Situated along the coast of the Black Sea, Ukraine isone of the largest countries in Eastern Europe and is surrounded byRussia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova.In recent years, it has become a more popular holiday destinationfor tourists from surrounding countries. But is also becomingincreasingly attractive to citizens of Western Europe and NorthAmerica.
One of the main attractions for visitors to theUkraine is the country's rich history, with more than 500 citiesdating back over 900 years and a fascinating assortment ofarchitecture influenced by its diverse neighbours.
Most travellers begin in the historical capital cityof Kiev, arguably one of the most beautiful cities in Europe.Ancient streets, striking architecture, lovely scenery, and awealth of historical and religious sites ensure a culturallyenriching holiday. The early capital of Old Rus is also enrichedwith monuments such as the grandiose St Sophia's Cathedral, famousfor its 11th-century mosaics and frescoes, and the Cave Monastery,the holy centre of the early Orthodox Church.
The other major attraction for Ukraine tourists isthe natural beauty of the country, with areas like the Carpathianand Crimean mountain ranges; the Black Sea and Sea of Asov; and theCrimean Peninsula, a popular tourist haven with its warm climate,famous resorts, history, and old cities such as Sevastopol andYalta.
The Carpathian Mountains draw skiers and hikersthroughout the year, and the region is also popular for itsrestorative spas and historic sites. The city of Lviv is a goodplace from which to access the mountains. It's one of the maincultural centres of the country and a delight to explore with itsmedieval old town and distinctive architecture.
The harbour city of Odessa, known as the 'Pearl ofthe Black Sea', is an established tourist destination that alsoserves as the gateway to many of the famous Black Sea resorts. Itis an intriguing city with a wonderful mixture of cultures andhistorical architecture.
With a name that means 'borderland', it's no wonderthat Ukraine is constantly in a state of reinvention. Formerly partof the Soviet Union, the country experienced revolutions in 2004and 2014 and remains torn between the East and the West. Manyvisitors find this identity crisis interesting in itself, butUkraine is primarily a worthy tourist destination because of itshistory and culture, as well as some thriving resorts.
Cruises on Europe's longest river, the Dnieper River,from Kiev to the Black Sea coast, is one of the most popular waysto tour the Ukraine, providing a discovery of Ukraine's history,and its architecturally rich cities, while cruising the 1,370mile-long (2,205km) stretch of river on board ship.
Dating back to the 11th century, the exquisite green andgold-domed St Sophia Cathedral was an important power centre forthe Soviet Union. It has been damaged and repaired many times overthe years, and today is a blend of architectural styles from ninedifferent centuries. Perhaps one of the most striking aspects ofthe cathedral is its impressive collection of Byzantine mosaics andfrescoes that date back to its inception. A UNESCO World HeritageSite, the St Sophia Cathedral also serves as a living text:hundreds of pieces of graffiti relating to political and historicalevents spanning the centuries can be read by visitors today.
Kiev-Pechersk Lavra (the Caves Monastery) is a fascinatingliving piece of history dating back to 1051. The Venerable Anthony,a devout monk, settled in a cave on the western bank of the DnieperRiver. He was soon joined by his followers and their numbersswiftly began to outgrow the caves. Prince Izyaslav and otherKievan aristocracy were frequent visitors to the Venerable Anthonyand donated money to build a church and aboveground monastery.Since that period, the monastery has continued to grow and is stillactive today, serving as an important centre of OrthodoxChristianity and reflecting a fascinating way of life.
The National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the SecondWorld War is dominated by the enormous Motherland Monument, lookinglike the sword-wielding sister of the Statue of Liberty. The museumhouses a fascinating collection of World War II artefacts in aSoviet-built building. Decommissioned tanks sit outside,symbolically painted with flowers and nearby another interestingstatue entitled 'To the Fallen' serves as a memorial to all thosewho fought and died in the war. Although most of the museum notesare in either Russian or Ukrainian, the exhibitions are well laidout and the displays are fascinating.
Summers in Kiev can be notoriously hot, and locals know that thebest way to beat the heat is a trip to Hydropark Island. Less anamusement park than an entertainment development, Hydropark islocated on the Dnieper River and offers attractions like sandybeaches, water rides, riverboat trips, paintball, bungee jumping,an ice rink, casino, and more. At night the island is a jungle ofneon lights, with restaurants, bars and nightclubs playing musicuntil early in the morning. Hydropark is connected to the mainlandby the Metro, Rusanivka, and Venetian bridges.
The climate is temperate continental, characterised by plenty ofrain and cloudy autumns and winters. The southern Crimean coastexperiences a Mediterranean climate. There are regular snowfalls inwinter (between October and April) with average temperatures of17°F (-8°C) to 35°F (2°C), with colder temperatures inland. Whilewinters are long and cold, summers are short and can get very hot,especially in the south, with average temperatures of 64°F (18°C)to 81°F (27°C). Rainfall occurs in the form of thundershowers andthe occasional downpour; rainfall is highest in the west and northof the country.
The official currency is the Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH), which isdivided into 100 kopiyka. Banks are usually open Monday to Fridayuntil 3pm. US Dollars and Euros are exchanged easily at banks andcurrency offices, and while other currencies can also be exchanged,they are not as widely accepted. ATMs are widely available in allmajor towns and cities. Major restaurants, shops, and hotels acceptVisa, MasterCard, and EuroCard. However, credit cards are notwidely accepted, particularly in remote areas and smallerestablishments. Outside the main cities, it is advisable to carry asupply of local currency.
Ukrainian is the official language, but Russian is alsowidely spoken.
Electrical current is 220-240 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugsare the round two-pin variety.
US nationals require a passport that is valid on arrival, but novisa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
UK nationals require a passport valid for duration of stay, butno visa is required for a touristic stay of up to 90 days within a180-day period. Holders of British passports with endorsementsother than 'British Citizen' should confirm these requirementsbefore travel.
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyondthe departure date, but no visa is required for a stay of up to 90days within a 180-day period.
Passports must be valid for at least 6 months beyond thedeparture date. Australian nationals need a visa to enterUkraine.
South Africans require a visa and a passport valid for sixmonths after the departure date to enter Ukraine.
Irish nationals require a passport valid for duration of stay,but no visa is required for a tourist stay of up to 90 days in any180-day period.
US nationals require a passport that is valid on arrival, but novisa is required for a stay of up to 90 days.
New Zealand nationals require a visa and a passport valid forsix months from date of arrival to enter Ukraine.
Applicants for tourist visas require a letter of confirmationfrom a hotel or tour company; for business visas a letter ofinvitation from a company or organisation in the Ukraine isrequired. However EU citizens and some other nationalities do notrequire a tourist visa for stays of up to 90 days within a 180-dayperiod. On arrival, all foreign nationals must fill in anImmigration Card, to be presented when entering and leaving thecountry. All visitors must possess return/onward tickets. It ishighly recommended that passports have at least six months validityremaining after your intended date of departure from your traveldestination. Immigration officials often apply different rules tothose stated by travel agents and official sources.
Tap water is best avoided, but there is loads of still andsparkling bottled water. There is a serious issue of widespread HIVand the level of sexually transmitted diseases is high. Due to therisk of exposure to pollutants and radioactive materials, swimmingin the Dnieper River should be avoided. Comprehensive travelinsurance is advised and visitors are advised to bring a supply ofpersonal medication.
Tipping is fairly new in the Ukraine and is now expected inrestaurants: usually five to 10 percent of the bill is acceptable.In more upmarket establishments, 10 percent is more the norm if notalready included in the bill. Drivers are not usually tipped.
Ukraine has experienced serious political unrest inthe recent past and continues to do so, and most governments haveinstituted travel warnings for the country. The eastern part ofUkraine and Crimea are particularly to be avoided. Travellers areadvised to research the current situation and to stay up to date ontravel alerts for the region.
When it comes to crime, most visits to the Ukraineare trouble-free. But foreigners are considered lucrative targetsfor petty theft and street crime in the Ukraine, and valuablesshould be kept out of sight, especially in crowded areas and attourist spots. Particular care should be taken on public transportand overnight trains.
*Elections took place in the Ukraine on 31 March2019. There is an increased likelihood of large public rallies anddemonstrations. Visitors are advised to avoid all demonstrations,and take care around public gatherings.
Homosexuality is legal. However, there remains a high level ofintolerance towards the LGBT+ community.
Ukraine, because of a troubled recent history, is trapped inmany paradoxical laws. Business is observed quite differently thanin Western Europe. After the country's break from Soviet ties,unprecedented opportunities for the entrepreneur arose. But notmany people speak English and the use of interpreters may benecessary; knowledge of German, Russian, or Ukrainian will beuseful. During meetings formal attire is customary for both men andwomen, although women are not traditionally part of the businessworld and visiting businesswomen may be subjected to chauvinism.Meetings often include informalities and sociable questions, andwill regularly begin with a welcoming alcoholic drink, which it isconsidered rude to refuse. These are often used for characterevaluation and it is considered impolite to delve straight intobusiness matters. Typical business hours are 9am to 5pm, Monday toFriday.
The international dialling code for the Ukraine is +380. Mobilephone network coverage is fairly extensive, but internationalroaming can be expensive. There are internet cafes available inKiev, and other main cities and towns. Wifi is also becomingincreasingly accessible.
Travellers to the Ukraine can bring in 200 cigarettes or 50cigars or 250g of tobacco products; 1 litre of spirits and 2 litresof wine; and goods for personal use, as well as goods with a totalvalue of €200, without incurring customs duty. Prohibited itemsinclude items that can have an impact on the environment, andagricultural goods and live animals.
Ukraine Embassy, Washington DC, United States: +1 (202) 3492920.
Ukraine Embassy, London, United Kingdom: +44 (0)20 77276312.
Ukraine Embassy, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 230 2961.
Ukraine Embassy, Pretoria, South Africa: +27 (0)12 460 1946.
Ukraine Embassy, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for NewZealand): +61 (0)2 6230 5789.
Ukraine Embassy, Dublin, Ireland: +353 (0)1 668 5189.
United States Embassy, Kiev: +380 (44) 521 5000.
British Embassy, Kiev: +380 (44) 490 3660.
Canadian Embassy, Kiev: +380 (44) 590 3100.
South African Embassy, Kiev: + 380 (44) 289 8870.
Australian Consulate, Vienna, Austria (also responsible for theUkraine): +43 (0)1 506 740.
Honorary Consul of Ireland, Kiev: +380 (44) 279 3200.