Ukraine, in Eastern Europe, is a fascinating country that has been growing in popularity in recent years. Even so, Ukraine remains somewhat undiscovered by tourists compared to other European destinations, and visitors in Ukraine can enjoy even the most popular attractions without crowds.
With an area of 603,628 km2, Ukraine is one of the largest nations in Europe and has much to offer. Tourists in search of a different European experience head to Ukraine for its interesting cities, beautiful landscapes, and rich history and culture.
The information below provides practical guidance and tips to help travelers get the most out of their trip, from applying for a visa for Ukraine to discovering the best things to see and do.
How to Get a Visa for Ukraine
When planning a trip, the first step is to check the documents required to enter Ukraine.
Whether or not a traveler needs a visa to enter Ukraine depends on their nationality. Whilst some foreigners can enter Ukraine visa-free, many passport holders need to apply for a visa before departing for the Eastern European country.
Citizens of several nations can now obtain a visa for Ukraine online. This is the easiest way to obtain the essential travel document, the Ukraine eVisa application is fully electronic with no need to present paperwork in person at an embassy or consulate.
Foreigners who need a visa for Ukraine but are not eligible for the eVisa need to obtain a traditional visa from a diplomatic mission.
Transportation: Getting around in Ukraine
Ukraine benefits from excellent public transportation which makes moving around the country easy and enjoyable.
Ukraine’s rail network connects most of the major towns and cities. The older, overnight trains are suitable for those traveling on a budget whilst for a faster journey the daytime express services are best.
It’s a good idea to book express train tickets in advance as services may be busy, especially during peak season.
Buses can be used for shorter trips and are also inexpensive whilst driving in Ukraine is also an option.
Given the size of the country, domestic flights are often the quickest and most convenient way to travel between cities. However, this is also the most expensive option.
Cash and Currency in Ukraine
Ukraine is generally considered an inexpensive destination and, as such, travelers can get a lot for their money.
The official currency of Ukraine is the Ukrainian Hryvnia (also spelled hryvna, and hryvnya), the symbol is ₴ which symbolizes stability. One hryvnia is divided into 100 kopiyok.
Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) conversion rates:
- 1 UAH is 0,037 USD
- 1 UAH is 0,034
Cash payment is most common in Ukraine. It is easy to withdraw cash, especially in cities, and there are also ATMs at airports and railway stations.
Whilst it’s possible to withdraw and convert cash once in Ukraine, It is a good idea to travel with some hryvnia as it may be useful to have money readily available on arrival.
Although cash payment is more widespread, all major credit cards are accepted: Visa, Cirus, and Maestro can all be used.
Language and Communication in Ukraine
The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, 67.5% of Ukraine’s population speaks Ukrainian. Russian is the second most widely spoken language, 29.6% of people speak Russian.
English is spoken in main tourist areas, particularly in Kiev and in hotels, restaurants and other facilities aimed at foreigners. Locals will appreciate visitors who learn a few basic phrases in Ukrainian.
Some useful expressions in Ukrainian are:
- Hello: Добрий день /dobryj den
- Yes: Так /tak
- No: Ні /ni
- Thank you: Дякую /d’akuju
- You’re welcome or please: Будь ласка /bud’ laska
Best Places to Visit in Ukraine
The capital of Ukraine is Kiev (Kyiv). It is a fascinating city with an interesting past and plenty for visitors to see and do.
Some of the top tourist attractions in Kyiv are:
- Kiev Pechersk Lavra: a complex of churches, bell towers and caves of great importance in Eastern Orthodox Christianity
- Saint Sophia’s Cathedral: the oldest surviving church in Kiev
- The Motherland Monument: 62-meter statue commemorating the Soviet Union’s victory over Nazi Germany
- Hryshko National Botanical Garden
Away from the capital, tourists will enjoy exploring Odesa, Poltava, Pripyat, and Lviv.
What to Eat and Drink in Ukraine
Visitors in Ukraine should take the opportunity to try some of the country’s national dishes. Ukrainian cuisine has been heavily influenced by the gastronomy of nearby places including Poland and Turkey and includes many vegetables and grains.
Whilst in Ukraine, foreigners should not miss out on sampling the following typical meals which are served at restaurants across the nation:
- Borshch: soup made from meat, beetroot and other vegetables, served with fragrant buns
- Kholodets: a jellied meat dish, similar to a terrine
- Halushki: pieces of dough cooked in water or milk
- Holubtsi: cabbage rolls stuffed with meat and rice
To drink like a local, tourists are recommended to try Horilka, a Ukrainian spirit similar to vodka. Children will enjoy Kysil, a soft drink or jelly made from fruit or milk.