Although it is one of the largest countries in Europe, Ukraine is beyond the usual tourist trail. This is part of what makes visiting the country so appealing – you really feel like a true adventurer as you navigate the streets!
Like most travelers, I arrived in Ukraine’s capital, Kiev. Over the next few days, I’d come to know – and love – this intriguing capital.
Arriving at the airport, my first priority was to get my hands on some Ukrainian currency since it’s always good to have some cash. The Ukrainian currency is the Ukrainian hryvnia - yes, figuring out how to say that took some effort! $1 USD buys you about 30 hryvnia although you should check the exchange rate as it does fluctuate a little.
Once I had some cash in my wallet, I got an official taxi from the airport (that’s important to avoid being ripped off by an unscrupulous driver), and arrived at my accommodation.
I opted to stay in a traditional Ukrainian hotel which was a large building that had been converted into tourist accommodation. It was a little quirky, but I definitely like staying somewhere with a bit of personality!
During my days in Kiev, I got plenty of opportunities to try out some local Ukrainian dishes, which is always a fun part of traveling. Ukrainian food features many vegetables and grains, thanks to its highly fertile soil – particularly in the country’s south. One of the most famous and delicious meals is the soup borscht, which is a filling and tasty lunch.
I also explored the city’s highlights. Kiev has so many beautiful churches and religious buildings – some particularly beautiful ones were the baroque pastel-colored Saint Andrew’s Church (which has survived being hit by lightning not once, but twice), Saint Sophia’s Cathedral, which dates back to 1037 and is built in traditional Byzantine style, and the striking yellow St. Volodymyr’s Cathedral.
Kiev also has some excellent museums and art galleries inside beautiful buildings, such as The Chocolate House and Museum. Another stunning example of architecture in Kiev is the huge Mariyinsky Palace, while I also marveled at the pretty National Opera House.
Although English wasn’t very widely spoken in Kiev, the usual mix of hand signals and a friendly smile seemed to do the trick, and I managed to navigate the city fairly easily. Although my cash came in handy, card is pretty widely accepted at bigger shops, restaurants and hotels – however only Visa is accepted. You may as well leave other cards like Mastercard or American Express at home, because they’re pretty much useless unfortunately.
After Kiev, I also had the chance to explore the other cities of Sumy and Dnipropetrovsk (more commonly known as “Dnipro”). It was really fascinating to see some other sides of Ukraine, and learn more about this fascinating country.