Ukraine— The Basics
Even though the country has many interesting neighbors, Ukraine still stands out. Why? Maybe it’s the exceptional people. The wonderful cityscapes. The beautiful Danube River. When it comes to the reason for Ukraine’s greatness, you really can’t pin it on one single aspect. Ukraine is just awesome. With a little savvy travel advice, you can get the most out of your trip to Ukraine without running in blind!
Sights and Attractions
Ukraine is a European country, so naturally, there are plenty of incredible castles to visit. Pidhirtsi Castle , Medzhybizh Fortress , Palanok Castle , Dubno Castle , and Lubart’s Castle are but a few of the impressive stone structures that Ukraine has to offer. There are castles in every corner of this country, so try to fit in whichever ones best fit your itinerary. No matter how famous or obscure, you really can’t go wrong when visiting these relics of an age of armor, knights, cannons, and smoke!
Ukraine is filled to the brim with killer cocktail joints, bumping clubs, trendy bars, and everything in between. Nights in Ukraine are a time to party. No matter what city, there will always be an establishment that fits your demographic.
If you partake, you have to try some Horlika. This Ukrainian alcohol is distilled from rye or wheat mash, though it is sometimes made from other mashes and malts as well. At 40 ABV, it’s strong, but it has a rich, healthy flavor that every alcohol enjoying visitor needs to try. Also, Ukrainian vodka is incredibly flavorful compared to the firewater of the west.
Ukraine has no shortage of natural wonders. The marble cave, Synevyr , the Danube River, and the granite-steppe lands of Buh are all must-see destinations for anyone passing through Ukraine. Between the national parks and the unique natural formations in this country, travelers can find a vast array of unique, one-of-a-kind outdoors destinations.
Ukraine Travel Tips
Ukrainian Currency Considerations
The Ukrainian currency is called the Ukrainian Hyrivnia (plural Hyrivni). The term Hyrivnia is quite unique. Its meaning is derived from an older currency, and it roughly translates to mane, indicating something worn around the neck, such as a fine necklace. When exchanging for Ukranian currency, try your best to look out for the best exchange rates, and avoid airport kiosks.
Tourist destinations and high-traffic areas are the hunting grounds for thieves, philanderers, and pickpockets. A universal piece of travel advice: always keep an eye on your valuables. If you usually keep your wallet in your back pocket, consider keeping it upfront instead. Not only is a wallet in the back pocket uncomfortable and bad for your alignment, but it’s also super easy to steal. After all, your butt is on the opposite side of your eyes. A wallet is much harder to steal from the front.
While you may have saved quite a bit of money with savvy travel deals, don’t spend too wastefully! Many tourists go spend-crazy in Ukraine, and they end up having too much to bring home! Cheap trinkets and baubles aren’t worth it. Be discerning with your money. You decided to travel to Ukraine for a luxurious experience, so spend more on museums and fun cultural activities. If you must bring something home, try to make sure that it’s significant and memorable, not just some silly overpriced gift shop item.
Hotels, hostels, and homestays are quite inexpensive in Ukraine. That being said, don’t let the cost stop you from looking up the best travel deals. Oftentimes, lodging can be bundled with tickets, flights, and tours!
Some knowledge of Russian or Ukrainian can be beneficial when trying to find a cheaper hotel. Before traveling to Ukraine, do a ton of research to find the best hotels, hostels, and homestays that will fit your itinerary. Waiting until you’re already, there is a sure way to spend too much and miss out on something better!
Flights and Transportation
There are several international airports in Ukraine, but Kiev is the biggest. It’s also generally cheaper to get a flight to Kiev as opposed to the other international airports.
Ukraine has modern metro systems, and its public transport infrastructure is very capable. The country’s rail network is sufficient to bring travelers to most cities. A few river transport services run along the Danube and can reach most cities on the Danube. Before booking a flight, try to find the best travel deals. Even a little money saved here and there adds up. Furthermore, flights are sometimes bundled with hotels and other amenities. The more Hyrivni in your pocket, the more fun you can have on your trip.
The national language of Ukraine is Ukrainian. A few indigenous languages exist, including Crimean Tatar and its variants. Russian is a native language of about 30 percent of the population, and most Ukrainians can speak Russian to some degree. Ukraine has a pretty low number of English speakers. In Kiev, you will come across English speakers at major tourist hotspots.
Off the beaten path, your likelihood of meeting an English speaker drastically declines. Some universal travel advice — learn a bit of the local language before you travel to Ukraine, or anywhere else for that matter. Anything to do with transactions, hotels, directions, basic greetings, and farewells can take you a long way. Furthermore, you are likely to come across better travel deals if you can speak some Ukrainian or Russian. There’s a price to pay for English services, and that money adds up!
Ukrainians really don’t like to be called Russian, nor do they want their country to be called Russia. Ukrainians are their own people. They have their own customs, and they’re proud of who they are.
There has been much tension between Russia and Ukraine lately. This has mainly centered on Crimea. Ukrainians generally are opposed to the Crimean secession movement and its Russian backing. Ukrainians generally don’t care to hear a foreigner’s “enlightened” opinion on the matter. They live in constant fear of invasion. Don’t assume any individual’s stance on the matter. While most Ukrainians you meet are against the secession and occupation, some may be for it, especially ethnically Russian Ukrainians. When you travel to Ukraine, you don’t want to offend the locals. Mentioning Crimea is a sure way to do just that.
In the same vein, it’s probably best to avoid calling Ukraine “soviet” or “post-soviet.” Ukraine was kinda forced into joining the Soviet Union. They had their own national identity and political movements, and these were quashed by the USSR. Many people travel to Ukraine and other former members of the USSR specifically to see artifacts from the Soviet era. This is fine, but try not to wear it on your sleeve. Be sensitive to the locals’ feelings and sensibilities.
If you are shaking someone’s hand, don’t do it over a doorway. It is considered bad luck, and you’ll be in an awkward situation where you stick out your hand and only get a wary glare in return. In many eastern European countries, giving a knife, scissors, or anything sharp as a gift is bad luck. It signifies the severance of the relationship. If a Ukrainian wishes to give you something like a letter opener, they will likely ask you for one Hyrivnia or another token amount. This makes it a transaction, and thus acceptable. Always be sure to remove your shoes in someone’s home. This piece of travel advice is applicable in most neighboring countries. If visiting a church or religious site, be sure to dress conservatively and look nice. It’s considered sinful to walk into an Orthodox cathedral with shorts, flip flops, and a tank top.
Ukraine is super affordable, the people are friendly, the cities are beautiful, and you can even get around via charming riverboats. What’s not to love? All you have to do is stock up on Ukrainian currency, plan out your trip, book that ticket, and you’re in for the journey of a lifetime! Lucky you!
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