Solo Gay Trip Guide to Ukraine
Ukraine is the second biggest country in Europe after Russia by landmass. It is also an important city and the centre of news due to its fight with its bigger neighbour; Russia and annexation of Crimea region. It is a vast country with many regions each with its own different culture from the very Germanic looking Lviv and Odesa to very Russian Kharkiv. I visited recently and wanted to share an account of my solo travel to Ukraine.
The capital and biggest city in Ukraine is Kyiv which is quite close to the site of the Chernobyl nuclear disaster. If you have seen the Sky TV mini-series, you will absolutely love it. Ukraine also used to be a republic of former USSR and separated from it in 1991 which is relatively recent.
Fun Fact: Ukraine elected Volodymyr Zelensky as the president who is a famous comedian in the country 5 years after the revolution of 2014. It is a recent but energetic democracy.
There is a lot to see and o in this gorgeous country with lots of nature, interesting architecture, history and culture. Despite all the war and fighting, Ukrainians are well and thriving.
Want to plan your perfect trip? Read this.
Is Ukraine Expensive?
The currency of Ukraine is Hryvnia (UAH). Value for money in Ukraine is quite high and a small amount goes a long way. Food is quite cheap and so is public transport. I also find a nice apartment very close to the central square of Kyiv for a very reasonable price.
It is, however, a cash economy and you will need to carry cash with you, an increasing number of places are now accepting cards in Kyiv but even if you leave the city centre you will need cash. ATM machines are quite common as well and the withdrawal limit is generous.
You can also learn how to manage your budget during travelling.
Note: Tourist scams are quite common so always check your bills, insist on a running meter and stop the taxi if it isn’t running and never pick up anything on the street even if you are doing it intending to find the owner of the property. All these are tourist scams.
What Is Public Transport Like in Ukraine?
Public transport is much better than I had imagined, trains are comfortable, taxis are aplenty and cheap and metro network in Kyiv is extensive.
Fun Fact: The metro station of Arsenalna is the deepest underground metro station in the world with the depth of more than 105 m.
You can also find good details on Ukraine Metro on the tourism website. Uber is also very convenient in Kyiv. If you want to use a local company UKLON has the same service and they have been operating for longer.
Note: You have to be very careful with taxis in Ukraine. I got scammed by a taxi driver when I landed. he didn’t start the meter and despite my inquiring about a switched off meter he didn’t pay much attention, when he arrived he asked for the equivalent of £30 for a 10-minute ride when it should be roughly £2 or £3. I used Uber after that point.
Check out all the different modes of transportation you can use during travelling.
Is Ukraine Safe?
Yes and No! It really depends on where you are and what you do. The Eastern region of Ukraine is very unsafe with the active war-like situation between rebels and government and all travel there is dangerous. The western side of the country is safe which includes Kyiv and things run as usual and daily life is relatively unaffected. This based on geography.
It can also be dangerous based on what you say and where. Showing a pro-Russian stance in western parts of the country can be dangerous and sometimes even speaking Russian is considered provocative. The opposite is true for the Eastern side of the country so I’d really recommend keeping a generally sympathetic stance for the peace situation without taking political sides. Avoid political discussions and definitely avoid lumping people in stereotypes and you will be safe.
I was also concerned being so close to Chernobyl in Kyiv for a few days including the day I spent there but unless you actually live within the complex the radiation levels are very low and do not cause any harm.
Read more about staying safe during solo travelling.
How Is Food In Ukraine?
Ukrainian food is honestly very bland and boring. There isn’t much to eat as the novelty and most of the traditional food is in line with the general Eastern European cuisine with some dumplings, lots of pork and lots to drink. Some of the dishes to try are Borsch (cold beetroot soup sometimes with meat), Varenyky (dumplings filled with meat, veg or even fruit) and Deruny (pancakes made with potatoes).
Luckily Ukrainians have found the joy of Georgian cuisine which is my absolute favourite and while it isn’t as great as Georgia here, it is great food with lots of options and there are a lot of Georgian restaurants in Kyiv now.
Can I Drink Tap Water in Ukraine?
Tap water is not safe to drink and tastes horrible with lots of Chlorine taste and smell. Buy yourself a big bottle and refill your travel water bottle to avoid plastic waste.
Read more about eco-friendly travelling.
How To Get Past ID Checks in Ukraine?
Police corruption used to be a big problem but I didn’t face any issues during my travels as things have reformed recently. I would still suggest keeping a coloured copy of your passport with you at all times.
Note: If you are going to Chernobyl, you will need to take your original passport with you, otherwise you will be denied entry. There are no exceptions to this.
Which Sim Card To Buy in Ukraine? Is Internet Good In Ukraine?
My network provider provides free-roaming in Ukraine so I didn’t buy a sim card during my solo travel but I saw plenty of places to buy sim cards and recharge them. For up to date information check the details of all service providers here.
Are Ukrainian People Friendly?
They are traditionally not warm no. You have to remember you are in an ex-Soviet state and it just wasn’t in the social fabric to laugh and smile and show loud emotions. During my solo travel to Ukraine, I found that Ukrainians are very friendly though and I have had a great time with most of the people I came in touch with. The younger generation is especially much more outgoing, European and friendly.
Which Languages Are Common in Ukraine?
The most spoken languages are Ukrainian which uses Cyrillic alphabet and Russian. Like I mentioned before, language can win you hearts and cause issues as well so be very careful. During my solo travel to Ukraine, I found that English isn’t common except younger generation. A lot of cafes and restaurants in central Kyiv have English menus but it is not very common outside the city centre. I’d highly recommend downloading the Ukrainian language pack on Google Translate, it was very helpful.
Learn more about all the ways you can use to explore a new city during travelling.
Is Ukraine Racist?
Surprisingly Ukraine isn’t racist. Yes, I did get a few stares during my solo travel to Ukraine but mainly due to curiosity but everyone was very sweet and friendly and I didn’t feel threatened in any way. I had read about scammers and people targeting black and brown folk but it seemed really exaggerated. I walked alone, quite late in the night, around and didn’t feel threatened. Ukrainians know how to hold their drink and everyone was friendly. I have fond memories of Ukrainians.
Is Ukraine Safe For LGBT Travellers?
If you are visibly LGBT (I hate using the terms but I’m afraid it is the easiest way to describe) you might get some stares and in some parts of the country, it could be quite dangerous outright. Being LGBT in Ukraine is not a crime but during my solo travel to Ukraine, I found that most of the population is conservative so, the general attitude of the population is quite harsh.
In the past, Pride events have been attacked and cancelled by authorities but Ukraine is trying to show a more accepting face because they want to be part of the EU.
Perhaps the most surprising part during my solo travel to Ukraine was how liberal Kyiv was on Grindr. Most guys had their faces visible or sent photos with the first message. I met a few guys who were really good looking, very friendly and we spent a lot of time exploring around. The locals helped me find some interesting places and they also told me about the local restaurants and food. I absolutely love the local gay scene in Kyiv. There is only one LGBT bar in Kyiv called Lift only but they are hoping for another few soon.
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