Ukraine is one of the most exciting countries in Europe and that is why we have written these Ukraine tips. So that you will be perfectly prepared for what you can expect there. We know every corner of the country and when and where it is the most beautiful, what you need to see and how to travel safely. All our tips are written by real Ukraine experts who have lived there for a long time or travel constantly to and in Ukraine.
Ukraine is a very diverse country. Although you may not find all climatic zones here, the weather in the distant parts of the country can differ quite a bit. While on some Carpathian peaks you can still find snow in May, the first sun-seekers are heading to the beaches of Odessa at this time already.
Ukraine is mostly in the humid continental climate zone. Summers are quite hot, winters are quite cold. In winter, temperatures are often below 0 degrees Celsius even in the south of the country. In the summer months, the range of daily maximum temperatures in Odessa sometimes reaches 37 degrees, while in Lviv and the Carpathian Mountains it is usually somewhat cooler. In winter, the east and center of the country are usually cooler than the west and south. Snow can occur from November to April. Summers especially on the coast are usually hot and dry and comparable to those in other Black Sea countries.
You can always expect rain in Ukraine, especially in spring and autumn. Most of the rain in Ukraine falls in the Carpathian Mountains. In the lowlands, however, the rain is less frequent. In the south and southeast of Ukraine it is often very dry in the summer. There are even droughts and dust storms here called sukhovyy that darken the sky. The relative dryness is also the reason why there is a steppe landscape in Ukraine.
The best Ukraine tips for destinations
There are many beautiful destinations in Ukraine. But some of them are rather something for real Ukraine connoisseurs. By the way, we have summarized more on our overview page on Ukraine. In any case, you should have seen the following places in Ukraine:
- Kyiv – lively and interesting capital, where the differences of Ukraine meet
- Lviv – cultural metropolis in the west of the country with proud citizens and culturally diverse history
- Odessa and the Black Sea – seaside resort with an amazing cultural life and interesting historical buildings
- Carpathians – one of the most beautiful cultural landscapes in Europe, with friendly people and untouched nature
Best Ukraine sights
Besides the general destinations on which you should definitely focus a trip to Ukraine, especially the first one, there are still some sights that are among the most interesting in Europe and even the world. We have written a more in-depth blogpost about the main sights of Ukraine, which we also want to recommend here. But here in a nutshell the places that you wanted to have seen once:
- Chernobyl exclusion zone – abandoned after the nuclear disaster and today an open-air museum of the collapsed Soviet Union and a nature reserve
- Kyiv Cave Monastery – most Important monastery in Ukraine and impressive architectural ensemble
- Cossack fortress on Khortitsa Island in Zaporizhia – mystical place for the steppe knights
- Old Town of Lviv – architectural monument with pubs and restaurants and a Unesco World Heritage title
- Sofiyivkyi Park Uman – most beautiful landscape park in Ukraine
- Dershprom building Kharkiv – first skyscraper built in the Soviet Union
- Fortresses of Kamianets-Podilskiy and Khotyn – two of the most beautiful medieval fortresses in Europe
- Chernivtsi University – former bishop’s residence and second home of Harry Potter
- Hoverla – highest peak in Ukraine
- Potemkin stairs in Odessa – known from several Soviet movies
- Easter Egg Museum in Kolomeia – largest collection of painted easter eggs in Ukraine
- Danube Delta – river system with pelicans and small wooden boats and one of the secret Ukraine travel tips
Unfortunately, due to the Russian occupation, some parts of Ukraine are currently not legally possible to travel to. Nevertheless, we do not want to leave these places unmentioned.
- Crimea – beautiful peninsula with many Tatar cultural sites, the Swallow’s Nest in Yalta and the palace where Roosevelt, Churchill and Stalin once met
- Donetsk – interesting industrial and mining city with many industrial heritage sites and museums
Travel to the occupied territories is not allowed for foreigners via the territory of Ukraine for tourist purposes. If you enter from the Russian side, you are violating the Ukrainian border and will be banned from entering Ukraine for five years.
Ukraine – Best time to travel
Actually you can travel to Ukraine all year round. However, you cannot expect summer weather all year round. Nevertheless, some regions are more worthwhile at certain times of the year. Everything depends on your planned activities.
- March, April, September and October are perfect months when the climate is pleasant and the cities are not overcrowded.
Hiking trips in the Ukrainian mountains
- Hiking in the Carpathians is possible in higher altitude from May to September.
- At lower altitudes, hiking is possible from April and into October or even November.
- The Ukrainian Carpathians have snow from November to April. Skiing is best from December to March.
- The beaches in Ukraine are suitable for swimming from June to September.
- In the spas in Western Ukraine (Trukavets, Morshin, Berehove etc) there are covered thermal baths where you can bathe all year round.
To enter Ukraine, citizens of most European countries do not require a visa. You only need a valid passport to enter the country and can stay up to 90 days – calculated in the period of 180 days.
However, be careful if you are traveling with friends from other countries, because Ukraine requires a visa from citizens of Australia, New Zealand or India, among others. However, citizens of some countries can apply for these visas as eVisa and do not have to go to a Ukrainian embassy for it. A detailed list can be found here .
Your passport must still be valid when you enter the country. It should also be valid when you leave the country, otherwise the border officials may impose a fine.
Ukraine sometimes collects your biometric data at the border. Sometimes fingerprints are scanned and photos are taken. This is especially true for entry by plane. If you do not want this, you can be denied entry.
Other documents that may be required upon entry
When entering Ukraine, you are required by law to have a proof of finance with you. You must be able to prove enough money for the period of your stay plus 5 days. As daily cost the Ukrainian government considers about 45 euros per day sufficient for the stay. As proof can serve: cash, bank statements, current credit card statements and a credit card, a host’s letter of commitment, tickets and a hotel reservation. Also, proof of travel health insurance valid in Ukraine is required, which we also recommend to take.
De facto, these documents are almost never checked. However, you should be able to provide proof in case of doubt..
Entering Ukraine by car
Those who wish to enter Ukraine by car can do so. However, you need a registration certificate, which identifies one of the passengers as the owner. If you do not have such a document, you run the risk of not being allowed to enter the country. If you are not the owner of the vehicle, you can carry a certified apostille by the power of an attorney of the owner, which allows the use. However, this must be translated into Ukrainian by an official translator. If these documents are not available, we recommend parking the car at a pedestrian border and crossing the border on foot and continuing the journey by other means of transport.
Arriving to Ukraine – How to get to Ukraine
From all major European countries there are numerous connections to travel to Ukraine. It just depends on which means of transport you prefer to use and how much time you have.
Travel to Ukraine by plane – direct connections
There are direct flights to several airports in Ukraine from many European destinations. Especially the two low-cost airlines Ryanair and Wizzair offer some comfortable routes to Ukraine. There are also some direct flight from North America, Asia and the Middle East to Kyiv. Otherwise there are many convenient and fast connections with layovers in Istanbul, Warsaw, Frankfurt, Munich, Vienna or London.
Almost all major airlines offer direct flights to Kyiv from their hubs. Ukrainian International Airlines serves several destinations from Kyiv. Lufthansa also flies to several destinations from Kyiv. For the flight schedules, you should check the their websites.
To Ukraine by train
From Germany: By train there are two connections that are suitable. There is a night train from Berlin to Przemyśl (Ukraine-Poland border) and there you can change to a fast train to Lviv or Kyiv.
You can also arrive in Warsaw and from there take the night train to Lviv or Kyiv.
From Austria:With the night train there is a direct connection from Vienna to Uzhgorod, Lviv and Kyiv. This is already a good connection and one of the best Ukraine travel tips.
By bus to Ukraine
There are many bus connections from Poland, Hungary, Slovakia, Romania, Moldova, Russia and Belarus. You can even find direct busses from Ukraine to Germany, Switzerland, Czech Republic and others. Ticket prices depend on travel time but are usually below 100 Euro even to Germany. Travel by bus is among the cheapest but not always most comfortable options to travel to Ukraine
Travel inside Ukraine
In Ukraine there are good train connections between almost all major cities. The timetable is available on the website of the Ukrainian Railways. More about trains in Ukraine, booking and other important info we have compiled in our post on train travel in Ukraine.
Buses are also still quite common in Ukraine. Especially for traveling within one oblast or from one to the next, buses are often the means of transportation of choice. You can find most of the connections on bus.com.ua in English. We have summarized the most important information in our article on buses in Ukraine.
Since Ukraine is quite big and the distance between some cities can be more than 1000 kilometers, there are also flight connections between some cities. Therefore, it is worth checking a flight search engine for desired flights and looking at the airlines’ websites. In Ukraine between some cities operate, among others:
- Ukraine International Airlines
Prices are sometimes quite cheap but usually more expensive than a ticket for a night train. Given the good train connections, you have a choice for most long distance connections.
The road system in Ukraine between the major cities is now quite ok. Since Petro Poroshenko’s term in office, a lot has been done and most roads have been repaired. But the situation is worse away from the national roads. Many rural roads are still in a deplorable condition. Potholes are frequent and some roads resemble rather dirt roads. If possible, you should therefore ask local people about the condition of the roads.
A general road assistance does not exist in Ukraine. Instead, other passing motorists should offer help. These can notify a breakdown service. The word for towing service is evakuator in Ukrainian.
Bike lanes in Ukraine are practically available almost only in larger cities and there also mostly only sporadically. Nevertheless, cycling trips in Ukraine are possible. However, caution is advised. Potholes are frequent and sometimes deep with hard edges. Therefore, you should not ride at night in Ukraine at all and adjust your route planning accordingly.
Public transport in the cities
There is a well-developed mass transit system in the cities of Ukraine. There are subways in the cities of Kyiv, Kharkiv and Dnipro, as well as a trams in Kriviy Rih, which run like a subway. In all other cities, public transport consists of trams, trolleybuses and city buses. In addition, shared cabs, which are sometimes actually minibuses, are also on the road throughout Ukraine. These marshrutkas operate on fixed routes and are the backbone of the local transport system. The fare is usually paid in cash during the journey. Therefore, we recommend you to have some suitable small change with you.
Cabs are very cheap in Ukraine. You rarely pay more than 5 euros for a ride. In the past, cabs were mostly ordered by phone. Today, cab apps in particular have become established in Ukraine. Uber, Bolt, Uklon and Yandex Taxi are the most popular. If there is no cab in smaller cities, you can ask locals to call you a cab. In restaurants this is part of the service.
Finding accommodation in Ukraine
Accommodation in Ukraine is mostly of a similar standard as in other European countries.
In the larger cities there are good to luxurious star hotels. However, the service is not always as good as you know it from Germany. But the rooms are good and clean. Breakfast is sometimes local or according to European standards, depending on the hotel chain. Reviews at Booking.com are always a good indicator.
Many apartments in Kyiv, Lviv or Odessa are offered as vacation rentals. In these cities this leads to drastically higher rental prices. Therefore, we recommend to book vacation apartments there only as an exception. In these cities there are cheap hotel offers especially for small groups, couples and singles and you help to better preserve the character of the cities and not to drive locals out of their apartments.
Hostels are on a European level. Check for reviews on Booking.com to avoid ending up in a shed with bed bugs.
In the countryside you can still find mainly guesthouses run by families. Here the standards are not always high. Sometimes there is a shared bathroom, which you have to share with the other visitors (of course lockable). But the people are friendly, know the area and are helpful. So you can experience Ukraine even better. This is another reason why guesthouses are one of the best Ukraine tips.
Language in Ukraine
One of the most frequent questions we receive about Ukraine is whether Ukrainian or Russian is spoken in Ukraine. The answer is: it depends. Ukrainian is spoken mostly in the west, in the center of the country and in the countryside. The more west you are in Ukraine, the more Ukrainian is spoken. In the east, southeast and south, the majority of people speak Russian. However, the borders are fluid and everyday language in many regions is Surshyk, a mixed language of both.
Those of you who know Russian will have little problem speaking to people. Almost all Ukrainians speak and understand Russian and Ukrainian. However, among the older people in the east and south, not all always understand Ukrainian. And among the younger people, especially in the west of Ukraine, not all understand Russian. Therefore, as a rule of thumb, we recommend:
In the west and center of Ukraine: Learn a few phrases Ukrainian and start the conversation with them. After that, you can switch to a foreign language (English, Russian, even German sometimes).
In the east and south of the country: Start the conversation here rather in Russian. Because the chance that your counterpart is a native speaker of Ukrainian is rather small, especially in the larger cities.
Useful phrases for your Ukraine trip
|Good day!||Dobroho dnia!||Dobry dyen!|
|Good Morning!||Dobroho ranku!||Dobre utra!|
|Good evening!||Dobree way-t-sheer!||Dobree way-t-sheer!|
|You are welcome / Please||Bud laska||Pa sha loozta|
|How are you?||Yak spravy?||Kak dyela?|
|Freut mich (dich kennen zu lernen)||Dooshe pree-ye-mo||Priyatno pos-na-komitza|
|I (don’t) understand||Ya (ne) roz-ee-me-yu||Ya (ne) pa-nee-ma-yu|
As you can see here, Ukrainian and Russian are quite different languages and should be treated as such.
Food in Ukraine
Ukrainian cuisine is a savory cuisine. Some of the recipes are centuries old and often reflect the simple peasant life of Ukraine. There are many meat dishes but the main Ukrainian dishes are based on cereals, cabbage, potatoes, onions and other vegetables that grow in Ukraine. For international stomachs Ukrainian cuisine is a bit heavy, but most things are common in other kitchens as well, especially in Europe. Some dishes from Austrian and Polish cuisine have also sneaked into the repertoire.
The main dishes
- borsch – beet root soup with cabbage
- vareniki – dumplings with various fillings, most commonly with potatoes and/or cabbage.
- halushky – dumplings with different sauces
- holubtsi – cabbage rolls
- kholodets – meat in aspic
Depending on the region, however, there are many other typical dishes that refer to the respective affiliations of this part of the country to other empires in history.
Where to eat in Ukraine
There are many restaurants in Ukraine. In the cities you can find restaurants with excellent food and friendly service everywhere. Here you can also usually find an English menu. If there is none, Googles translation app offers a function where you can translate everything live. With surprisingly good results. In larger cities, there is also a chain of self-service restaurants called Pusata Chata. Here you can get good Ukrainian food for little money and you point to the food. You then pay at the cash register.
A snack and fast food culture does not exist that much as elsewhere in Europe. However, it is becoming more and more widespread, especially near universities. Here, there are often kebab stores and other fast foods.
Ukraine is, contrary to what our blog title suggests, a very safe travel destination. Violence against tourists or robberies are very rare. Ukrainians are very respectful with foreigners and especially with tourists in general.
However, there can be a problem with pickpockets. In places with a lot of people (busy city centers, public transportation, markets, supermarkets), you should therefore be especially careful with your valuables. Wallets and other valuables should not be left unattended even in restaurants. It is recommended to make the majority of payments with credit cards.
Parts of eastern Ukraine around the line of contact with Russian-occupied territories remain an active war zone and should not be visited. However, this refers only to areas within a maximum radius of 20 kilometers. Areas further away that are controlled by Ukraine are safe and can be visited. The areas of Ukraine occupied by Russia (Crimea and parts of the Donbas) cannot be visited by tourists. Entry there is only possible via Russia, which according to Ukrainian law is a border violation and can be punished upon entry into Ukraine.
- Fire department: 101
- Police: 102
- Ambulance: 103
The tap water in Ukraine is NO DRINKING WATER. Drinking water can be purchased in supermarkets. Hotels usually provide a few bottles free of charge. For brushing teeth and showering and the like the tap water is suitable without any problems. However, we don’t recommend direct consumption, even if Ukrainians boil and use the water.
The electricity system in Ukraine is the same as in most European countries. No adapters are needed for Ukraine. However, the lines are outdated and the fuse systems are often weak. Therefore, in the apartments and hotels there are often line stabilizers that stabilize the power. In Ukraine, there may occasionally be power outages. However, this has become very rare.
Health care is still inadequate in parts of Ukraine. Public clinics and polyclinics in particular are chronically underfunded. In the meantime, this is expected to change as a result of a health care reform that has been introduced. The results, however, have yet to be seen. Even though care is free for Ukrainians, de facto almost everything has to be paid for by. This also applies to foreigners.
Visitors to Ukraine must provide proof of foreign health insurance upon entry. Without confirmation, entry may be denied. In the larger cities there is a private health care, which corresponds approximately to Western standards. However, it must be paid for. For emergencies, however, this is reimbursed by an existing travel health insurance.
For private treatment Ukraine is a popular destination for medical tourism. There are quite excellent clinics and good doctors in Ukraine. Especially dental tourism is experiencing an upswing in Ukraine.
Upon entry, there is no control of vaccinations. However, the standard vaccinations (e.g. MMR, tetanus, polio)as well as the following travel vaccinations are recommended for entry into Ukraine:
- Hepatitis A
For long-term stay or special exposure also:
- Hepatitis B
We also recommend these vaccinations, because contaminated food or water can happen here and there. In addition, there are still many stray dogs that occasionally bite people.
Money in Ukraine
In Ukraine, the official currency is called hryvnia. This currency is the only legal means of payment. De facto, however, you can often pay in euros or dollars, especially in tourist establishments. You can exchange money almost everywhere in the country. The exchange points must keep to a framework set by the central bank for the rates. Fraud in the official exchanges is therefore rare. The exchange offices must also issue a receipt. One should therefore refrain from exchanging with private individuals.
Money can be withdrawn at one of the countless ATMs in the country. However, some banks charge additional fees for withdrawal. If you want to avoid these fees, you should withdraw money from Ukrsibbank, OTP Bank or Credit Agricole.
Credit cards are accepted almost everywhere. Almost all stores and restaurants have a terminal. GooglePay and ApplePay work without any problems. VPAY cards, however, do not work in Ukraine. If you have such a card, we recommend the use of credit cards. Transfers to Ukraine now go through the SEPA system. Payment providers such as Paypal or Stripe do not yet work in Ukraine.
Phone and internet in Ukraine
Ukraine is not part of the EU. We always experience travelers in Ukraine who completely forget that roaming is only free within the EU and that every minute and every byte here in Ukraine can cost a lot of money if you use a phone card from abroad. Therefore, many providers back home offer data and phone packages for Ukraine. This is cheaper than the roaming charges. However, we recommend simply using a Ukrainian SIM card for the duration of your stay in Ukraine. These cost between 3 and 8 euros and offer unlimited data volume.
We recommend the provider Kyivstar, which has the best network in Ukraine. However, there are also other good providers, such as Vodafone and Lifecell, which have good coverage. Calls abroad are best made via Whatsapp or a messenger service, as there are no charges for the call and the data volume is included.
In larger cities, as well as in restaurants, train stations, airports and many other places, there are almost always free WiFi hotspots. In restaurants, you occasionally have to ask for the password or the passwords are on the menu or on a sign.
What do you think? Do you have any other Ukraine travel tips? Write us your Ukraine travel tips in the comments!