The currency in Ukraine is called the hryvnia which is abbreviated as UAH. The Hryvnia has been the national currency of Ukraine since 1996 and is subdivided into 100 kopiyok. Hryvnia is named after a measure of weight used in medieval-era Kievan Rus.
Exchanging money in Ukraine
Like most countries, it’s a good rule of thumb not to exchange money at the airport as you’ll be guaranteed a poor exchange rate. It’s good to pick up some Ukrainian currency in your home country before you travel so you have enough money to travel from the airport.
When it comes to changing money at currency exchanges on the street, download a currency exchange app on your phone so you can compare the rates advertised to the global market before you go in and change money. This way you can avoid any unpleasant surprises or scams.
ATMs are located all over Ukraine but are notoriously unreliable or only let you pull out small amounts of cash. Don’t rely too heavily on ATMs in the country as cash is most definitely king here. Also, be very aware of tampered ATM machines that are fitted with a device that skims your card. If something doesn’t look right then walk away.
Notes in Ukraine
Ukrainian banknotes come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100, 200, 500, and 1,000. The design of the Hryvnia banknotes was developed by Ukrainian artists Vasyl Lopata and Borys Maksymov. The one hryvnia banknotes were printed by the Canadian Bank Note Company in 1992. The two, five, and ten hryvnia banknotes were printed two years later. The banknotes were stored in Canada until they were put into circulation.
Banknotes of the first series in denominations of 50 and 100 hryvnias also existed but were not introduced because these nominals were not needed in the economic crisis of the mid-1990s.
Also in 1996, then 1, 50, and 100 hryvnia notes of the second series were introduced, with 1 hryvnia dated 1994. The banknotes were designed and printed by Britain’s De La Rue. Since the opening of the Mint of the National Bank of Ukraine in cooperation with De La Rue in March 1994, all banknotes have been printed in Ukraine.
All hryvnia banknotes issued by the National Bank continue to be legal tender. As of 2008, the banknotes of early series can rarely be found in circulation. Also, despite the devaluation of the currency since its introduction, all kopeck coins remain in circulation, as well as all low-value hryvnia bills, including 1 hryvnia.
As with the U.S. dollar, the 1 hryvnia bill is commonly used. The 100 hryvnia denomination is quite common due to its moderately high value. Also common is the 200 hryvnia, as most Ukrainian ATMs dispense currency in this denomination.
Coins in Ukraine
Coins are used a lot less than banknotes in Ukraine and come in denominations of 10, 25, 50 kopiyok, and 1 or 2 Hryvnia.
Coins were first struck in 1992 for the new currency but were not introduced until September 1996. Initially, coins valued between 1 and 50 kopiyok were issued. In March 1997, the 1 hryvnia coin was added. Since 2004 several commemorative 1 hryvnia coins have been struck.
History of the Ukrainian currency
A currency called hryvnia was used in Kievan Rus. In 1917, after the Ukrainian National Republic declared independence from the Russian Empire, the name of the new Ukrainian currency became hryvnia, a revised version of the Kievan Rus’ hryvnia. The designer was Heorhiy Narbut.
The hryvnia replaced the karbovanets during the period 2–16 September 1996, at a rate of 1 hryvnia to 100,000 karbovantsiv. The karbovanets were subject to hyperinflation in the early 1990s following the collapse of the USSR.
To a large extent, the introduction of the hryvnia was secretive. The hryvnia was introduced according to a Presidential Decree dated 26 August 1996. During the transition period, both hryvnias and karbovanets were used, but merchants were required to give change only in hryvnias. All bank accounts were converted to hryvnias automatically. After 16 September 1996, the remaining karbovanets could be exchanged for hryvnias in banks.
The hryvnia was introduced during the period when Viktor Yushchenko was the chairman of the National Bank of Ukraine. However, the first banknotes issued bore the signature of the previous National Bank chairman, Vadym Hetman, who resigned in 1993, because the first notes had been printed as early as 1992 by the Canadian Bank Note Company, but it was decided to delay their circulation until the hyperinflation in Ukraine was brought under control.
In 2014, following its annexation by Russia, the new Republic of Crimea announced that the hryvnia was to be dropped as the region’s currency in April 2014. The Russian ruble became the “official” currency in annexed Crimea on 21 March 2014. In the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Luhansk, the Russian Ruble is also a dominant currency, however, the Hryvnia is still used alongside it in some instances.