Even when there were still Slovak crowns used in Slovakia, before we changed to Euro in Jan 2009, Slovakia used to be cheaper than Ukraine. It is the universal truth, the same as the fact that Slovaks living close to the Ukrainian border go shopping to Ukraine. Why? Most of the things still remain much cheaper there than in Slovakia. And many Ukrainians cross the border to sell their products for a better price than a local can find in local shops. The quality? Usually the same or even better.
There used to be a visa entrance to Ukraine but it was changed and since then if a Slovak person wants to cross the border, he needs just a passport. And … hm let’s say some change to give to border officers. Otherwise you can spend hours waiting in a 10-car line. I hope it will get better soon. But this is a different story.
Like I said, the reason why loads of Slovaks wake up very early in the morning to go to Ukraine is obvious. To save money. So once, on a Sunday in September 2011 I woke up at 4.40 am just to go shopping. Crazy, right? I know, but the need of an original adidas or nike jacket for less than a half price was really intriguing. I should be glad to live just 30 km from the Slovak-Ukrainian border crossing Ubľa.
Very early chilly morning, fog on the way and a lot of deer waking up in the forest. That’s what you will get instead of your warm bed. Then just cross to get to Ukraine. It can be very quick when very early in the morning.
Just a couple of meters after the border, the first shops appear. Bicycles, clothes, food, petrol station (it is around 0,80 Euro per liter, while in Slovakia almost 1,50 Euro). The village is full of small shops. If you need something they have here, just get it and go back to Slovakia before you will not be able to count all the cars in the border queue.
But in case you want some good clothes, shoes, socks, underwear, rucksacks, doors, headphones etc, take another hour to Ужгород – Užgorod where a huge market is found. On the way you will pass a lovely nature, poor villages, grandmas with cows, fresh water and more interesting stuff.
The Užgorod market is empty in the morning and it looks like at the photo below first. Then very quickly during 2 hours it becomes overcrowded so enjoy those 2 empty hours to try the things, find the best one for you and leave. You can get pretty much everything here at the market, including the newest things, such as five-toe shoes. And cute dogs … but these are not for sale
Just the toilets show the West of Ukraine is kind of poor (apart from some mafia rich rich men). You even have to pay to go to pee, but if I knew before how it was going to be, I would have convinced myself somehow I didn’t need to use the toilet. They were horribly disgusting, dirty, smelly and most of all so small! I know not everyone is 180 cm tall, but come on, why should other people watch me making faces when taking a pee?
Unfortunately, do not expect shop assistants in Užgorod market to speak English, I saw only one. They are fluent in Ukrainian and Slovak and many of them speak East-Slovak dialect (Ruthenian) which is something in between the two. But a big plus is, all the shop assistants are extremely nice, helpful, smiling, joking with you and willing to show you anything. Sometimes even give you a discount if you buy more. I was really surprised how nice they were. And not annoying at all, nor showing they so want to sell. Just great people.
And this is how full the parking lot is at lunch time. With the old Lada cars all around.
One more tip when going shopping to Ukraine. Try to avoid noon time to cross the border, unless you have a lunch with you in the car. Because the border officers swap and go to eat leaving you to wait in the queue with nothing happening. It is possible you will spend more time waiting to cross the border than you spent shopping in Užgorod market.
Just remember, you can only take 2 packs of cigarettes with you, full tank of petrol/diesel and another 10 liters but of the same (so if your car runs for petrol, you cannot cross with diesel and vice versa), a liter of alcohol per person and no milk and dairy products. But as many adidas, puma, nike, converse, diesel and other famous marks as you want