Ukraine is a captivating country to visit. It has bustling, modern cities, quaint villages, beautiful countryside, and a rich history. Most visitors going to Ukraine for the first time travel to Kiev, the national capital, and the city whose name is most familiar to people from outside Eastern Europe. But they soon discover that there is much to be seen beyond the city limits, and that terrific excursions can be arranged from their Kiev hotel.
Before you book your accommodations in Kiev, there are some facts you should know about travel to, and within Ukraine. All foreign visitors must have a valid passport to enter Ukraine. Citizens of Canada, the United States, and European Union countries do not require a visa for visits of up to 90 days, but citizens of Australia and New Zealand do require a visa as well as a Letter of Invitation. It is recommended that travelers coming to Ukraine are up-to-date on inoculations for diphtheria, tetanus, pertussis, Hepatitis A & B, measles, mumps, rubella, polio booster, and typhoid; and rabies if you are going to be in a rural area for an extended period of time. Foreigners planning to work in Ukraine must get a work permit. An International Driving Permit is required of anyone operating a motor vehicle.
Visitors can travel to Kiev, Lviv and Odessa by air. However, many experienced travelers find it more economical to enter Ukraine by train. The trains run frequently in Ukraine, and are considered to be the best way to travel. You have your choice of first, second, or third class, depending on how much you want to pay and how much privacy you want. If at all possible, avoid trains that pass through Moldova. The border guards have been known to confiscate passengers' property and demand bribes. The bus schedules are similar to those of the trains, but the buses are generally less comfortable.
Outside of Kiev, it can be difficult finding anyone who speaks English. Generally, the people of Western Ukraine speak Ukrainian, but in the eastern part of the country and Crimea, Russian is widely spoken. It would certainly be to your advantage to know a few useful phrases in Russian or Ukrainian. The only tourist office is in Lviv, and it can be very helpful. The remains of the old Soviet Intourist system has offices in Kiev hotels, as well as in other cities.
Ukraine is a large country with a diverse climate. Kiev has a moderate climate, but in the summer, the climate of Odessa and the Crimea is almost subtropical. In the mountains it is cool, even in the summer. Unless you're interested in a skiing vacation, spring and summer are the best seasons to visit Ukraine. Book early if you plan on being in the country for the May 1 holiday.
For visitors on a tight budget, it is worth knowing that you do not necessarily have to stay in expensive Kiev hotels. Through agencies you can rent very affordable and comfortable Kiev apartments.