Ukraine Travel Tips
Ukraine isn’t an easy country to visit. No one here speaks English and it’s really hard to get around. The country doesn’t see many tourists so there’s no real need to learn English but the challenge makes for a fun adventure and since the country is so off the beaten track, it’s one of the most unique places in Europe. It will definitely be like somewhere you haven’t been before. Things might change after 2012 when Ukraine plays host the Eurocup soccer contest.
- Accommodation: Hostels in Ukraine cost between $8 – 12 USD per night for a dorm room.
- Food: Food is really cheap. You can get a decent local meal for $4 USD.
Money Saving Tips
- Couchsurf – If 8 – 12 per night is too much for you, then Couchsurf and save yourself money.
- Head out of Kiev – The country is substantially cheaper outside of Kiev, as well as the closer you get to Russia.
- Eat Local – By only eating at local restaurants like Puzata Khata, you’ll keep your food prices down as low as you can. A typical meal here cost me about 30 Grivna ($4 USD).
- Drinking – You can buy 2.5 liter bottles of beer in supermarkets and corner shops for $1-2 USD. It’s incredibly good value and is the way to party on the cheap.
Top Things to See and Do
- Carpathian Mountains – One of the most popular destinations in the country, these mountains are a magical collection of forests, meadows, and quaint villages. There are lakes for swimming and good trails for hiking.
- Kiev – The capital of Ukraine, this bustling city is home to nearly 3 million people. The art and architecture here is astonishing. For theater lovers, the Kiev Opera house is always host to world-class operas and ballets or the Ivan Franko Theatre for dramas, comedies, and musicals. There is a unique blend of old and new to absorb, throughout the city.
- Vorontsov Palace – Located inside a park reserve in Alpuka, with about 150 rooms, this palace is an amazing piece of history to explore. Built from 1830 to 1848, there is a treasure trove of architectural and artistic discoveries to see. As a museum, it has been open since 1921. Admission is $10.
- Novy Svit Botanic Reserve – Winding around the base of Mt Orel in Sudak, this reserve is a picturesque, coastal sight. There are various paths to walk along, a famed ‘bungee-jump contraption’, and even a place where you can rent out costumes for photos. There is also a beautiful seaside grotto,\ where you can jump off a rope swing here for 20UAH.
- City Beaches – If you are looking for a quick sunbathing or water sports fix, heading down to a river island might be the thing for you. In Kiev, particularly, the Dnipro river is riddled with islands, most of which you can buy food and drinks on, enjoy some beach, and even work out. Hydropark is host to an outdoor gym.
- Drahobrat – This snowy resort is 1300m above sea level and boasts perfect skiing and boarding conditions, year round. The place is somewhat remote, residing 18km outside of Yasinya, and it is a sight best suited for the experienced winter sports enthusiast.
- Olympic/Respublikansky Stadium – If you are wanting to catch some local sports, this is a popular place for various European matches. The stadium holds up to 100,000 people and can be thrilling when full. The final match of the Euro 2012 football championships is scheduled to be held here.
- Chernivsti University – Founded in 1875, this university is the most fascinating piece of architecture in Chernivsti, and surprisingly, is highly recommended as a tourist spot. Constructed from a mas of beautifully laid, red-bricks, and decorated in with thousands of colored tiles, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The various wings are striking seem to be influenced by a pseudo-Byzantine-Hanseatic-Moorish style.
- Akadia beach – Many of the beaches in Odessa are crowded and dirty in the summer time, but this hot spot is a great place to check out the ocean, while staying out of the sand and water. There are interesting English, victorian-style sideshows to watch, as well as, a multitude of bars, clubs, cafes, and old sanatoriums.
- Dyzha – This is a dual, café-art gallery in Lviv, and local hotspot for youthful, alternative types. This is a great place to grab a coffee, a postcard, and sit back for an hour. There are often musicians hanging out and it is easy to find out about local and underground events here.
- Chufut-Kale – This 200m high bluff and cave system is the highlight for many people that travel to Bakhysaray. For centuries, many people took refuge here, leaving behind them, burial chambers and casemates. It is known commonly as the ‘Jewish Fortress’.
- Dnipro Party Boat – If you are feeling really adventurous and a little goofy, this is probably the thing for you. These boat rides are about an hour and a half long, and all about having drinks and dancing to disco-tech, Russian-pop music. Boarding is at pier 11, just south of the river boat terminal.
- Bohdan and Varvara Khanenko Museum of Arts – Residing in Kiev, this museum is host to the most impressive collection of European art in the city. The interior is decadently coated in ceiling frescoes, intricately carved woodwork, priceless antique furniture, and an array of masterful art.
- Dniproges Dam – Up until 2007, this dam, residing in Zaporizhzhya, was the seventh declared wonder of the modern world. At a whooping 760m, this dam is over two times the size of the Hoover Dam.
- Ploshcha Svobody – The second largest square in the world and Kharkiv’s most unique sight, this is an awesome place to check out. At the western end resides the first Soviet skyscraper, complete with geometrically set concrete and glass blocks and bridges.
- Askaniya Nova Reserve – This vast plain is home to a plethora of animal life. Beyond the population of buffalo, deer, antelope, and horses, there are also zebras, camels, gnus, rare Central Asian Saiga antelopes, and a huge array of birds.
- Niktsky Botanic Gardens – This 3-square-km site in Crimea is host to nearly 28,000 different species of flora and fauna from all over the world. Founded in 1812 under the order of the tsar, it was designated as the collection point for all the species in Russia. IT has since been nicknamed, ‘Nikita’, and includes an amazing collection of olive trees, roses, cacti, pistachios, ancient yews, and more.
- Lutsk Castle – One of many Ukrainian fortresses, this one resides in Lutsk’s old quarter and dates back to the 14th century. It is 13m-high, at the ramparts, and is topped with 3 tall towers. The bell tower is beautiful. The structure is in fairly decent shape and there are even archeological remains dating back to the 12th century nearby. The dungeon and museum of books are particularly interesting.