at your destination. I found someone’s blog stating the train ride from Warsaw to Lviv was about 120 zloty ($40) which seemed somewhat reasonable. Unfortunately the tickets were not available online since this was an international train (yep, that’s an issue).
I headed down to the main train station in Warsaw, worked up my Polish skills since the cashiers at the ticket office didn’t speak English and tried to find that ticket. You can imagine my surprise when I was told the ticket costs around 250PLN ($80USD+). Only later I figured out the “120 zloty” price I found online was posted in 2009. Seems like the price doubled in 5 years.
My last option was taking the Warsaw Lviv bus. I bought a ticket for $29USD through BusEurope. When I got to the bus station (Warszawa Zachodnia PKS) I didn’t find the bus right away since the bus I had to take was labeled as Warsaw – Ivano-Frankowsk (and Lviv is simply a stop on the way). The bus left at 6pm and was supposed to arrive to Lviv at 5:30 am or so.
On the way the bus broke down. The brave drivers fought the pouring rain and fixed the fuel issue within 30 minutes and we were on our way once again. It smelled like diesel for the first hour but I didn’t mind it too much since diesel smells better than the undigested garlic consumed by the person sitting infront of me. I am a very tolerant person and I adapt to things. I also love garlic but I would never eat it unless I am sure I won’t encounter another live being that day. Anyways…
At 10:30 pm we arrived at the Polish border. We waited for a while, eventually a border officer came into the bus and took our passports. 20-30 minutes later the bus driver gave the passports back to us. All in all it took 1 hour. The bus drove for 100 meters and we were now at the Ukrainian border. Another officer picked up our passports once again (while carefully studying our faces and making sure we look exactly like in that ugly passport photo). Ukrainian border took about 30 minutes. The crossing was surprisingly empty, that’s why it didn’t take long. The bus stopped once again, right after crossing the border – so people could exchange their hard-earned zloty to Ukrainian hryvna. Surprisingly the exchange rate at the border is as good as in the city and a lot better than at an airport or train station.
At 12:30 am we were in Ukraine, however there is a time difference and it was 1:30 am local time. In less then 2 hours the bus was in Lviv. So instead of 5:30am as expected, the bus dropped me off on the outskirts of the city at 2:45am. There was a closed gas station and nothing else. Two young ladies got off at that stop as well and I asked them to call a cab for me, since there was no other way of getting into the city at that hour. Three of us got in the cab and went to the center. I paid 40 hryvnas ($4USD) for quite a long ride, and the driver left towards the other passengers’ destination.
All in all the trip was fine. 7 hours in the bus isn’t that bad, especially when the bus is somewhat comfortable.There was also an empty seat next to me which helped a lot. It would have been faster, cheaper and more comfortable with ride share but as I mentioned earlier, I didn’t find anyone going my way.
Would I suggest this way of traveling from Warsaw to Ukraine? Definitely! And another quick tip: bring 2 or 4 zloty with you for this trip. There is no toilet in the bus and the toilets available at the rest stops are not free (2 zl), even at the Polish border.