If you are looking to explore somewhere a little off the beaten track for your next fly / drive adventure, but without throwing yourself completely into the back of beyond, Ukraine makes a compelling choice. Kiev is just a three hour flight from the UK, and while it has an unmistakably Russian feel to it, there are strong European influences too. This really can be seen as a gateway between east and west. Here are some travel tips that will put you in good stead.
Do The Paperwork
It might not be far away, but you are not in the EU anymore when you arrive at Boryspil Airport. However, unlike many former Soviet countries, you can travel without a visa, as long as you will not be staying for more than 90 days. Make sure you have the necessary travel insurance in place, however. Choose an online option like uhcsafetrip to get cover that is tailored to your needs.
Make Sure You’re Flush
In Kiev, cash is king. Sure, there are plenty of shops that take plastic or at least claim to, but 50 percent of the time you will find the EPOS machine decides not to cooperate, resulting in you and the shopkeeper staring blankly at one another as a queue starts to form behind you. It’s all very embarrassing, so have plenty of UAH in your wallet, and think ahead, as the ATMs are no more reliable than the card machines in shops. The exchange rate is about 35 UAH to the pound. The cost of living is lower in Kiev, so if you think of 100 UAH as a
Spend Time Around Independence Square
Ukrainian shops are open all day every day, and Sunday is no exception. The main city centre around Independence Square is the place to be. Here, you will find a mixture of street vendors and western-style stores, as well as the usual mix of cafes and bars. It is a great place to really get a feel for the city and its people.
Try The Local Food
Kiev is suffering something of an identity crisis, in that it has a long and proud history, but it is also desperate to appear cosmopolitan and appeal to western visitors. This makes for an eclectic dining experience, in which traditional Ukrainian restaurants rub shoulders with pizza joints and burger bars. Don’t miss out on the local fare – for a truly authentic experience, pop into one of the many branches of Puzata Khata that you will see around the city. It’s where the locals eat, which should tell you all you need to know!
And The Drink
Ukrainians love vodka as much as their Russian neighbours, and you will find a great choice, from the simple horilka, which is similar to what you might find elsewhere in the world to the delicious and fruity spotykach. Typically, you will find this to be smooth and very moreish, so take care and don’t overdo it!
As well as Kiev why not check out some other surprisingly interesting European cities which are still off the beaten track such as Bucharest, Romania.