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, 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. I didn’t have many expectations for the country but I loved my visit there. Yes, it’s hard but the people are really welcoming of tourists, the country is inexpensive, and there’s a real sense of stepping back in time as you explore. I can’t speak highly enough of Ukraine and urge you to ignore the news and visit!
Accommodation – Hostels in Ukraine cost between 105-200 UAH per night for a dorm room. Private rooms are around 425-845 UAH for a double. As for budget hotels, prices vary depending on where you are. In cities like Kiev, a double room starts at around 315 UAH.
Food – Food is really cheap. You can get a decent local meal for 85 UAH. A more mid-scale meal in a restaurant will cost around 315 UAH, with a drink. A combo meal at a place like McDonalds will set you back around 105 UAH.
Transportation – Kiev is serviced by a metro line. A single ticket costs just 2 UAH, and can be bought using tokens, which are obtainable at the ticket office or from the machines. Intercity buses here are outdated and are best used for short-haul trips. Trains are the most common form of long-haul transport. They are slow, but usually reliable. Tickets are generally inexpensive, and it should cost less than 845 UAH to cross the entire country. You will probably be asked to show your passport when buying a ticket.
Activities – Sightseeing in the Ukraine is cheap. Most activities cost between 105-215 UAH.
Money Saving Tips
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 85 UAH.
Buy beer at the supermarkets – You can buy 2.5 liter bottles of beer in supermarkets and corner shops for 20-45 UAH. It’s incredibly good value and is the way to party on the cheap.
Top Things to See and Do in Ukraine
Hike the Carpathian Mountains – One of the most popular destinations in the country, these mountains are a magical collections of forests, meadows, and quaint villages. There are lakes for swimming and good trails for hiking.
Explore Kiev – The capital of Ukraine, this bustling city is home to nearly three 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 Theater for dramas, comedies, and musicals. There is a unique blend of old and new to absorb, throughout the city.
Visit 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 1830-1848, there is a treasure trove of architectural and artistic discoveries to see. As a museum, it has been open since 1921. Admission is 210 UAH.
Explore Novy Svit Botanic Reserve – Winding around the base of Mt. Orel in Sudak, this reserve is a picturesque, coastal site. There are various walking paths, 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 for 55 UAH.
Lounge at the 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, and on most of them you can buy food and drinks, enjoy some beach, and even work out. Hydropark is host to an outdoor gym.
Ski at Drahobrat – This snowy resort is 4,300 feet above sea level and boasts perfect skiing and boarding conditions year-round. The place is somewhat remote, lying 18km outside of Yasinya, and it is a site best-suited for the experienced winter sports enthusiast.
Watch sports at 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 was held here.
Wander around 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 mass of beautifully-laid, red bricks, and decorated with thousands of colored tiles, it sticks out like a sore thumb. The various wings are striking and seem to be influenced by a pseudo-Byzantine-Hanseatic-Moorish style.
Unwind at Akadia beach – Many of the beaches in Odessa are crowded and dirty in the summer time, but this hotspot 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.
Drink Coffee at 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.
Visit 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’.
Dance on the 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.
Check out 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.
Hang out in 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 stands the first Soviet skyscraper, complete with geometrically-set concrete and glass blocks and bridges.
Spot wildlife at 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.
Wander the Niktsky Botanic Gardens – This three km² site in the 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.
Visit Lutsk Castle – One of many Ukrainian fortresses, this one lies in Lutsk’s old quarter and dates back to the 14th century. It is 13 m-high, at the ramparts, and is topped with three 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.