In recent years, Ukraine has become one of the most popular tourist destinations in Eastern Europe. A large country, located in the heart of Europe, with beautiful nature and ancient history, has become a real discovery for many foreigners. But the war in eastern Ukraine, which began in 2014, deters many tourists and made them think about the safety of trips to our country.
For example, one of my friends from Europe, who had never been to Ukraine, said that he would be glad to visit my country, but, in his view, it’s very dangerous idea. Such a negative perception of Ukraine as a dangerous place is common among foreign people, who had never visited our country. The reason is that most of the information about our country all the time comes from TV and newspapers. So, foreigners might percept Ukraine as a country of war, crime… and Chernobyl.
Fortunately for Ukrainians and our guests, these threats are greatly exaggerated. Usually, when foreign tourists come to Ukraine, it exceeds all their expectations. They see a beautiful and modern European country, very comfortable and safe for traveling and rest; they visit a lot of interesting places and meet a lot of new friends; they enjoy its marvelous architecture and picturesque landscapes; they like the high-quality service, delicious local food, and very competitive prices.
Let’s look at all the advantages of traveling in Ukraine as well as the dangers that might await foreign tourists.
War in Ukraine
The word “war” always sounds very scary. But if you come to Kyiv or any other big city in Ukraine, you will hardly hear this word, except in the news.
So-called hybrid war, which erupted in the eastern part of Ukraine in 2014 and has been going on for five years, is not a civil war, but a result of the Russian invasion. It’s a great tragedy for the country, but the conflict is localized only in the small part of the Donetsk and Lugansk regions and doesn’t spread further. The war has no direct impact on the other parts of Ukraine and doesn’t influence on the safety of country’s everyday life.
Temporarily occupied territories in Luhansk and Donetsk regions is not a safe destination, but anyway, tourists can’t get there. Another dangerous territory in the country is the Crimean Peninsula, which is controlled by pro-Russian forces, but it can’t be visited from Ukraine as well.
Such popular tourist cities as Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa are not more dangerous than any other European big city. It is safe to travel across the country and visit the beautiful Carpathian Mountains and the Black Sea resorts; it’s not dangerous to settle in hotels and use public transport. It is safe to visit museums, cafés, and restaurants.
The situation was quite dangerous and tense during the 2014 year. In February 2014, Russian troops invaded Ukrainian Crimea and captured the peninsula. It was followed by the invasion of Russian troops on the territory of the Lugansk and Donetsk regions, which have a common name – Donbas. Since April 2014, the military conflict has been continued in the territory of Donbas and Ukrainian soldiers are defending the country from Russian troops.
Ukraine and international partners did their best to stop fighting in Donbas and renew peace in the region. To this end, in 2015, was established a Trilateral Contact Group which held talks in Minsk on possible ways to end the conflict. These negotiations resulted in cease-fire agreement, the so-called Minsk Protocol, which wasn’t followed.
Nowadays the conflict in the Donbas region continues. During these five years of the war, about 14 000 people were killed, and thousands were injured. Daily shelling is very frequent.
The war effects on the economy and political situation in the country but doesn’t have a direct impact on the everyday life of the country; it’s also doesn’t influence our tourists and guests. Unfortunately, nowadays local conflicts take place not only in Ukraine but also in some other popular tourist countries; terrorist attacks and mass shooting occur quite often. Nevertheless, these countries are visited by millions of tourists. And there is no reason to say that it is dangerous in Ukraine because of military conflict.
Crime in Ukraine
It is often said that Ukraine is a country of a high crime rate. Before the trip, tourists try to find out if it is true.
Usually, safety is not an issue for our visitors. If tourists follow some simple rules, they will never have a negative experience. Serious crimes are rare in Ukraine and never related to tourists. Foreign guests should be careful of petty thieves and pickpockets. So, it’s better to keep an eye on your belongings at crowded places; you should also exchange currency only at the official bureau or at banks, and don’t trust strangers. It’s also not a good idea to stroll along the dark deserted streets, especially in remote areas.
The police patrol the streets of big cities to ensure order and security and tourists can contact the police in case of emergency. There is no reason to assume that Kyiv or Lviv is more dangerous for the tourist than any other European city.
The probability of terrorist attacks in Ukraine is extremely small. Attacks against journalists and politicians sometimes occur, but tourists don’t become the target of such assaults.
The information about the high crime rate in Ukraine is partially true, especially concerning carjacking, burglaries, and lootings of property.
But anyway, it’s important to be wary of pickpockets and petty thieves; it’s better to lock the car and the hotel room. Tourists also should watch their bags and wallets in public transport, at railway stations, and airports. It’s not safe to contact with strangers and to have affairs with unknown women, especially if you are not sure of your safety.
Since 2014, the political situation in Ukraine is stable. There have been no serious political confrontations, and the situation remains calm.
In 2019, new presidential and parliamentary elections were held. The elections were peaceful, legitimate, and recognized by the international community.
Nevertheless, demonstrations and protests sometimes occur in Kyiv near the main political institutions. Foreigners are not recommended to take part in such gatherings since it might turn violent.
Ukraine has diplomatic relations with more than 180 countries; in large cities placed embassies and consulates, which tourist can contact in case of emergency.
Ukraine experienced the political crisis in 2013 – 2014 years. During the winter of 2013 – 2014 years the political situation in Ukraine was very difficult and unstable. The president and the government had lost the support of the people since the then-president Yanukovych refused to sign an association with the European Union and stood on the course towards Russia instead. It resulted in wide protests known as Euromaidan or Revolution of Dignity. On the central streets of Kyiv and Independence Square, citizens protested against the current government and the president, against corruption and pro-Russian course; they defended democratic and European values.
Started as peaceful, these demonstrations turned violent. Law enforcement officers were shot the demonstrators, many civilians were injured, more than 100 peaceful protestors were killed. This aggravated the situation and the protests flared up again. Kyiv streets were not safe; many foreign guests left the country; a lot of tourists canceled their reservation.
The Revolution of Dignity was the beginning of positive changes in the country. President Yanukovych escaped, and democracy seemed to win, and the crisis has passed. But in the spring of 2014, the invasion of Russian troops into Ukraine began, and the political situation remained unstable. In 2014, presidential and parliamentary elections were held, and the political condition stabilized. The elected president and parliament worked until 2019.
Nowadays there are no factors for deterioration of the political situation in the country.
Safe public transport
In Ukrainian cities, the public transport system is well developed and very convenient. In big cities, there is a wide network of bus, trolleybus, tram routes. In three major cities – Kyiv, Kharkiv, and Dnipro – there is a metro, which is very comfortable and convenient to use if you want to avoid congestions. The cost of a ride by any public transport is about 30 cents, regardless of distance and duration.
Minibuses which are operated by private companies are extremely popular transport in Ukraine. It is worth mentioning, that it is safer to travel by public transport than by minibuses.
Taxi rides are also inexpensive and safe, especially if you use official services.
Travel alone is a unique and interesting experience that every tourist should have at least once in a lifetime. Is Ukraine a good choice for solo travel? Definite yes. It is the best way to discover Ukraine as one of the most welcoming countries with friendly and helpful people. It will be an interesting and unforgettable experience since Ukraine differ from other European countries.
What is the specific of traveling alone in Ukraine? First of all, Ukraine is a country with a large territory and a big number of tourist destinations. So, it’s better to figure out your route around the country and decide what are you interested in and whether you would like to visit the main Ukrainian cities, or admire the sea and mountain landscapes, or discover Chernobyl and the Soviet cultural heritage. It’s also a good idea to find some friends in Ukraine and to obtain first-hand information about the most interesting particularities of the country.
The most reliable and safe way to plan your tour is to contact one of the official travel agencies. There are a lot of travel agencies in Ukraine with very high-quality tourism services. Such agencies are very reliable and provide appropriate support for the tourists. The agency can help you with a guide who speaks foreign languages, with vehicles, trip organization, hotel, and tickets booking.
If you plan to travel on your own, it will be also a great experience. Ukrainians are very welcoming and friendly people, especially concerning foreign tourists. If you ask the locals for direction or any advice, they will be happy to help you. In big cities, a lot of people speak English, in western Ukraine Polish is widely spoken.
Hotels in Ukraine are very comfortable and inexpensive; there are also a lot of restaurants and cafes for every taste and budget. The staff in hotels and restaurants, as a rule, speak a foreign language and tourists have no difficulties with booking and conversation.
For intercity travel, it is the most convenient to use rail transport or bus. To rent a car you need to have a passport and an international driving permit.
To travel by train, you need a passport and a ticket. You can buy or book a ticket online, but for some trains, except Intercity and Intercity+, you need also to print your ticket.
In Ukraine, you can get almost anywhere by train. Railway system is convenient and well-developed. There are trains with sleeping berths that operate at night and for long distances. A trip by such train takes a lot of time. Also, between big cities in Ukraine operate Intercity and Intercity+ trains. The advantage of such trains is, of course, its speed. The route from Kyiv to Lviv, for example, will take less than 6 hours. The trip will be comfortable and pleasant. You can also buy electronic tickets for Intercity and Intercity+ trains.
Traveling by train is an excellent choice for tourists who, for whatever reason, cannot or do not want to travel by plane. Every year more and more international trains appear in Ukraine. Nowadays there is a railway connection between Ukraine and Poland, Bulgaria, Hungary, the Czech Republic, Lithuania, and Slovakia. International trains are a good alternative for tourists who would like to extend the journey and see many cities on their way.
Traveling by train in Ukraine is safe. Trains usually come right on schedule, and you can always plan your time and route. There were no cases of terrorist or armed attacks on the trains. For added security, it is worth closing your compartment for the night and not leaving things unattended.
Tourism in Ukraine
For many decades, when Ukraine was the part of the USSR, the country wasn’t visited by many foreign tourists. But after independence, the situation is gradually improved. Different tourism services started to develop; the infrastructure and the quality of services have been improved. Many foreign tourists got interested in visiting a previously unknown country.
Holding of Euro-2012, Eurovision song contests, UEFA Champions League increase in the number of visitors from all over the world, promoted tourism of the country and made Ukraine one of the most popular tourist destinations. In the 2013 year, Ukraine was visited by more than 23 million foreigners. With the beginning of the war, in 2014, the number of tourists had fallen by half. Fortunately, for the recent two years, the number of foreign guests in Ukraine rose again.
The geography of a popular tourist destination has been expanded. Traditionally, the most visited tourist cities in Ukraine were Kyiv and Lviv. Also, tourists willingly visit Odessa, known for its special charm and exquisite architecture. Recently, along with traditional routes, foreign tourists discover other spectacular places in Ukraine. Small towns with a thousand-year history and stunning architecture offer a splendid pastime and unforgettable impression. Tourists discover new destinations in Ukraine, such as Kamenetz-Podolsky and Khotyn and their majestic ancient fortresses, Chernivtsi and Ternopil with cozy ancient streets, Mukachevo and Uzhgorod which are some of the oldest cities in Ukraine.
In Ukraine, tourist can visit some unique places and excursions that can’t be found anywhere else. For example, the tour to the Chernobyl exclusion zone and the ghost town of Pripyat or The Strategic Missile Forces Museum. Usually, foreigners are fascinated by Ukraine and even brought their families to spend some days in our country. So do not hesitate to visit Ukraine and to have a new unforgettable experience.