Couple of days ago I came back from a really good trip to Ukraine and Moldova. When I was telling everyone about my plans they were really suspicious and concerned about my safety, just like it was with my recent trip to Iran. After all media keep telling us how Ukraine is a war zone these days and we all remember the tragic story of Malaysian Airlines flight shot down. So is it safe to travel to Ukraine?
The situation in Ukraine
Yes, there’s a war in Ukraine. Eastern part of the country (around cities of Donetsk and Lugansk) is a big „don’t go there” zone. If your common sense doesn’t give you enough signs check the website of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs, there’ll be a warning issued for sure. But Ukraine is a huge country, one of the biggest in Europe and if you plan to go to Kiev or west there’s nothing to be worried about (actually from Kiev it’s closer to Poland than to Donetsk). Life goes normally there, people stroll down the streets and walk around in parks, cafes are full, a disturbingly big number of huge fancy weddings take place around and you don’t notice that the country you’re in has so much troubles. Sometimes you only stumble across the exhibition of pictures from Maidan – tragic events in winter 2014 in Kiev or are ask people to donate money for the army.
Is it safe to travel to Ukraine?
In short: YES!
I always thought that Ukraine is one of the safest countries I’ve been to. I actually have a very similar opinion about most of the former USSR states: Belarus, Georgia or Armenia. I don’t have a good explanation for that but I’d guess it’s due to the bigger presence of police and the fact that these countries aren’t that spoiled yet, people are simply normal, good and less busy there (ok, I know it’s just simplifying but that’s how I see it). While in the Western world people spend their free time in shopping centers or behind the computer screens in Eastern Europe it’s more about being outdoors and hanging out with friends/family.
Do you want to visit Ukraine but you’re not too confident to travel independently? Join one of the tours by JC Travel! The groups are small, led by local guides and you will see the best Ukraine has to offer! The next tour departs on 7th October and will include some of my favorite places in Ukraine: Kiev, Kamyanets-Podilskyi, Chernivtsi and Odessa as well as Moldova and Transnistria. Visit JC Travel website for more details!
How is travelling around Ukraine?
During my recent trip I took both trains and buses, both day and night ones. And it was all fine. Of course on the big and busy train stations, like the one in Odessa, you need to be extra cautious and keep your belongings close but still I haven’t seen any suspicious people. Same goes for the bus stations where it’s more tricky as you also need to find your bus (but there’ll be always someone willing to help you). From Odessa to Lviv I took a night train and traveled in the cheapest class, my ticket for 12.5 hours journey cost around 160uah/7€/8$/28zł so almost nothing (and that also included bed linen and tea). I don’t know how familiar you’re with platskart – it’s the type of the carriage when you don’t have compartments but it’s kind of like open space with beds. You’d think it’s unsafe to travel in this kind of train but I took it before in other former USSR countries too and never had problems. Actually it feels much safer as there’re so many people around it’s almost impossible to steal something, besides every carriage has its own guard. My train was fully booked but already at 8pm everyone was in bed and at 9.30pm all the lights were turned off and people went to sleep. My only concern there was how safe sleeping on the upper bed it as there were no protection and I was paranoid I will fall down. But after all I had a really good sleep there!
As for driving: roads aren’t in the best conditions, the same goes for buses. But it was all fine. The drivers aren’t crazy there (like in Georgia or the Balkans) and even if I’m really afraid of cars and buses all the bus journeys I took there were just random ones, not worth remembering. Only the comfort could have been better in some marshrutkas but on the other hand that makes travelling in Eastern Europe more adventurous.
Accommodation in Ukraine
In Chernivtsi and Odessa I stayed in the hostels and I had a feeling I’m the only tourist (and especially foreign tourist) there yet both places were full. It looked like people are living there, that’s also what I figured from some kitchen conversations. But then I read somewhere that in bigger cities in Ukraine these days it’s cheaper to stay in the hostel dorm that to rent a room in the flat so many people who come to work live in those tourist-orientated places. Kind of unusual situation for people travelling but I didn’t have a problem with that. I always stayed in single rooms and the highest price I paid was in Kamianets Podilskyi (that was a hotel though) – 300 uah/14$/12.5€/53zł and that was a really good room! In the hostels you can get a bed in the dorm for half of that price.
Are you looking for cheap accommodation in Ukraine? Look no further!
-> Book accommodation in Kiev
-> Book accommodation in Lviv
-> Book accommodation in Odessa
-> Book accommodation in Chernivtsi
-> Book accommodation in Kamianets-Podilskyi
solo female travel in Ukraine
This recent trip was my first one as a solo female traveler in Ukraine and to be honest it wasn’t any different from my previous visits with friends there or from my solo travels to any other country. There’s nothing special you should consider there, just follow the general rules for women traveling on their own, use your common sense and you will be fine!
Should I go to Ukraine?
If you keep asking yourself this question as well as is it safe to travel to Ukraine my only answer is YES! Just stick to the central and western part of the country and you will be fine and you will have a great time! Ukraine is really beautiful and has so much to offer: underrated Kiev (here you can find my top 5 places to see there), Odessa – now the main resort, Kamianets Podilskyi with its spectacular fortress, Chernivtsi and its multicultural past or Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe and one of my absolute favorites (and it’s beautiful all year long, just look!).
Also, I don’t think you will find any other country in Europe that is such a bargain these days! Due to the war Ukraine deals with a big crisis and the currency – hrivna – is really weak. But that means travelers can get a really good value for almost no money (I never paid more than 50 uah / 2.5$ / 2€ / 10zł for a big lunch with drinks, you could see prices of transport and accommodation above). Not only you will spend next to nothing for your holidays, you will also bring some money to Ukraine, and that’s always a big help for the country and its people.
Just one last word: this post shows my impressions and experience from the visit in Ukraine in mid August 2015. The situation can always change and before going I’d recommend checking with your Ministry of Foreign Affairs if there’re any warnings issued. With the current political situation there things can change fast. But if you decide to go I can guarantee you won’t regret it! Ukraine is really amazing! I’m already trying to plan my next trip there, I want to return to Kiev really badly and explore the cafe culture of Lviv better!
Would you like to visit Ukraine? Did safety concerns ever stop you from travelling?
Are you planning a trip to Eastern Europe? Do you like that region as much as I do? I’ve created a Facebook group where you can look for advise or inspiration and share your travel stories and pictures from Eastern Europe. Join now!
If you think of visiting Ukraine or just want to read more about the country take a look what else I wrote about it!
- Lviv – one of the most beautiful cities in Europe
- Is Kiev worth visiting?
- Stunning Chernivtsi, Ukraine – my best discovery in 2015
- and more!
Do you have more questions about traveling to Ukraine? Feel free to contact me!
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