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Ukraine travel as solo senior

Since I am planning a trip in the Baltics in 2020 spring/summer. I thought Id like a glimpse of the Ukraine: LVIV and Odessa come to mind. I plan to use public transport and stay in hostels or rooms "to let". I enjoy walks and museums- limited night life. I want to try local foods at budget cafes. I have not known any one who has traveled to the Ukraine so i am reaching out to my faithful forum friends for helpful tips. My time is flexible since I have more time than money LOL as a retired USA teacher.
Thanks in advance/CJ in the USA

Posted by
21086 posts

Since your time is flexible, I highly recommend including Kyiv as well.

The cafeteria chain Pyzata Hata is a very good place to try local food on the cheap. The location a few blocks from L'viv's old town was better than the one near Kyiv's main rail station, but I recommend both.

I spent about 3 weeks in Ukraine as a solo senior traveler last year. The two major challenges were the inter-city transportation (trains are infrequent and you'll encounter squat toilets at bus rest stops--though I found them clean) and the lack of tourist information offices except in L'viv. It's important to dflo your research ahead of time. You can download the In Your Pocket guides for free.

Public transportation in Kyiv is very useful and very cheap but also very crowded. I thought it best not to try to move around that way when I had luggage with me.

Posted by
5505 posts

We visited Kiev for four days in 2011 and Odessa and Crimea (probably not an option now) in 2014.

The country still had far to go to recover from the economic collapse of the Soviet Union.
However, we loved the people. When I meet Ukrainians working on cruise ships now, they tell me that crime is now more of a problem. I suggest that you wear a money belt and take care where you go alone, especially at night.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks to both of you for the quick reply.I have encountered a few squat toilets on my travels and can handle that if they are clean{ in Japan they are immaculate! ]
yes a money belt is always is a good safety precaution/ I tend to get an early start/ eat a big late lunch then head to my lodging with a take away snack + drink. I seldom go to bars etc alone and NEVER go out late at night. I relax in my room/ read emails/ work on my journal etc. I am 76 years old so I need my sleep more than party time LOL
I am thinking about adding Kyiv and /or Odessa to my Ukraine agenda. So far I am planning on LVIV since it is close to the western border.
CRAVEN thanks for info on the cafeterias. That fits into my budget perfectly. Any tips for rooms under $40? Do locals rent out rooms by putting up a sign in the window like years ago in Europe >>>..ZIMMER meaning room to let?
Enjoy your weekend and thanks for the tips
Carol Jean

Posted by
21086 posts

I used booking.com to find my lodgings. I don't remember whether private rooms were an option; you could check airbnb as well. But note that Ukraine can be pretty hot in May/June. I would not want a non-air-conditioned place, which eliminates nearly all private accommodations.

The place I stayed in L'viv might fall within your budget. I'm traveling now and don't have access to my notes, but I think the name of the place was Berg. It was a few blocks from the old town and very close to Puzata Hata. Very new, air-conditioned, decent Wi-Fi. You could tell they had done a budget renovation because the doors to the rooms were flimsy. Ear plugs advised. The staffers spoke English (I suspect better than they understood it, so best to avoid complex sentence structure) and were very helpful. I'd expect their suggestions for budget restaurants to be reliable

Best not to drink tap water in Ukraine. The locals themselves seem to stick to bottled water. It's widely available in a variety of sizes at a very low cost. Much of the fizzy bottled water is quite salty and I think most folks who didn't grow up drinking it would find it unappealing. Unfortunately, that's what they generally use to make lemonade, which is otherwise quite good. Non-carbonated bottled water is stocked alongside the fizzy stuff. I'm sorry I don't remember how it was labeled.

Some of the older staff people in Ukrainian museums retain a sort of patriarchal mindset. They may be visibly--and audibly--disturbed lf you don't take the expected route through a museum (which would be in chronological order). It is best to smile and give in immediately. They don't seem to care how little time you spend in the rooms they are promoting.

Posted by
122 posts

hi acraven THANKS FOR THE ADDITIONAL INFO...I will google LVIV and BERG lodging/ I assumed smaller family run places might not have a/c but hopefully a fan? Never encountered salty fizzy water on any of my travels but thanks for that info...I will stick to plain bottle H2O and add my own flavor pack to create lemonade.
Enjoy your current travels cj

Posted by
21086 posts

Correction: The name of the hotel is Blum, not Berg. Read the reviews on booking.com. It has now been open for more than a year.

Posted by
122 posts

Good Morning A CRAVEN How thoughtful of you to check your notes and send the name of the LVIV hotel. Yes, it did have a single room for $41 w/ breakfast ( the top of my price range) Also surprised to see the BLUM hotel offers 1/2 and full board option. If I chose to add lunch, that's $11 / adding dinner is another $11. I am not sure I would do that since I want to try budget cafes etc. and not be restricted to coming back to the hotel for lunch when at nearby museums.The location is spot on! The décor looks lovely and of course AC is vital in summer, right? On booking it got good reviews.
Thank you so much~~~Happy July 4th! carol

Posted by
21086 posts

They were not offering meals (not sure about breakfast) when I stayed there. You will find Puzata Hata considerably less expensive and offering great variety, so I wouldn't commit to their meals in advance. Try one and see whether you think it's worth paying about twice as much as at Puzata Hata (I'm not kidding.)

I must warn you about the approach to Blum: You turn onto a narrow street that's really more of an alley. They may have added signage, but I saw nothing to indicate there was a Hotel Blum nearby. But there will be an open (one hopes) doorway on the right side of the alley. You step over the threshold and are in a sort of coutyard. The hotel is in a freestanding building there. Perhaps you can see the layout on Google's Earth View. I've never looked.

I figure if the location were more conventional, the cost would be at least $15 per night higher.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks Craven for the BLUM HOTEL in LVIV info. Hopefully they have added signs now! I think it is better to just have breakfast there if included with room and use the nearby cafes+ cafeteria to sample a myriad of dishes and save some money as well.
Best regards and thanks again CJ

Posted by
6649 posts

cjleisch, I hope you will report back after your trip. There is a lack of good info on Ukraine and it would be helpful. I have not been yet, but am looking at the Lonely Planet guidebook. Based on experience in other places, I've downloaded the InYourPocket -Lviv destination guide, which seems to be a good site for details.

Posted by
122 posts

HI STAN I plan to check out LP and In Your Pocket. My trip is in 20 20 so no trip report for awhile.I never rent a car or a use a private
driver on my solo trips. I rely on public transport and day tours.As a retired teacher I travel budget style with $40 being the most expensive rooms.I tend to eat out at lunch in mom and pop cafes ~~~in LVIV I will focus on the cafeteria Cravens suggested. I am frugal so that I can go for an extended time 4-6 weeks.

BTW how are you doing during our Midwest heat wave?
Happy 4th of July cj

Posted by
6649 posts

cjleisch, so far we escaped the heat by going to my favorite country, Canada, (Toronto is a wonderful destination) but now are back home to watch things dry up.

Posted by
122 posts

HI STAN Yes Canada is a great option to escape the heart.I have only been to Toronto/Montreal and Quebec and that was 30 years ago! Would love to check out Canadian Rockies and Maritimes ( NO -not on one trip LOL)

Posted by
20 posts

We are also planning a Lviv trip for about three nights with land-entry from and returning to Poland. Any border crossing advice for US citizens? Assume we only need a valid passport and possibly proof of med insurance?

Anyone have any customs issue with prescription meds? (For heart arrythyma...in my case.)
Thanks

Posted by
21086 posts

I trained/bussed in from Hungary and flew out to Poland. No questions at the border, though I vaguely recall a line when I crossed from Hungary and a bit of puzzlement about where I should go. Nothing to worry about. I don't remember whether anyone opened my bag on the way in, but I was carrying 5 lb. of medications and vitamins and there was no problem; that I would have remembered.

Posted by
13564 posts

A lot of the questions have a feel of concern for something out of the ordinary when traveling to or in Ukraine. I've been 4 times now; Kyiv (4), Lviv (1), Odesa (1), Kharkiv (1). Its no different than traveling any place else in Eastern Europe. Beautiful country. Well worth the time, but no special precautions required. I guess if anything, maybe a tad less English understood as compared to other places. Go, enjoy.

Posted by
122 posts

JAMES thanks for the feedback. You mention Kharkiv..where is it located / why did you choose to visit there? I have only focused on Kiev Lviv and maybe Odessa.

PACKCAL Glad you added info about crossing bordes with RX drugs...I also have a myriad of bottles in my travel pack!

Posted by
149 posts

We took the train from Przemysl, Poland to Lviv last August. Before we boarded the train, everyone's passport was checked and their nationality was marked on a seating chart of the car. Then when we left Przemysl the Polish immigration officials came through and checked everyone's passports. Once we crossed the border into Ukraine the Ukrainian immigration officials came through the car and again everyone's passports were checked, they had portable digital scanners. Then the Ukrainian customs official came through, he only asked us where our suitcases were, but we noticed other passengers having to get out of their seats and point out their luggage in the storage area in the car. All this happened while the train was moving.

As to the level of English spoken in Ukraine, I was pleasantly surprised at how many people in Lviv and Kyiv spoke English, and how well, certainly compared to my previous visit in 1995. But the people working in the restaurants and hotels and shops are mostly young, it's the generation that is now learning English as a second or third language, as opposed to German, which was more common in the past. And with more tourism they have more opportunities to use it. Years ago, in the 1960s and 70s my cousin was the English teacher at the school in the town in western Ukraine that my father came from. She spoke and understood English surprisingly well, but had very little opportunity to actually ever use it - until independence that part of Ukraine was closed to tourists.

We are planning another trip this September - Vienna, then Chernivtsi (husband is invited to a conference at the university there) then on to Lviv, planning to attend the big Book Forum that is held there every September, and just enjoy being surrounded by all things Ukrainian.

Posted by
20 posts

Are there any must-see sights in the area around Lviv? Say, within a 2-hour drive?

Does the Rick Steves team cover Ukraine in any of his books? I did not see coverage in the Eastern Europe book.

At minimum, seems that Ukraine should get a direct country link under Europe in these travel forums.

Thanks,

Posted by
13564 posts

cjleisch, Kharkiv is about 500km east of Kyiv and about 40km south of Яussia. It's the second most populace city in Ukraine. It has international flights so it's one way to enter Ukraine. Sometimes cheaper than Kyiv. It's a good place to go to escape tourists, but not much of a go, look, see, do spot. I am pretty sure I will be back at Christmas. We'll see.

Lviv was very interesting, and I will be back for Christmas (Jan 7). But it become very much a tourist town; in Spring, Summer, Fall, I would choose Odesa over Lviv.

I've looked into Chernivtsi over the years and its just a matter of finding the time. Looks simply amazing. One of the things that make a good trip great for me is stopping to do a little fishing and the Carpathians between Lviv and Chernivtsi are full of trout. So that trip is just waiting for the right time of the year.

Otherwise I cant be too much help to you. I've spent all combined about 3 weeks in Ukraine, not nearly enough to be passing out advice. I've spent about a year, all time combined, in Budapest and I still get things wrong. We also have such different travel styles. For me, one of the benefits of Eastern Europe, is the prices are so much lower that I can afford to do it a little better. Okay, a lot better.

You also asked about safety. Statistically there is more crime than in Western Europe. But not so much so that it makes me uncomfortable. But thats very subjective. The worst is the occassional assination of a Яussian disidant living in exile in Ukraine.

Posted by
3789 posts

Lonely Planet is a good option for budget solo travelers, but I have found Bradt Guides to be quite comprehensive and no nonsense advice for independent travelers. I use them more for Africa, but I see they do a Ukraine guide. They are not huge and they don't clump a bunch of coutries into kne book so you need multiple books for multiple countries. But for independent, and dare I say i trepid, travel I make a point of getting it out of the library for review.

Posted by
122 posts

Thanks one and all for taking time to answer:
MARIA I had not heard of BRADT Guides ( is it Canadian?) BTW Maria do you have postings on an African forum? Africa is on my top 10 list! On past travels I have used: RS/ LP/Moon and Rough Guides/

I glance at library copies of Frommers + Fodors not very budget focused. Another resource I use are tour catalogs from a myriad of companies. I check out where they take their clients in 10-14 days and put those ideas on a 4x6 card esp if more than 1 company stays at least 2 nights in that location.
KHRYSTIA thanks for the reassuring train travel/ border crossing info. Sounds easy enough for a solo senior :) My current plan is to focus ob LVIV, Kiev and Odessa. all places with train/bus connections.
JAMES don't underestimate yourself as a reliable and valuable travel resource. remember 3 weeks total in the Ukraine is more than most people experience. YES if my trip was short I would upgrade lodging and splurge more on meals in eastern Europe since prices are so reasonable but since I am going for 6-8 weeks I need to be more frugal. I also have wanderlust so I try a big solo trip every other year. At 76 I have lots left on my travel TO DO list!
Appreciate any and all tips and insights CAROL

Posted by
3789 posts

Carol, no, Bradt is British. They have a website and post updates and some forum on it so you may be able to get a feel for it from there if it isn't in your library system. I didn't know about them either until researching a Tanzania trip.
I did 3 Tanazania trips between Nov 2011 -Feb 2015. Love the country, but these were not budget trips. Affordable, yes. Budget, no. First was Overseas Adventure Travel (no single supplement) then a month volunteering stint with a local NGO, so that was budget and a life changing experience at 56. Followed by a week tour with the same company that did the OAT trip. Last trip was arranged with a local company for birdwatching. I was on the Tanzania TripAdvisor forum a lot, but not since my last trip ended and no trip reports. Sorry.
Not sure whether it would appeal, and if you are up to pitching your own tent and basic travel, but there are Africa Overlander tours. As a teacher, you would be better equipped for the age differences, perhaps. I did see one group with a women in her 60's (could have been 70). Watch some YouTube footage. It is a strange set up so kmow what you are getting yourself in for.
Bradt will give independent local transport options, but it does require some travel smarts. Age is respected, but they will try to sweet talk any solo woman. Any thing we have is more than they have, and they figure any woman who is independently traveling must have money to burn.
If I was more sociable and not so picky on how to spend my days, I would look at the overlander, and off season(as in when school and uni were in session). Then there is a older mix of adults.

Posted by
284 posts

I went to Tanzania last September with Global Volunteers - an amazing, even life-changing, adventure in an amazing country. We were in a remote part of the mountains about 2-1/2 hours drive on a mostly dirt road from Iringa in the middle of the country. Global Volunteers has built a clinic there, staffed by Tanzanian medical personnel, and is implementing a program to prevent “stunting” in children, a major problem in Tanzania, through parent education around nutrition and hygiene, provision of supplemental nutrition, and home visits. Volunteers help support all these initiatives, and some teach in the local schools. As a retired teacher with a sense of adventure, you might be a good match for this Global Volunteers program. (We had the opportunity to go on a weekend safari while there. I also went to Zanzibar on my own after serving three weeks.)

By the way, I see in your profile that Poland is on your radar as well. I have served with Global Volunteers three times there, providing English instruction to middle schoolers in a summer camp program. So much fun!

Posted by
122 posts

Maria and Rene Thanks for adding in the info on AFRICA altho this started as a Ukraine request. SEE I have wanderlust and am ready to go almost everywhere ( maybe not the Middle East...) Global Volunteers sounds like a good choice for me but might be a bit $$$ I have not looked at paying to be a volunteer-not yet!

Posted by
3789 posts

Carol, I understand the reason for the 'pay to volunteer', but also didn't personally want to support that. My local NGO experience was room and board +small amount for the coordinator. Under $25 a day which may be more than local prices but considerably less than prices of out of country organizations. Personally, I think there is much less vital need for volunteers that 30 years ago and so they become a money makjng approach. Money, they do need and if we feel better by experiencing volunteering, then both sides win. My views have changed in the past few years when you learn more about how things work in a country.

Posted by
122 posts

Maria I agree volunteer travel has grown so more organizations are going into it as a $$ making deal~~~some I have read about do NOT have hefty registration fees etc but expect 2-3 month stays so I have not followed up on that.I am always ope to suggestions from people who have participated.
Have a good week! cj