GENERAL INFORMATION ABOUT UKRAINE
Facts and Figures
Total area: 603,700 sq km
Bordering countries: Belarus to the North, Russia to the Northeast, Poland Slovakia to the West and Hungary Romania and Moldova to the Southwest
Time zone: GMT +2 hrs , (GMT +3 between March and October)
Population: 48 million
Climate: mostly temperate or continental subtropical and Mediterranean at the South Coast of the Crimean peninsula
Geographical features: longest river - the Dnipro 2,201 km long, highest peak - Mount Hoverla (2,061 m) in the Carpathians, washed by the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov in the South
Dominant religions: Orthodox, Greek Catholic
Capital: Kyiv with population reaching 3 million
Languages: Ukrainian, Russian
Money: Hryvnia (pronounced ‘Grivna’); currency code – UAH
The majority of travellers arrive in Ukraine by air landing in the country's main international airport Boryspil (20 km away from Kyiv) though international flights are also operated to and from Kharkiv Odesa, Lviv, Symferopol and Dnipropetrovsk. Major Ukrainian European and world airline com¬panies serve regular flights connecting Kyiv with all European capitals and largest cities and providing for convenient connections to further destinations.
Immigration and Customs
On arrival, foreign guests are requested to fill in an immigration form which must be presented along with your passport. Passport control is followed by customs office desk. Customs requirements on entry into Ukraine are essentially the same as those applied in Europe though you may want to check them out in advance to avoid unnecessary delays and complications. Please remember that as you exit the country the amount of cash you are carrying may not exceed the sum you declared on entry into Ukraine Plus, if you have purchased some costly pieces of art please make sure that no permission for their exportation from Ukraine is required. Finally, we would strongly discourage you from using services of occasional drivers offering you a lift to the city - ordering an airport-city transfer from your tour agent will be much safer and economical.
Ukrainian hotels classification is different from universally accepted classification standards, that is why consulting a reliable tour operator at selecting the right place to stay at is an essential part of arranging your trip. Kyiv and a few major cities of Ukraine feature some fine hotels that meet expectations of different kinds of travellers arriving on business, for leisure and family reunions. Though credit cards and traveller's cheques are commonly accepted in these hotels, it is advisable that you have a certain amount of cash in local currency for some incidental expenses. If you make a reservation on your own (especially through the Internet) remember to check out the reservation cancellation requirements. Please be mindful that in the most of hotels your restaurant check may not be credited on your room bill and you will be offered to pay cash or by your credit card.
Most big cities will offer foreign visitors a diverse gamut of places to eat at - from international fast food eateries like McDonald's to most exquisite French and Japanese restaurants. If you have opted to succumb to a temptation of Ukrainian generous cuisine please remember that traditional Ukrainian dishes are very rich in both flavour and calories. But they are definitely worth forgetting your weight-sensitivity for a while. Guidebooks and directories in your hotel will provide you with detailed information about the menus and price range of restaurants in the city of your stay. Please note that some restaurants include the tip in your check, so look for a gratuity entry in your check. Otherwise from 5 to 10 percent tipping is customary.
Travelling Within Ukraine
Kyiv is conveniently connected with the nation's major cities by a ramified railroad network and your railroad trip to virtually any destination within the country will in most cases be an overnight journey in comfortable sleeping car. Railroad fares are relatively moderate but the availability of tickets may be limited especially in peak season. Therefore using services of a local tour agent may relieve you of a hassle with choosing the right train and booking a ticket.
Domestic flights may be a good alternative - turboprops commute from Kyiv to main regional centres every day. However, because of frequent changes in the flights schedule we suggest you consult your travel agent in Ukraine for the confirmation of available services.
Municipal transportation is fairly reliable especially in big cities with metro lines. Though you may be surprised with the cheapness of fare you may find that especially in rush hours taking a taxi is a safer and faster option. Many visitors particularly those arriving on business, prefer to book a chauffeured car from their travel agent.
Offices usually open at 9 am and work till 6 pm on weekdays with lunch breaks from 1 to 2 pm being quite common. Banks admission hours are as a rule from 9 am to 1 pm. Shops especially groceries, remain open till at least 8 pm.
Though credit cards are increasingly more widely accepted across Ukraine having a sufficient supply of cash is important. ATMs are installed next to large shopping and business centres plus there are many currency exchange office scattered over busiest parts of cities and accepting US dollars, Euros and other major currencies.
Electrical Circuits and Telephone Lines
The Ukrainian main current is 220 V and sockets are not fit for European and US electric appliances therefore carrying a universal adapter and voltage transformer is essential whether you plan to use your notebook or an electric toothbrush. Plugs are round pin attachment variety with two pins.
The international dialling code for Ukraine is +380. Your cell phone will work in Ukraine as long as your operator has a roaming agreement with Ukrainian mobile communication providers therefore contact your operator to see if you can count on your handy. Calling from city payphones requires buying a calling card. For an international access dial 00, your country and area code followed by a phone number. If you wish to avoid roaming charges you can buy a pre-paid SIM card on arrival. Most hotels have a Business Centre and there are Internet cafes available in Kiev and larger cities and towns. More detailed instructions and emergency numbers will be available in your hotel room.
There are no mandatory health related requirements for short term visitors although comprehensive medical insurance is advised, and visitors are advised to bring a supply of personal medication.
As in most large cities foreigners are lucrative targets for petty theft and street crime, and valuables should be kept out of sight, especially in crowded areas and at tourist spots. In this regard Kiev is as safe as any other large European city.
• 1 January - New Year
• 7 January - Christmas
• 8 March - International Women’s Day
• April - Easter
• 1-2 May - Labour Days
• 9 May - Victory Day
• May - Holy Trinity
• 28 June - Constitution Day
• 24 August - Independence Day
Ukrainians are profoundly affected by the country’s long history, which left its mark on modern times.
In the V-th century BC, a kingdom of the Scythians is formed in the Southern parts of Ukraine. The evidence available is not sufficient to form a definite opinion about the ethnic background of the earliest tribes inhabiting Ukraine, or about their social and economic structure.
In the late sixth or early fifth centuries there appear on the Crimean Southern Coast a number of Greek city-states and a lively cultural exchange between the Scythians and the Greeks follow.
In the I-st century AD Romans come to the Southern Crimea and establish its hegemony over some parts of it. In the following centuries, waves of barbarians roll through Ukraine, including the Goths and the Huns.
In the end of the V-th century AD Kiev was founded as a center of a conglomerate of Eastern Slavic tribes, and by the end of the IX-th century it became the capital of the big state known as “Kievan Rus” and stretching up to the Baltic Sea in the North, and almost to Volga River in the East.
In the year 988 AD Grand Prince Volodymyr I converts Kievan Rus to Christianity, with Kiev becoming the biggest and culturally most advanced state in Eastern Europe, after Byzantium, in the XI-th through XII-th centuries. In 1240, Kiev and the entire state was invaded by the Tatar-Mongols, and its glory fell into decline during almost one century-long rule by the Tatar-Mongols. After that, for many centuries Ukraine was ruled by the Lithuanian Duchy, then Poland. During this time, the Ukrainian Cossack armies led by a Hetman (military leader) were formed. In 1648, one of the most famous Hetmans Bohdan Khmelnitsky liberated Kiev and concluded the treaty with Russia, which led to a long period of domination by the Russian Empire, and then the Soviet Union, until 1991, when Ukraine gained its sovereignty and became an independent state.
Ukraine is a land of tourism, with the ancient history, outstanding culture, and great distinctive folk traditions. The most prominent historical and cultural monuments are located in the Crimea, Kiev, Lvov, Odessa, Chernigov, Kamianets-Podolski. A great number of archeological monuments is concentrated in the Southern Ukraine. For example, tourists are attracted by excavations of the antique city-states of the Northern Black Sea areas – Tira, Olvia, Khersonese, Panticapeus, archeological museums in the cities of Kiev, Odessa, Kertch.
The unique cultural and historical heritage represent the architectural monuments of the Kievan Rus period (IX – XII centuries) in Kiev, Chernigov, Kanev, Ovrutch, Vladymyr-Volynski; of defence architecture – fortresses in Lutsk, Medzhybozh, Kamianets-Podolski, Khotyn, Belhorod-Dnestrovsk, Uzhgorod, Mukachevo; palace complexes in the Crimea, Lvov and Chernigov Regions; religious and civic architecture in the Carpathians; monuments related to the heritage of Cossacks, national-liberation war of 1648-1654 and World War II; open air architectural and ethnographic museums in Kiev, Pereyaslav-Khmelnitskiy, Lvov, Uzhgorod, Chernovtsi, Halych; art galleries in Kiev, Lvov, Odessa, Kharkov, Feodosia, etc. During the visits to these museums tourists not only get familiar with the life, architecture and traditions of the Ukrainian people, but have a chance to watch folk song and dance ensembles.
Ukraine has long-standing traditions of handicraft, typical of all parts of the country: embroidery, wood carving, ceramics, carpets, hand bags, toys making, weaving, incrustation, pyrogravure, etc.
Cuisine - Flavours and Colours of Ukrainian Culture
Ukrainian cuisine is very much a part of the population's culture, lifestyle and customs. Well-known for its great diversity and amazing flavours, Ukrainian cuisine has had a number of influences including Russian, Polish, German and Turkish. Popular ingredients in the cuisine of Ukraine are meat, mushrooms, vegetables, berries, fruit and herbs. As Ukrainians are extremely hospitable their meals are served in very generous quantities. Some of the best Ukrainian cuisine is actually very simple. Many ingredients are used in what many would consider unusual combinations, creating a unique and sumptuous dish. Dishes often contain pickled vegetables when these are not in season and certain dishes can only be made when ingredients are available. Pastries and cakes are popular, but not very sweet. Below we provide you with a list of uniquely Ukrainian cuisine along with a description.
• Borshch – beet soup often made with meat.
• Ukha – fish soup typically with carp.
• Vinigret – beetroot salad made with beans, peas and onions.
• Oseledets – pickled herring salad with onion, sunflower oil and pepper.
• Kapustianyi – sauerkraut salad with oil, walnuts and mayonnaise.
• Rosolnyk: soup with pickles.
• Varenyky – boiled dumplings stuffed with fruit, potatoes, cheese or cabbage.
• Holubtsi – cabbage rolls stuffed with millet or minced meat with rice.
• Blyntsi – crepes served with meat, cheese, fruit or caviar.
• Pechenya – roast pork, lamb, beef or veal.
• Studynets – jellied meat or fish.
• Kotljetys – fish or meat fritters.
• Deruny – potato fritters served with sour cream or cottage cheese.
• Shashlyk – type of shish kebab usually with marinated lamb and vegetables.
• Kvas – made from bread with a sweet-sour taste.
• Compote – dried or fresh fruit drink.
• Kefir – sour milk.