Top Ten Practical Tips for Traveling in Ukraine
Researching a travel destination, especially one as eclectic and inspiring as Ukraine, can set an imagination ablaze, but what about practical travel tips for this emerging travel destination? Sometimes, a set of practical tips are just as useful as a map or a travel website. Take a look at our Top Ten Practical Tips for Traveling in Ukraine.
Mushrooms and berries are staples of Ukrainian meals, yet, both tend to absorb radiation more than other foods since the Chernobyl disaster. Most mushrooms sold in restaurants are not grown locally, but home-grown berries sold from street vendors are best avoided.
Coffee lovers may shriek with anxiety when traveling in Ukraine. Instant coffee, a throwback from the Soviet system, is largely the brew of choice, though caffeine entrepreneurs have discovered that many travelers and some Ukrainians have palettes rich in lattes. If you are in Odessa, go to Klara Bara; if you are in Kiev, check out Kaffa; and if you are traveling in Sevastopol, go to the Hotel Ukraine for your caffeine hit.
Kiev is considered a con artist’s paradise by some and foreigners are an easy mark. If a “transport inspector” asks to see an ID, ask for your own proof of identification otherwise you may be “fined” for not having the “right” ticket. Pickpockets are considered by some to be an effort at full employment, so watch your wallet, too!
Kiev may be a bustling cosmopolitan area, but people still sometimes drive on the pavements to get around a car. Watch the traffic. Learn to hold your place in queues too, as locals, after years of waiting in grocery lines only to discover that no food remained, can be a bit pushy. Hold your ground.
Don’t ignore the Ukrainian babushkas that wander the streets of major cities. Many are self-taught homeopaths and true believers in herbal remedies to cure what may ail you. Wormwood is a particular favorite, purported to ease toothaches, coughs, fever, kidney and liver distress, and even memory.
Ukrainians are superstitious, and while it may be tempting to sit down on steps or walls to rest your body, don’t be surprised as a woman if someone admonishes you in Ukrainian. Women sitting on concrete risk freezing their ovaries which will make them unable to bear children.
If you are lucky enough to be invited to a Ukrainian family’s house, to better cement relations between your respective cultures, remember these tried and true tips: bring a small gift to your host; inform your host if there is something you cannot eat to avoid offense and only refuse an alcoholic drink for health reasons; take off your shoes when entering a home and don’t shake hands across the threshold as this is bad luck. Finally, if you are not much of a drinker, don’t try and keep up with your hosts. Ukrainians are experts in toast-making and vodka consumption.
If you are traveling by train between western and southern Ukraine, you might be traveling through Moldovia, in which case you need a visa. To avoid being tossed off a train en route, ask the person selling you your ticket or ask someone to ask for you if the train goes through Moldovia.
Hiking in Crimea is better accomplished with a guide. With a lack of English maps or English signs, a guide is imperative.
Perhaps the most important tip we can impart to you as you begin your Ukrainian journey is slow down. Don’t rush through cities or landscapes, don’t try and “do Ukraine” in a week. Ukrainians are welcoming and friendly people and to rush through your itinerary means that you miss the best part the country has to offer.