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Ukraine - Carpathian Mountains

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Ukraine - Carpathian Mountains

Hello WS cyclists:

I am planning on passing through the southwest corner of Ukraine this June.  I'll enter from Slovakia and ride through the mountains into Romania.  Here are a few specific questions:

1.  Should I anticipate any difficulty at the border (entering or leaving)?

2.  Should I anticipate any difficulty getting cash as soon as I enter the country?

3.  What towns in this part of the country have the best rail or bus connections to Lviv?

Any tips would be appreciated; places to see/stay, pleasant routes, foods to try, etc.

Thanks,

Eric

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You mean southwest Ukraine. I

You mean southwest Ukraine. I know that area (Zakarpatska oblast) quite well after passing through as a hitchhiker and cyclist at least 20 times, but I have never crossed from Slovakia. You should research first if the Slovakia-Ukraine border crossing you want is open to bicycles: certain crossings between Ukraine and Romania and Poland, for example, are only passable in a motor vehicle; you cannot cross on foot or on a bicycle. It is possible to ask the driver of a large van to carry you and your bike across, but if it is a low-traffic border crossing you could be waiting for many hours for a van to come by! So, check to see if cyclists have crossed from Slovakia at that border before.

There are no issues entering or leaving Ukraine in terms of your interaction with border officials. Ukraine has changed a lot since I first traveled there almost twenty years ago. Nowadays its border officials (at least in that region) are pretty easygoing and professional like in most other European countries.

With regard to getting cash, you will soon reach Uzhgorod after crossing the Slovakia-Ukraine border. Uzhgorod is a big city, there are plenty of banks with ATMs there.

If you want to cross from that part of Ukraine into Romania, the only border crossing that allows bicycles is the Solotvyno-Sighetu Marmatiei border crossing. There the border between the two countries is formed by the river Tisza and there is a short bridge that you can cycle over. There is not much in Solotvyno on the Ukrainian side, but Sighetu Marmatiei on the Romanian side is a good-sized town with shops, restaurants, banks, etc. If you want to stay overnight in Sighetu Marmatiei, I recommend the Casa Veche hotel. It is clean and affordable, the attached restaurant has great high-calorie food for cyclists, and the staff will help you store your bicycle in a safe place for the night.

When cycling across southwestern Ukraine from Uzhgorod, you might plan to stop for the night in Mukachevo. That is a nice town with a charming pedestrian street. However, the remaining towns between Mukachevo and Solotvyno are pretty dismal and the scenery is nothing special, so I would suggest trying to get from Mukachevo to the Solotvyno-Sighetu Marmatiei border crossing in one day, which is easy enough in the summer as the terrain there is mostly flat.

If you want to make a side trip to Lviv, you can easily reach Lviv from Uzhgorod on the rather slow but cheap regional train (known as the električka). That train actually starts in Solotvyno, so you could take it from there as well. From Solotvyno it works as an overnight train, leaving Solotvyno in the afternoon and arriving in Lviv around 0600. The train carriage is a big shared sleeping compartment (known in Russian as platskartny) and bedding is provided. It’s actually a remarkably good deal considering that the overnight journey in a sleeping compartment costs only around 10€. I suspect that trying to get a bike on that train would be a struggle, so you might leave the bike at your hotel in Uzhgorod or wherever.

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Yes, southwest for sure

Thanks for the tips Chris.  I had heard that some crossings were tricky for cyclists.  I like the night train idea too.

Eric

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Before you decide to take the

Before you decide to take the overnight train, be sure you know what you are in for, as platskartny is not for everyone. Here are some photos of what those carriages look like. People generally respect each other’s space, though, and it is a great way to meet local people. If you bring some beer and sausages to share, then you’re already like a local.

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I always...

...carry a flask of bourbon but no reason I couldn't pack some beer and sausage for this trip.  Great idea!  Thanks for the link.  Now I really want to take this train!