Cities who do not have trams always look less literary, less poetic, and less mysterious!
-Mehmet Murat ildan, Turkish author
With the exception of the funicular, using Ukraine's public transit systems doesn't make for the most foreigner-friendly experience. Bus service can be unreliable, current transit schedules may or may not exist, mini buses sputter past with what looks like a hundred passengers, Soviet-era trams frequently break down (causing quite a traffic jam on the tracks), and very few employees speak English. Yet, hopping aboard Ukraine's buses, trains, or trolleys can make for memorable experiences... and major savings. I thought Lviv was much easier to get around than Kiev although Kiev's transportation-related architecture was fascinating to take in, and while I was too scared to try the Ukranian minibus, one transportation trick I learned was to always take Uber (unless you enjoy being scammed, of course).
Kiev and Lviv's trams were clunky, creaking contraptions that had seen better days, and they couldn't be more charming. Fare is just 4 UAH ($0.16) and, at least in Lviv, rides are scenic and often crowded. (Kiev's tram is limited to lower town.)
Trolley buses are big in Ukraine, operating in forty different cities including Crimea, where one finds the longest trolleybus route in the world. Most of the buses are old and the poles occasionally come off the wire above, forcing the driver to jump out of the vehicle to reattach them with a special hook. In Lviv, I took the trolley bus route from the city center to the airport and couldn't have been more pleased with the ease and low cost of doing so: fare is 4 UAH, or $0.16.
Kiev has a fascinating metro system, from the deepest underground station in the world, Arsenalna, to its strikingly authoritarian architecture the Soviet Union is famously known for. Fare was only 4 UAH, although some metro stations are difficult to find (proper signage is lacking, too...).
It wouldn't be a "funicular" without the "fun", now, would it? Funiculars have a way of warming my heart, probably because riding them is more joyous experience than transit essential (technically, you could just walk up the stairs but there's no fun in that... literally). Fare is 5 UAH, or $0.20. The funicular station was built in 1905 and was renovated in 1928, 1958, and 1984; the architecture is an odd conglomeration of utilitarian public building and modernist church, and I thoroughly enjoyed the striking arches, gold finishes, and stained glass,
Traveling via Ukrainian rail was an interesting experience, much more basic than I expected but who's counting with fares so low? The Kiev train station was built in the late 1920s in "Ukranian Baroque" style, and I couldn't help but think the building looks like a barn. The inside is stunning, though, with intricate moulding and paintings. The train car I rode in to Lviv was old and rickety with no food or beverages on board, but I did pay only $50 for a bed in a first class sleeper compartment (mandatory on account of Mango...).