Ukraine Travel Guide, traveling to Ukraine, travel tips, visit Ukraine

Ukraine Travel Guide/ Get prepared to traveling to Ukraine

Travelling to Ukraine can be very pleasurable and exciting experience for you. To make your visit to Ukraine easier, we have compiled this compact Ukraine Travel Guide based on KharkovRent years of experience of receiving foreign guests in Ukraine and its 2nd biggest city of Kharkov. You are always welcome to ask your particular questions in email to us (siilka na nash email) or talk live through SKYPE. We wish you a pleasant and enjoyable stay in Ukraine!

Baggage/What if your luggage lost or delayed on international flight

Since 2008 a lot of foreigners who visit Ukraine have complained to us at KharkovRent about such an unpleasant fact as their overseas airlines lose or delay their luggage – very often it simply does not arrive at Kiev or Kharkov along with the passenger, or airlines deliver their luggage a day or two later. If it happens to you, don’t panic, just fill out a claim form for lost or damaged luggage prior to leaving the Borispil airport or Kharkov airport baggage area. Leave them the number of your mobile phone and the address of the apartment you rent, so that they could deliver luggage to your apartment rental and we can help coordinate this process. Note that some airlines do not provide delivery to apartment’s address, instead you will have to pick up your luggage in the destination airport on the day of its arrival (when they finally find your luggage and it arrives at Kharkov). Usually it arrives next day or in a day.

We recommend you to carry your personal things, medication and a change of clothing in your carry-on in case of having your baggage lost or delayed while you travel in Ukraine.

Passing through Ukraine Customs hassle-free

International Travelers to Ukraine must pass through Ukrainian passport control and customs upon arrival. A customs declaration form will be supplied to you on the airline prior to landing in Ukraine (either Borispil or Kharkov airport).

Questions Ukraine custom officer may ask You

When passing through passport control be ready to answer such questions as to where you intend to stay while in Ukraine, what is the name of person you are visiting, how much money you have with you etc. We advise you to carry on your rented apartment address with you.

You are allowed to bring in up to $10,000.00 USD without any special documentation.

Should the funds you bring in exceed this amount then you will be required to complete a special form requesting information on the purpose of your bringing in such a large amount and to whom the money will be transferred.

It is very important to keep this declaration form, and any other forms they may supply you with, in safe keeping and be prepared to present any and all of them when leaving the country.

Customs inspection is a personal matter between you and the customs officer

Here are some suggestions to make this process go smoothly for you. It is strongly suggested that you be completely truthful when declaring the amount of money you are bringing on your trip to Ukraine (even if you bring in lets say 2.5 thousand, always tell the officer the exact amount you bring in, when he asks you). This also pertains to items of value.

On your departure from Ukraine you will be required to complete an exit declaration form. All items of value should be the same as upon arrival except for the cash. You should not leave the country with more cash than what you entered with.

Should you lose your entry declaration form the customs officer has the authority to confiscate all your items of value including your cash. This has happened so protect this declaration form as you would your passport.

Temperature differences in Ukraine/best time to travel to Ukraine

If you are going to travel to Ukraine, take clothes which are appropriate for the season. An umbrella, a raincoat and good walking shoes are also suggested.

Average temperatures in Ukraine: April – 10°C or 50°F, May – 15-21°C or 60-70°F, June – 21°C or 70°F, July and August – 27°C or 80°F. However, for the last several years we have experience the increase of average temperatures by 5°C or 10°F in these months, though winters have become unusually cold.

Money/Credit cards/ATMs in Ukraine

Ukraine is still most a cash economy. Credit cards are gaining wider acceptance in larger cities, so if you travel to Ukraine to Kiev or Kharkov, or Odessa , you will find places that accept your VISA, while in shops and restaurants you still can pay only in local currency - grivna. Use of credit cards is limited to the better hotels, Western-style restaurants, international airlines and select stores. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are commonly accepted.

Make sure your bank knows you are traveling to Ukraine – some US banks automatically prohibit use of their credit cards in certain number of countries including Ukraine as a measure against fraud etc.

You can take cash from your card in many ATMs in all large cities and towns of Ukraine. Be prepared to pay a service charge of up to 3 percent. There is a daily limit for withdrawing cash in ATMs, so you may need to visit a bank’s department – bring your passport with you. We do not recommend taking Travellers Checks because of the time involved cashing them at banks and the service fees that such institutions impose. If you are visiting Ukraine for first time and are not so sure getting around, you can hire interpreter in Kharkov from our company, see details here, our experienced and friendly Kharkov interpreters will happily help you to go to Kharkov bank, find nearest store, assist you in your personal or business meetings.

Be sure to carry an ample supply of grivna with you, as almost all stores do not accept foreign currency for purchases. Exchange booths are plentiful, just watch for signs with black numbers and icons for currencies. One should avoid exchanging currency with individuals on the street. It is illegal and dangerous.

Important Tip on bills! Be sure your U.S. dollar bills or Euros are clean and not wrinkled, free of marks and tears and not worn out too much. Even tiny magic marker strokes used by many North American banks can be cause for refusal to accept your bills in exchange booths. Also do not pay for your apartment or interpreter in worn out bills – later it is difficult or not possible to exchange such into grivna.

Personal checks do not yet exist in Ukraine.

Personal Safety while travelling in Ukraine

People who plan to visit Ukraine, often ask: “Is it safe to travel to Ukraine?” We can answer that while traveling around Ukraine you should protect yourself as you would in any other country. As to Kharkov, it is a very safe and calm city, but of course you should not “seek for adventures”. Use your common sense, always.

You can leave your passport, declaration form, airline tickets, any other official forms and cash in your flat for rent, or carry them in an inside pocket or a money belt under your clothing while walking along Kharkov, but not in an outward pocket of your clothes.

To be on the safe side, make a copy of your passport and airline tickets and keep one copy in your luggage and one copy with yourself.

Do not carry large amounts of money with yourself and try not to go out at night alone, rather go out in a group. If you go to a night club in Kharkov or bar alone, it’s better not to drink with suspicious strangers.

Medical facilities in Ukraine

Medical care in Ukraine has been improved over past several years a lot. The availability of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics has improved as well. If you have cold or flu or hurt your finger, call Ukraine interpreter and have her go to Kharkov pharmacy with you. Your interpreter can translate to the pharmacist what your symptoms are and what you need. In Ukraine more medications are sold in pharmacies than in USA without doctor’s prescription. But of course some things still lag behind Western health care standards. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Foreign medical insurance is not always valid for Ukraine. Before coming to Ukraine check with your insurance company if you are covered while travelling to Ukraine. Maybe you will need to buy supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage.

Food/restaurants in Ukraine – What to eat in Ukraine

Public catering has been a growing industry in Ukraine. In such large cities as Kiev or Kharkov you will find many nice restaurants, cafes and fast foods, including national cuisine. Kharkov is a wonderful site to experience good quality local food, which most will find inexpensive (average meal in café would cost $10-20 per person, restaurant - $30-60 per person). There are some more expensive places of course, but in general Kharkov dining is cheaper than Kiev and Odessa. (Another advantage to travel to Kharkov ! :) But be aware of the cost of wines in Ukraine restaurants and always look for the price for wine – sometimes it can happen that a waiter would suggest you a very expensive wine. French and European wines are often overpriced in Ukrainian restaurants.

Alcohol/cost of beverages in Ukraine

In Kharkov strong drinks are cheap and easy to buy. They are available on sale in Kharkov supermarkets, stalls, bars, restaurants, at markets, and in specialized shops. You shouldn’t buy strong drinks for cheap prices in stalls as they have bad quality. In Kharkov shops you can buy Ukrainian strong drinks, and this will not be a forgery. In Kharkov bars and restaurants drinks would cost much above retail price.

Note that now it’s forbidden to drink strong drinks out of glass bottles outdoors. The bottles should be in packets when you stroll downtown Kharkov streets.

And please do not forget that you must not drive a car in a state of intoxication. If you are stopped by a road patrol, you will be fined for much money or your license will be withdrawn. The police in Ukraine are rather intolerant to drunk drivers, so you’d better take a taxi.

Public restrooms in Ukraine

Free of charge restrooms in Kharkov are practically not available, most of public restrooms located in center of Kharkov, around Svobody square and Shevchenko central park of Kharkov. In the outskirts of Kharkov you will hardly find restrooms. Under all restaurants, bars, clubs there are free restrooms, in which is supported shining purity and freshness, and you can always ask permission to use them.

Operation hours/holidays in Ukraine

Workday in state-opened and private Ukrainian companies usually begins at 9.00-10.00am and ends at 18.00, some shops may work till 19.00-20.00, with dinner break at 13.00-14.00 or 14.00-15.00, the days off are Saturday and Sunday. Most of Ukraine banks are open for visitors from 9.00 till 16.00, days off - Saturday, Sunday.

There also exists at a booking office box such a notion as "technical break" for 15 min., which can happen each 2-3 hours. What they need it for nobody knows. And if your queue has come exactly to the time the "technical break" begins, you will not be served. You will have either to wait till the break ends or occupy a queue in other pay-desk, but there is probability that your new queue will come to exactly the same technical break there.

Taxis in Kharkov Ukraine

Taxis are very plentiful in cities like Kiev and Kharkov and comparatively inexpensive. In general, all around Ukraine it is easy to catch a taxi just raising your hand. Official taxis will have markings similar to North American taxis complete with a meter.

Almost any car in Ukraine can serve as a taxi. For a small fee most Ukrainian drivers will be happy to pick you up and take you to your destination if it is on their way, just raise your hand and the first car that has intention to give you a ride will stop. Negotiate a price, telling the exact destination. If you don’t speak any words in Russian, ask somebody to write you the address on a piece of paper. It is good advise to ask your Ukraine host or interpreter beforehand how much approximately for different areas in Kharkov a taxi could cost.

It is also possible to order a taxi from the apartment you rent or a hotel you stay. We can provide you with telephone numbers, if you need. It will be cheaper and faster than try to catch it in the street.

Rent Car and driver in Ukraine

In Ukraine it is cheaper to hire a car and driver than a rent-a-car in a car rental company. Your Ukrainian driver knows all ins and outs getting around Ukraine, Ukrainian road signs and practice in Ukraine roads. Also your hired driver in Ukraine is responsible for fuel, maintenance, security and most importantly he knows where he's going and can also be your Ukrainian guide and interpreter.

A car and driver may be booked through KharkovRent.Com and if you are ordering our accommodation in Kharkov services and you require a car and driver in Ukraine we will be happy to arrange it for you prior to your traveling to Ukraine.

If you are visiting Ukraine on your own then our Ukraine staff will be at your disposal whenever you need them.

Rent-a-car companies in Ukraine

Car rental is now available in some of Ukraine's larger cities but very expensive. Here are some locations:

Car rental fees can be considerably higher that those regular for Canada or the USA. You must be 21 years of age or older and a credit card and drivers license will be required to rent a car.

Internet Services/ Communication networks in Ukraine

Many cyber cafes has been opened, especially in downtown Kharkov, in many Ukraine hotels there is wi-fi access, as for central part of Kharkov there is wi-fi access in Irish Pub (46 Mironositskaya str) and in Japanese restaurant at Svobody Square (wooden house at “Steklyashka” – Universitet underground station). By visitors’ latest reviews, the latter is the best by speed-quality ratio.

Radiation issues in Ukraine

Many people remember the accident at Chernobyl atomic stations happened in 1986. You need not be afraid of radiation. In Kharkov it has never been a problem, and of course is not a question now. Kharkov products, coming on sale undergo a strict radiation control.

Ukrainian currency

Official state currency since 1996 is hrivna. We have money bills by nominal values 1,2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 hrivnas and small change coins by nominal values 1,2,5,10,25,50 kopeeks. Payments on the territory of Ukraine are realized only in national currency (hrivnas). You may change hard currency for hrivnas at exchange booths scattered all over the city and at the banks. In order to avoid fraud and troubles, do not use services of street changers. You can get cash for your travelers checks in hotels and some banks, from cards – in ATMs. Credit cards are taken for payment in large hotels, restaurants, shops.

Ukraine: a prosperous country or a “third-world country”?

Transition to market economy in Ukraine has appeared highly painful for the average Ukrainian and the country as a whole. Average Kharkovite gets today $150-300 a month. State-owned enterprises quite often delay paying salary. Economic world crisis is worsened in Ukraine by inner political crisis of Ukraine government. Those retired on pension get $100/month. So, the Ukrainians have to do something to live on such small salary. In many places you may see people, selling newspapers, cigarettes, various trifles in order to earn some money. There are a lot of beggars on the streets. But this is sooner their work and not real necessity. Alongside with this, a lot of private, joint companies are being opened, giving additional working places, and you may observe more and more well – off people, especially in large cities, like Kiev or Kharkov. Ukrainian image as of a poor country is not a complete truth any more, first of all it refers to educated layers of society.

We hope our short Travel Guide to Ukraine and in particular our experience in people’s travel to Kharkov has helped you to get ready for your trip to Ukraine!

The last (but not least) thing we would like to mention, is:

Etiquette in Ukraine

Here are a few simple rules of etiquette that may help you out of trouble or embarrassment when visiting Ukraine:

  1. If invited into a family home, it is traditional to bring a gift: a bottle of wine, a cake. A bouquet of flowers is customary. If you bring flowers - make sure it is an uneven number of flowers. If there is a child in the house, it is appropriate to provide him/her with a small gift as well.
  2. Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door. It is considered bad luck.
  3. When shaking hands, take off your gloves!
  4. Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering a home.
  5. To keep apartments or homes clean, most hosts will provide you with a pair of slippers called "tapochki". The "i" at the end of "Tapochki" is pronounced as in "hit".
  6. On public transportation give up your seat to mothers with children, the elderly or the infirm.
  7. At the entrance of upscale restaurants, expect that a coatroom attendant will check your coat, briefcase or baggage.
  8. When eating dinner at someone's home, casual dress is recommended.
  9. Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so.
  10. Offer to share your snacks and cigarettes with those around you.
  11. Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered you when visiting friends or relatives. Ukrainians are known for their generous hospitality when it comes to feeding others. Turning down food may be considered rude.
  12. For business, dress should be conservative. Men should not take off their jacket unless asked to do so.
  13. In Orthodox churches women wear scarves or hats, and men take off their hats.
  14. Don't put your thumb between your first two fingers -this is a very rude gesture. It's called "Doolya" and has been used as a symbol of defiance against Ukraine's invaders and oppressors for centuries. If you feel you must make this gesture, be certain your hand remains hidden in your pocket!