Entering or leaving Ukraine
Almost all international flights to Kyiv arrive to BorispolInternational Airport, located 40 kilometers from the city center. The city's other main airport Zhuliany-Kyiv, located 7 kilometers from the center, handles domestic flights. The most convenient way to get to central Kyiv from Borispol airport is by taxi (~30$) or shuttle bus (~2$). Taking into account the fact that taxi drivers do not usually speak English, you should have your destination written on paper in Russian or Ukrainian. There are also shuttle buses connecting Borispol airport to central Kyiv. If you decide to travel by bus, "Polit" express buses will drop you at Kiev's main railway station in about 1 hour. The ticket costs UAH 10 (~2$). If you are going to move to "Zhuliany" airport afterwards to travel to other cities of Ukraine, mind that due to delays you can loose your flight! Allow minimal difference 4 hours between the flights. Also take into account traffic jams, which might happen.
Electricity:220V, 50Hz. Adaptor with round plugs is necessary if your appliances are for US/Canada electric net.
Weights & measures:Metric
EventsUkrainians place gifts under fir trees and sing holiday songs for New Year's Day. The country celebrates Orthodox Christmas Day on 7 January. Paskha (Easter) is the main festival of the Orthodox Church year, beginning with midnight services and continuing with parades around village churches throughout the country. The capital celebrates spring during Kiev Days, held the last weekend in May. Cities and towns honor Independence Day on 24 August with performances and special events.
MoneyThe official monetary unit in Ukraine today is the HRYVNIA. 1 hrivnya is worth 100 kopecks. Banknotes come in 1, 2, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 200 denominations. ATMs (bankomats) are plentiful. Rate of exchange is about 5.3 hryvnia (plural - hryvni) to US$1.00 (see the right top corner of window). Under the latest regulations, most stores can no longer accept foreign currency for purchases. Exchange kiosks are plentiful in all larger towns and cities and in all hotels. If traveling into the countryside, exchange dollars prior to leaving the city. Travelers checks are very rarely accepted, however credit cards can be used at larger hotels, stores and restaurants. USA dollars and Euros are the most readily accepted western currencies. Be certain to have plenty of small denominations on hand. Bring cash that is clean (UNMARKED and NOT TORN) and issued after 1995.
Downtown you will find ATMs at every building, shop, department store, hotel, etc. Please note that you will receive money in UAH currency according to the National Bank of Ukraine Rate. But we were eyewitnesses of situations when the machine could not process the request, but the money requested disappeared from the card-holder's account. To avoid this, please keep all receipts from the ATMs with you; if the withdrawal was "unsuccessful" you can present the check at your bank branch and after a request to the Ukrainian bank the money will be returned to your account. Ukrainian banks explain the reason as interruption of Internet connection between an ATM and the account at your bank. Please mind that via ATMs you are not able to take more than US$ 200 of cash per day from your account.
If you want to avoid any risk, go to any bank branch and withdraw the money from your account right there. You will pay 6% for the operation, but it's worth it. All you need is the ATM card and your passport.
The most service-oriented banks for today are AVAL, PRAVEXBANK and PRIVATBANK.
Currency can be exchanged at airports, banks, hotels and exchange offices. You will find exchange booths at almost every shop, supermarket and department store and just along the street.
You will be able to pay by credit card in restaurants, hotels and many shops. Be sure to bring your Visa and Master Cards, as American Express is not accepted in ATMs around Ukraine.
Western Union branches are scattered around the city in banks, railway/ bus stations, department stores, etc.
LanguageA few young Kievites have a healthy command of English. The most spoken language in Kiev is Russian. These phrases will help you if you get lost and are loking for help. The main stress of a word is shown by ' preceding the relevant syllable.
(pri 'viet) - Hi (informal)
(pa 'ka) - Bye (informal)
('Do briy den) - Good afternoon
(da) - yes
(nyet) - no
(pa 'zha lusta) - please/ you are welcome
(izvi 'ni te) - Sorry, Excuse me
(Ya Ti 'bya lublyu) - I love you
('vashi bi 'lye ty) - your tickets
('Gdye my?) - Where are we?
('Gdye tua'lyety?) - Where is a WC?
(Vy gava'rite pa an'gliski?) - Do you speak English?
(Ya ni gava'ryu pa'ruski) - I do not speak Russian
(Pa 'zhalusta napi 'shite) - Please, write it down
(Ma 'gu ya zdes ku 'rit'?) - Can I smoke here"?
(Adin) - 1
(Dva) - 2
(Tri) - 3
(Che 'tyre) - 4
('Pyat') - 5
(Shest') - 6
(Sem') - 7
('Vosem') - 8
('Devyat') - 9
('Desyat') - 10
ClimateAverage Temperatures in Kiev
from - 8o to +2o C
(17.6o to 35.6o F)
from + 17o to + 25o C
(62.6 to 77o F)
The air in Kiev is very humid, so, sometimes in winter it can feel - 15o C when it is actually + 3o C. In summer you might also feel like taking a shower very often. In autumn and from Feb to Apr an umbrella will not be useless.
GeographyArea 827 square kilometers and expanding. Now country towns are being annexed to the capital.
PopulationThe 2002 census estimated the population at 2,600,000. Kiev is a mixture of various ethnic communities: Ukrainians, Russians and Jewish are the three major ones. However, you will also find representatives from all CIS countries or will hear pure English in the city center - they are businessmen and travellers from European and American states.
Local timeThe time in Ukraine is set 2 hours ahead of GMT (3 hours ahead during day-light time). When it is 12:00 in Kiev it is 11:00 in Warsaw and Berlin, 10:00 in London and 5:00 in New York. Clocks go forward one hour on the last Sunday in March (Mar 31, 2002) and one hour back on the last Sunday of October (Oct, 27, 2002).
Floor designationsUkrainian floor numbering follows the standard American thinking. The ground floor is the first floor, etc. The next floor up is the second floor and so on:
ReligionUkraine is a mostly Orthodox Country. You will enjoy Ukrainian churches; some of which were built almost a thousand years ago. Kiev-Pechersk Monastery is a complex where many religious people gather to celebrate religious holidays. Catholics will find St. Alexander's Cathedral along Kostyolna Street next to Independence Square. The Kiev Central Synagogue on Shota Rustavely Street represents the Jewish community.
Protestant, Muslim, Buddhist and Hindu communities are represented by their churches, worshipping centers, mosques and temples.
SafetyVery often you can read myths on various web-pages about bloodthirsty mafia, scary policemen, harassments and crimes in Kiev - things that rarely happened even in 90's. Ukraine is different from Russia police and nobody is going to check your documents on the streets or search your bags and pockets. Kiev is 5 times safer than Moscow and 17 times safer than New York. Kreschatik Street is a nice place where the whirl of life does not disappear before midnight. Simply use your common sense - do not flash your thick wallet of cash sticking out of the back pocket of your jeans.
HealthLevels of radiation in food items are no longer of any known medical significance. DO NOT DRINK tap water. Also avoid iced drinks. We recommend you purchase and drink bottled water only. Montezuma's revenge can strike even in Ukraine. SMOKING is banned by authorities in restaurants, rail dining cars and on domestic flights shorter than 5 hrs.
WaterIt is recommended that you boil and settle tap water prior to drinking it. Tap water in Kiev is not healthy for drinking. Also Ukraine uses chlorine and aluminum to kill bacteria. Bottled water is easy to find in supermarkets. The water supply, especially hot water, can be shut off for as long as 1 week in the summer for cleaning the pipes. Usually apartments have autonomous system for heating water.
RadiationThe U.S. Embassy and other official bodies consider radiation levels in Kiev safe and normal.
FoodIt is not necessary to bring food with you to Kiev. You can buy everything here now (including Western products).
DiningKiev's restaurant scene is an unpredictable combination of extremes. All varieties of cuisine can be found, service can range from sycophantic to menacing and decor swings from conservative to surreal. No need to arrive with your own caravan complete with fridge and a stove in it.
Fast food restaurants, such as McDonald's, are proliferating throughout Kiev.
Tips at Ukrainian restaurants can depend on your satisfaction with the service, but average around 10%.
TippingFor individual travelers, tipping in Ukraine is becoming customary along the same levels as in the USA but, of course, based on Ukrainian currency.
Shopping:Souvenir items to purchase range from vodka and champagne to embroidery, lace, hand-painted lacquered boxes (Palekh), wooden nested dolls, wooden spoons/bowls and carvings, perfumes, amber, kilims, stamps and books. Some bargaining is expected at outdoor bazaars and when purchasing from artisans, but not in stores with set prices. IF BUYING: Gold, antiques, coral, icons, furs and caviar, valuable paintings, you will need a special document from the local authorities to avoid any problems with customs when leaving Ukraine.
TaxisTaxis can be ordered from your apartment (hotel). However, private cars and taxis swarm the city streets, so getting a ride is not a problem. To hail a car simply put out your hand to flag down a ride, and a car will stop. Private cars (locals who have cars and on occasion act as a taxi) cost significantly less than taxis. Be wary of getting into a private car with more than one person already inside. Although this is the most common way of getting a ride (besides public transportation), one should be cautious and careful. Most drivers do not follow many traffic laws and usually do not speak English. Negotiate and agree on a price beforehand.
MetroKyiv boasts a very common, safe and inexpensive metro system. Tokens may be purchased at any metro station. One token costs approximately 50 kopecks, and monthly passes cost 19 hryvnya. One token allows transfer from line to line.
TrolleysTrolleys and buses tend to be crammed with people but are a good and cheap way to travel around Kyiv. Tickets can be purchased at bus stops or from a trolley/bus operator. If the ticket is not punched while in transit and a person is caught, the fine is about 10 hryvnyas. One ticket costs 50 kopecks.
BusesAre always dirty and overcrowded, but there's no better way to mingle with the locals than on a bumpy, overheated ride through the countryside. One ticket costs 50 kopecks.
TrainsGetting between major Ukrainian cities is best done by train. They're frequent, cheap and often a convenient night's journey. If you want to save a few gryvnia and don't mind the extra time, buses serve almost every city and small town; they're best for short trips outside main cities not served by trains. Kyiv is connected to European and Asian cities by an extensive network of railways. The capital's only station is located in the center of the city, next to the Vokzalna metro station. You will arrive to the main Kiev station, which was totally reconstructed in 2001. You will find everything you need there - from Internet and cafes to such services as a luggage room and showers. Train travel is the least expensive and most convenient way to reach just about any city! Prices are higher for foreigners, and the rate usually includes a per-ticket commission. Trains run daily to Moscow, Budapest, Odessa, Lviv and St. Petersburg. There are three comfort classes for long-distance train travel: luxury-soft with two pullout beds for more space, coupe-soft with four beds, and platskart with six beds per compartment. However, electric commuter trains, called elektropotyahy or elektrychky, are usually only outfitted with hard wooden benches and no amenities. They are generally very crowded, especially on the weekends and in the summer, when people travel to their summer homes. For more comfort and privacy, it is recommended to buy out all of the tickets for a compartment. This is a good idea for women and anyone traveling alone who does not feel safe sharing a compartment with other people. It is always a good idea to bring a personal supply of toilet paper, soap, food and drink. Also, in order to secure baggage, a simple bike lock can insure against theft, and a bungee cord can be used to keep the door closed. It is suggested to bring a travel belt to keep valuables and money close to oneself.
PlanesAll flights inside the country are carried out from airport Zhuljany. In attempt to boost the stagnant domestic air transportation industry the authorities significantly reduced air tickets prices recently. For example, you can fly to Simferopol for 250 UAH, to Lviv - for 200 UAH, to Dnipropetrovsk and Donetsk - for 220 UAH. It can be very convenient and time saving. The international flights are carried out from the airport Borispol.
TelephoneIn Kiev. Kiev telephone numbers consist of 7 digits. The Kiev area code (if you make a call on Ukrainian territory) - 044. Ukraine code - 380. If you call to Kiev from abroad, dial 380 44 and the telephone number.
If you stay in a hotel, you will pay for your calls separately, depending on the hotel's policy. In apartments, all local calls are included in your payment. Also, you can use public telephones located all over the city. You need a card, which you can buy at any post office (UAH 5.4 for 90 minutes). The longer the distance, the faster the card expires
Intercity and international calls. Dial 8, wait for a second dial tone and then dial the city code and subscriber's number. The city code and telephone number together should consist of 10 digits.
If you call abroad, dial 8 - dial tone - 10 - country code - city code and number. Long distance phone services in Ukraine are operated by 'Utel". The rates for calls to Europe are about $0.60 - $1.50 per minute. Calls to the USA are about $1.80 per minute.
These calls are included into your payment neither at hotels nor at apartments. In some apartments, international access is blocked. You can call from any post office for the abovementioned price or buy a card, which works according to 'Internet-telephony' principles - it will cost you 2 to 5 times less!!
Mobile operators. Ukrainian mobile operators support the GSM standard. Most likely, your American telephone will become a useless toy in Kiev. You can buy a new one and use a prepaid-card. The start package costs UAH160 in most companies. Europeans can use their telephones, having bought the start package.
Callback. The 'Telegroup' company will assist you in calls abroad that will be billed to your partners and relatives. Call their English-speaking operator at 562 4796.
Internet CafesYou will be informed about the nearest Internet cafes on your arrival if you use our services.
There are many Internet cafes all around the city. Many of them are open round-the-clock and will cost you from UAH 5 to 10 per hour.
The Central Post Office (Independence Sq.) will offer you their Internet services for UAH 10 per hour and is open around the clock (the door to the right from the main entrance; correspondence department, second floor).
'Pentagon' at the fast food restaurant 'Shelter' (15 Kreschatik Str.), Cinema Hall 'Kiev' at Tolstoy Square.
Doing Business in Ukraine tipsGiven the fact that "business" in a Western sense is something new to the current generation of Ukrainians, it is difficult to generalize as to proper protocol and customs for doing business in Ukraine. The legacy of centralized authority extending back for centuries, bureaucracy, red tape, and an unwillingness to take initiative have been imprinted on the developing Ukrainian business psyche. Signatures, proper letterhead, stamps of authenticity, and forms (in triplicate) are very important to "getting the job done" in Ukraine -- a process which can exercise the most experienced international businessperson. For example, a letter authorizing Mr. X to do Y will sometimes be rejected because it does not have "the proper stamp." Foreign companies will often stamp a document in English with an "official" seal, show the stamp to a customs officer or other bureaucrat (who likely cannot read English anyway), finding that this strategy is often successful. Due to the general lack of knowledge about international business practices and terminology exhibited by most Ukrainians, it is important to take an educating role in business negotiations. Ukrainians can be shrewd and tough negotiators. It is important to be very responsive to one's negotiating partner, even regarding seemingly mindless issues. The form of business in Ukraine often takes precedence over the substance, making a U.S. partner's approach all the more important. As noted above, given the absence of a strong, transparent legal infrastructure, your deal may in the end depend on the trust you have painstakingly built over many months or years. As Ukrainians are deeply personal, an extraordinary emphasis is placed on cementing personal relationships before doing business.
Dating tips.Bring flowers. Flowers play a much more important role in Ukraine than they do in the West. A single rose is appropriate for a first date. If you meet your lady's family, be sure to bring flowers to her mother. Always buy an odd number of flowers--even numbers are considered bad luck. Also, never buy yellow roses (can signal a decrease in feelings or the end of a relationship).
Dress your best. Ukrainian citizens do not share the altruistic "looks aren't important" mentality that has spread through the West. First impressions are very important to them. You will notice that on the street, people will look first at your clothes, then at your face.
Don't try to shake hands. Women in Ukraine do not consider it feminine to shake hands when they meet. Also, in the winter, make sure you take off your right glove before you shake hands with a man. To fail to do so is considered rude.
Offer your lady your arm. Usually, men and women do not hold hands in Ukraine when they walk together. Instead, the woman takes the man's arm. Be sure you always offer your arm to your lady when you cross the street. Help your lady onto/off of vehicles. Many Westerners are not accustomed to using public transportation systems and forget this courtesy. When the two of you get onto or off of buses, trams, taxis, etc., always extend your hand to help your lady.
Always do the pouring. When at dinner or at a bar, always make sure that your lady's glass is full. The man always does the pouring. This is an old custom but very deeply ingrained. If you forget to do this, she may think you have no table manners.
Don't drink much alcohol. One of the main reasons Ukrainian ladies are interested in Western men is that alcoholism runs as much as 50% among males in this part of the world, which causes them to be less than desirable husbands. Therefore, when it comes to drinking, you should always show moderation and self-control.
Take off your shoes in her home. To avoid bringing dirt into their homes, Ukrainian citizens almost never wear their shoes inside. Instead, they wear slippers. They usually have an extra pair or two for guests near the front door. If they don't, simply take off your shoes and remain in your stocking feet (Note: because of this custom, you might want to pay careful attention to the socks you choose to wear!).