Ukraine occupies the biggest territory in Europe and is the place where the geographic center of Europe lays. However, it differs a lot from most of the Western world countries and is a real magnet for plenty of travelers.
Tourists and, sometimes, immigrants from all over the world come here not only to enjoy its breathtaking nature, but also to get acquainted with country’s rich cultural heritage, visit international creative events and try famous Ukrainian cuisine. With its controversial character, Ukraine is really unique place to visit.
Geography and nature
Ukraine’s territory is stuffed with wonderful treasures that won’t leave anyone indifferent. Its natural beauty is really magnificent! It contains two majestic rivers - Dnipro and Dniester, surrounded by green banks, and two astonishing seas – Black and Azov with their beautiful sandy coastline.
You can also visit nature reserves, inhabited by rare species of fauna and flora, some of which are listed in the Red Book, beautiful parks and the only desert in Europe. Ancient mountain ranges surprise with crystal pure lakes, underground caves, charming waterfalls and beautiful valleys that look just amazing during the period of daffodil blossom. Can you imagine that all this natural diversity can be found within one country!
Ukraine has a temperate continental climate with cold winters and warm summers. Spring and autumn are the best seasons with the most comfortable weather conditions. Thanks to its unique natural gifts, Ukraine is the ideal place for resting and healing. People from different countries come to Ukrainian resorts to try treatment with therapeutic muds, mineral springs or to simply enjoy fantastic climate that positively influences health.
Ukraine is also a paradise for gourmets: a wide variety of high-level restaurants, specializing in different cuisine from all over the world, serves quality food for quite low price (as for the foreign guests). The choice is huge for international delicacies as well as for Ukrainian cuisine that varies from one region to another. You can have a nice dinner in a restaurant with an average bill of USD 15-20, including alcohol.
Useful facts you need to know
Time zone: GMT +2
Electricity: 220 volts, 50Hz. A converter is usually necessary to facilitate the use of electrical goods (consider purchasing an Eastern-European adapter).
- State and public offices: Monday to Friday 9am to 6pm with lunch between 1pm and 2pm.
- Stores: Monday to Saturday 10am to 7pm. Banks: Monday to Friday 9am to 3pm with lunch from 1pm to 2pm.
Tipping: Restaurant bills sometimes can include a service charge of 5%. Tipping suggested at 10%.
Visas can be obtained from Ukrainian Embassies and Consulates throughout the world. Invitation letters are unnecessary for travelers from: USA, Canada, Turkey, Switzerland, Slovakia and countries from the European Union. Visas are not required for travelers from: Poland, Romania, Serbia, Montenegro, Hungary, Mongolia, Lithuania and Commonwealth of Independent States countries (excluding Turkmenistan). Visas available include business, private, sport, tourist and transit. When applying for a visa the following documentation is required: valid passport, completed application form, passport type photo. Note that as of June 2015, foreign nationals must obtain a special permit from the State Migration Service of Ukraine to enter Crimea. The UK Foreign and Commonwealth Office currently advises against all travel to Crimea. It is also not recommended to travel to some Eastern regions (Luhansk and Donetsk) due to armed conflict that currently takes place there.
Travelling to Kyiv
The most convenient airlines for travelling to Ukraine are Ukrainian International Airlines, Lufthansa, KLM-Air France and Mahan Air. Furthermore, for checking other flights options and ticket prices to Kiev from all over the world you can always consult Momondo, Skyscanner and Expedia websites.
There is no metro connection to Kyiv city center from Boryspil International Airport. The most convenient way to reach the city center from Boryspil and Zhulyany airports is by taxi. Alternatively, you can take the ‘Sky Bus’ from Boryspil Airport Terminal D (there is no such service for Zhulyany) to the city center (Kyiv Central Railway station).
5 travelling tips:
1. Upload the scans of important documents on Google Drive, Dropbox or iCloud storages to have wireless access to them: in case you find yourself in without the originals at a place, where there is no embassy or consulate of your country, you can at least print a copy.
2. Bring 3-5 credit cards and store them in different places: if you lose the main card or have it stolen, you can block it, put the money on the second card, and continue your journey. Don’t forget to always bring some cash (but not too much) with you as cars transactions are not always available, especially outside big cities.
Read: Useful Advices on Travelling by Plane
3. Download smartphone applications for travelers with maps that work without Internet connection as 3G connection does not function well enough across all the territory of the country. Some of them can even replace the guide, which is very convenient for smaller towns and remote places, where touristic infrastructure is not that much developed.
4. Buy or download a phrasebook: Google translator does not always give accurate translations of long sentences and only functions with Internet connection. Ukrainians do not tend to understand and speak good English in general, especially outside big cities.
5. Use Tripadvisor and Foursquare to find really nice places appreciated by tourists and locals to have dinner or grab a drink: these places are more often rated fairly and are not artificially promoted by touristic agencies or websites.
Kyiv living tips
Kyiv is divided into two banks by Dnipro River with most of business and cultural life happening on the right bank (mostly in central parts of Shevchenkivsky, Holosiivsky, Pechersk districts and Podil).
Local public transportation in Kyiv includes metro (underground), buses and minibuses, trolleybuses, trams, taxi and funicular. Kyiv public transport system, except for taxi, uses a simple flat rate tariff system regardless of distance traveled: tickets or tokens must be purchased each time a vehicle is boarded (all public transport costs USD 0.2 or less).
While travelling around the city it is more convenient to use taxi services rather than public transportation. The taxi market in Kyiv is not regulated (in particular, the fare per kilometer is not regulated). The most convenient way to order a cab is to use Uklon mobile application that will help you to find a car for a fair price (average cost for a trip around the city center is USD 1.5-3) quickly. This service can help you to find your location on map with GPRS with no need to enter the name of the street by Cyrillic letters. Anyway, you can always ask for any assistance in ordering a car at the reception at your hotel.
Read: Buying Real Estate Property in Ukraine
While choosing a place to stay in Kyiv, Lviv or Odessa, keep in mind that there are plenty of good options for any budget: apartments, hostels, 4 stars hotels and luxurious ones.
For a longer-term stay, an average price for one-bedroom apartment in Kyiv center will be around USD 350-400. For any assistance with accommodation and some services in Kiev you can go to a concierge service or Assistant Buro company.
If you are going to find a good job in Ukraine you can go to online webs such as www.hh.ua, www.rabota.ua and www.work.ua. Be sure that you have a contract which includes all details regarding your terms of work before you start new job.
For those who move to Ukraine with their kids there are a lot of schools and pre-school educational centers for foreigners. The teachers there are the professionals and native speakers from different countries (France, USA, Great Britain, Germany, etc.).
Read: Top-5 things to do in Kiev
A trip to Ukraine is also an opportunity to find out more about its diverse culture, which occupies a special place in European cultural heritage, learn a bit from its curious history and explore its unique customs that combine pagan rituals with Christian Orthodox traditions. The traditions of each people that have lived on Ukraine’s territory have been interweaved in peculiar way and Ukraine’s uneasy history reflected in the diversity of sites and architecture of different parts of the country. Ukrainian churches, in particular Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kyiv, which are about 1000 years old, are the biggest orthodox centers, which attract Christian orthodox people from the entire Eastern Europe and all the way to Greece. The old wooden churches in the Carpathians are not only symbols of spirituality, but are also unique landmarks that make a part of UNESCO World Heritage List. However, apart from sightseeing, there are plenty things to do in the main Ukrainian touristic destinations - Kyiv, Lviv and Odessa. It is curious to discover classic and contemporary Ukrainian and European art in numerous museums and galleries, admire architecture of different styles and historic periods. Ukraine lives a diverse festive life, hosting lot of events of national, as well as international, levels: music, art, and film festivals take place here each year, gathering a broad international audience.
During summer time Kiev turns into really nice place with a lot of festivals, concerts and parties. You can also find some expat communities there like InterNations, Frydays and others helping you to find new friends and not to feel any language and cultural barriers.
If you are in Kiev to rest, it’s better to discover new city nightlife in a company of some local guides. They can help with advice and some tips on peculiarities of behavior. Your safety is the main priority while you go to a night club or bar.
Don’t take too much money and different credit cards with you. Just get the certain sum of cash and may be a card with relatively small limit.
Check on the map the location of the club and book a taxi through a mobile application. It will help you to avoid translation difficulties.
Always bring your ID card with you. It can help should any contacts with police occur. By the way, police in Kiev has changed a lot during the last year. Now it follows the European standards and the policemen are really helpful for citizens. So don’t be afraid to contact them if you need help. This new police staff speaks English and is really friendly.
Keep your documents, money and mobile phone in the inner pocket of your jacket.
When you are at a nightclub don’t get into contact with some unknown drunk men, they can be aggressive. Also, don’t get into political conversations.
If you are a man and you want to meet a lady, just be sure that: 1 – she is without her boyfriend here, 2 – she is not looking for a sponsor, 3 – she is not earning money making love.
Don’t drink so much as Ukrainians. You have to know that this nation is well trained in terms of alcohol, so for a beginner it could be difficult to follow the rhythm. Drink a lot of water and eat snacks to stay sober.
Be positive, dance a lot, find good new friends and enjoy your nightlife in Kiev.
If you want to get back home, don’t catch a car on the street, but, again, book a cab through a mobile application.
Usually the visits to Ukraine are trouble free, however don’t forget about personal measures of security: where possible, avoid walking alone late at night in dark or poorly lit streets; keep your valuable things and cash safe and out of sight, especially in crowded areas, tourist spots and public transport. It is recommended to have your ID with you also as the phone number of your embassy.
For medical services, it is better to go to private clinics like Borys, Dobrobut, etc. Remember that in case of any emergency it is always better to contact the Embassy of your country.
There are lots of opinions about Ukraine and different reasons to come here. However, the thing that is common for everyone who has ever been to Ukraine is that Ukrainian people are very hospitable, honest, fun, cheerful and simply amazing. Ukrainians, despite country’s complicated history and uneasy current social and economic conditions, are distinguished with innate optimism and breadth of soul. Whatever the goal of your visit is, you can be sure that this experience will be a real adventure full of interesting discoveries and unexpected surprises for you. Go ahead and fall in love with Ukraine!