I wanted to write about this now, because it is the perfect time to travel to Ukraine… It’s spring there, tourism is down from the protests, and prices are cheap now (just over $1000 round trip to Kiev from the Midwest, around $800 or less from the East Coast). In June thru August, it’ll go up to about $500-$700 more due to the high season. Sep-Oct is also a good time to travel there.. Winter is rough..
When I travel to Ukraine, I’ve never taken one of those group tours where they rush you into parties where the girls are waiting. I’ve always booked my own tickets over, stayed in furnished apartments, and traveled around inside the country through different means (time and budget dependent). I’ve found the best girls to be the ones from the smaller towns. Big city girls have big ambitions sometimes, and the girls I’ve met from the smaller villages are more down to earth, and simpler. They are not as fashion driven, and tend to see family and friends as more of a commodity. So figuring out how to get around inside the country will not only give you access to a pool of people who most outsiders don’t make the effort for, but you get to experience the real Ukraine away from Independence Square.
Ok.. getting there.. I use Kayak.com to search the best tickets. I’ve found most flights go into Kiev. The other main city is Odessa to fly into, but mostly Kiev. Some of the cheapest tickets I’ve seen were on LOT, Aeroflot, United, Delta, and Lufthansa. My trip this weekend will be on Swiss Air. Once you get to Kiev, there are several ways to get around. Ukrainian International Air is the main carrier inside of the country (http://www.flyuia.com/eng/us.html). Book your ticket directly on their website, so you can change it directly if needed. Try to avoid booking through Orbitz or similar if you can. They serve most of the bigger cities, from there, you need to use the bus and train to get around. Usually the flights leave at times that are early in the morning, or late at night, so getting around inside the country takes time. There is also the Autolux luxury buses. These guys have buses from the Int’l Airport in Kiel, to all over Ukraine (for cheap). Then the next option is the train… (http://www.uz.gov.ua/en/).. It’s slow and painful, but will get you there.
Once you arrive at the airport, the famous taxi game is one that I always hate no matter what country I’m in, and Ukraine is no different. I always get a few thousand UAH when I get out of the arrival gate. I want to be able to bargain in UAH. In most places, the airport taxis are controlled by the mob, and the prices are high. I always go past them to the guys outside of the lot, driving plain cars. The cost for one of them is about 200 UAH, as opposed to 300-400 for an airport taxi.. Sometimes the mob guys chase them away, but if you walk to where the cars leaving the airport are, someone always stops. They want to make the transaction quick so the they don’t get hassle, so they are less likely to haggle too hard. Always have the address of where you are going written down on a piece of paper to hand them, and the phone number of someone if possible. If you have an Ipad or phone, have maps up, and google translate ready to go. The ride into central Kiev is long, about 45 min, so 200UAH=$18.. not too bad. Some apartments will send a driver for $25-$50.. sometime this can be haggled, and it’s worth it to walk out and have a guy waiting for you.. When you book online, the owner will sometimes ask if you need a ride.
Where to sleep?? Never book into a hotel.. way over priced. I always stay in furnished apartments that run from $30-$65/night. I usually book them on www.booking.com, or Dobovo (http://www.dobovo.com/kiev-apartments.html). You can also just google apartments for rent in whatever city you are going to. These are sights that connect you to landlords. The agent usually emails with you before you arrive, then meets you at the apartment to collect any balances in cash and hand you the key, and go over how to use the internet, washer, shower, etc.. (I always text when I am leaving the airport in a taxi, and have them meet me right away). Be advised.. sometimes I have shown up, to be told the apartment I expected isn’t available. It’s common, so don’t panic. Just go see what they are offering you in its place. If you don’t like it, get a refund, and rebook. Always go for location around the city center. If they switch apartments, try to stay close to where you want to be. You want to be close to where you can walk to meet dates and have dinner. Don’t stay somewhere where you need to get around in taxis. In Kiev I stay near Independence Sq. In Odessa, stay near City Garden. In L’viv, stay near the old city center. I always make sure that internet is included, laundry machine, and a stand up shower. The buildings usually look rough on the outside, but are really nice inside. Don’t be alarmed when you first walk up :)
Later we’ll talk about how to plan your first meeting.. Picking a good place…
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