Ukraine (Ukrainian: Україна) is a large country in Eastern Europe, and the second largest country in Europe. Ukraine boasts a very rich culture and history, with a plethora of activities for the budding traveller.
|Central Ukraine |
The political, economic, and cultural centre of Ukraine, centred around the capital Kyiv.
|Western Ukraine |
For centuries under the control of non-Russian European countries, such as Poland, Lithuania, Hungary, Romania, Czechoslovakia and Turkey; accordingly you'll find Central European architecture, cuisine, language and religion here. The ancestral homeland of the vast majority of Ukrainian-Americans and Ukrainian-Canadians.
|Eastern Ukraine |
Includes the heavily industrialised and Russified coal-mining region of the Donbass, home to big Soviet cities and much of the country's ethnic Russian population, and since 2014, Russian-backed separatist movements.
|Southern Ukraine |
The popular Ukrainian Black Sea coast, best known for the magnificent city of Odessa.
Most Ukrainian cities have two English names: one transliterated from the Ukrainian name, and one transliterated from the Russian name. Although the two names used to be used interchangeably, since the Russian invasion of Ukraine, the choice of name has assumed political connotations. Western media often use the Ukrainian names as a sign of solidarity with the Ukrainian government, while supporters of Russia usually use the Russian names. Moreover, places that were named after communist figures were required to change their names following the passage of the de-communization law in 2015, which Western media generally follows, while Russian media usually uses the old communist-era names. Many people and news outlets still stick to the forms that have been used traditionally, for all or many cities, regardless of political stance.
- 1 Kyiv (Київ) – The beautiful Ukrainian capital, home to leafy hills and world-famous Orthodox and Baroque architecture.
- 2 Chernihiv (Чернігів) – ancient city of Kyivan Rus', one of the oldest cities in Ukraine, has lots of medieval architecture.
- 3 Chernivtsi (Чернівці́, Černivci) – the capital of Bukovina offers a Balkan atmosphere mixed with fine classical Habsburg architecture.
- 4 Dnipro (Дніпро) – the highlight is the mile long promenade on the river Dnipro.
- 5 Kamianets-Podilskyi (Кам’янець-Подільський) – ancient city-fortress
- 6 Kharkiv (Ха́рків) – Kozak metropolis, it was the capital of Soviet Ukraine for fifteen years.
- 7 Lviv (Львів) – the second most-visited city in the country. Some Polish, some Austrian mixed with Russian almost in everything. Famous medieval old town.
- 8 Odesa (Оде́са) – a harbour city on the Black Sea with a mixture of different cultures.
- 9 Uman – city in central Ukraine with the famous Sofiyivka Park
- 1 Carpathians
- 2 Chernobyl (Чорнобиль, Chornobyl) – tour the site of the 1986 nuclear disaster
- 3 Wooden tserkvas of the Carpathian region - Orthodox churches
|Population||41.5 million (2021)|
|Electricity||230 volt / 50 hertz (Europlug, Schuko)|
|Time zone||UTC+02:00 to UTC+03:00 and Europe/Kyiv|
|Emergencies||112, 101 (fire department), 102 (police), 103 (emergency medical services)|
|edit on Wikidata|
Ukraine possesses fertile farmlands, a well-developed industrial base, and a good education-system, although these factors haven't translated into wealth for the vast majority of Ukrainians.
High levels of corruption, poor management of the economy, and political unrest have made Ukraine one of the poorest countries in Europe. It had one of the most rapidly declining populations of any large country before the war, due to high levels of emigration, a shrinking birthrate, and a high death rate. As millions became refugees during the first weeks of the war, further population development is unclear.
Since independence, many Ukrainians have emigrated in search of better opportunities elsewhere. While most Ukrainians typically emigrated to Russia, some took advantage of seeking opportunities throughout the European Union.
Ukrainian history is long and proud, with the inception of Kyivan Rus (possibly founded by Swedish Vikings) as one of the most powerful countries in medieval Europe. This state fell prey to Mongol conquest, and the western part of Ukraine became part of the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth from the 14th until the 18th century. A subsequent Ukrainian state was able, in the face of pressure from the ascendant Muscovy, to remain autonomous for more than a century, but the Russian Empire absorbed much of Ukraine in the 18th century to the detriment of their culture and identity. Western Ukraine, notably including Lviv, was for some time part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, and the area is still home to long-established ethnic Polish, Hungarian and Romanian minorities.
Despite a brief, but uncertain, flash of independence at the end of the Russian Empire, Ukraine was incorporated into the new USSR after the Russian Civil War in 1922. It suffered through two disastrous famines (1932-33 and 1946) and brutal fighting during World War II. As a Soviet republic, the Ukrainian language was often sidelined by Russian. It endured Stalinist repressions during the 1930s, attempts at decentralisation during the Khrushchev administration, and the re-tightening of control during the Brezhnev-Kosygin era of the 1970s and early 1980s. In any case, the traditionally bilingual region had signs in both Russian and Ukrainian in virtually all cities, including Lviv, where Ukrainian is most prevalent. The 1986 Chernobyl accident was a further catastrophe for the republic. It is widely considered as an event that galvanized the population's regional sentiment and led to increasing pressure on the central Soviet government to promote autonomy.
Ukraine declared its sovereignty within the Soviet Union in July 1990 as a prelude to unfolding events in the year to come. The Verkhovna Rada (Ukraine's Parliament) declared its independence in early December 1991 following the referendum in November 1991 which demonstrated overwhelming popular support (90% in favour of independence). This declaration became a reality as the Soviet Union ceased to exist on 25 December 1991.
Severe economic difficulties, hyperinflation, and oligarchic rule prevailed in the early years following independence. Ukraine was also deeply politically divided, largely along ethnic lines, as western Ukraine was predominantly ethnic Ukrainian, and wanted closer ties with the West, while eastern Ukraine was predominantly ethnic Russian, and wanted closer ties with Russia.
The issues of cronyism, corruption and alleged voting irregularities came to a head during the heavily-disputed 2004 presidential election, where allegations of vote-rigging sparked what became known as the "Orange Revolution". This revolution resulted in the election of pro-Western opposition candidate Viktor Yushchenko as president. During the next five years the "Orange coalition" broke up and Viktor Yushchenko lost the support of majority of Ukrainians. His former adversary and pro-Russia candidate Viktor Yanukovich was elected president, but was ousted in the Euromaidan Revolution of early 2014 after months of popular protest against his failure to complete a key trade agreement with the European Union. His departure came at a time when the nation's treasury was empty and the government was in disarray.
In 2014, Russia annexed Crimea from Ukraine, and has sponsored separatist movements in the heavily pro-Russia regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. Following these events, Ukraine abandoned its longstanding policy of de facto bilingualism in Ukrainian and Russian, and Ukrainian was declared the sole official language, whilst the opposite happened in the separatist-controlled regions of Donetsk and Lugansk. Since then, Ukraine has made overtures towards joining NATO, though progress has been slow. In early 2022, Russia formally recognized the independence of Donetsk and Luhansk from Ukraine, and days later commenced a full-scale military invasion of the country. The invasion has resulted in thousands of casualties, millions of people displaced, and significant destruction in many parts of the country, and it seems that the war may go on for several years.
Eastern Orthodox Christianity is the dominant religion in most of Ukraine, though the westernmost region around Lviv is predominantly "Greek Catholic", meaning that they celebrate their liturgy according to the Eastern (Byzantine) rite like Eastern Orthodox Christians, but recognise the Pope in Rome as their highest religious authority like Roman Catholics.
For the most up-to-date information please visit the E-Visa portal of the MFA government website. Select your country to get more information.
All visitors to Ukraine are required to purchase health insurance in order to cover any potential costs of COVID-19 treatment, if your insurance provider does not have a representative in Ukraine. Travelers entering Ukraine with an evidence of full dose vaccination with vaccines approved for emergency use by the WHO in English or Ukrainian language are exempt from testing & quarantine requirements. Other travelers may also enter with a negative PCR or antigen test 72 hours before entry, but must install the Vdoma app, self-isolate and undergo another test within 72 hours of arrival; otherwise the quarantine is extended to 10 days. Unvaccinated visitors traveling in India or Russia for at least 7 days within the last 14 days must undergo quarantine for 14 days without possibility of reduction. More information and options for buying health insurance can be found on this website.
Citizens of Armenia, Azerbaijan, Georgia, Moldova, and Uzbekistan can visit and stay in Ukraine indefinitely visa free. However, citizens of Moldova and Uzbekistan must hold proof of sufficient funds on arrival.
Citizens of all European Union member states, Albania, Andorra, Australia, Bahrain, Belarus, Brazil, Canada, Chile, Iceland, Israel, Japan, Kazakhstan, Kuwait, Kyrgyzstan, Liechtenstein, Monaco, Mongolia, Montenegro, New Zealand, North Macedonia, Norway, Oman, Panama, Paraguay, San Marino, Saudi Arabia, St. Kitts and Nevis, South Korea, Switzerland, Tajikistan, Turkey, the United Kingdom, the United States/American Samoa and Vatican City can visit visa free for up to 90 days within a 180 day period. However, citizens of Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan must also have proof of sufficient funds when arriving in Ukraine. For citizens of Mongolia, the visa free only applies to service, tourist and private trips on conditions that documents certifying the purpose of the trip are provided.
Citizens of Argentina can visit visa free for up to 90 days within a 365 day period.
Citizens of Hong Kong can visit visa free for up to 14 days.
Electronic visas are valid for a maximum of 30 days and cost US$20 for visa with single entry and US$30 for double-entry visa with decision within 3 business days. Urgent visa processed within 1 business day is also available for double the visa fee (US$40/60). However, it is recommended to apply at the latest one week before your arrival to count in potential delays.
Citizens of the following 52 countries are eligible for E-Visas: Bahamas, Barbados, Belize, Bolivia, Bhutan, Cambodia, China, Colombia, Costa Rica, Dominica, Dominican Republic, Ecuador, El Salvador, Fiji, Grenada, Guatemala, Haiti, Honduras, Indonesia, Jamaica, Kiribati, Kuwait, Laos, Malaysia, Maldives, Marshall Islands, Mauritius, Mexico, Micronesia, Myanmar, Nauru, Nepal, Nicaragua, Oman, Palau, Peru, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, Samoa, Saudi Arabia, Seychelles, Singapore, Solomon Islands, South Africa, Suriname, Thailand, Timor-Leste, Trinidad and Tobago, Tuvalu, Vanuatu.
For other countries, visas are obtainable within a few hours of visiting a Ukrainian consulate/embassy. 'Letter of invitation' from friend, family member, perspective lodging or business provider may be required. For the most up-to-date details, visit MFA website, Visa requirements page and select your country from the list.
Always know how much currency you have with you. Customs officials might inquire about the amount being brought into the country. It is prohibited to bring large amounts of Ukrainian currency (hryvnia) in to the country unless it was declared upon leaving Ukraine. Cash equivalent of €10,000 or more must be declared upon entry or leaving Ukraine.
When entering the country you will no longer normally be required to complete an immigration form. However, if your passport has no space for stamps, or you don't want it to be stamped, you can still fill out an immigration form at home and have it stamped instead of the passport.
Crimea is a base for Russian invading troops, so as of April 2022, crossing involves passing through the line of contact of fighting armies, thus requiring involved high-level negotiations.
Since Ukraine does not recognize Russian's annexation of the peninsula, an entry to Crimea not from mainland Ukraine is considered by the Ukrainian authorities as an "illegal entry to the territory of Ukraine". If you later try to visit Ukraine and show any evidence of your travel to Crimea, you could be refused entry or arrested and fined.
Railway traffic is running as of April 2022, despite the war. Direct trains run to Kyiv from Chisinau (15 hr), Vilnius, Riga, Vienna, Krakow (via Przsemysl) and Warsaw (17 hr). Advanced tickets to/from Poland can be bought at PolRail. Information can be found on Ukrainian railways timetable[dead link] and DB Bahn, both in English.
There are several daily buses from Košice and Prešov (Slovakia) going to Uzhhorod. There are also few more daily buses from Michalovce to Uzhhorod. Uzhhorod has a night train connection to Lviv and Odessa.
By international marshrutka
Hard to find them, mostly used by Ukrainian immigrant workers only. You can find many offers on some Facebook groups as in "Работа в Польше / Чехии" etc. Speaking Russian, Ukrainian or at least Polish will be helpful if not mandatory. Quite useful if you want travel straight from point to point. In 2018 price for journey from Czechia to Lviv was around US$60 in cash. Wi-fi and air condition are often available on board, and you will likely share the ride with 9 to 12 other passengers. They regularly cross borders, so you will probably get over the border quickly, due the their connections with custom services and border guards. Entering the Schengen area you will be scrutinised more than others. Watch your bags carefully, but if you speak Russian, Ukrainian or Polish it shouldn't be a real problem.
Getting into Ukraine by car from abroad is straightforward. Be prepared to show the car's registration certificate as well as a proof of insurance (the "green card"). It can be very time-consuming or even impossible if your car's paperwork is incomplete or inaccurate. Anyway, long waiting times are almost ubiquitous at all major border checkpoints and in both directions.
On foot and by bicycle
Pedestrians and cyclists are allowed to use less important border checkpoints located on secondary roads, such as the one between Sighetu Marmaţiei, Romania and Solotvino, Ukraine, or the one between Ubľa, Slovakia and Malyi Bereznyi, Ukraine. Alternately, if you need to use a major border checkpoint which is only for motorized traffic, you can try getting into someone's car just before the checkpoint. Locals know that pedestrians are not allowed to cross the border there and some will accept strangers as passengers. This might be quite problematic with a bicycle, though.
In addition to that, there are a few border checkpoints for pedestrians and cyclists only. One of them is located between the villages of Veľké Slemence, Slovakia and Mali Selmentsi, Ukraine. Such border checkpoints are typically open only during daytime hours and only for citizens of the European Economic Area (EU + Iceland + Norway + Switzerland) and Ukraine. Holders of other passports are not allowed to use them. These checkpoints are usually of no particular importance to most tourists; their only advantage is the absence of queues, which are ubiquitous at border checkpoints for cars, especially at those on major routes. Instead of waiting several hours, you can get to the other side in a matter of minutes.
As a temporary measure due to the Russian invasion of Ukraine, pedestrians are now (as of 2022/23) allowed to exit Ukraine using any road border checkpoint, including those that pedestrians are normally not allowed to use. However, entering Ukraine on foot using such checkpoints is still not allowed.
Foreigners are subject to higher scrutiny by police when travelling on public transportation, especially intercity transportation. Be prepared to show your passport and entry papers, and keep your embassy/consulate number handy in case you get into problems. If you are caught outside your base city without your documents, be prepared for a big fine.
The quickest way to get around big cities is the so-called marshrutka: the minibuses which follow routes much like the regular buses do. You can generally flag them down or ask them to stop at places other than the specified bus stops. The fare is paid as soon as you get in (except in Odessa, where you pay upon exiting), and is fixed no matter how far you want to go. This is the same for the conventional buses, tram, trolley-buses and the Metro. Tell the driver that you want to get off when you are approaching the destination.
Each city has an intercity bus station from which you can go pretty much anywhere in Ukraine. Fares and quality of service vary widely.
Public transport timetables can be searched and tickets bought from tickets.ua service.
Ukraine is well mapped in most of usual online services. Especially eastern areas are well mapped in the open source OpenStreetMap (OSM), which is also used by this travel guide, and by many mobile Apps like OsmAnd (complex with many add-ons) and MAPS.ME (easy but limited). OSM is well supported due to voluntary work during the ongoing conflict. Download the maps, as trains in rural areas are often uncovered by mobile data connection.
Russian internet services are often blocked due to sanctions against them from a side of Ukrainian government since 2017 (see Connect below). However, Yandex maps can find streets with their old names, which is often useful as many locals still use them.
As in other former Soviet states, Ukraine is well covered by older Soviet military maps which were produced in the decades before 1991. These maps are available online as jpegs, or in many "Soviet military maps" apps. However, they contain only the Russian names, which were the official ones before 1991; due to the policies of post-Maidan Ukrainian governments, many place names have changed. These maps are often used for direction in rural areas.
Trains are operated by state-owned Ukrainian Railways[dead link]. Due to their Soviet origin, the train classes, coaches and ticket system are very similar to Russia and CIS countries, for more information see: Russian train article.
Ukrainian trains are quite old and slow by West European standards, and not very frequent, but they are punctual, reliable and very cheap (as of April 2022, they have remained quite reliable despite the war, although service on some lines has terminated). For example Kyiv to Odessa only has 3 direct services per day, 7 hr & 550 грн by the fastest "Inter-city", 9–10 hr & 400 грн by the slower "express". So for a 500-km journey with some half a dozen stops, the trains are averaging about 50 km/h on straight level terrain – the Bullet Train, it is not.
Generally, in Ukraine, for long distance the train is preferred over the bus because of their comfort and because often they are even cheaper. The "Lux" sleeping cars have a two-berth cabin. Second class are cabins with four berths. Third class have six berths through which the aisle passes.
Advance online booking is highly recommended, firstly because some trains are popular and will sell out, secondly because it avoids having to negotiate your journey at a frenetic foreign railway station. For timetables, prices and bookings visit Ukraine Railways[dead link] or Ukrainian Railways e-shop (these websites are in English, Russian and Ukrainian). Tickets with a little QR code icon should be printed off at home and are good to go. Other e-tickets are just a voucher which must be exchanged in advance for a ticket, at any mainline station in Ukraine. (So don't buy such a ticket for a journey that starts outside Ukraine.) Do this preferably an hour before departure, because close to departure of a long-distance express, the ticket area will become a frantic maul. Large train stations may have dedicated counters for e-vouchers; e.g. Kyiv does, while in Odessa any window will do. Either way, before queuing look out for the "technical break" times posted on each window.
If you have to buy on the day, write your destination and train number on a piece of paper; desk clerks have little English or German. Large stations have big screens that show tickets available for the upcoming trains.
There are two major bus companies that run buses from all of the major cities to Kyiv: they are Avtolux[dead link], and Gunsel. Prices run about 180-250 грн for service to Dnipro and Kharkiv (bus schedule Kharkiv-Dnipro[dead link]).
The major advantage of the bus service is that it leaves from Boryspil and stops in Kyiv, so if your destination is not Kyiv, its easier than taking a bus to the Main Passenger Railway Station in Kyiv. The buses are standard coach buses, serve cold drinks and tea, show movies, and make a stop about every 3–4 hr. They run every few hours.
Avtolux has a VIP bus from Odessa that has nice leather seats and is more less non-stop. It departs once a day, takes four hours or so both to Kyiv and costs about 160-170 грн.
In addition, just as in Russia, there are numerous of the marshrutka called minibuses. These run on fixed routes and may be licensed as either buses or taxis. You can board one at the start of the route or at fixed stops. Some of them will also stop at any point between designated stops, but this largely depends on the region and even on the driver's mood. Officially, they are not supposed to drop passengers outside designated bus stops, but in reality they do it quite often. At the start of the route and at fixed routes, you may find a queue you will have to stand in. At other places, just wave your hand when you see one. if there are seats available, the minibus will stop for you. To get off, tell the driver when you reach your destination and they will stop. You need to pay the amount of your fare to the driver (except in Odessa, where you pay upon exiting). It is generally safe to send money from back to the driver through a crowd, return is provided by same way. You don't get a ticket, unless you ask for it. Often it's not easy to figure out which marshrutka will take you to your destination, as in any city there are hundreds of different routes. Probably only option how to stay in touch with marshutkas networks is app Easyway, which cover most of cities with marshutkas network.
Taxi is probably the most safe way to get around a city. You want to ask your hotel or restaurant to call you a taxi. Ukraine is largely a referral based economy, and this is how you get quality, safety and good service. Taxis are always busy. Locals will tell you to call in advance. Trying to hail a cab won't be productive at best and get you in deep trouble at worst.
It might seem unreasonable to hire a taxi to take you 100km to the next city. If you use your hotels referral, you will get a decent rate. It might be twice as expensive as train, but convenient, less time consuming, and secure. Keep in mind, you need a taxi to take you to the bus or train station. Americans will find the buses for long distance travel crowded and uncomfortable.
Ride-hailing is available in Ukraine and the following are the most anticipated providers:
- Bolt. Includes many cities.
- Uber. Works in several largest cities.
- Yandex.Taxi. A Russian company which offers cheap fares. Services available in Kyiv (Kiev), Kharkiv (Kharkov), Dnipro (Dnepr) and Odessa. Yandex.Taxi is banned in Ukraine along with all other Russian technology companies. Despite the ban, Ukrainians still use the service via VPN.
It is possible to get around in Ukraine by car, but:
- The signs are all in Ukrainian (Cyrillic alphabet). Only a few signs (every 200 km or so) are written in the Latin alphabet, and indicate main cities. Have a good road map (those available are mainly in Ukrainian, but Latin alphabet maps are starting to appear), because place names aren't well posted on road signs.
- Respect the signs, especially speed limits. Unlike in Western countries, where limits are repeated several times, in Ukraine, an obligation or a prohibition is often indicated on a single sign, which you must not miss. And even these signs are often far off the road, covered by branches, etc. The police are always there to remind you.
- Speed in cities is limited to 50 km/h. However people do drive fast anyway.
- Speed in "nationals" (single carriageway countryside roads) is limited to 90 km/h (55 mph). The poor average quality of the roads already acts as a speed checker.
- Speed on highways (motorways) is limited to 110-120 km/h (75 mph).
Corruption is widespread among Ukrainian police, and tourists are an especially profitable target. When you are stopped for speeding or other offences, officers might aggressively try and extract ridiculous sums of money from you (€100 or more), offering "reductions" if you pay on the spot (the proposed alternative being some unpleasant and more expensive way, all made up). If you're asked anything beyond that, demand a written ticket for you to pay later instead. Don't let them intimidate you. It's very useful to have an embassy phone number handy for these cases. If you mention that, they'll let you off the hook quicker than you know it. Write down the officers' badge numbers, rank, plate number of the police car, and notify the nearest embassy/consulate in detail, to help fight these corrupt practices.
Fuel is no longer a problem in Ukraine, especially for those who remember travelling to Ukraine during the early 1990s, when petrol was considered precious. Today, there are plenty of service stations. There are varying types of fuel, such as diesel, unleaded 95 octane, and (more rarely) unleaded 98 octane; one finds also 80 and 76 octane. If you fill up in a rural filling station, you must pay first, and may have to pay in cash, although many stations do accept credit cards.
The main roads are OK for all cars, as long as you don't go too fast. Numerous running repairs have created a patchwork road surface, and it will seriously test your suspension, even on the major dual carriageways.
Secondary roads are passable, but some zones can be full of potholes and you must treat them with extra care, or avoid them entirely. Roads between villages are often little more than dirt tracks and not metalled.
Be careful when driving in towns or villages. Sometimes animals prefer to walk on the road, and they are a hazard for all drivers. You're likely to see plenty of animals hit by cars, so be prepared.
Bicycle traffic is not very common, but you will sometimes see an aged man transporting a sack of grass on an old road-bike or a cycling enthusiast in bright clothes riding a semi-professional racing bike. Those are even more likely to be met on well-maintained roads where the pavement is smooth. Also cyclists will use both lanes of the road in both directions equally, i.e., you are just as likely to meet a cyclist coming towards you, riding on the verge, as you will travelling in your direction. And almost invariably without lights or bright clothing so be extra careful when driving at night and dawn/dusk.
Also, don't be surprised to see plenty of horse drawn carts - even on the dual carriageways.
Hitchhiking in Ukraine is average. It's possible to go by hitchhiking - usually cargo trucks will take you for free - but it's still worth to try stop personal cars as well. Good people are everywhere; you may be picked up in a Lada or a Lexus. (More usually the former.)
The usual hitchhiking gesture (also used to hail taxis and marshrutkas) is to face oncoming traffic and point at the road with a straight right arm held away from the body. Sometimes, for visibility, you may add a downward waving motion of the open right hand. It's a good idea to write on a piece of paper your destination's name.
UIA, SkyUp and WindRose offer cheap flights that can be booked on-line and can be a time-saving alternative. For example, the flight Odessa-Kyiv (one way) is US$180 (including tax and fees) and takes 1½ hours. However, be sure to book early for the cheapest fares.
As a consequence of the political development and the war, the status of Russian has changed dramatically since 2013. This affects also other languages: often place names in them were derived from the Russian ones, while parallel names derived from the Ukrainian ones are seeing much more usage since 2022 (cf Kiev → Kyiv). When talking to Ukrainians, be sure to use the Ukrainian and not Russian forms of the names, as using the Russian names may be taken to mean that you support the Russian invasion.
Ukrainian is the official language of the country and is the native language of 65–70% of Ukraine's population. It is an East Slavic language that is closely related to Belarusian, and somewhat more distantly to related to Russian. If you speak Belarusian, you will be able to understand Ukrainian for the most part, while Russian speakers should be able to pick up Ukrainian with just a little effort. Ukrainian is most commonly used in rural areas in Central Ukraine and by a large number of people in Western Ukraine. You may notice that the language differs from region to region:
- In Lviv, a special dialect of the language is spoken, with strong influences from Polish and German.
- In Eastern and Central Ukraine, transitional dialects, mixing features of Ukrainian and Russian, (generically referred to as surzhyk, i.e. the "mix [of languages]") are commonly used.
Since 2019, all printed publications and the media have by law been required to be in Ukrainian. Post-Soviet generations are also more fluent in Ukrainian as since Euromaidan it has increasingly replaced Russian the language of instruction in educational institutions.
Russian, the sole official language under the USSR and a co-official language in independent Ukraine alongside Ukrainian until 2014, is spoken by a large majority in Eastern and Southern Ukraine as their first language, and by the vast majority of Ukrainians across Ukraine as a second language. The language is rarely used in Western Ukraine and is not the first language of choice in rural areas in Central Ukraine, but in central Ukrainian cities, such as the capital Kyiv, it is more common in urban life. The Russian language in Ukraine dominated the education system, the government, pop culture and urban society during Soviet times, and for many years Russian was viewed in a much higher status than Ukrainian. However, this changed in 2014–2022 because of the war with Russia. Although virtually all Ukrainians have a good understanding of Russian, they may respond to a visitor speaking Russian in Ukrainian and vice versa. This mixing of Russian and Ukrainian (known as “Surzhyk”), is a common practice.
Crimean Tatar, a Turkic language spoken by Crimean Tatars as well as by some ethnic Russians and Ukrainians in southern Ukraine (especially in either Crimea or in Kherson oblast) is also spoken, and has special status as an "indigenous language" in Ukraine, and as an official language in Crimea. The language is also spoken in Crimean Tatar neighbourhoods and districts in major Ukrainian cities throughout Ukraine, though is usually confined to those areas. Given the close intelligibility between Crimean Tatar and Turkish, a Turkish speaker is very likely to make themselves understood in areas where the language is spoken.
Large minority languages include Romanian, Polish, and Polish, spoken by ethnic minorities in various pockets of Western Ukraine. You're unlikely to find speakers of those languages elsewhere. German was the main foreign language taught during the Soviet era, so some older people, particularly the well-educated upper class, may know some basic German.
English is the most widely taught foreign language, although very little of it is spoken and used throughout the country. The younger generation and those working in the tourist industry are likely to be more proficient in the language, and establishments in cities with large international visitors like Kyiv and Lviv also provide some services or restaurant menus in English. Most people there will be able to have a basic conversation in English.
Language is a sensitive issue in Ukraine with new twists introduced by the full-scale Russian invasion in 2022. Post-Soviet generations very often understand Russian but increasingly prefer to speak Ukrainian, while older generations may have Ukrainian as their native language but prefer to speak Russian as it was the language they were educated in. The removal of Russian as an official language has been enthusiastically supported by most Ukrainian nationalists, but deeply angered parts of the large ethnic Russian minority.
If you are travelling to Ukraine, learn either basic Ukrainian or basic Russian beforehand (know your phrasebook well) and/or have some means of access to a bilingual speaker — a mobile/cell number (almost everyone has a mobile phone) can be a godsend. Virtually nobody in any official position (train stations, police, bus drivers, information desks, etc.) will be able to speak any language other than Ukrainian and Russian.
Vast in size and diverse in culture and landscapes, Ukraine has a range of great attractions to offer. Largely unknown to the world, the country's main draws include some great and quintessentially Slavic cities, impressive cultural heritage and of course top class natural areas.
Head to the historic city of Lviv, listed as a Unesco World Heritage Site but still a bustling place and a true centre for learning and culture in the country. Its cobblestoned streets are packed with monuments going back to Medieval times, seemingly untouched by the destructive force of wars that have changed some of Ukraine's other cities so thoroughly. Even the extensive Soviet planning that has shaped many other places on the far east side of Europe have left only a minimal mark on the colourful mix of building styles. Highlights include the Korniakt Palace (right on the market square) and several beautiful churches. For an even more sophisticated taste of culture, try the fine collection of the Lviv National Art Gallery.
Then there's the must-sees of Kyiv, a colourful place where the golden roofs of the Unesco World Heritage sites Saint-Sophia Cathedral and Pechersk Lavra make for some excellent highlights. Take an afternoon stroll through Andriyivsky Uzviz, the Montmartre of Kyiv, where you'll find a bustling mix of artist and souvenir sellers. Follow in the footsteps of Apostle Andrew, who - according to legend - climbed the steep stairs of this bohemian neighbourhood two thousand years ago, to the top where you'll now find a church with his name. Don't miss the excellent Pyrohovo Museum of Folk Architecture. Last but not least, Kyiv is one of the best spots to visit Ukraine's lively markets (but Odesa or Kharkiv have good ones too). Also, consider a trip to the Residence of Bukovinian and the Dalmatian Metropolitans in Chernivtsi.
In terms of natural attractions, the lovely Carpathian Mountains are among the best destinations this otherwise remarkably flat country has to offer. They hold beautiful panoramas of forested hills, lush valleys and snowy peaks and offer ample opportunities for hiking and biking as well as for winter sports. The rather little explored Danube Delta Biosphere Reserve is another great pick for nature lovers and bird watchers. Base yourself in the charming town of Vylkovo, with its many canals, and go boating and bird-watching during the day.
- Hike in Carpathian Mountains around Rakhiv
- Conquer 2,061-m Hoverla, part of the Chornohora mountain range
- Kayak down Dniester and admire Kamianets-Podilskyi and Khotyn castles
- Visit one of forty national parks (total area more than 10,000 km²)
Exchange rates for Ukrainian hryvnia
As of January 2023:
Exchange rates fluctuate. Current rates for these and other currencies are available from XE.com
The unit of currency is the hryvnia denoted by the symbol "грн" (90% of the time) and "₴" (10% of the time). The ISO code is UAH. It is spelt гривня and pronounced hryvnia in Ukrainian and grivna in Russian. Just to make it a little more confusing, Russian speakers in the east often refer to it as ruble and it is sometimes shown as "₴" both before and after the amount and with and without spaces. National Bank actual rates. On Wikivoyage, the notation грн is used, which you will see very often in Ukraine. (It can be found in the currency list underneath the editor window.)
It is widely acceptable to pay cash. Locals (especially businesspeople) sometimes carry and pay in cash amounts considered unusually large in other countries. Don't suspect criminal activity in every such case. The euro and US dollar are generally accepted as alternative forms of currency, particularly in tourist areas.
You can use your credit cards (mostly MasterCard & Visa) or cash traveler's cheques easily. Credit and debit cards are accepted by the supermarkets. But avoid using your credit/debit cards for payments at establishments in smaller towns as retailers are not trained and controlled enough to ensure your card privacy.
Ukraine is a predominantly cash economy. The network of bank offices and ATMs (банкомат, bankomat) has grown quickly and are now readily available in all but the smallest villages. Do check the security of the machine - it would be wise to use one that is obviously at a bank, rather than in another establishment. So, ATMs are common throughout the country and generally work with international cards. They nearly always dispense hryvnia, though you may find some give US dollars. They mostly do not charge fees to foreign cards. (unless you are withdrawing dollars).
Debit cards such as maestro do work in ATMs. Cirrus/Maestro/Plus bank cards could be most effective way to get cash in Ukraine. Not all ATMs indicate that they support the Plus system, but in most cases they do support it if they support Visa. PrivatBank ATMs indicate that they support Plus, but they do not work with North American cards.
Every reasonably sized town will have exchanges booths and banks that will convert euro, or US dollars to hryvnia; just look for signs with exchange rates. US dollars and euro are the most widely accepted convertible currency at the exchange booths, with Russian rubles now in third place. Exchange booths, while looking rather unsavoury, are generally the best places to change money. Their rates tend to be better than the banks' (but not always) and you will not need your passport. Service is quick and there's often no paperwork or receipts. British pounds are also often exchangeable, though at poor rates. In tourist areas, a much wider range of currencies can be changed. Shop around as offered rates often vary.
Changing money in banks is time consuming—there is a lot of paperwork involved. Bank staff may be unwilling to go through all the procedures just to change your US$100 bill and may try to fob you off with an excuse: "sorry, we don't have the money" is common. If you absolutely must change money there, you might be able to persuade them to change their minds; but if you can go somewhere else, you'll probably save time. At a bank, you will also need to show your passport. Banks may also only let you buy hryvnia; they may prevent you from buying "hard" currency. At many places bank clerks would refuse money with even minor damages or grease spots. A tear in the paper longer than five millimetres can be too much.
Even at larger branches, you cannot expect English-speaking staff. Doing anything other than currency exchange may require a translator or at least a lot of patience.
Booths and banks will generally not try to scam you, but count your notes to be sure.
By law, all transactions are required to be in hryvnia, although less formal transactions may be in euros or US dollars.
If you want to buy any kind of artwork (paintings, Easter eggs) in Kyiv, the place to visit is Andriivskij Uzviz (Андріївський узвіз in Ukrainian, Андреевский спуск in Russian).
It is illegal to take out of the country any items of historical importance. These include badges, medals, icons, historical paintings, etc. If you need to carry such items, see Proof of what you already own and check procedures.
Tipping at restaurants isn't traditional in Ukraine but has become popular in the 2010s. About 5-7% is normal, but don't stress about the exact amount. Just rounding up is fine too.
Traditional Ukrainian cuisine is quite tasty, with similarities to Russian and other Eastern European and Central European cuisines. It uses a lot of fat ingredients, especially in festive dishes. Traditional dishes include "salo" (salted lard) and soups like "solianka" (солянка in Ukrainian, meat soup) or "borshch" (борщ in Ukrainian) a soup made of red beets. Western Ukraine also has a green version of borshch, with greens and boiled eggs. The first, salo, is perhaps something you might not make yourself try - however is a delicious side dish, as for the soups being a must-have dish.
If you are outside a big city or in doubt about food, exercise caution and common sense about where you buy food. Try to buy groceries only in supermarkets or large grocery stores, always check the expiration date, and never buy meat or dairy products on the street (you can buy them at the market but not near the market).
You may also find nice places to eat not by signs, but just by the smoke of traditional wood fires. These are often places where they serve traditional Ukrainian food, including very tasty shashlyky (шашлики in Ukrainian). Restaurateurs are very friendly, and, more often than not, you will be one of their first foreign visitors. Next to the "borshch", you might also ask for "varenyky" (вареники in Ukrainian, dumplings filled with berries, vegetables, fruits or mushrooms), "deruny" (деруни, potato pancakes), kholodets (холодець), holubtsi (голубці), kotleta po-kyivsky (котлета по-київськи). You have to try varenyky with potatoes and cottage cheese in a sautéed onion and sour cream sauce, a fantastic dish. These are just starters, but ones that might fill you up quickly.
Ukrainian desserts include medovyk (медовик), napoleon (наполеон) cakes and mlyntsi (млинці).
The Ukrainian specialty is horilka (горілка, similar to vodka) with pepper. Other kinds of vodka are also quite popular - linden (tilia), honey, birch, wheat. Prices range €1-20 for 1 L. Souvenir bottles are available for higher prices (some bottles reach upwards of €35 for 0.5 L). There is a great choice of wine, both domestic and imported. The domestic wines mostly originate in the south, although wines from the Carpathian region of Uzhorod are also quite tasty. Ukraine is also famous for its red sparkling wines. Prices for local wine range €2-35 per bottle of 0.75 L (avoid the cheapest wines, €1 or less, as these are sometimes bottled as house wines but sold as local vintages), however, one can find genuine Italian, French, Australian wines from €50 per bottle and more in big supermarkets and most restaurants. The price of imported wines dropped significantly over the last number of years and trends indicate further reductions in price.
There are a lot of other beverages too (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Ukrainian beer is of very good quality. Beer from barrels or kegs (more common in cafes) is often watered down. Canned beer is not very common in Ukraine and sometimes not of the same quality as the same variety sold in bottles. The best beers are brewed by Lvivske, Obolon and PPB (Persha Privatna Brovarnia). Imported beers are also widely available but more expensive – for instance, a bottle of Austrian Edelweiss can cost upwards of €2 while average price of Ukrainian beer is €0.50. All told, Ukrainian beers are very tasty and gaining popularity elsewhere in Europe.
Of non-alcoholic beverages, one should try kvas – a typically Ukrainian drink made of rye or wheat. In addition to supermarkets, during the summer one can easily buy it from designated street vendors. It’s better to buy it in bottles due of unknown cleanness of the barrel. Dairy drinks, of all sorts, are also available, although mostly in supermarkets. Bottles of mineral water are available everywhere, as well as lemonades, beer, and strong drinks. When seeking to buy bottled water make sure to ask for "voda bez hazu" (water without gas) otherwise you are likely to be handed the carbonated drink by default as preferred by most Ukrainians.
Never buy horilka or konjak (the local name for brandy) except from supermarkets or liquor stores as there are many fakes. Every year a few die or go blind as a result of poisoning from methyl alcohol, a compound used to make fake horilkas.
In Ukraine it's possible to buy alcohol produced in other former Soviet republics. The Moldavian and Armenian cognacs are quite good and not expensive. Georgian wines are quite unusual and fragrant, if overly sweet.
Hotels might be a traumatic experience for a westerner anywhere outside the biggest cities. The cheaper the hotel, the larger the chance of some quite unfortunate surprises, especially for those not familiar with the Soviet-style level of service which still remains in many places.
Hostel becoming more and more common in larger cities, especially the ones attracting many tourist. However, do not expect the usual clientèle as you would in countries where backpacking is more common. Hostels in Ukraine are often filled with single mums and kids, working people without apartment in the city, and other ominous but general unthreatening people, which make staying in a dorm an awkward experience.
There are many mid-range (€25-45) options outside Kyiv. For instance in Ivano-Frankivsk (near the Carpathians), the going rate is approximately €35 for a suite (bedroom and sitting room) in one such hotel. Many hotels have the choice between renovated rooms/suites ("western style") and not renovated rooms (East European style). The last choice is more than 50% cheaper and gives you a spacious old fashioned 2 room suite, basic but clean!
There are a number of 5-star hotels in Kyiv and one in Donetsk; see guides for those cities for listings. At one such hotel in Lviv, the going rate ranges from €40-60 a night.
Another option is to rent an apartment on the internet before you leave your country. There are many to choose from in Kyiv and Odessa.
What many people from ex-Soviet countries do is to go to the railway station, where they try to find people who are willing to rent a room. Prices are usually much cheaper and if there are enough people, offering the room you can make great deals. These deals are usually not legal and they will take you to a corner before negotiating. Make sure they have warm water, and don't be afraid to say it's not what you expected when seeing the room.
There are more than 75,000 foreign students across Ukrainian universities thanks to its much cheaper tuition and living costs compared to Europe or English-speaking countries, especially those studying medicine or dentistry. Bribery is however not unheard of, and you can even obtain a diploma here by having attended only twice (the first and last days of the term), if you have the money. That's hyperbole, of course, but in real life it is not much different. Of course if one wants to obtain good knowledge they will, but motivation in such a situation is low.
After graduation many students find work which is not concerned with their education, but this doesn’t mean that the educational system is bad. This happens because of economical instability. The educational system itself is comprehensive and competitive, and a lot of foreign students can be a confirmation of this fact (not only in the previously mentioned hyperbole).
Getting a work permit (visa) is a necessity for foreigners if they are going to be employed by any legal entity (exceptions apply only for international institutions and representative offices of foreign companies). The work permit is more of a hiring permit. The potential employer has to apply with the labour administration for hiring an non-resident employee. With the application a complete cv, as well as documents showing an accredited education, have to be submitted.
Get the details of your local embassy and/or consulates in advance and note their emergency numbers.
If you can it is useful to have a bilingual acquaintance who can be called in an emergency or if you encounter difficulties. If staying for any length of time, it is advisable to get a local SIM card for your mobile for emergencies and for cheaper local calls/texts. These are widely available, cheap (often free) and easy to 'top-up'.
Ukraine is certainly not one of the most friendliest former Soviet countries—quite the opposite of Uzbekistan for instance. The mood of locals swings like the weather, especially if you not firm with Russian or Ukrainian. That can make travelling around and gathering information quite depressing. So, it best to prepare for this situation and just ignore the bad mood. Language-wise, it is better to try and use a translator instead of using English straight away, especially with people above age 30.
Many people will tell you that you can take a copy of your visa with you. Sadly, some people experience trouble over this. It's always better to carry your passport with you. A photocopy can be refused as proof of identity. A phone call to a local who can help can prove very effective.
Emergency telephone numbers in Ukraine:
112 - common
101 - fire brigade
102 - police
103 - ambulance
104 - gas leaks
On 24 February 2022, Russia launched an invasion of Ukraine, from its own territory as well as from Belarus and Crimea. Martial law is in effect. Shelling and air strikes are not restricted to military targets. There have been missile strikes on cities all around the country, and deep Russian troop incursions have taken place along the northern, eastern, and southern borders. See War zone safety for some advice and follow local media for more specific directions. Leaving the country is still recommended, unless you have specific responsibilities and are ready to take the risks of the war.
For your safety, stay away from military facilities, infrastructure (transportation, power, what have you) and key government facilities. You are advised to grab the bag filled with necessities like durable food and clothes you have prepared and evacuate to your nearest civil defence shelter when you hear air raid sirens. In major cities like Kyiv, there may be red arrows marked with "Укриття", showing the direction of the nearest shelter. If you don't know where your nearest shelter is or if the nearest shelter is not operational, go to your nearest metro station.
Obey all curfew orders and movement restrictions. Don't wear camouflage patterned or otherwise military-like clothing to avoid any possibly-fatal misunderstanding.
Ukrainian males aged 18–60 are not allowed to leave, and are instead required to enlist in the military. There have also been cases of males of other nationalities being denied exit.
Scams, robbery and other crimes
As in any other country, using common sense when travelling in Ukraine will minimize any chances of being victim of petty crime and theft. Try not to publicize the fact that you're a foreigner or flaunt your wealth, through your choice of clothing or otherwise. With the exception of Kyiv, Odessa, and other large cities, Western tourists are still quite rare. As in any other country, the possibility of petty theft exists. In Kyiv, make sure to guard your bags and person because pickpocketing is very common, especially in crowded metro stations. Guides have told tourists to watch certain people because they heard people say: "They look like Americans: let's follow them for a while and see what we can get."
Robberies and scams on tourists are fairly common, especially the wallet scam in Kyiv.
But if you are arrested by police or other law enforcement, do your best to inform them that you're a foreign visitor. Not many police officials speak foreign languages freely, but many people are eager to assist in translation.
Don't drink alcohol in the company of unknown people (which may be suggested more freely than in the West). You don't know how much they are going to drink (and convince you to drink with them) and what conflicts may arise after that. Also, many Ukrainians, known for a penchant for a good drink, can sometimes consume such an amount of vodka that would be considered lethal for the average beer-accustomed Westerner.
Also, it is strongly recommended to avoid individual (street) currency exchangers as there are thieves among such exchangers, that may instead give you old, Soviet-era currency or also coupons that have been withdrawn from circulation since the mid 1990s. Use special exchange booths (widely available) and banks; also be wary of exchange rate tricks like 5.059/5.62 buy/sell instead of 5.59/5.62.
The area around the American embassy in Kyiv is known for the provocateur groups targeting black people, and there have been reports of such attacks on Andriyivski, the main tourist street that runs from Mykhailivska down into Podil. Particularly in rural areas, having dark skin is often a source of quiet curiosity from locals. Antisemitism is not any more of a problem than it is in Western European countries. Two Jewish mayors have been elected in Kherson and Vinnitsa, while a prime minister (Volodymyr Groysman, 2016-2019) and a president (Volodymyr Zelenskyy, elected 2019) have been of Jewish origin as well.
Russophobia is on the rise as a result of the Russian annexation of Crimea in 2014, its support to separatists, and the full-scale invasion in 2022. Russian citizens may encounter hostility.
Anecdotal experience suggests that in Ukraine, indeed much of the former Soviet Union, people from the Caucasus, the Middle East and Central Asia and Romani/Sinti people receive much closer and more frequent attention from the police. Always have your passport (or a photocopy of the main pages if you're concerned about losing it or if you're staying in a hotel that is holding it) as foreigners are treated more favorably than others. This is not to say that it is unsafe or threatening, but it is better to be forewarned of the realities.
While there's a lot of swimming and diving attractions throughout Ukraine, local water rescue is tremendously underfunded. It is unlikely that you would be noticed while drowning, especially in a river. Use only officially established beaches.
Ukraine has some of the worst statistics for road related deaths and injuries in the world so act accordingly. Take care when crossing the roads; walk and drive defensively: traffic overtakes on both the inside and outside. Sometimes you even need to take care when using the footpaths, as in rush-hours the black, slab-sided Audi/BMW/Mercedes sometimes opt to avoid the traffic by using the wide pavements; pedestrians or not. Owners/drivers of expensive cars have been known, at times, to be more careless of the safety of pedestrians. Drivers rarely grant priority to pedestrians crossing a road unless there are pedestrian lights. Always watch out for your safety.
Pavements suffer in the same way as the roads in terms of collapsing infrastructure. Take care when walking, especially in the dark and away from the downtown areas of the main cities (a torch is a useful possession) as the streets are poorly lit, as are most of the entries and stairwells to buildings, and the street and pavement surfaces are often dangerously pot-holed. Don't step on man-hole covers, as these can 'tip' dropping your leg into the hole with all the potential injuries!
It is illegal to drink alcohol in public places in Ukraine. Despite the prohibition you can see some local citizens doing that, but don’t be misled. These are bad examples. Local policemen can insist on a bribe if they see a foreigner breaking the prohibition. So be wise and avoid unnecessary problems.
The display of Soviet or communist symbols is illegal in Ukraine, the exception being those located within the grounds of World War II cemeteries.
As a rule, avoid drinking tap water. The major reason for this is that water in many regions is disinfected using chlorine, so taste is horrible. Whenever possible buy bottled water, which is widely available and generally OK.
Ukraine has the highest adult HIV prevalence rate in Europe at nearly 1.5%. Rabies is on the rise, especially in the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone. Vaccinations against hepatitis A + B, rabies, meningitis, MMR, tetanus, diphtheria and polio, chickenpox, shingles, tick-borne encephalitis, typhoid, pneumonia and influenza are recommended by the British National Health Service.
There is radiation contamination in the northeast from the accident at Chernobyl nuclear power plant in 1986. However the effect is negligible unless you permanently live in Chernobyl area itself. There are even tours to the town of Pripyat' which is the closest to the station. The town is famous for the haunting scenery of blocks of apartment buildings abandoned in 1986, now standing out amid the vegetation which spawned from years of neglect.
Although Ukraine is one of the few states that has historically had a relationship with Russia, and continues to have a large ethnic Russian minority, do not confuse Ukrainians as Russians. Ukrainians are a separate group in their own right, and may be offended if you confuse them for something else. Also never refer to the Ukrainian language as a dialect of Russian, as that is highly offensive to Ukrainians.
Don't refer the country as "the Ukraine", as the usage of the term is not only outdated, but also viewed as a denial of Ukraine's independence and sovereignty. Additionally, when speaking in English, Ukrainians appreciate it when visitors use the Ukrainian versions of place names instead of the Russian ones; for example "Kyiv" instead of "Kiev", "Kharkiv" instead of "Kharkov", "Chernihiv" instead of "Chernigov", etc. Using the Russian names may be taken to mean that you support the Russian invasion. Similarly, you should always refer to the Dnieper River as the "Dnipro River" whenever you are in Ukraine, as the former was derived from its Russian name.
Women are traditionally treated with chivalry. Female travellers should not be surprised or alarmed if their male Ukrainian friends take the initiative to pay the bills at a restaurant, open every door in front of them, and/or help them carry items or objects. Male travellers should understand that these nuances will be expected by Ukrainian women, even if you're not in a romantic relationship.
Ukraine is by no means a conservative country with respect to clothing or behavior. However, stances on homosexuality verge from conservative to outright hostile.
As in many places around the former Soviet Union, smiling is reserved for friends and close relationships. This can cause foreigners to think that Ukrainians are cold and unwelcoming, but it should be understood that smiling at someone you're not close to is considered insincere behaviour; it could get someone to think that you're ridiculing or mocking them.
Ukrainians are generally reserved and take time to gradually open up to people. Don't be put off if people deliver brief, terse answers at first — This is not to indicate disinterest. By gradually gaining the trust and companionship of Ukrainians, they will gradually warm up to you.
Show respect when discussing the Soviet Union and the Holodomor (a 1930s famine caused by Soviet policies) – they're incredibly sensitive, emotional subjects which many locals have strong views on. Referring to World War II as the "Great Patriotic War", as it is referred to in Russia, is illegal in Ukraine. Some Ukrainians do consider the Soviet period as a time of economic and political stability. Historiographical disputes between Russia and Ukraine are also a sensitive issue, and Ukrainians often accuse Russians of appropriating their history (due to the Russian claim of their origin in Kievan Rus).
Be very cautious when talking about Russia, Crimea and the separatist regimes in Donbass. While relations between Russia and Ukraine, and Russians and Ukrainians, traditionally have been close and friendly, the Russia-Ukraine relationship nosedived sharply after the Euromaidan Revolution, but the full-scale Russian invasion was still a shock. Bitterness, anger and hostility towards Russia are common among Ukrainians since the invasion of 2022 (and among some since the war started in 2014). These feelings are shared also by many ethnic Russians, who in many cases are among those hardest hit.
Still, many Ukrainians have friends and family in Russia, and there may be different opinions on how Ukraine's leadership has handled the situation, and to what extent they see the attack as an attack by Russia or an attack by Vladimir Putin. There are no "safe middle ground" positions in anything concerning Russia.
Amongst Crimean Tatar neighbourhoods or communities in Crimea, Kherson oblast, or in major Ukrainian cities, it is not a good idea to make any mentions to Soviet rule or Stalin; many Crimean Tatar families were broken up, deported to Central Asia, or murdered during Stalin's deportations of the Crimean Tatars and this remains a very sensitive issue for Crimean Tatars and their communities, and one that is highly emotional.
Ukrtelekom is the main telecom operator. The country code for Ukraine is 380.
The biggest mobile phone operators Kyivstar, Vodafone (formerly MTS), Lifecell.
Mobile GPRS access is available in vast majority of Ukraine's territory. 4G mobile access is steadily developing and is available now in all major cities. Public Wi-Fi hotspots are widespread throughout cities. There are plans and projects for providing mass wireless broadband access in urban open spaces, on Ukrzaliznytsia long-distance trains and in urban public transport vehicles.
When entering the country by air through Kyiv airport, it may be recommendable to pick up a SIM card directly at the airport at the kiosks next to the currency exchange office. A Vodafone SIM with unlimited data for duration of one month costs 250 грн as of 2019. It's only possible to pay cash, so get cash from the ATMs right across first before attempting to purchase a SIM.
Starting from February 2022, the Internet and mobile service have become unstable due to the Russian invasion.
Blocking of Russian internet services
Russian internet services are often blocked due to sanctions against them from a side of Ukrainian government since 2017. Blocking could be easily obfuscated through build in proxy in browsers or by a VPNs or by TOR. Some ISPs doesn't block these services either, mostly in Russian-speaking areas. Locals obviously knows how to connect through that blocking, ask them for advice. You can find a full list of blocked sites here.