Some destinations sad to say are just not on the bucket list but Ukraine is a hot topic right now. With unprecedented numbers flocking to visit Chernobyl. Yes, still radioactive but seemingly safe you can now take a day tour. Not your cup of tea either? Don't worry there is plenty more to explore both in the large city of Kyiv (Kiev) and the surrounding areas.
A to Z Travel Blog - Ukraine
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Getting to Kyiv
We travelled from Krakow, Poland to Kyiv with Ukraine International Airlines (UIA) but there are other options available. The delayed flight arrived in the evening when it was already dark so we opted to take a taxi to the hotel. The fare was so reasonable and as it was convenient too, we decided to take the taxi option returning too. Before leaving the small airport we used the ATM for local currency.
Sadly Ukraine is one location that 3 mobile doesn't cover in the Go Roam package. We found it was easy enough to get around with free mobile hot spots in restaurants and at the hotel too. This got us by over the 4 days. Though you might like to purchase a sim card at the airport. The taxi took approx 40 minutes each way.
It's very easy to travel around Ukraine. The subway is a token system, you just buy as many as you want at the counter usually from a grumpy person. Just enter a token at the barrier and your all set. Get off at the wrong station, just jump back on. The small buses are cash only. Wow, public transport is cheap!
We stayed at the modern and comfortable Amarant Hotel. It wasn't central per-say but only a few minutes walk to the subway station, lots of coffee shops, pizza place and a supermarket. Everyone was super helpful. We went for the room only option as have found some breakfasts on previous occasions not good value and just not good really. Sad to say that this would have been one of those occasions. The coffee shops are excellent! We tried a different one each day and the variety of fresh-baked pastries was great.
For more accommodation options and great offers check out Booking.com
Looking for a package? Have you heard of Wowcher? Check out this incredible deal: 3 nights in Kyiv including a tour to Chernobyl.
Day 1: Delayed Late Arrival
Day 2: Exploring the Subway, parks and monuments
Day 3: Christmas Ornament Factory
Day 4: Chocolate Cafe & Botanical Gardens
What To See & Do
We loved walking around and exploring the art, from wall art to park art. Some of the artists are very talented.
See the many artists displaying their art for sale in the old town by St Andrews Church.
Here is an informative guide to Street Art
Don't miss the Children Landscape Park with its fun sculptures some remind me of the story of The Little Prince and the subway art too!
Kyiv is home to many beautiful churches, with incredible baroque architecture, golden globes, some with caves underneath and Kyiv is even home to 3 of the world's churches that boast the rare status of a lavra. There being only 12!
Discover more about Kyiv's 10 Best Orthodox churches You Must Visit.
A tour of Chernobyl starts early morning leaving from Kyiv around 08:30.
The long bus ride is comfortable and informative. An educational video plays detailing the events of the Chernobyl disaster of April 26th 1986.
When you arrive at the entrance, police check your passport and your permit then your bus goes through security. The gates are manned by soldiers, visiting the Exclusion Zone is not taken lightly and you cannot visit without a guide or the correct paperwork.
Weirdly, two cabins shops sell bad taste products before you go into the Zone.
Once in, your bus will stop at a variety of places such as:
An abandoned village
Chernobyl's main square
The landmark Pripyat Ferris wheel
Pripyat's main square
Some tours offer lunch at the Nuclear Plant itself. Yes! People have returned to work in Chernobyl.
The radiation you receive during the trip equates to that of normal background radiation, our guide reassures us.
You can read about the full experience at Two Scots Abroad's Chernobyl Tour Review*.
Day Trip To The Christmas Ornament Factory
I had seen the Christmas Ornament Factory advertised via a couple of tour booking sites and thought it wasn't very good value for money. However, if we went by ourselves then it would be under half the cost of one person! What I didn't bargain for was, nobody had heard of it! After some digging around I found the address and to save time the hotel kindly called the factory to make sure it was okay for us to visit and ordered us a taxi. Woohoo, we were on our way. An hour later we had arrived. What an adventure already.
The tour was in broken English but we were having so much fun seeing all the incredibly delicate ornaments being made, hand-dipped, hand painted and then left to dry before being boxed. On the way enjoying Christmas displays with musical ornaments. At the end, there is a mini-workshop painting your own Christmas bauble to take home. I loved it! So much fun. I think it's more for children but it is Christmas after all.
After saying our farewell's it was time for an even bigger adventure how to get back via public transport. A near miss with a pack of stray dogs lead us to the bus station and recognising the number on the small white bus we jumped on-board and handed over the small change. It was a little bumpy (no suspension) we were curious as to where if anywhere we would recognise to get off.
An hour or so later we had arrived at the last bus stop and it was directly by the red line/no1 subway station - Akademmistechko. What a relief we had done it. That's what I call a fun day out.
You may know, I really love chocolate!
We were both really excited when a friend recommended Lviv Handmade Chocolate. There are several cafes around the city of Kyiv. We visited the one opposite the botanical gardens for a very sweet lunch. Under all the chocolate there was healthy fruit (wink). The chocolate is so smooth, creamy and rich. Yum!
Of course, you can't visit Kyiv/Kiev without having the dish it's been named after - Chicken Kiev.
After walking for hours exploring we had worked up an appetite, stumbling on a traditional tavern in the old town we gave it ago. It wasn't too bad at the Za Dvoma Zaytsyamy. Probably one of the more expensive places though.
I hope you enjoyed reading the A to Z Travel Blog - Ukraine. Did I miss something? Sorry, we never managed to get to the Tunnel of Love, which looks incredible. An excuse to re-visit (wink) Any comments/questions?
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Until next time, happy travels:) x
P.s While visiting Kyiv don't rely on the City Sightseeing Tour Bus. We waited for it...turns out it was a ghost bus!