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Ukraine, anyone?

My wife and I are headed for Ukraine in a few days (we are already in London). We will be in Kiev, Lviv, and a small town visiting close friends. Out of curiousity I came here and was surprised to find NOTHING on Ukraine! Surely some of the regulars have visited there in the past. What do you recommend? We have a hotel for our first two nights in Kiev, but not for our last night, and we have not booked a hotel in Lviv yet.

What sights do you recommend? What areas should we avoid? We will have a local with us sometimes, but not always.

Posted by
28100 posts

You may get answers in the question asking part of the forums - you posted this in the Trip Reports area, where people post after they return.

Posted by
137 posts

My wife and I traveled to Berdyansk, Ukraine in 2008. We lived there for two weeks doing mission work building a church out of a converted day-care center.
We flew into Kiev then took the overnight train to Zaporizhia then a three hour van ride to Berdyansk on the Sea of Azov.
What a fantastic time!
Take a roll or two of "western" toilet paper with you.
We found McDonalds has the cleanest restrooms that are free.
The Chernobyl museum was closed the day we were there but heard it great to visit.
The War With Germany Museum was an eye opener. (Not called WWII) there.
Independence Square was beautiful at that time.
St. Sophia and St. Michael's are a hundred yards for each other. There is a funicular from St. Michaels down to bottom of the hill.
Lavra Cave monestaries and Mother Motherland statue were a great find, too.

Enjoy your trip!

Posted by
1834 posts

Randall, contact us directly at montesharon@genesee-id.com. We spent six weeks in western ukraine two years ago traveling independently. We plan another trip next April. The Lonely Planet Ukraine guidebook is the best. Monte

Posted by
24 posts

We have just returned from Ukraine. My wife and I were there six days. Ukraine is AMAZING! We were the host of locals, but also spent three nights in a hotel. While in Kiev, we walked the Maidan (also known as Independence Square) in the evening. It was a very moving, and a bit surreal. There are impromptu monuments there for each person who died during the most recent round of protests, the ones that led to the ouster of a corrupt president. These people want freedom from oppression and will not take "no" for an answer. It was very inspiring, and thought-provoking. These people look to America as a beacon of hope and support, and right now they believe the USA does not care.

Because our former exchange student was our guide, we had a car and did not use the local public transit (something we usually do). Parking seems to be easy enough to find, if you think like a local. If you visit the Motherland monument at night, you will not have access to most of the large outdoor exhibit of WWII-era tanks and aircraft on display. But it is a great place to get a night view of the city.

While we were there the local currency (hryvnia) dropped from 13 to 15 for $1. It made shopping and dining out ridiculously inexpensive. We went to a Brazilian grill one night, identical to the ones you find in North America. Our cost was one-quarter of what it would have been in a US city. (We were told the Ukrainian equivalent of Jimmy Fallon was at the restaurant while we were there.)

If you shop at a street market, many vendors will accept US dollars in addition to the local currency, but make sure you understand the exchange rate. ATMs were readily available in Kiev and Khmelnytskyi (a city of 300,000 in Western Ukraine which is home to the nation's largest street market and one of Europe's largest as well). We did not need taxis, but with the current exchange rate they would be very cheap for anyone with US Dollars, British Pounds, or Euros.

Most locals know Russian, but there is a new sensitivity to speaking it instead of Ukrainian. I know a smattering of Russian from 30 years ago in college, and because I was American it was accepted with a smile.

Beds in Ukraine are typical Eastern European, hard by American standards. On our last night we stayed at the Ramada Encore because it had a free shuttle to the airport (VERY RARE in Kiev), and the beds were amazingly comfortable to our almost 60 yo American bodies. The Ramada is a new, modern high-rise, connected to an upscale shopping center which includes a 24-hr supermarket. We did our last-minute shopping there. We also stayed in a Soviet-era hotel, the Express, for two nights upon arrival. It was clean, roomy (we upgraded to "Junior Suite" and near the train station and a vibrant street life area. The staff knew enough English to be helpful. But the beds were hard and the decor was Late Cold War (if such things matter to you). The home of the National Circus is within walking distance (we did not attend). There is an Ibis hotel in the same neighborhood, a chain I find to be consistent and reliable when in Europe.

Autumn is a great time to visit Europe, and we had a amazing time in Ukraine.