How to cross a Ukrainian Border

We were originally going into Moldova. The map said that we’d be crossing into the country from Romania and driving for about an hour before reaching the Ukrainian border. Once we got to the border patrol in Romania, we were told differently.

How to Cross a Ukrainian Border

It all started when we were told that the … a portion of Moldova wasn’t safe for travel. The night before, we changed our plans to make our route through Moldova a little shorter and a lot more to the South.

It seemed simple enough.

While we waited in line at passport control, Land Cruisers and tough looking guys surrounded us with gorgeous wives by their side. We joked that this must be where the Russian Mafia crosses.

cross a ukrainian border waiting

It was a few minutes later that a Romanian man came up to our car and told us that we should move to the much shorter EU passport holders only line. He said it was the “unofficial” line for EU Holders and anyone else,” The line we were in was especially for Ukraine and Russian citizens only.

After we moved, we chatted with him for awhile and he told us that we would have been there forever as it is a big border crossing for Russian mafia!

When I told him that we were going to the Ukraine he said to me “my advice for the Ukraine, Don’t stop”

Now That’s Comforting.

It wasn’t long before we were through the Romanian border and we thought it was smooth sailing from here on in. But the problems ensued once we were on the Moldova side of the border.

cross a ukrainian border dave

The first thing anyone says to us at any border crossing is “You don’t have proper documents for your car.” And today was no exception.

Here is what happened…

The first person to deal with us at the Moldova border informed us that we didn’t have the proper documentation for our car and left us on our own for about 15 minutes. No surprise there.

After a while, two other officials came out to deal with us. One man told us that he will let us through, but that his colleague who was standing right beside him, would not. Obviously there were some arguments going on behind closed doors and they had come to a stalemate.

cross a ukrainian border flag

His colleague, a blond bombshell in high heels and skin-tight pants told us that we would not be able to enter Ukraine. If she let us through, we would simply be turned around at the Ukrainian Border and would be right back to their border crossing within a few minutes.

If we did get through to Ukraine, they would charge us a 7,000€ car deposit and then refund it once we left the country.

Yeah, Fat Chance we were going to count on that.

We started our Border Crossing Incident at 6:26 pm

They left us again.

A little while later another group of officials came back and asked Rick if he was from Russia because his passport said Georgia. However, he’s from Atlanta Georgia so we were good. No Russian Mafia in this car.

He then asked us if we were Canadian and did we speak French. “Une Petite Peu” we said.

Everything Changed after that.

Thank God, Dave took French immersion in school and it all came flooding back to him in a time of crisis. Vasil, as we learned his name was later, talked to us in French explaining our situation and how we would not be allowed into Ukraine with this permit.

He called ahead to ask them and they said no.

dave at ukraine border

We couldn’t understand who he was calling ahead to, because we were at the Moldova border. Why would he be calling someone in Ukraine? But it all became clear when he decided to drive with us to the next stop.

It turns out, the Ukraine border is 1 km away. We don’t even have the option of entering Moldova at this border crossing. It is a road that goes directly to Ukraine.

When he said he called ahead to the next country, that is exactly what he was doing. He was calling his buddies at the next border crossing down the road.

Lucky Vasil is immigrating to Canada.

As we drove to the next border, Vasil explained to us that he had been to Montreal and he is in the process of immigrating to Canada. He has been working on getting his entire family there for two years and he could be in Quebec in as early as November.

He took a liking to Dave (as everyone does) and told him that he decided to help us because he loves Canada and hopes that we will return the favour when he comes to our country. If he ever has any problems or needs any advice, can he call us? “Of course,” we said!

We left Sherry and Rick behind.

Sherry and Rick were left in Moldova as Dave and I went to Ukraine to discuss our options. Vasil told us to wait outside while he talked to his friend from Ukraine. About 15 minutes later, he came out to tell us that everything was ok and they would let us pass.

Now we just had to go back and get Sherry and Rick.

Vasil and Dave and I exchanged emails and telephone numbers (mom and dad, if a guy from the Former Soviet Union calls, you’ll now know who it is) and we thought the ordeal would be over.  Guess we were wrong.

Buying Insurance.

We still had one more obstacle. When we first arrived a blond bombshell of a female border patrol officer named Natasha told us that if they allowed us into Moldova we would have to buy the 50€ transit insurance for our vehicle.

She didn’t forget this as Vasil took away our passports to stamp us out of the country. Natasha took Rick and me to the customs office to pay for our insurance. Rick had left over Romanian currency so we decided to pay for that with his money rather than using our Euros, US cash or paying by credit card.

Only insurance to go.

Of course when we got to the customs office, the official was nowhere to be found. Natasha told us to wait here and left us alone to wait.

After about 15 minutes, the official came back and one of his minions brought him our paperwork. They exchanged words in only a way that the Russians and Ukrainians can with an air of disgust and impatience and denied our insurance.

“You do not have the proper paperwork,” he said.

We explained to him through our new translator, the duty free girl, that Vasil and Natasha had taken care of everything and that Ukraine was allowing us through. He didn’t care. Even as his entire office seemed to gang up on him he ignored our plight. From the bits and pieces I got from the conversation, I got the feeling that everyone was saying to him.

“Come on buddy, what’s your problem?” “They are only driving through Moldova in transit.” “They’ll be in another country in 10 minutes!”

At that moment Vasil came in to explain the situation. The officer seemed even more disgusted with him and after a few strong words, he sent us away. As we walked back to the border, Vasil looked at me and said “this is crazy!”

question mark ukraine border

Now What?

It was a little while later that Natasha called Dave into the office.  He was gone for about 10 minutes when he came back with the news that Natasha had offered to escort us across the border for 200€

Dave said no and got here down to 50€ and asked her how much in Romanian Lei. She worked the conversion out in her mind and said 150 Lei.  We were fine with that. It was originally going to cost us 200 Lei for the transit insurance so we were getting a bargain.

Well, I think Natasha figured out that as well.

When Dave went back to her and handed her the 150 Lei, she took the 100 Lei note and wrote the number 2 on it. Looks like we would have to pay 50€ after all.

But hey, at least we were getting ourselves to the Ukraine!

What happens in the Ukraine is another story…

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