Ukraine is such a lovely country. From Kyiv with its history and architecture to Lviv with its churches. Pripyat' has a popular amusement park, and Kharkiv is known for its Opera and Ballet theater. If you are a daredevil, you can also get a tour through Chornobyl.
What is also scary are the high roaming bills you get from roaming with your provider in Ukraine. Ukraine is not part of the EU, so European citizens cannot roam for free in Ukraine. That is why I decided to write this article about everything you need to know about buying a SIM card in Ukraine. Of course, this information is also relevant for non-EU citizens. Let's do this.
Table of Contents
Telecom Providers in Ukraine
Ukraine has 6 telecom providers: Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine, Lifecell, Intertelecom, TriMob, and PEOPLEnet. Intertelecom and PEOPLEnet use the CDMA technology. I will not go in-depth on how CDMA works. However, what you should know that most phones use GSM, rendering both providers useless. As a result, I will not discuss them any further.
Kyivstar, Vodafone Ukraine, and Lifecell have full 2G, 3G, and 4G/LTE networks. 3mob has a 3G network and has a roaming agreement with Vodafone Ukraine so that their customers can roam for free on Vodafone Ukraine’s 2G network. 2G is too slow for general web browsing.
Besides Ukraine’s 6 operators, there are also 1 Mobile Virtual Network Operators (MVNOs), which is Lycamobile. There are also two region-specific operators: Phoenix and Lugacom. Phoenix only operators in the Donetsk region, while Lugacom is active in the Luhansk region only.
What SIM card should you buy when visiting Ukraine? If you want to buy a SIM card in Ukraine, I would recommend going with Kyivstar because they have the best coverage in Ukraine.
Both the Donetsk and Luhansk regions are relatively unstable because of tensions between Eastern Ukraine and Russia. Phoenix and Lugacom, together with Vodafone Ukraine, are the only operators active in these regions because they are Russian-owned companies (including Vodafone Ukraine), which are, for some reason, allowed to operate in Eastern Ukraine. As a result, they will not be discussed any further in this article.
Furthermore, Crimea has not been part of Ukraine since 2014. The region has its own operators (Win Mobile, Volna Mobile, Crimeatelecom, and Sevmobile), which is why they will not be discussed in this article.
Because of this annexation, Ukraine has banned a few Russian internet services, like Mail.ru, Yandex, VKontakte, and Odnoklassniki. You can use a VPN to access these services. I have been using NordVPN for years. NordVPN has servers in Ukraine that are not subject to this censorship. However, you can also connect to servers in Moldova, Romania, Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Latvia, and Estonia (NordVPN has 5500+ servers in 60 countries, but the ones mentioned before are the closest countries to Ukraine). You can get up to 70% when you get your NordVPN subscription today!
Unlike most countries in Eastern Europe, you do not have to register your SIM card. However, this can change at any time because of ongoing conflicts.
Lastly, this is important for those with a SIM card from the European Union: Ukraine is not part of the EU or EEA, which means that the Roam like Home rule does not apply in Ukraine. Therefore, it is recommended that European citizens with EU SIM cards buy a Ukrainian SIM card instead of roaming with their providers. Many providers, however, offer free roaming in Ukraine, but this is not the case for all. Be sure to check your provider’s site to learn whether you can roam for free or not.
With that out of the way, let’s see what Ukraine has to offer to us.
Kyivstar is Ukraine’s largest telecom operator. It is owned by Vimpelcom, a Russian company, and has extensive coverage throughout the country. Their 4G/LTE network covers around 70% of the population. Kyivstar SIM cards are sold for 25 UAH ($1.10) and can be bought in official stores, resellers, and international airports. Top-up vouchers start from 50 UAH.
Kyivstar sells the following monthly packages:
- 75 UAH: 3 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 50 domestic minutes, and free Facebook and Twitter
- 100 UAH: 6 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 60 domestic minutes, and free social media and messenger apps
- 150 UAH: 9 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 150 domestic minutes, and free social media and messenger apps
- 225 UAH: unlimited data, unlimited minutes (all networks), and free Facebook and Twitter
If you go over your data allowance, your speed will be reduced to 128 kbps, which is extremely slow. You would be better off getting a new package.
Vodafone SIM cards can be bought in many shops around the country. You can even buy SIM cards at the main train station in Odessa. The agent will help you set up your phone for you. However, make sure you are dealing with someone wearing a Vodafone uniform instead of a “concerned citizen” who may be out to scam you.
The following Vodafone plans can be added. All packs are valid for 28 days:
- 55 UAH: 2 GB, unlimited on-net calls, and 60 domestic minutes
- 65 UAH: 5 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 75 domestic minutes, 25 international minutes, 50 SMS; unlimited Telegram, WhatsApp, and Facebook
- 90 UAH: unlimited data, unlimited on-net calls, 100 domestic minutes, unlimited Telegram, WhatsApp, Facebook, Viber, Twitter, and Instagram.
Lifecell is Ukraine’s third operator and owned by a Turkish company called Astelit. While offering the lowest rates, Lifecell has worse coverage compared to Vodafone and Kyivstar. 4G/LTE can be found in various areas. Lifecell SIM cards are sold for 15 UAH.
Lifecell sells various starter packs, all with different pricing.
The Bomb plan is sold for 150 UAH and comes with 20 GB, 00 minutes, and unlimited Facebook, WhatsApp, Viber, Skype, and Telegram. The plan is valid for 30 days.
The Lifehack plans come in various variants, which are all valid for 28 days:
- 175 UAH: 20 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 150 domestic minutes and SMS
- 225 UAH: 30 GB and 350 domestic minutes and SMS
- 249 UAH: 40 GB, unlimited on-net calls, 600 domestic minutes and SMS
The Absolute Freedom plans are sold in 3 variants. They all come with 750 domestic minutes and the selected data allowance, all to be used within 28 days:
- 85 UAH: 7 GB
- 135 UAH: 15 GB and unlimited data from 12 AM until 8 AM
- 185 UAH: 20 GB and unlimited data from 12 AM until 8 AM
The Hype plan is sold for 100 UAH and comes with 10 GB, unlimited on-net calls, and 75 domestic minutes for 28 days
The Shaker plan is sold for 135 UAH and comes with 20 GB (max. 2 GB per day), unlimited on-net calls, and 100 domestic minutes
The Self Made plan is perhaps the most interesting of them all. It allows you to make your own plan. From 0 to 400 minutes, 0 to 10 GB, and 0 to 250 SMS for 30 days. It is cheaper if you go for data only.
The last plan is the Premium plan that comes in two versions:
- 400 UAH: 15 GB, unlimited on-net calls and 1500 domestic minutes and SMS
- 800 UAH: 40 GB, unlimited on-net calls and 3000 domestic minutes and SMS
Interested in data-only plans? The following 30-day plans are available (except for the 15 UAH 500 MB plan – that is valid for 7 days):
- 15 UAH: 500 MB (for 7 days)
- 25 UAH: 500 MB
- 29 UAH: 1 GB
- 49 UAH: 2 GB
- 79 UAH: 4 GB
- 129 UAH: 8 GB
3mob is the smallest player in Ukraine. With a limited 3G network, 3mob decided to strike an agreement with Vodafone so that 3mob customers can use Vodafone’s 2G network. 3mob SIM cards are sold for 35 UAH around the country.
The following 3mob plans can be added:
- 15 UAH: Unlimited data for 24 hours
- 20 UAH: 1 GB for 30 days
- 50 UAH: 5 GB for 30 days
- 120 UAH: 10 GB for 180 days
- 250 UAH: 2.5 GB, unlimited on-net calls, and 1000 domestic minutes and SMS every 30 days – 250 UAH is charged annually
- 382 UAH: Unlimited data, unlimited on-net calls, and 1000 domestic minutes SMS for 20 days
Other Ways to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ukraine
Below are some other options to consider.
Roaming is the most convenient way to stay connected. You do not have to buy a new SIM card, and people at home can easily reach you on your current phone number.
However, roaming has many downsides as well. It can be insanely expensive.
International/Travel SIM Cards
International SIM cards or travel SIM cards are SIM cards made for travelers. The rates charged are often lower than international roaming, but they are almost always higher than what local operators will charge you.
Mobile hotspots, or pocket WIFI, are small devices that connect to the local operators of the country you are visiting. Mobile hotspots are ideal for families or those traveling in a large group, as they allow you to connect multiple devices to one hotspot without the need of each traveler having to buy a SIM card.
Free WIFI Networks
Nothing beats free, right? Paying nothing to stay connected may be the best option. Until you remember that free hotspots are not available everywhere (especially when on the move) and that free connections are often extremely slow.
Just make sure to protect your internet traffic with a VPN when connected to open WIFI connections. It is worth it.
The Preferred Way to Stay Connected When Traveling in Ukraine
Getting a SIM card from Kyivstar would do you well when considering a Ukrainian SIM card.
Local Prepaid SIM Cards in Other European Countries
Going to other places around the world? Then you should also check out my sim card buying guides for other destinations around the world.
Next Steps to Enhance Your Travel Experiences
Looking for the next steps to enhance your phone travel experiences? Here is what to do:
Check Out My Resource Page
Looking for the best companies and gadgets to enhance your travel experience? Check out my travel resources page for the best companies to use when you travel! Save money with international SIM cards, on plane tickets, bus rides, cruises, and accommodation. Besides that, I also list services and items I use to make my life easier – and I believe they will help you too!
Start Your Own Online Business – Make Money While Traveling
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Learn About Your Phone Travel Options
You can buy local prepaid SIM cards, international SIM cards, mobile hotspots, or roam internationally. Each of these options has its pros and cons. Learn more about them, and find the best option for you.
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