Ukraine: Europe’s best kept secret for affordable travel

Increased tourism tax is always a bad thing for travelers, right? Not when it’s in Ukraine, where the starting rates for travelers are some of the lowest in Europe.

Recently Kyiv city authorities announced an an increase in tourism taxes (hotels, etc.) and this news spotlighted two things: 1) how inexpensive it really is to visit Ukraine and 2) how few people probably know this. Oh, three things: 3) how great a tourist destination Ukraine really is!

But is it really that much of a deal compared to other European countries?

What’s the bottom line?

THE FACTS:

  • GOING OUT: Going out to eat and drink in Ukraine will make you feel like royalty. Even in Hungary and the Czech Republic, Ukraine’s close neighbors, eating out will cost you a whopping  nearly 75% – 80% (respectively) more than in Ukraine. But in Western European the gap  explodes to anywhere from 3 to 4 times more than in Ukraine! Beer in Ukraine is nearly 800% cheaper than in France, even though you can enjoy all the same brands, as well as some excellent local brews, and even some up and coming homegrown micro-brews. Also in the last 5 years hipster coffee shops and cafes have popped up all over Ukraine (especially check out the Podil district in Kyiv). But a great cup of coffee will still come in at a bargain compared to other popular tourist sites in the world, anywhere from 100 – 300% cheaper!
  • GETTING AROUND: Public transport in Ukraine cost just a little over $5 – A MONTH! This is a steal compared to almost every other European country; almost 500% cheaper than Spain, for example. And besides being inexpensive, anyone who has ever smelled – I mean ridden in – the New York subway, you will be impressed with the cleanliness of the glistening Kyiv subway system (complete with marble statues and gorgeous tile mosaics). The trains are punctual with rarely any delays. The wagons are clean and well maintained and people for the most part are civil, (although more aggressive than most westerners will be used to). Also due to the sheer numbers of commuters, rush hours are best to be avoided by tourists.  Uber has hit Kyiv as a great option for tourists for traveling within the city. Many drivers speak English and the costs vary from around $5-10 for within the city. Blah Blah Car and new high-speed inter-city trains are great for exploring outside the capitol, and it’s all online (in English).
  • WHERE TO STAY: Vacation housing is all over the board in Ukraine – in a good way. Everything from a room in a hostel for less than $10 to an entire luxury apartment in an ideal location for as little as $40 – $50. Although 5 star hotels will, of course, cost more (base price of $100 – $200) those prices still come in as much as 4 times lower than their comparative counterparts  in Western European nations (even for the exact same hotel chains!). Airbnb has many locations in Ukraine but there are also many similar local short term apartment rental companies with listings online (again, of course, in English).
  • WHAT TO DO: Entertainment and sports events in Ukraine will cost you 4 times less than in the UK, and an average of 3 times less than the rest of Europe. And with varied landscapes of mountains, forests, rivers and scenic plains all dotted with fairy-tale looking gold-domed “palaces” (actually Orthodox churches) as well as ancient real-life castles to be explored, Ukraine has a tourist destination for any taste. 5 star hotels, international shopping brands and up-scale restaurants can be found in Kyiv, the nation’s capitol. Quaint, folksy cobble-stoned streets lined with coffee shops and bakeries are also there, and even more so in other cities, such as “the Paris of the East”, L’viv. History and culture abound with world-renowned ballet companies and architecturally stunning opera houses and museums. Concerts featuring internationally famous names and sporting events with the world’s top teams are held in state-of-the-art venues.

What does this mean to you personally? 

  • When considering Ukraine as a vacation destination, there really is something for everyone, at a fraction of the cost compared to the rest of Europe.
  • Ukraine is not for the faint of heart. If you want Disneyland, go there. But neither is it Siberia and the Gulag. Ukraine, and especially the capitol – Kyiv, or the western border jewel, L’viv – are modern, thriving cities that are unique from much of the rest of Europe and yet affordable.
  • Finally, lest we ignore the ‘elephant in the room’, LonelyPlanet had this commentary for travelers to Ukraine regarding the conflict with Russia:  “Ukraine remains a rather safe European destination, unless you venture into the war zone, which accounts for a tiny part of the country’s territory in the Far East…and has little direct impact on the rest of the country.”

So if you read the recent story about an increase in tourism tax in Ukraine, we wanted to give you the whole picture. And if you’re planning travel to Ukraine – go for it! Get the facts. Get to the bottom line.