Travel Guide Europe Ukraine





© s-e-r

Between the 9th and 13th centuries, Ukraine was the center of Kievan Rus, one of the most important civilizations at the time. Today, it is geographically large and is the second largest country in Europe. A disastrous century of control by the Soviet Union led to millions of deaths; though the Soviets relinquished their rule in 1991, the country still struggles to get to its feet.

For travellers, Ukraine offers a lot more bright spots. Hiking is superb in the country's Western reaches, where the Carpathian Mountains make an appearance. But Ukraine's real attraction lies in its cities and villages, with varied architectural styles pointing to a nation with a long, rich past. The capital, Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian), was once the home of Kievan Rus; it contains a wealth of history. The Ukrainian capital, the regional centers and other big cities have a lot to offer a foreign traveler: a stay at good hotels, visits to wonderful museums, theaters and other places of interest. Ukraine is known for its hospitable people, its magnificent architectural and cultural heritage and kilometers of vast steppe. Outside the cities, there are many villages surrounded by beautiful landscapes consisting mainly of plains. Villages display a more traditional way of life, where friendly folk live in cottages amongst rolling green hills.

Warning: ince February 2022, Ukraine has been in a state of war. Fighting continues in Eastern Ukraine and parts of Southern Ukraine, air raid alarms & missile strikes are possible anywhere, some infrastructure has been severely damaged, and foreign governments have little to no ability to provide emergency services to their citizens.
Widespread war crimes targeting civilians are committed by belligerents. If you must stay in Ukraine, see war zone safety and know the location of nearest shelters. Contact your country's foreign affairs ministry or state department for updated information.

Travel into and within Ukraine is possible only by land, even then transportation schedules are severely limited.



Brief History

Human settlement in Ukraine has been documented into distant prehistory. The late Neolithic Cucuteni-Trypillian Culture flourished from about 4500 BC to 3000 BC and were among the first ones.

In the 3rd century AD, the Goths arrived in the lands of Ukraine around 250 AD to 375 AD, which they called Oium. The Ostrogoths stayed in the area but came under the sway of the Huns from the 370s. In the 7th century, the territory of modern Ukraine was the core of the state of the Bulgars. At the end of the 7th century, most Bulgar tribes migrated in several directions and the remains of their state were absorbed by the Khazars, a semi-nomadic people from Central Asia.

In 882, Kiev was conquered from the Khazars by the Varangian noble Oleg. Situated on lucrative trade routes, Kiev among the Polanians quickly prospered as the center of the powerful Slavic state of Kievan Rus. In 1240 the Mongols sacked Kiev, and many people fled to other countries. The state of Halych-Volynia eventually became a vassal to the Mongolian Empire, but efforts to gain European support for opposition to the Mongols continued.

They say the name Ukraine appeared first in the chronicles of 1187. The name itself means settled virgin land. The Ukrainians were the people who "ukrayaly", that is, took plots of virgin land and settled them.

During the 14th century, Poland and Lithuania fought wars against the Mongol invaders, and eventually most of Ukraine passed to the rule of Poland and Lithuania. After the Union of Lublin in 1569 and the formation of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth Ukraine fell under Polish administration, becoming part of the Crown of the Polish Kingdom.

The historic struggle of the Ukrainian Cossacks is known all over the world. The word "Cossack" means "a free warrior". Cossacks were adventurous freedom-loving serfs who had fled their masters and banded together in Southern Ukrainian steppes and on the islands of the Dnipro and undertook the defence of the Ukrainian people. They lived in strict military brotherhood in their permanent fortress called Zaporizhya Sich, which was described by scientists as the first Christian republic.

The reconstituted Ukrainian state, having recently fought a bitter war with Poland, sought a treaty of protection with Russia in 1654. After the Partitions of Poland in 1772, 1793 and 1795, the extreme west of Ukraine fell under the control of the Austrians, with the rest as part of the Russian Empire. The fate of the Ukrainians was far different under the Austrian Empire where they found themselves in the pawn position of the Russian-Austrian power struggle for the Central and Southern Europe. With the start of World War I, all those supporting Russia were rounded up and massacred at Talerhof.

In March 1921, part of Ukraine west of Zbruch had been incorporated into Poland, and the east became part of the Soviet Union as the Ukrainian Soviet Socialist Republic. Following the Invasion of Poland in September 1939, German and Soviet troops divided the territory of Poland. Thus, Eastern Galicia and Volhynia with their Ukrainian population became reunited with the rest of Ukraine. The unification that Ukraine achieved for the first time in its history was a decisive event in the history of the nation.

After being a communist Soviet state for dozens of years, Ukraine declared itself an independent state on August 24, 1991. The Union formally ceased to exist in December 25, 1991, and with this Ukraine's independence was officially recognised by the international community. In 2004, Viktor Yanukovych, then Prime Minister, was declared the winner of the presidential elections, which had been largely rigged, as the Supreme Court of Ukraine later ruled. The results caused a public outcry in support of the opposition candidate, Viktor Yushchenko, who challenged the results and led the peaceful Orange Revolution.




Ukraine shares international borders with Belarus, Russia, Poland, Slovakia, Moldova, Hungary and Romania. The country is over 600,000 square kilometres big and has around 45 million inhabitants, although this number is declining (48 million in 2001!). The Ukraine is the largest country whose area is completely situated within Europe (unlike Russia). It is the second country in Europe by its territory after Russia. The territory of Ukraine stretches for 900 km (560 miles) from the north to the south and for 1,316 km (818 miles) from the west to the east.

The Ukrainian landscape mainly consists of fertile plains (steppes) and plateaus, bisected by rivers such like the Dnipro. There are thousands of big and small rivers and streams (they say there are 22,400 of them overall), as well as hundreds of lakes and ponds. The Dnipro is the biggest of the Ukrainian rivers and is the third largest river in Europe that runs almost through the middle of Ukraine dividing the country into two parts: Left bank and Right bank territories. Most of the streams, tributaries and rivers empty into the few main rivers and flow southward into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. To the southwest, the delta of the Danube River forms the border with Romania.

Only small part of the territory of the republic is mountainous. The highest elevation in Ukraine is in the Carpathian Mountain range in the southwest of the country. Greatly beloved by the Ukrainian people, the Carpathians are extremely picturesque. The highest peak in the Ukrainian Carpathians is Mount Hoverla that reaches the height of 2,061 meters (6,762 feet).




Ukraine is divided into 24 regions ("oblast" in Ukrainian) and one autonomous republic (avtonomna respublika), Crimea. The regions are further subdivided into dozens of districts. The cities of Kiev and Sevastopol also have a special legal status. For travelling purposes, it is more useful to group the oblasts into three larger regions.

Western Ukraine

Western Ukraine comprises 9 oblasts (Chernivtsi, Ivano-Frankivsk, Khmelnytskyi, Lviv, Rivne, Ternopil, Vinnytsia, Volyn and Zakarpattia) which were historically under the control of mostly non-Russian European countries, this region of Ukraine is the least 'russified' and has managed to preserve a lot of the traditional architecture, food, language and religion.

Central Ukraine

Central Ukraine is comprised of the following oblasts: Cherkasy, Chernihiv, Kiev (both the oblast and city), Kirovohrad, Poltava, Sumy and Zhytomyr. As the centre of the Russian expansion to Ukraine this part of Ukraine was constantly fought over by Russia and the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth.

Eastern Ukraine

Eastern Ukraine is comprised of the autonomous Crimea (including Sevastopol) and the following oblasts: Dnipropetrovsk, Donetsk, Kharkiv, Kherson, Luhansk, Mykolaiv, Odessa and Zaporizhia. This part of Ukraine is most strongly influenced by Russian culture as it was under Russian rule for a large part of modern history. It also contains the largest Russian minority in the country.




  • Kiev (Kyiv in Ukrainian) - the country's capital, the bustling centre of all things in Ukraine. There are many things and sites to explore, including some beautiful churches, squares and there are even some beaches along the river. You could easily spend three days in the capital.
  • Odessa - a popular resort on the Black Sea with about one million inhabitants. Known as the 'Pearl of the Black Sea' it has been eulogised in a great many songs and in Ukrainian and Soviet mentality but remains relatively scruffy. Only 213 years old, built by order of Catherine the Great, it does not contain many old historical sites. The current mayor is doing a lot to make the centre, the Old City, more attractive in order to attract UNESCO world heritage status.
  • Dnipro
  • Yalta - Crimea
  • L'viv - Polish/Austrian influenced attractive and historical medieval town. The central square is the focus of everything and the streets which span out from it lead to all central sites.
  • Kharkiv
  • Sevastopol - Crimea
  • Simferopol - Crimea
  • Donetsk - The City of Million Roses
  • Mariupol
  • Kamianets-Podilskyi



Sights and Activities


Crimea, Sevastopol

Crimea, Sevastopol

© SevGS

Crimea is a region in the south of Ukraine and the Crimean Peninsula is connected to the rest of the Ukraine by a narrow piece of land. It feels more like being on an island and with many beaches to choose from it is a favorite spot for many Ukrainian tourists as well. Apart from the beaches, there are mountains and cultural sites to explore. Cities include Simferopol and Sevastopol, but the real gem probably is Yalta, a beautiful city with Russian Czar's palaces and other great monuments. Livadia Palace is famous as the place where Stalin, Churchill and Roosevelt planned the division of Europe at the end of World War II in 1945 at the Yalta Conference in 1945. Crimea gets very busy in the summer months. Unfortunately since 2014 the region has been occupied by Russia and is not safe to visit for travellers.


The Carpathians are a mountain range in the extreme west of the country, on the border with Romania. It is the only real mountainous area of the country and is a welcome relief to the flatter areas in the central and east of the country. Popular for skiing in the winter (although services are not to the same level as elsewhere in Europe) and hiking in the summer, the Carpathians are rugged and covered with forests. In fact, the Primeval Beech Forests of the Carpathians are placed on the Unesco World Heritage List since 2007 because they are an outstanding example of undisturbed forests in Ukraine all the way to the border with Slovakia. They also contain an invaluable reservoir of beech and many species associated with, and dependent on, these forest habitats. More inhabited areas of Carpathia unfortunately suffer from attempted overdevelopment (stalled hotel projects litter the hillsides).

Western Ukraine

Western Ukraine is extremely rich in unique sightseeing places, including the town of Khotyn. Local sightseeing places deserve a special attention. First of all, it’s the stone fortress itself which became the strongest fortification of Eastern Europe. It became famous for the fact that the last battle in Khotyn finished with Turkish defeat which was the beginning of Ottoman Empire disintegration. You can see this fortress in such Soviet movies as “Taras Bulba”, “Ballade about the Gallant Knight Ivanhoe”, “The Three Musketeers”, “The Black Arrow”, “The Old Fortress”, “The Arrows of Robin Hood” and many others which were shot within its centuries-old walls. There are also many legends about the fortress, created over the hundreds of years of its existence. Some popular legends involve the origins of the large dark spot on the side of the wall of the fortress. One legend says that the spot was created by the tears of the Khotyn rebels against the Ottoman Turks that were killed inside fortress. Another legend has it that the spot was created from the tears of a girl named Oksana, whom the Turks buried alive in the walls of the fort. Besides, this region is very rich in different sightseeing places. For example, 20 kilometres from Khotyn Fortress there is Kamianets-Podolsky Fortress which is also included to the list of Seven Wonders of Ukraine. The city of Kamianets-Podшlsky, according to historical and cultural monuments and landmarks (there are 152 of them), is second to Kyiv and Lviv. And national historic–and-cultural nature reserve “Kamianets-Podilsky” has been designated by UNESCO as World Heritage Site.


On the 26th of April 1986, a nuclear reactor at the Chernobyl Nuclear Station (Chornobyl in Ukrainian) exploded during a test to see how much power was needed to keep the reactor operating during a blackout. It is still not clear how many people have died exactly, but even up until now, people are facing the consequences. It is now possible to visit the site, but only on a tour as it is very important you stay within certain boundaries. Over 100,000 people lived in this area, and only several hundreds have gone back during recent years, albeit not to the city itself.



Events and Festivals

There are many public holidays in Ukraine (secular, religious and Soviet legacy), most of which, as a visitor, you will only notice as celebrated by various events and festivals, as well as general drinking and merriment. The most widely celebrated are:

  • the New Year's Day (1st January);
  • Orthodox Christmas (7th January);
  • Women's Day (8th March);
  • Easter and Trinity (according to the Orthodox Calendar - the date shifts);
  • Labor Day on May 1;
  • the Day of Liberation from Nazism in World War II - May 8; this holiday replaced the Soviet Victory Day that was celebrated on May 9;
  • Independence Day on August 24;
  • Defender of Ukraine Day on October 14;
  • Christmas on Decelmer 25.

Lviv City Day

For two days in mid-May, the city of Lviv enjoys jazz, pop and rock music, folk dancing, and theater on the street. It’s a family affair, with numerous activities and a huge street parade-carnival for the kids. The Capital of Handicrafts festival is at the same time in Rynok Square, while Victory Day is on May 9.

Victory Day (Soviet legacy holiday)

May 9 used to be an important public holiday in the Ukraine, marking the victory over the Nazis and honoring the fallen heroes of WWII and its veterans. It was celebrated nationwide, with the main event in Kyiv featuring military parades and hundreds of thousands of visitors. Events elsewhere included mock battles in southern towns and the consumption of military porridge in the north.

Kyiv Day

Kyiv Day is one of the main events of the year, with concerts, fireworks, and lots of celebrations in the streets of the capital. It takes place during the last weekend of May, with drinks on Friday night, fun in the street on Saturday and fireworks on Sunday. Many areas light up, with Khreschatyk Street and the two main squares—Independence Square and European Square—quite festive for the occasion.

Kyiv Summer Music Festival

The Summer Music Festival in Kiev is one of many musical-oriented events in the Ukraine. It features a string of open-air concerts on weekends late May through the middle of July at the Central Park of Culture and Resort. There’s everything from classic and modern performances to jazz.

Ukrainian World Music Festival

Locally known as Kraina Mriy, this popular summer event of folk music late June/early July takes a look at Ukrainian culture. The event features several stages set up in a large park to the east of downtown Kiev, with views of the Motherland Statue. Visitors enjoy a variety of tunes, as well as a kiddie section called Child’s Meadow. It’s easy to get to on the Metro from Arsenal’na station.

Sorochinsky Yarmarok

The north-eastern/central village of Sorochintsy is the setting for this trade fair in the Ukraine, which runs for a week in August. It is one of the country’s oldest events, featuring crafts galore. One of the best places to pick up souvenirs, it is near Poltava, a few hours southeast of Kiev.

Independence Day of Ukraine

A major public holiday on August 24, Ukraine’s independence from the USSR is celebrated with military displays and fireworks nationwide. Kiev’s independence Square is the best place to be, while all towns mark the occasion with a lineup of events including live concerts in Donetsk.

Koktebel International Jazz Festival

The Koktebel International Jazz Festival is Ukraine’s main jazz event, featuring local talent, as well as acclaimed musicians from Russia. It takes place over a weekend in mid-September in the town of Koktebel on the Crimean peninsula, with some stages setup on the beach.

Molodist International Film Festival

The Molodist International Film Festival is a long running event in Kiev the last week in October, with films from all corners of the globe being showcased. Popular in the world of moviemaking, it’s best to buy tickets online because this event does sell out.




Ukraine typically has hot and dry summers and cold winters with snowfall. Temperatures average from 25 °C to 30 °C during the day from June to September but can get significantly higher on some days. Winters can be really cold, with temperatures sometimes reaching -30 °C. That said, the Crimea Peninsula is very mild compared to much of the country, with mostly temperatures above zero even in winter. The best times to visit are spring/early summer (May/June) and autumn (late September - October) when temperatures are fine and it is neither really cold or hot. You also avoid the summer season crowds. Precipitation is possible year round, but is more likely during summer. Winters have severe snowfall sometimes.



Getting There

By Plane

Boryspil International Airport (KBP) near the capital is the base of Ukraine International Airlines, the national airline of Ukraine. International destinations of the airline include Amsterdam, Barcelona, Berlin, Brussels, Dubai, Frankfurt, Helsinki, Kuwait, Lisbon, London, Manchester, Madrid, Milan, Paris, Rome, Tbilisi, Vienna and Zürich. Several dozen other airlines serve Kiev as well, mainly from European cities and former Soviet Union Republics.

Boryspil Airport has 3 terminals in operation: B, D, and F. Most international flights arrive in the terminals D or F, whereas terminal B is used for domestic flights. Terminal B is much older than F. Both terminal B and F are very cramped and inconvenient, while terminal D is newer and larger. Expect long queues at the immigration control, which is inevitably haphazard. Despite separate lanes for Ukraine citizens, 'non-visa', and 'visa' passengers, few booths are usually in operation so getting through immigration can take over 30 minutes.

Getting to/from the airport
The simplest way to get to the city centre from Boryspil (KBP) is the Sky Bus - Shuttle, which operates a regular bus service between the airport and Central Railway station (South terminal). Buses depart every 15 minutes during rush hour, or every 45 minutes in the middle of the night, 24 hours per day, and the cost is 80 UAH (around 3€). The journey to the city center takes about 40 minutes. The buses stop in the front of every terminal. Buses terminate at the southern side of the railway station. To get to the subway from the bus stop, enter the railway terminal, follow the bridge over the railway, leave the building, and turn left.

For taxis, the minimum price to the city center is about 300 UAH when you book in advance. Unofficial cabs may demand higher prices, so always arrange the price before you enter the cab and feel free to bargain.

Several bus and minibus lines serve the airport, connecting it to the closest stations of the Syretsko-Pecherska Line Syretsko-Pecherska Line and the central railway station. Many intercity bus routes to or from Kiev make dedicated stopover at the airport to cater for airline passengers from other cities. E.g., a Kiev-Donetsk (southeast-bound) bus would travel from Kiev Central Bus Station through the airport, while a Kiev-Lviv (southwest-bound) bus would start in the airport and then proceed to Lviv through the Central Bus Station in Kiev. Overall, at least 35 intercity bus routes transit Boryspil Airport. All long-distance and Kiev-bound buses arrive to the airport's bus station located near the "B" terminal.

Kyiv Zhuliany International Airport (IEV) is located 4 kilometres southwest of the center city. It is mostly served by budget airlines. Some of the main destinations include Athens, Moscow, Dubai, Dortmund, Sofia, Vilnius and Valencia. From Kyiv (IEV) you can use Kiev's public transport to reach your accommodation or the train station. There are two terminals -they are around 1 kilometer away of each other. They're connected by trolleybus no. 8, that takes you further to downtown.

Other cities with international airports include Lviv, Simferopol (Crimea) and Odesa, but they all have less flights.

By Train

There are train connections to most neighbouring countries and direct links include those from Warsaw and Moscow to Kiev. Given current tensions between Moldova, Ukraine and Transnistria, there have been no trains services between Odessa and Chisinau in Moldova since 2006.

By Car

Border crossings are easier than they used to be but in case you are going to Russia or Belarus be sure to have a visa and expect some more hassle compared to other borders. Also Transdniestria, the eastern part of Moldova can prove to be a difficult border to cross. All other ones, including the main route from Poland are relatively easy. Be sure to have the right documentation and insurance (green card) for the car.

By Bus

Buses from Chisinau in Moldova are frequent, but be sure they do not pass through Transdniestria (Tiraspol). The crossing is possible, but very risky and should be avoided. It is better to travel to Chernivtsi (North of Moldova) or through Southern Moldova towards Izmail, crossing the border at Palanca. Crossing to Polish border by bus can be very time consuming.

By Boat

The only options for international boat travel are from the port city of Odessa (or nearby Ilichovsk) to destinations like Istanbul and Derince in Turkey, Constanta in Romania, and Varna in Bulgaria. The ferry to Istanbul takes about 36 hours. A fast catamaran to Varna takes about 8 hours (to Constanta 6 hours). Tickets are available through Ukrferry company or in offices inside Odessa seaport. Boats to and from Georgia (Poti and Batumi) are not always reliable and frequent.
The Fergün Shipping Company travels between Yalta and Sinop in Turkey.



Getting Around

By Plane

Ukraine's first budget airline -|WIZZ Air]] - has only just started to operate. It has cheap routes between Kiev-Odessa, Kiev-Lvov and Kiev-Sebastopol, Kiev-Kharkov and Kiev-Zaporozhye. It is a faster alternative to trains, but a little more expensive (unless you book 2-3 months in advance). Ukraine International Airlines and Aerosvit Airlines have many internal flights as well, to even more destinations.

By Train

Trains to most places are overnight. The commonest tickets are 'Coupe' (a four bed cabin) or 'Platz-Kart' a carriage full of beds in two tiers. Bedding is provided. Trains are very slow and old, but the tickets are good value.
Local trains, and trains which travel during the day, are generally incredibly slow.
Poezda offers train timetables in CIS countries including Ukraine, in English. Ukrainian Railways offers the same, but in Ukrainian only.

By Car

Driving in Ukraine is generally dangerous due to the low standard of local driving and, in most places, poor roads. The roads in Western Ukraine are in better condition than elsewhere. The main road between Odessa and Kiev has two lanes running in each direction. Most drivers do not follow road rules.
Renting a car is an option if you want, with both major international (Hertz for example) and local agencies renting cars at their offices in major towns and airports. Costs are comparatively high (due to the risk of theft and accident).
Within cities and between towns you can flag down a car, give the name of your destination and offer a price. The driver will accept, decline, or haggle. This is common practice in Ukraine but do not enter a car in which two men are sitting. Pay when you reach your destination.

By Bus

Intercity buses - major company is Autoluks - provide good, reliable service, but take longer than you would expect to travel the distance required. They make frequent stops for smokers, toilets, and snacks. All buses are non-smoking. Local buses are very slow. Minibuses ('marshrutka') are faster and cheaper. They will service routes within cities and to local satellite towns and villages. Get on by standing at the roadside and flagging them down. You may have to pay on entering or on leaving the bus. The price is usually very cheap and the same rate whatever the distance travelled (1.5 or 2 uah within a city; up to 10uah for distances of 50-70 kilometres). They have their destinations displayed in their windows.

By Boat

Ferry services exist from Odessa to Crimea (Sebastopol and Yalta) during the summer months. Check UKR Ferry for more information about schedules and prices.
Boat cruises exist in Kiev going up and down the Dnepr.



Red Tape

A few years ago, most travellers needed a visa. People from the following countries no longer require tourist visas: All countries within the European Union, United States, Canada, Japan, Switzerland, Liechtenstein, Andorra, Vatican City, Monaco, Iceland, Norway, San Marino, Mongolia, Serbia, Montenegro and the countries of the Commonwealth of
Independent States (except Turkmenistan). Note that this only applies to tourist visas which last a maximum of 90 days.
On arrival at the border you will find (or be given) an immigration form which you must complete before going through immigration control. You must keep the part of the form which is returned to you and surrender is at the border when you leave Ukraine.




See also: Money Matters

The Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH), often pronounced 'Grivna' is nominally pegged to the US dollar. There are 100 Kopeks to one Hryvnia. You will also hear people referring to 'Roubles' - but they mean UAH.

  • Banknotes: ₴1, ₴2, ₴5, ₴10, ₴20, ₴50, ₴100, ₴200, ₴500, ₴1000
  • Coins: 10, 25, 50 kopiyok.

Approximate exchange rates (July 2023): USD 1 = UAH37; EUR 1 = UAH40 on average.

Ukrainian cities are not as cheap as they used to be. Accommodation is relatively expensive for what you get. electronic goods are generally more expensive than in other countries. Alcohol and cigarettes are very cheap. ATMs are available in most towns and all cities. Exchange rates in the exchange booths (present everywhere, usually inside other shops) change every day. Technically foreigners cannot change UAH into other currencies. But your UAH are worthless outside Ukraine (except Moldova and some border towns in Russian and Belarus where they can be exchanged).
If you buy things in a supermarket, keep the receipt with you as a man at the exit will probably check it.




If you want to work in Ukraine, there are several job search sites such as: and (in Ukrainian), (in Ukrainian).
Of course, teaching English as a foreign language is always a natural option for English speakers hoping to start working in Ukraine. You can explore such opportunities at ESL Employment, Total ESL, or ESL café.
Several local newspapers include job ads such as the Kyiv Post (in English and online).




There are language schools for learning Russian in the major cities. Local Ukrainian universities are popular with foreign students from China and the Arab states, but the level of tuition is often not very high and 'buying' qualifications is common practice.




Language depends on which area of the country you are in: east and south speak Russian; west speaks Ukrainian; parts of Crimea speak Tartar, villages in the southwest speak Romanian and Bulgarian and in the Carpathians there are the dialects of Romanian, Hungarian and Polish. People in the villages and small towns often speak "surzhyk" - a mixture of Russian and Ukrainian. Ukrainian and Russian are similar languages and someone speaking Ukrainian will largely be understood by someone who speaks Russian and vice versa. To attempt any kind of individual travel in Ukraine will require you to learn the Cyrillic alphabet in order to read signs, destinations etc.




Food in Ukraine is generally very good value for money - compared to prices in most Western countries. A three course meal with wine for two at a good restaurant in a city will come in at 10-15 GBP each. Street vendors sell 'shahurma' (Turkish influenced Kebab) and various 'Pyrizhok' and 'Tistechka' (rolls, sweet, savory, filled sometimes fried). Traditional cuisine is quite fatty and contains quite a lot of meat - consider, for example, the traditional delicacy, 'salo', which is unadulterated pig fat, usually eaten with thin slices of dark bread and garlic. There are many types of soup - Borshch is the traditional beetroot-based soup, often made with meat. Cakes are also popular (and tasty). Seafood is available at coastal towns, but keep in mind that the Black Sea is quite polluted. Summer sees a huge variety of fresh, cheap vegetables and fruit sold at street-side stalls.

The Ukrainian kitchen was formed to the middle of the 18th century. Related Polish and Belorussian kitchens influenced very much on national receipts of the Ukrainian kitchen. The influence of Old Russian kitchen is not seen because after the Tatar – Mongolian invasion the connection between the Ukrainian and the Russian people was lost.

The Ukrainian food is popular among Slavic kitchens. Many dishes of the Ukrainian kitchen such as curds or fruit dumpling and borshch are considered international now. Typical Ukrainian dishes are curd or fruit dumpling, borsch, pampushki, different kinds of pancakes, zrazy, stuffed cabbage rolls, boiled rice with raisins and honey.




In general accommodation in Ukraine is not good value for money. Hotel star-ratings are self-awarded and offer no guarantee of quality. Youth Hostels and good, budget hotels are a rarity. Up-market hotels exist near all major tourist sites and cities and the quality of these is generally similar to that found in Western Europe, but for the price you pay, you may well expect more than you actually get. Keep in mind that customer service is generally not of a high standard in Ukraine.




Alcohol is a huge part of Ukrainian culture and very cheap. Local drinks include vast quantities of vodka. Local beers and generally regarded as 'soft drinks' - Yantar, Slavutich, Chernihivske, Lvivske are Pilsner style lagers, although there are also some 'dark' varieties. Imported beers from Germany and the Czech Republic are also common.
Ukraine used to produce its own wine in Crimea - Massandra is the 'best' brand, although an acquired taste.
The Ukrainian champagne (sparkling wine) is produced in Odessa in French Boulevard and is generally of reasonable quality.
The Moldovan wine (generally of good quality) is freely available, and excellent (but relatively expensive), and the Georgian wines - especially Tsinandali and Naperulia - can also be found.

In the summer, try 'kvas', a refreshing non-alcoholic drink, slightly similar to Coke, but made from bread, and kompot (a kind of fruit-based drink).

Avoid drinking tap water. Bottled water (local and international brands) is freely available.




See also: Travel Health

Aptekas/pharmacies give all medicine over the counter. Dentists are relatively reliable. According to locals, doctors are generally incompetent and should be avoided and hospitals are terrible places. There is usually a severe flu outbreak during the winter months.

There are no vaccinations legally required to travel to Ukraine. It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Ukraine. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also a hepatitis A vaccination is recommended.

If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis, typhoid as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. It is also recommended to have a vaccination against tick borne encephalitis when you go hiking and/or camping for several days or more in the period of March to November.

Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.




See also: Travel Safety

On 24 February 2022, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, from its own territory as well as from Belarus and Crimea. Martial law is in effect. Shelling and air strikes are not restricted to military targets. There have been missile strikes on cities all around the country, and deep Russian troop incursions have taken place along the northern, eastern, and southern borders. See War zone safety for some advice and follow local media for more specific directions. Leaving the country is still recommended, unless you have specific responsibilities and are ready to take the risks of the war.

For your safety, stay away from military facilities, infrastructure (transportation, power, what have you) and key government facilities. You are advised to grab the bag filled with necessities like durable food and clothes you have prepared and evacuate to your nearest civil defence shelter when you hear air raid sirens. In major cities like Kyiv, there may be red arrows marked with "Укриття", showing the direction of the nearest shelter. If you don't know where your nearest shelter is or if the nearest shelter is not operational, go to your nearest metro station.

Obey all curfew orders and movement restrictions. Don't wear camouflage patterned or otherwise military-like clothing to avoid any possibly-fatal misunderstanding.

Ukrainian males aged 18–60 are not allowed to leave, and are instead required to enlist in the military. There have also been cases of males of other nationalities being denied exit.

As in any other country, using common sense when travelling in Ukraine will minimize any chances of being victim of petty crime and theft. Try not to publicize the fact that you're a foreigner or flaunt your wealth, through your choice of clothing or otherwise. With the exception of Kyiv, Odesa, and other large cities, Western tourists are still quite rare. As in any other country, the possibility of petty theft exists. In Kyiv, make sure to guard your bags and person because pickpocketing is very common, especially in crowded metro stations. Guides have told tourists to watch certain people because they heard people say: "They look like Americans: let's follow them for a while and see what we can get."

Robberies and scams on tourists are fairly common, especially the wallet scam in Kyiv.

But if you are arrested by police or other law enforcement, do your best to inform them that you're a foreign visitor. Not many police officials speak foreign languages freely, but many people are eager to assist in translation.

Don't drink alcohol in the company of unknown people (which may be suggested more freely than in the West). You don't know how much they are going to drink (and convince you to drink with them) and what conflicts may arise after that. Also, many Ukrainians, known for a penchant for a good drink, can sometimes consume such an amount of vodka that would be considered lethal for the average beer-accustomed Westerner.

Also, it is strongly recommended to avoid individual (street) currency exchangers as there are thieves among such exchangers, that may instead give you old, Soviet-era currency or also coupons that have been withdrawn from circulation since the mid 1990s. Use special exchange booths (widely available) and banks; also be wary of exchange rate tricks like 5.059/5.62 buy/sell instead of 5.59/5.62.

The area around the American embassy in Kyiv is known for the provocateur groups targeting black people, and there have been reports of such attacks on Andriyivski Uzviz (St.Andrew's Descent), the main tourist street that runs from Mykhailivska Street down into Podil (Lower Kyiv). Particularly in rural areas, having dark skin is often a source of quiet curiosity from locals. Antisemitism is not any more of a problem than it is in Western European countries. Two Jewish mayors have been elected in Kherson and Vinnytsia, while a prime minister (Volodymyr Groysman, 2016-2019) and a president (Volodymyr Zelenskyy, elected 2019) have been of Jewish origin as well.

Russophobia is on the rise as a result of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, its support to separatists, and the full-scale invasion in 2022. Russian citizens may encounter hostility.

Anecdotal experience suggests that in Ukraine, indeed much of the former Soviet Union, people from the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia and Romani/Sinti people receive much closer and more frequent attention from the police. Always have your passport (or a photocopy of the main pages if you're concerned about losing it or if you're staying in a hotel that is holding it) as foreigners are treated more favorably than others. This is not to say that it is unsafe or threatening, but it is better to be forewarned of the realities.



Keep Connected


Internet develops quickly in Ukraine, and therefore, today it is no problem to get access to the world wide web - both wired and wireless. There are more access points in big cities, nevertheless there are also some in small settlements. The majority of Ukrainian hostels and hotels of different level have Wi-Fi points, which allow visitors to use high-speed Internet. Most Ukrainian restaurants and many cafes are equipped with internet access points, there are also Wi-Fi zones in terminals of the international airports. You may also access Internet from your cell phone, if your device supports GPRS or one of the 3G standards. All cellular carriers in Ukraine offer access to the mobile internet. Moreover, it's usually no problem to find Internet-cafe in Ukrainian cities. "Ukrtelecom" company offers Internet access as well. Its offices are easy to find in any town of Ukraine. The cost of one hour of Internet access usually doesn't exceed €1-2.


See also: International Telephone Calls

The international phone code for Ukraine is 380. The general emergency phone number is 112 and there are special ones for fire -(101), police (102), ambulance (103) and even gas leaks (104).

Although cell phones are becoming more and more popular, a lot of people still use phonecards and this might be a good and cheaper option for travellers as well. If you are here for any length of time it is worth investing in a local sim-card for your mobile. No major international mobile operators exist in Ukraine (yet) so if you have Vodaphone or T-mobile (etc) your phone may not work here. Kyivstar and MTS are the biggest Ukrainian operators.


Ukrposhta is the national postal service of Ukraine. Unfortunately, the postal service in Ukraine is unreliable or at least inefficient and slow. Most packages get stolen or searched for things that can be sold. Post offices exist in all cities and towns and postcards can be sent quite safely, but the service may be slow. Like many other businesses, post offices are open from around 8 a.m/9:00 a.m. to 6:00 p.m. with a lunchbreak between 1:00 p.m. and 2:00 p.m. Smaller ones in rural towns keep shorter hours, while the largest ones in Kiev are usually open very late, during weekends or even 24 hours! If you want to send a letter or postcard and buy stamps, just queue up at the line where you see envelops and cards. Be prepared to wait a while, also regarding the time it takes to send a postcard to Europe (a week) or the USA (two weeks), let alone places further afield. Always send letters by airmail (avia in Ukrainian). For faster (but more expensive) sendings of parcels, try companies like TNT, DHL, UPS or FedEx.



  1. 1 January 2008 estimate, State Statistics Committee of Ukraine

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