Travel to the Ukraine

View of the cathedral from the Saint Sophia bell tower

In May 2018, after Bulgaria, Romania and Moldova, my last stop on the trip was the Ukraine. I decided to travel to the Ukraine because it didn’t look too far on the map. In addition, I wanted to visit my friend Averyan who had moved back to his home country from London. It was great to receive such a warm welcome from him and his family. Luckily, he also gave me good advice, loaned me a phone, and took me to cool places to eat.

First, a funny story about what happened to me upon arrival in Kyiv. As I was walking down to the metro on the way from the airport to the city, a guy in front of me found a plastic bag of money. He offered to split it with me, but I insisted he keep it. Then he said he would keep it, but another guy ran up to us. The second guy said he had lost some money, and aggressively asked to search my handbag. Luckily, I didn’t have anything of value. The first guy handed the money bag to the second guy and walked away. Finally, it dawned on me that it was a scam. However, I checked my handbag and nothing was missing. What a way to start the trip!

When I told Averyan, he told me I should not take any public transport as it is dangerous especially for a tourist. He insisted that he would drive me or that I should use Uber for the rest of the trip.

This is a short guide based on my travel to the Ukraine for a few days. Kyiv (or Kiev), the capital, is a beautiful city full of churches! I am glad I went because currently, at the time of writing this post, there is a lot of tension with Russia.

Uspenskyi Cathedral
Uspenskyi Cathedral
Podil is the oldest area of Kiev
Podil is the oldest area of Kyiv
The Ukraine National Opera The end of Swan Lake
The Ukraine National Opera- The end of a stunning performance of Swan Lake

Highlights

  • Saint Sophia cathedral complex- beautiful, golden and great view from the bell tower; tour the Metropolitan residence to see antique furniture and art
  • Saint Michael’s monastery and bell tower
  • Saint Andrew’s church observation deck 
  • Old town Podil to see Kontraktova square
  • National museum of Chernobyl
  • Monument Petra Sagaidachnogo
  • Bright yellow Nativity of Christ church
  • See a show at the National Opera– I was fortunate to see Swan Lake Ballet. Stunning! The audience members were late and quite noisy so different from London Opera.
  • Saint Volodymyr’s cathedral
  • Taras Shevchenko National University and Park
  • Bessarabsky market
  • Mariyinsky palace 
  • Ukraine national museum of art- I liked Yuriy Yegorov and Yurli Solereko
  • Monument to Valery Lobanovsky (football) and Dynamo stadium
  • Golden gate remnants and new structure; good view from the top
  • Independence square
  • Friendship of nations arch
  • Kyiv Pechersk Lavra, the cathedral with caves with mummies and saints. Incredible!
  • Uspenskyi cathedral
  • Micro miniature museum
  • Museum of the treasures of Ukraine
  • Motherland monument
  • Museum of the history of Ukraine 

Before you go

  • British Citizens can enter Ukraine without a visa for visits of up to 90 days within a 180-day period. US citizens do not require a visa for stays less than 90 days
  • Immigration in Kyiv was quick and easy, but the immigration officer was surprised when I said I was staying for 3 days. He assumed I was transferring through
  • Many cash machines have low limits to withdrawal. Often it was 1000 hyrvnia, less than 30 pounds.
  • Many signs are in Cyrillic and not many people speak English so a translator app like GoogleTranslate is useful!
  • Check out enamel and copper paintings by Serhiy Kolechko
  • I didn’t get a chance to go but there are day trips to Chernobyl, where radiation levels are said to be safe now
  • For the churches you may need a head covering and a long skirt so be prepared
  • Many places have the toilet on the ground so you may need to squat
  • There is free wifi at the Ukraine national museum of art and many cafes
  • Public transport can be a bit risky so be careful
  • Be aware of scams on tourists like my story above!
  • The ticket for Museum of the treasures of Ukraine was also good for Museum of the history of Ukraine 
  • The duty free shop for departures from Kyiv charged for items in Euros by cash or hyrvnia by credit card
Kiev trolley bus
Kyiv trolley bus
Metro in Kiev is very deep and reminds me of Moscow
Kyiv metro is very deep
Motherland statue
Motherland statue

Transport

  • The flight from Chisinau to Kyiv on Ukraine International took 45 minutes
  • Upon arrival at the airport I was overwhelmed by taxi drivers offering to drive me to the centre
  • Airport shuttle 322 to the south rail station (Kharkivska Station) cost 100 hryvnia and took about 20 minutes
  • I bought a metro token and didn’t need it to enter the metro but I needed it to get out. I took metro 3 towards Syrets and got out at Zoloti Vorota, which took about 20 minutes
  • It is fun and scenic to take the Kyiv funicular between the old town and top of the hill
  • As recommended by my friend, most of my transport was by Uber, which worked well
  • I went by Uber to Kyiv Pechersk Lavra. On the way back, my phone would not work so I took bus 38 to the metro and then line 1 two stops to the centre. That felt a bit safer than the metro from the airport area.
  • By car to the airport took one hour twenty minutes with traffic
  • The UIA flight from Kyiv to London took about 3.5 hours 

Accommodation

  • I booked the Sunday Apart Hotel using Booking.com
  • The hotel had to be paid in cash and that was tricky with the limits at all of the cash machines, but eventually I managed to get enough cash. Luckily I didn’t have to pay until later in the stay.
  • There was someone at reception and I was able to leave my luggage until check-in. The reception people spoke some English and were friendly
  • Although the building looks old, the inside was new and clean
  • The rooms are like mini apartments and breakfast is not included
  • The location is very central and easy to walk to many of the sights around Kyiv. It is very near to the Golden Gate.
Monument Pronya Prokofyevna and Golokhvastov from a movie called For Two Hares
Monument Pronya Prokofyevna and Golokhvastov from a movie called For Two Hares
Saint Andrew’s cathedral
Saint Andrew’s cathedral
Sunday Apart Hotel
Sunday Apart Hotel

Currency

The currency in the Ukraine is the hryvnia. As of February 2022, one British pound is about 38.4 Ukrainian hyrvnia.

I recommend to check the currency conversion just before you leave as this fluctuates

Ukraine hyrvnia
Ukraine hyrvnia
Eating chicken Kiev in Kiev! Ostannya Barykada (Last barricade)
Eating chicken Kyiv in Kyiv! Ostannya Barykada (Last barricade)
Dinner at Chachapuri Georgian restaurant
Dinner at Chachapuri Georgian restaurant – I ordered so much food! Lamb dumpling (khinkali), salad, khachapuri with spinach and cheese, and a fried pie with meat, cheese and tomatoes (cheburek)
The Ukraine National Opera Free samples of Ukrainian sparkling wine - I liked the rosé
The Ukraine National Opera Free samples of Ukrainian sparkling wine – I liked the rosé
Our florentine steaks being flamed before serving
Our florentine steaks being flamed before serving at Under Wonder

Food

Aroma Kava in Podil old town had nice coffee and free wifi. In general the casual restaurants and cafes helpfully had wifi.

I ordered a ham and cheese salad from Salateira to try to eat healthier, but it was all pasta and tomatoes with no lettuce. At least it was tasty!

My friends booked lunch at Vero Vero Italian restaurant in the Old Town. We sat at a peaceful table outside near the fountain. First, we had sparkling fresh lemonade and focaccia for sharing. Then I had an artichoke salad and rabbit ravioli. Delicious and excellent service!

By chance, I found Ostannya Barykada (Last barricade), which was a really cool restaurant with a revolution theme. It’s hidden with lots of artefacts and secret doors and rooms. At one point I sat on a bench at a bar and it moved me into the next room. The table had a good view of the stage where an accordion player arrived to play. I had radish and egg salad, two types of cheese with brown bread, chicken kyiv (have to try that while in Kyiv!) and vegetables. I also tried the Ukrainian sparkling and red wines. See my recipe for Chicken Kyiv here.

The chocolate from the Ukrainian Lviv chocolate shop are highly recommended. They have a different taste to the other chocolates I have tried. Very tasty, creamy and unique.

I had a huge meal at Chachapuri, a Georgian restaurant. They gave me a shot of something strong to start with an appetiser. Then I had a tomato, cucumber, cheese and olive salad. Following that, I enjoyed a lamb dumpling (khinkali), khachapuri with spinach and cheese and a fried meat pie (cheburek) with meat, cheese and tomatoes. I had to take the khachapuri to go because the portions were so large!

My farewell meal with friends was at Under wonder restaurant, which they said is known for their meat. We had two starters, a pate shaped in balls and covered in a fruit jelly, and thinly sliced roast meat. Delicious! I had a salad with lettuce, tomato, celery and apples. Then the servers prepared the Florentine steak with flourish by flaming it in a pan near the table.

Ostannya Barykada (Last barricade)
Secret door into Ostannya Barykada (Last barricade)
Dinner at Chachapuri Georgian restaurant
Amuse bouche with liqueur. Dinner at Chachapuri Georgian restaurant
Cool graffiti in Kiev
Cool graffiti in Kyiv

FAQs

Q: Do I need a tour guide?

A: No, not for Kyiv as it is either walkable or you can take Uber

Q: Do people speak English?

A: In general, most people did not speak much English so I recommend having a translator app. Also, some signs are only in Cyrillic so can be difficult to read.

Q: Can I travel solo?

A: Maybe but be careful as there are a lot of scams, which I almost fell victim to.

Q: How easy is it to send postcards? You can find postcards at the bookshops and stamps are easy to buy from the post office. The post office only had postcards from another Ukrainian city, not Kyiv! Luckily, my friend’s brother Alexey was very kind and he bought me a beautiful pack of Kyiv postcards. I sent some and kept some as my souvenirs!

A: See Sending Postcards from Abroad for details on cost and the time it took to reach the USA.

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