How to have a safe (and adventurous!) Vacation in Ukraine
A trip to Ukraine can be absolutely safe for travelers, and you can also see some pretty amazing sights during your stay.
When many people think of Ukraine, they may think of it as a poor, corrupt or war-torn country. But Ukraine is a great and safe destination with many hidden gems. Ukraine offers cities like Lviv and Kiev – cities with some of the most beautiful architecture in Europe – and Kiev, some of the most extreme nightlife. Ukraine offers everything from ancient cities to the breathtaking Carpathian mountains to the radioactive site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster.
- Visa: Visa-free for 90 days for all western countries
- When should we go: End of spring, summer
- Cash: Ukrainian hryvnia
Kiev (also spelled Kiev) is the capital and largest city of Ukraine and it is a center for those looking for a wild nightlife or to see the best of ancient architecture from the Far East. Kiev is believed to have been founded around AD 482. Later it was taken over by the Vikings as they traded along the Dnieper River and they founded the powerful state of Kievan Rus centered on this city. Kiev has spent much of its history as one of the most important cities of the Russian Empire.
Make: Take a free walking tour of the city
Today, as you explore Kiev, you will see many great Eastern Orthodox churches and cathedrals and a lot of architecture from the days of the Russian Empire.
Fun fact: You can buy beer at McDonald’s and KFC in Ukraine
Warning: Do not visit the southeastern cities of Donetsk and Luhansk – they are the site of an ongoing separatist war
Lviv is a Ukrainian city in the far west of the country. The old town of Lviv is small, you will only need a day or two to explore it. Unlike most of Ukraine which was part of the Russian Empire, Lviv before WWI was part of the Austro-Hungarian Empire, so the ancient architecture here is more similar to that of Europe central like Poland or Austria.
Make: Discover quirky bars and pubs and take a free walking tour
There are some great bars and pubs in this town. One of the most trippy places to visit is “Lviv Coffee Manufacture”. Here you can see that the coffee is not grown in countries like Ghana, but rather its “extraction” under the city of Lviv. You can see all of their mining gear bringing coffee from the basement. If you want to see it with your own eyes, you can go underground in the “mines”. You have to don a miner’s helmet and then you can see them “extract” the coffee. Then, enjoy a coffee or a hard drink in the underground “mines”.
There are many other quirky bars and pubs in this town. One of which is not announced, you have to knock on the door, a “soldier” opens and asks you for the password. The password is “Slava Ukraini! Heroiam slava!” – “Glory to Ukraine, glory to heroes!”
Romania is famous for its Carpathian Mountains – the mystical homeland of Count Dracula. But the Carpathians also extend to the west of Ukraine. Here you can see the western part of these stunning European mountain ranges and explore the many forts and castles nestled in these mountains.
Some advantages of exploring the Ukrainian Carpathians are that they are cheaper and less touristy than those in Romania.
Visit: Shenborn Palace in Trans-Carpathia (Superb Hunting Lodge)
Maybe you watched the HBO miniseries “Cherynobol”. Well, you can visit this site in Ukraine if you want (if you want to visit the place where the series was filmed, it is Vilnius in Lithuania). You can see how this abandoned city has been taken over by forests and wildlife over the past 35 years. Radiation exposure during a short visit is nothing to worry about. This site is not far from Kiev and is very close to the Belarusian border.
To consider: Book a visit to Chernobyl
Another popular Ukrainian city to visit is the southern city of Odessa. This city is located on the southern coast of Ukraine on the Black Sea. It is one of the favorite destinations for Ukrainians and international visitors. Be sure to visit during the summer, it will be cold during the winter!
In the past, we would have recommended visiting the breathtaking Crimean Peninsula. But since 2014, it has been controlled and annexed by Russia. It is now very difficult to visit Crimea from Ukraine. There is no problem visiting it from Russia. However, if you visit it from Russia, you will be refused further entry into Ukraine, as Ukraine will have considered that you entered the territory illegally.
Heads up: Visa and Mastercard do not work in Crimea due to US sanctions against annexation of Crimea
It is possible to cross “legally” into Crimea if you get special permission from Ukraine, but you will still need a Russian visa for the other side. It was one of the most beautiful destinations in Ukraine and has long been the summer vacation destination for Ukrainians and Russians.
In short, Ukraine is a beautiful and adventure-filled destination. It’s safe and it’s cheap.
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