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I'm currently in Krakow and am planning on going to Lviv next. Rome2Rio indicates that this is a 6-10 hour land journey either by bus(es) or by train(s).

I've heard from another backpackers in my hostel that you can't take the train directly because there's a difference in rail gauges, so you have to do a train switch on the Polish border in the town of Przemysl.

Other than this, are there any other intricacies involved in crossing the border? I was considering doing a night bus/train given the length of the journey, but if border control is a hassle I might rethink that plan.

I've a US passport and am intending to enter without a visa since I don't plan to stay 90 days. The US State Department page on the Ukraine indicates that I'll need proof of health insurance and adequate funds, both of which I have.

(I'm generally not familiar with crossing land borders other than Vietnam-Cambodia, US-Canada, Malaysia-Indonesia, and within the EU.)

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    Never been in Ukraine, but since it's outside EU and outside Schengen Area, you definitely should be prepared for border-control hassle – Kamil Mikolajczyk Sep 28 '16 at 12:21
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    It's worth noting that Ukraine dropped the "the" about 25 years ago ukrweekly.com/old/archive/1991/499102.shtml – DavidTheWin Sep 28 '16 at 16:07
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    I still call it "the Ukraine" because that's what I was taught in my middle school geography class 15 years ago. Along with the US, the Sudan, the Congo and a bunch of other countries with "the". Consider it a deficiency of American education and a hard habit to break for countries that don't come up often in my conversations. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Sep 29 '16 at 6:28
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    I understand "The Ukraine" vs "Ukraine" has become a political question. The latter is preferred by Ukrainian nationalists. – Andrew Lazarus Jun 9 '17 at 18:32
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    @Andrew which is interesting because neither Ukrainian nor Russian have a definite article. It's an issue in translation only. – Columbia says Reinstate Monica Sep 3 '17 at 0:25
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Actually, this border is pretty painless to cross (especially for residents of 'rich' countries). You can find estimated waiting times here. If anything, the return could take more time (never happened to me, crossed it twice as a Polish citizen) as inbound control to Schengen tends to be stricter. If you can, I'd highly recommend taking the train, as some buses are held for stricter control (and the waiting times tend to be longer).

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    And I'd highly recommend you, Roddy, to hear Daniel's advice:) Crossing Polish-Ukranian border by bus is a total Hell and it will drive you crazy. – Suncatcher Sep 28 '16 at 14:19
  • "as inbound control to Schengen tends to be stricter" Huh? The Poles usually barely take my ID card in their hand (I'm Swedish). Same goes for the Hungarians at the border from Serbia – Crazydre Nov 18 '17 at 16:49
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I've heard from another backpackers in my hostel that you can't take the train directly because there's a difference in rail gauges, so you have to do a train switch on the Polish border in the town of Przemysl.

There are indeed direct trains from Poland to Ukraine. Different gauge is "fixed" by changing the wheels on the train cars at the border. This is quite fast operation (1.5-2 hours for the whole train), which is integrated with the border control, and you don't have to leave the train cart (in fact as Jan noted below, you are not even allowed to). You can see this train at http://www.intercity.pl - departs at 22:24 and arrives at 7:15 in Lviv. I'd certainly recommend it over the bus, unless you're tight on budget (bus is likely to be cheaper).

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    1.5-2 hours for a gauge change is not exactly fast. I've seen it done in less than 20 minutes. – Diego Sánchez Nov 27 '16 at 20:57
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As a Ukrainian citizen I was taking the Ecolines bus once from Rzeszow to Lviv (it actually goes from Krakow) in August and had no problem at all. Passengers even didn't have to leave the bus for the passport control. Just passing the passports to the border guards.

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There is new Przemysl - Lviv - Kyiv intercity train (since December 2016). Also there is Helm - Kovel - Rivne - Zdolbuniv. Both Helm and Przemysl are Polish border towns, so there is no need to change gauge. These trains are fast and must be the best way to cross the border in predictable amount of time.

From personal experience, crossing Shehyni - Medyka border (near Przemysl) on foot took me around 1.5 hours from Ukraine to Poland in very crowded conditions. So next time I'm going to try the train. OTOH, if you're going opposite way, maybe it's easier and faster (most of people who cross there are Ukrainians).

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Today I crossed the border by bus in the way from Lviv to Krakow. It was an ordeal. It took 7h to pass the customs control in the Ukraininan side and 2h in the Polish side because of a queue ... of 10 buses. I'm exhausted.

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