Five Things First Time Travellers To Ukraine Should Know
- Ukraine is a cash economy. While credit cards are becoming more accepted in the big cities, in most shops and restaurants, you'll need to pay with cash. However, most of the mid-range to luxury hotels will accept Visa, MasterCard and American Express.
- Public toilets are not free. Keep some small change on you in case you need the bathroom while exploring. While the better restrooms are found in restaurants, you'll only be able to use them if you're a customer. It's also a good idea to carry some toilet paper in your bag, as most restrooms won't have any in the stalls.
- Don't drink the tap water. Stick to the bottled water and avoid getting sick. It's cheap and available at any of the supermarkets.
- Tipping is customary in the Ukraine. At restaurants, it's common to tip 15% of your bill. But make sure to check for a service charge before you add a tip. Official taxis expect around 10% of your total fare.
- The best way to get around Ukraine's main cities is with Uber. It's cheaper than a regular taxi, and you can share your ride with others to get even better savings.
Best Time To Visit Ukraine
The best time to visit Ukraine is during its two shoulder seasons. From May to June and September to October, you'll dodge the extreme temperatures of its summer and winter months.
While you will need a light jacket for the chilly evenings, the low temperatures are perfect for outdoor activities. Get out of the cities and explore the many hiking trails in the Carpathian Mountains.
Another advantage to visiting in spring or autumn is that you'll avoid the summer crowds. Prices for hotels will also be cheaper, and you won't have to wait in line for any of the country's top attractions.
While most travellers avoid the Ukraine in winter, it has a lot to offer. The heavy snowfalls between November and March mean the country's slopes will be at their best. Head to the ski resorts in the Carpathian Mountains and see a different side of the Ukraine's natural heritage.
Back in the cities, it's the cheapest time of year to visit. The tourism lull means you can scoop up fantastic deals on flights and hotel rates will be at their lowest.
Despite the threat of thunderstorms, the most popular time to visit the Ukraine is in the summer months. From July to August, tourists flock to the Black Sea coast, driving up rates for hotels and airfare. If you do decide to visit during this time, make sure you book a few months in advance to lock in lower prices.
Located on the banks of the Dnipro River, Kiev is the capital and one if the Ukraine's most visited cities. It's known for its stunning architecture, vibrant culture and buzzing nightlife scene.
Spend your days strolling past the odd mix of baroque buildings and Soviet block housing. Visit the world-class Kiev Opera House and explore the city's top sights like St. Sophia's Cathedral.
Odessa is often called the "Pearl of the Black Sea". Established in the 18th century by Catherine the Great, the city is rich in history and a popular resort town.
Many Ukrainian holidaymakers flock here during the summer to relax on its sandy beaches and party at the many seaside nightclubs.
But the city's cultural side should not be ignored. It's home to an ornate opera and ballet theatre, an archaeological museum and the Odessa Museum of Western and Eastern Art.
Lviv is a UNESCO World Heritage Site and one of the Ukraine's most popular destinations. Its streets are lined with ancient architecture and cosy cafes serving the city's famous coffee.
The best way to explore Lviv is with a ride on the historic trams or to simply stroll through its cobbled streets. Make sure you visit Rynok Square, the Dominican cathedrals and the city's numerous art galleries.
Top Attractions in Ukraine
The Carpathian Mountains is one of Ukraine's most popular destinations. Often called the Green Pearl of Ukraine, its thick forests, pristine lakes and excellent hiking trails attract nature lovers from all over the world.
Mount Hoverla is the highest point in the mountain range, and many spend their holiday here attempting the summit. But if you don't want to go all the way to the top, there are beautiful camping sites along the way.
Before you leave, make sure you visit Synevir Lake. Formed after an earthquake, it boasts some of the region's most breathtaking scenery.
Located in Alupka, the Vorontsov Palace deserves a spot on any history buffs itinerary. Built between 1830 and 1848, it boasts over 150 rooms and is full of Ukrainian architectural and artistic treasures.
The castle is also known for its turbulent history. Constructed by serfs from Russia, the castle eventually fell under the control of the Nazis in World World II. Intending to blow the castle up, their plans were thwarted by the Crimean army's advances.
It's also where Winston Churchill stayed during negotiations at the Yalta Convention. Today, the palace is a museum and one of the most-visited attractions in Crimea.
Chernobyl Power Complex
The Chernobyl Power Complex is the site of one of the worst nuclear disasters in human history. Within 36 hours of the meltdown, the entire nearby town was evacuated and the radioactive particles spread over Russia, Belarus and Europe.
Today, the radiation is weak enough that people can take short tours to the complex and the abandoned town. Tours last a full day, and you'll be able to visit the number four reactor where the meltdown occurred.
The site is open all year round, with each season providing a twist on the experience.
Tunnel of Love
Located near the city of Klevan, the Tunnel of Love is one of the Ukraine's most romantic destinations.
The natural tunnel was made over the years as the passing trains moulded the tree lines. Today, it's one of the Ukraine's most unique natural attractions.
The tunnel is at its lushest during the spring and summer months. But autumn is also a lovely time to visit when the colourful foliage is equally as captivating.
It's still used as a train route today, and local legends say that couples who visit the tunnel will be granted a wish.
Saint Sophia’s Cathedral
Saint Sophia's Cathedral is one of the Ukraine's most important national monuments. Inside the complex, it contains some of the country's best museums as well as relics from the ancient empire of Kievan Rus.
The cathedral was named after the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and dates back to the 11th century. It was built to celebrate Prince Yaroslav's victory over the tribal raiders.
The church's interior contains dozens of mosaics and uses more than 177 different palette shades. For some of the best views in Kiev, it's well worth climbing the 18th-century bell tower for beautiful panoramas.
Major International Airports in Ukraine
- Boryspil International Airport
- Kyiv International Airport
- Odessa International Airport
- Lviv Danylo Halytskyi International Airport
- Kharkiv International Airport