Ukraine

Quick question. Name Europe’s second largest country… Stumped? Here are a few hints - think Mediterranean-esque coastlines, soaring mountain ranges, architectural outposts aplenty and a capital city that's often referred to as the Mother of Slavic cities. Given up? That’s okay – a warm welcome is on the cards for those who escape the glare of Ukraine’s flashier European neighbours, and discover a nation that’s quirky, cultured and full of life.

Ukraine Tours & Travel

All our Ukraine trips

St Petersburg to Budapest

16 days from
USD $3,455
CAD $3,565
AUD $3,495
EUR €2,395
GBP £2,020
NZD $3,890
ZAR R34,985
CHF FR2,895

Jump aboard this amazing tour of Eastern Europe. Travel from St Petersburg to Budapest via Moscow, Novgorod, Kyiv,...

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St Petersburg to Istanbul

32 days from
USD $5,925
CAD $6,115
AUD $5,995
EUR €4,125
GBP £3,465
NZD $6,675
ZAR R60,010
CHF FR4,995

Travel from enthralling St Petersburg through the best of Russia, Ukraine, Romania, Hungary and Bulgaria to the...

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Articles on Ukraine

Uncovering art in Ukraine

Posted on Thu, 6 Dec 2012 by Bob Golodets

"If you know where to look you can find fine artists in unexpected places..."

Read more

About Ukraine

At a glance

Trips Available: 0
Capital city: Kyiv (population 2.6 million)
Population: 45.9 million
Language: Ukrainian
Currency: UAH
Time zone: (GMT+02:00) Helsinki, Kyiv, Riga, Sofia, Tallinn, Vilnius
Electricity: Type C (European 2-pin) Type F (German 2-pin, side clip earth)
Dialing code: +380

Best time to visit Ukraine

Ukraine, like many of its Eastern European counterparts, boasts a temperate climate that delivers hot summers, mild autumns and icy winters. With the warm summer sending locals and tourists to the Crimea and the Black Sea coast, many theaters and attractions close down or become quite crowded. For those seeking to avoid the crowds, spring (or early autumn) can be an excellent time to visit Ukraine, as the weather is normally quite pleasant and the scenery at its most spectacular.

Winters can be bitterly cold, with temperatures reaching as low as -25C; however, ample snow provides excellent skiing in the Carpathian Mountains.

ukraine weather map chart

Geography and environment

Bordering Poland, Slovakia, Hungary and Russia, as well as the Black Sea, Ukraine has always held somewhat of a strategic position in continental Europe. It's divided in half by the Dnieper River, an important trading artery and the site of many dams and hydroelectric stations.

As the second largest country in Europe, Ukraine boasts an incredible variety of landscapes, many of which change complexion dramatically with the seasons. To the west lie the Carpathian Mountains, which include the country's highest peak, Mt Hoverla (2,061 m). To the south is the Black Sea coast, the port town of Odessa and the Autonomous Republic of Crimea. This popular holiday spot is renowned for its Mediterranean climate and unique landscapes that include limestone plateaux and volcanic rock formations.

Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv, is located in the north on the banks of the Dnieper River. The country's north is renowned for its dense forests, while the central region consists of mainly open fields and plains.

Top Picks

Top 5 Ukrainian Pop Stars

1. Ruslana

Don’t let the movie-star good looks fool you, Ruslana is one of Ukraine’s most talented musicians. Proficient in vocals, piano, guitar, drums, keyboards and of course, the Ukrainian alpine horn, Ruslana channelled her Carpathian Mountain-dwelling roots and became the pride of the nation by winning the 2004 Eurovision Song Contest with her original composition ‘Wild Energy’. Currently living in Hollywood and mixing it with the stars, Ruslana’s latest projects include collaborations with T-Pain and Missy Elliot, as well as her new single ‘Wow! (I’m so amazing)’, which features a street dance hip hop battle between her two alter egos: Ruslana-boy and Ruslana-girl.

2. Sofia Rotaru

After honing her vocal skills by singing to her blind sister Zina, Sofia Rotaru rose to fame after winning a ‘festival of popular talents’ in Kyiv. At the age of 17 she performed a closed-door concert in the Kremlin; however, she had to flee to Yalta after her family was persecuted by the Soviets for celebrating Christmas. Her transgressions were eventually forgotten, as she was awarded the one-off ‘Best Ukrainian Pop Singer of the Twentieth Century’ award by the former USSR. Rotaru is a personal favourite of Russian Prime Minister Vladimir Putin, and she is estimated to be Ukraine’s richest pop star - earning a handy $4.76 million a year!

3. Iryna Bilyk

One of Ukraine’s most celebrated stars, Iryna Bilyk has released 12 albums and continues to attract large crowds to her energetic live shows. At 25, Bilyk had the honour of performing for the President of the United States, Bill Clinton. More recently, she released ‘I Love You’, a duet with Jean-Claude-Van Dam, who is reportedly a huge fan of her music. In 2007, she married her dancing partner from the local TV show Dances with the Stars 2.

4. Taras Petrynenko

Beginning his musical career in 1969 with a televised dance performance with a group of school students, Petrynenko rose to become the undisputed leader of Ukrainian rock music. After serving a brief period in the army, Petrynenko was banned from performing his controversial ‘Song about the Song’, and fled to Russia with his new group, Magic Guitars. After returning to Ukraine and recording a new album, Petrynenko’s newly formed band, Hrono, endured a forced break-up, mainly because the accompanying musicians refused to return from the band’s international tour. Despite this, Petrynenko went on to be crowned a ‘living legend’ of Ukrainian music and played a big part in the Orange Revolution, performing his songs to a passionate crowd in Kyiv.

5. Oleksandr Ponomaryov

Born and bred a boxer, Ponomaryov was devastated when his deteriorating eyesight began to derail his chosen career path. Undeterred by a lack of musical knowledge or training, he decided to follow his other great passion, striking a deal with a prestigious music college which agreed to provide him with tutorage - on the condition that he complete the gruelling 7-year curriculum in the space of 12 months. Apparently he passed, and in 2003 he went on to be the first artist to represent Ukraine at the Eurovision Song Contest, impressing the judges with an act that combined contortionists with an Apollo spacecraft. He finished 14th.

FAQs on Ukraine

UKRAINE:
Australia: Yes - in advance
Belgium: No - Not required
Canada: No - Not required
Germany: No - Not required
Ireland: No - Not required
Netherlands: No - Not required
New Zealand: Yes - in advance
South Africa: Yes - in advance, Visa Support letter - Yes
Switzerland: No - Not required
United Kingdom: No - Not required
USA: No - Not required

Some nationalities are now visa free to Ukraine. Please check your own visa requirements carefully.

LETTERS OF INVITATION (LOI)
Some nationalities that require a visa may also need a Letter of Invitation (LOI), sometimes known as a Visa Support Letter, in order to apply for a Ukraine visa. As of 2013 travellers from Australia and New Zealand no longer need the LOI in order to apply. Should you require a LOI please notify us at the time of booking and ensure you send the following information no later than 30 days prior to departure:

* Clear, colour scanned copy of the personal details page of your passport
* Nominate which embassy you will apply for your visa

Please note that it can take up to 7 business days to receive the LOI from our Ukrainian partners. The LOI is included in the cost of the trip, however should your embassy require other support documents you may be charged an additional fee.

INFORMATION REQUIRED FOR VISA APPLICATION:
You require a Single Entry Tourist Visa for this trip.

Surname and first name of the inviting person(s) in Ukraine. If not applicable, name of hotel(s) or address of applicant’s temporary accommodation(s) in Ukraine:
Kozatskiy Hotel
1/3, Mikhailovskaya street1
Kyiv, 1001
+380 44 279 49 25

Address of inviting person(s)/hotel(s)/temporary accommodation(s) in Ukraine:
As above.

Name and address of inviting company/organisation:
If LOI required please use the information on the document. If not required - N/A.

Surname, first name, address, telephone, telefax, and e-mail address of contact person in company/organization:
As above.
Tipping is becoming customary in many of the larger Ukrainian cities. While it's not necessary to tip drivers unless the service is exemplary, a 10-15% tip is expected in most restaurants.
Internet cafes are available in cities and towns, and some larger hotels now offer Wi-Fi connectivity. Remote and rural areas will have less internet availability, so be prepared for this when travelling out of the city.
Roaming agreements exist with major mobile phone companies, check with your service provider for more information.
Western-style, flushable toilets are normally available in the larger cities. In rural areas, simple squat toilets are more common.
Cup of coffee in a cafe = 10 UAH
Beer in a bar or restaurant = 5-15 UAH
Basic, takeaway lunch = 40 UAH
Dinner in an inexpensive restaurant = 100 UAH
Drinking tap water isn't recommended in Ukraine. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Ask your leader or hotel where filtered water can be found and don't forget to avoid ice in drinks and peel fruit before eating.
Major credit cards are accepted by most large shops and hotels. Smaller vendors may not accept credit cards, so carry enough cash to cover small purchases.
ATMs are commonly found in Ukraine's cities and urban areas. Remote regions will have less ATM availability, so prepare accordingly before travelling away from cities.
Absolutely. All passengers travelling with Intrepid are required to purchase travel insurance before the start of their trip. Your travel insurance details will be recorded by your leader on the first day of the trip. Due to the varying nature, availability and cost of health care around the world, travel insurance is very much an essential and necessary part of every journey.

For more information on insurance, please go to: [site:intrepid_insurance_link]
Jan 1 New Year's Day
Jan 7 Orthodox Christmas Day
Mar 8 International Women's Day
May 1-2 Labour Days
May 5 Orthodox Easter Sunday
May 9 Victory Day
Jun 23 Orthodox Pentecost
Jun 28 Constitution Day
Aug 24 Ukrainian Independence Day

Please note these dates are for 2013. For a current list of public holidays go to: http://www.worldtravelguide.net/ukraine/public-holidays

Health and Safety

Intrepid takes the health and safety of its travellers seriously, and takes every measure to ensure that trips are safe, fun and enjoyable for everyone. We recommend that all travellers check with their government or national travel advisory organisation for the latest information before departure:

From Australia?

Go to: http://www.smartraveller.gov.au/

From New Zealand?

Go to: http://www.safetravel.govt.nz/

From Canada?

Go to: http://www.voyage.gc.ca/

From US?

Go to: http://travel.state.gov/

From UK?

Go to: http://www.fco.gov.uk/en/

The World Health Organisation

also provides useful health information:
Go to: http://www.who.int/en/

Responsible Travel

Ukraine Travel Tips

Intrepid is committed to travelling in a way that is respectful of local people, their culture, local economies and the environment. It's important to remember that what may be acceptable behaviour, dress and language in your own country, may not be appropriate in another. Please keep this in mind while travelling.

Top responsible travel tips for Ukraine

1. Be considerate of Ukraine’s customs, traditions, religion and culture.

2. For environmental reasons, try to avoid buying bottled water. Instead, fill a reusable water bottle or canteen with tap or filtered water.

3. Always dispose of litter thoughtfully, including cigarette butts.

4. Learn some local language and don't be afraid to use it - simple greetings will help break the ice.

5. Shop for locally made products. Supporting local artisans helps keep traditional crafts alive.

6. Refrain from supporting businesses that exploit or abuse endangered animals.

7. Please ask and receive permission before taking photos of people, including children.

Further reading

Recommended reading

Title Author
Everything is IlluminatedJonathan Safran Foer
Sweet DarusiaMaria Matios
Voices from ChernobylSvetlana Alexievich
Wolves Eat DogsMartin Cruz Smith