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One Month In Lviv, Ukraine

12.26.17

The short of it: Lviv is an interesting mix of a developing economy and a fully realized metropolitan city with a remarkably low cost of living. I enjoyed it immensely.

Pros: Cost of living is particularly low, urban indulgences like cafe culture and a million cosy bars and restaurants are on offer, seemingly low rates of violent crime, walkable with extensive public transportation

Cons: Infrastructure is improving but still shaky, air quality felt subjectively low, weather is not ideal to many, cobblestone terrain is a near constant hazard, civil war in progress, many will find they are only able to stay for 89 days out of 180 without a visa.

Distortions: Renting via Airbnb saved us from having to arrange for utilities and complete other potentially bureaucracy heavy tasks. We visited in October of 2017 and stayed near the city center, 6 minutes South of the Old Town.

Overall: Metropolitan desires fulfilled at equatorial village prices, Lviv was a comfortable, engaging and fun month at a bargain price against a backdrop filled with bold allusions to its eras gone by. The winters (and perhaps the summers) are colder than some people will want to endure, though having grown up in The Midwest of The US, it presents no obstacle for me.

Food and entertainment: There’s a wide variety of food on offer, from tourist friendly mealtime experiences like Meat and Justice to cheaper local spots like Red Cranberry, Puzata Hata and Mama Mia. Georgian cuisine is popular and while we had an excellent meal in a cozy place right around the corner from our rental, I don’t know what the dishes were called and I lack the character set to type the name. I can tell you we paid less than US$10/per person for several dishes and a beer and we left full. Try a few places, you’ll do fine. We also ate at Bierlin more than once, where a burger, fries, 500ml draft beer and half a hearty appetizer in a comfortable room runs ~US$3.65.

Cheap, delicious alcohol is almost literally everywhere, as is cheap, delicious coffee. This is Europe, so basically every establishment that serves anything also serves alcohol and coffee. I’ll make special mention of Buket Vyna, where 4 rounds for 2 people will set you back US$5.21 total. That’s US$0.65/drink for reasonable pours of regional wines and cognacs within the old town tourist grid. God, the prices still surprise me. Urban Coffee was my streetside chain of choice, selling serviceable double espressos for ~US$0.76 with some variance from occasion to occasion.

Vape bars and vaping generally are popular in Lviv. I have to assume a lot of the customers are former cigarette smokers trying to kick tobacco and there are plenty of cigarette smokers in Lviv to draw from. The Girlfriend and I wandered into a vape bar, ordered a couple of pints of draft beer and for US$3.32 I got set up with some hardware and my choice of flavors. I enjoy an occasional sheesha (hookah) out in public, which is a very similar experience, but in the future I’ll look for a vaping lounge given the choice. The flavors I sampled were terrific; the physical toll minimal.

 

Away from the tables and counters, The Girlfriend and I joined up at Olympus Premium Gym with a one month membership that gave us access from noon to four and cost us just under US$13/per person. Since the cheapest deals usually represents the least popular times, it was win-win for us. We were happy with the equipment and overall experience. Before we joined, we investigated 2 other options; the much larger and pricier Eurosport and the smaller and more expensive Vasil. Lychakiv Cemetery, Stryiskyi Park and the city generally gave us ample opportunity to limber our glutes and hamstrings, sipping paper cup espressos and hot wine while ambling our way to recovery from the goblet squats and dead lift variations.

Our place: We enjoyed a one bedroom airbnb rental for US$16.10/night after our substantial ‘monthly’ (28 nights or more) discount. The location was excellent, just a few minutes on foot South of the Old Town. You can find a lot more info about our place in my post from a few weeks ago.

Infrastructure: I’ve read that Lviv only began providing 24 hour water service a month or so before we arrived. Our rental had several large plastic jugs of water in the bathroom, which suggests outages were at least somewhat common. We never experienced any, though one day the faucets initially pushed out a significant amount of air when I turned them on, suggesting there had been some outage earlier that had gone unnoticed. I read plenty of disagreement about whether it was safe to drink the tap water; we did and didn’t suffer any issues I’d pin to it, but often the choice to abstain is more about mineral rich water slowly contributing to issues like kidney stones or slow acting poisons like lead. Were I to live here full time, I would use filtered water. Perhaps I’d periodically test the tap for containments and reevaluate from there. Filtered water is cheap and omnipresent and there’s even some municipal system where a truck shows up and fills your containers on certain days. We saw several packs of ‘wild’ dogs, though they seemed far more domesticated than what I’m used to in Latin America. While I wouldn’t go over and try to pet them, they did not seem dangerous (or even particularly interested in people) and passers by were doing little to avoid them. I had never seen this in an urban setting and it was a little surreal.

Internet service was somewhat sluggish and occasionally suffered brief outages on the order of 5 minutes.  We never experienced a power or gas outage.

Numbers: We brought our 28 night month in Lviv in at US$1,137.85, all in for two people using a conversion of 27 local to 1 US$. Our meals out averaged around US$4.48/person, though that is an inexact number since the precise number of meals is estimated by the number of entries and a given meal may occasionally be broken out into 2 or more entries. It’s still a solid guideline, take a look at the full expense enumeration for more specifics. Rent ran us US$466.71 including a 10% airbnb fee and included internet, power, water and gas. Lviv is cheap. I had a zipper replaced on a pair of pants, which I’m told is not a simple procedure, for US$2.43, parts and labor. The result was perfect and certainly didn’t look rushed.

I’d like to see this place in the summer.

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