I’ve never met anyone that’s gone to Kiev (Kyiv), and the only thing I know about Ukraine is whatever I’ve read on the travel forums and that Russia wants it back. I heard this place is cold (in terms of people), dangerous, sketchy, you have to watch out for yourself, etc… Here’s how the conversation typically went.
Them: Where you off to?
Me: Kyiv (Kiev)
Them: Where’s that?
Them: Wow, wait [pause], isn’t that dangerous?
Me: I guess we’ll find out soon 🙂
Them: You’re crazy. Aren’t the women supposed to be hot?
Me: We’ll find out soon 🙂
And for those that want to know the answer to the last question and stop reading right here.. the answer is…. yea, keep reading 🙂
Lets start at the basics:
There are 2 international airports – Zhuliany and Boryspil. Zhuliany is closer to the Kyiv’s city center and costs about $3 for an Uber (85 ₴, Hryvania – pronounced: Greevna). Yes, Uber is readily available and super super cheap.
Passport Control took awhile, not necessarily because of the lines but more so I, being a US citizen was obviously carrying a US Passport and possibly being a brown guy. He asked, why have you come here, pulled out a magnifying glass and inspected the passport, often times pulling the agent next to him to verify if the laminate was fine or if something was correct. He’d try to peel the laminate to make sure it wasn’t something Kinko’s put on. Finally he let me through, stamping the last page of my passport. I have several blank pages, not sure why he went and stamped the absolute last page but who cares, I’m in.
Then I try to go through the ‘Nothing to Declare’ green lane. I pass through with a friendly ‘Priyvit’, the agent yells at me. He starts talking in Ukrainian or Russian, and I give him the ‘I have no clue what the f you’re saying dude’. He points at my bag, tells me to come over and points at the x-ray machine. I put my bags through, the uniformed agent at the opposite end speaks English and asks if I have money. My first thought, she wants a bribe. I say no, what do you mean do I have money? Do you have 10,000 Dollars? I start laughing and say no. I don’t even have 10,000 in your currency; then she asks about Euros.. I’m like no. I probably have like 100 dollars I will get exchanged. ‘Ok, you can go’. Interesting.
——– Getting Out ——–
Oh and now that I’m out of Ukraine. Getting out — Passport Control. No lines, go right up, he inspects it the same way; taking scans of the Chinese Visa, Indian Visa then asks where I’m going, and wants to see my confirmation for going to Poland and when I’m leaving Poland. I told him from Poland I go home, he looked at the confirmation, he’s like Zurich? How long, I said it’s a layover, he hesitated then asked, Transfer? I said Yes, he said ok. Continued glancing through and finally let me go.
Then at the gate, getting to the bus, an American lady with 3 kids – passport checked and she was passed through. I’m next, ticket barcode scanned, passport checked, handed to a uniformed officer who goes through it again for about 40 seconds and then hands it back and lets me go.
I take it because I’m a brown American, I mean original Americans were brown, why does this come as a surprise – the white people were the original immigrants here… I digress. back to the story…
I was excited but at the same time, nervous not knowing what to expect. I heard people here don’t speak English and really don’t care to learn so I better know Ukrainian or Russian, otherwise it’ll be a horrible trip. So I tried to pick up a few words by watching YouTube videos but some words are too similar to Polish that I forgot who says what and who pronounces it what way; so I’ll stick w/ English.
Although, English is not very prevalent, you can get by – just not in Ubers. Hotel staff, tour guides, restaurant employees know just enough – especially if they’re younger. (My review of the Aloft hotel in Kiev is accessible by clicking on the link in the previous sentence.)
I highly suggest bringing cash to exchange into Hryvania’s; I tried the ATM but the exchange rate they offered was horrible; and this was before the fee charged by the ATM / Bank. Currency exchanges will have similar exchange rates – just within 10c of each other and you’ll probably get a better rate closer to the city center. Obviously the airport sucks for this. One interesting thing is if you exchange currency, make sure to do it in the morning. All exchange offices decrease the rate at night so if you were getting 25.30₴ for $1, you’ll probably get 24 or 24.50 in the evening.
This was the tough part. Its easy enough to get a Doner or Falafel or something but trying to dissect some Ukrainian food in English was tough. So really didn’t get a chance to try any. Even the vegan spots were more like fake meat wraps, salads etc… Needless to say the food was good and fairly cheap. Even with the fake meat, a wrap cost less than $3 whereas in Chicago easily $7-$10. I once ordered Uber Eats and with delivery charge was under $4 (Uber Eats charges $1 minimum service fee for delivery; at least in the Ukraine, haven’t tried in Chicago).
Lviv Croissants (above) was an excellent choice for a quick lunch while I update this blog. 89₴ for a fresh warm oven baked croissant (caprese sandwich) and passion fruit lemonade (a bit sweeter than I like but it’s a hot day outside).
Green 13 Cafe Vegan Kitchen; went here twice. First time I was trying to hunt his place down and the next day when I ordered Uber Eats. The food was good, the lemonade or whatever I had was not that great; again too sweet with a weird taste. If you’re looking to go, it’s inside the Besarabsky Market; I was walking all over the streets the first night trying to figure out where this was.
Not sure where I’ll end up tonight, it’s my final night in Kiev (Kyiv) and headed to Warsaw early tomorrow.
Update: I went to Arena City and found a place that had some Ukrainian vegetarian dishes. Ok; the good and the bad.
|Bueno: Khinkali (steamed dumplings)||No Bueno: Kanchapuri (dirty cheese bread)|
What do you think this is?
You’d say it’s Pizza on the right, right? No, this is khachapuri with baked cheese… Essentially a pizza? False again because it’s hard the fk up a pizza (it can be done, looking at you New York)
This may have the foulest cheese baked into it, I took a bite and decided my time here is over. This entire pie is going to waste. I finished my berry lemonade and still taste and smell the cheese. I’m done. Never use imereti cheese.
On the bright side, water is super cheap. You shouldn’t pay more than 20₴ for a bottle of water. Make sure you know what you’re getting though. A lot of the bottled water in stores are sparkling, carbonated. You want natural. The cheapest litre of water I got was 9₴, 35 cents.
You can read about the Sightseeing stuff here; but now to answer your question about Ukranian girls in Kyiv.
It’s true. They are stunning and literally everywhere. But… if you’re not a smoker, let me warn you. Everyone and their mother smokes here, I think I even saw some 12 year old deep in his cigarette. As soon as they open their mouth; you’ll see the quality of dental care in this city. Very very yellow stained and at times brown teef, yes, teef because these weren’t really teeth. So that’s a huge turnoff. I think we can open a Dental / Papermate White-Out clinic and just use layers of White Out… we’d make a killing! Who’s in?
It was depressing. My heart broke a few times.
Are people cold there? Generally. Blame the communist history or whatever – but people don’t smile back you, sometimes don’t reply when you say hello and they do look at you like what are you doing in my country? Maybe b/c of the serious lack of brown skin in this part of the world. You can get by with English, most people in the service industry know just enough. Speaking of, at one of the places I stopped by for a quick meal – she responded in English but very curt and direct. No customer service, no smile; it’s just how it is here.
When I got an Uber from the Kiev Zhuliany International (driver spoke no English, not surprised), the car first of all was early 80s with roll up windows; looked very very worn from the inside and outside. As he thumped our way onto the street my hotel was at, you felt like you were in some of former Soviet communist society; which technically… On the drive to the hotel I was really thinking if I made a mistake coming to Kiev. I didn’t but still wasn’t sure what the hell I was doing in Kyiv.
This isn’t a developing city as it’s already developed but it’s ever changing. You have some high end restaurants / bars that have taken over the first floor and the sidewalks in front of these buildings. A lot of hookah spots, I tell you – people are always smoking. I felt like my lungs were in need of cancerous smoke when I got to the airport, I was going through withdrawal and I’ve never even puffed a cigarette in my life, cigaweed’s a different story. My hotel was next to a mall and yea it definitely was a pricey mall.
You read or hear about there being a lack of jobs or really it’s just poor. On any given weekday, there’s hoards of people walking around, going in these malls and coming out with bags of stuff. How? Who’s working in that family or what kind of side hustle they got going on, because I need to learn this.
I’m glad I came, but to be honest it’s one and done. I’m not a huge fan of the city and think 2 days are more than enough. I did a ton of walking and sightseeing and still had a lot of time to work on this post and really just do nothing. I got bored to be honest and was trying to force myself to find stuff to do. I guess I should’ve gone to Chernobyl after all.
This is a place that has a rich history, beautiful churches, a place that’s on to go and bustling. A juxtaposition of crumbling uneven sidewalks that can fracture your ankle and building next to it that houses a high end shop or trendy restaurant.
Want to read more or see the highlights of Kiev, head on over to the best of post.