The capital city of Ukraine, Kiev doesn’t belong to most popular destinations in Europe. Before visiting this city we would never guess we’ll have so much fun there. Kiev definitely deserves a closer look and better research when planning a trip around Europe. It’s a big city with many attractions so this time even us took some more time for this destination. If you plan to spend there only a weekend, you will of course manage to see all the main attractions. But if you can stay there for couple of more days, don’t hesitate! You definitely won’t get bored :) See our Travel Guide – Things To Do in Kiev !
How To Get In Kiev
Plane is the best mean of transport that get you to the capital city of Ukraine. It would be really long journeys to do it by bus or train. Kiev has two airports: Boryspil and Zhuliany. The first one operates traditional carriers and the second one – mostly low costs. As we promote traveling on a tight budget we present you information only about Zhuliany.
This airport offers great connections within Europe. The most of routes and probably the cheapest tickets come from Wizz Air. They get you in Kiev from many German cities and a couple of polish ones. Also you can find flights from London (UK), Kopenhagen (Denmark), Budapest (Hungary), Bratislava (Slovakia), Larnaca (Cyprus), Vilnius (Lithuania) and a few more. It shouldn’t be a problem for you to buy those tickets for $25-40 return. We managed to do it for even less:
Gdansk – Kiev Zhuliany – Gdansk (Wizz Air, $20 RT)
Other interesting airlines that land at Zhuliany are: Vueling (Barcelona, Rome), Pegasus (Ankara) and flydubai (Dubai).
Airport procedures at Zhuliany go smoothly and hassle-free. The internet is full of stories about problems on the border caused by corrupted customs officers. No worries, they are only flight of imagination or at least – the past.
FROM AIRPORT TO THE CITY
In front of the terminal many taxi drivers will be waiting for you. A ride with them to the center of Kiev shouldn’t cost you more than 80 UAH (approx. $3). Be aware that they may try to rip you off and offer a price much higher than that. Simply ignore them and find a more honest person. Although it’s very cheap we will show you how to get to the center for less than that – How much? 3 UAH – so just 11 cents !!!!!!!! Here you have how we did it:
After leaving the terminal head straight, pass the car park and after a couple of minutes you will find a bus stop. Many marshrutkas depart from there, but you need to wait for a trolleybus no. 9. A single ticket costs 3 UAH and can be bought on board from the lady who sells them to passengers and checks if everybody paid for their rides. In 20-25 minutes it will get you to Leo Tolstoy Square, from where it’s 15-minute walk via famous Kreschiatik Street to Maidan Independence Square (Maidan Nezalezhnosti).
How To Get Around Kiev
For longer rides the best mean of transport is metro. This city has 3 lines of it – M1 is red one, M2 blue and M3 green. Kiev’s ticketing system for metro is the easiest one we’ve ever seen. The only thing you need to do is to buy a token at the counter or from exchange machines (cash only) and insert it into the gate while entering the platform. One token costs 4 UAH (approx. $0.15) and allows you riding with transfers for how long you wish, even for the whole day! To ride the metro again, simply use another token. You can keep this token and take it home as an original souvenir from Kiev as well.
The most important metro stations in Kiev are: Maidan Nezalezhnosti and Kreschiatik. What’s interesting, they are located next to each other but they are parts of the different lines – Maidan on the line M2 and Kreschiatik on the line M1. You can transfer between them underground as they work similarly to one interchange station.
Platforms of Kiev metro were built really deep underground and Arsenalna station is the deepest one in the world. It takes 5-6 minutes to get in the platform by two long escalators.
On shorter routes it’s very popular to ride by marshrutka. It’s a minibus which frequently goes on fixed routes. One ride costs 3.5 UAH (approx. $0.13) and is paid to the driver (no ticket/any proof of payment provided). It’s the best place to feel like a local, because almost every time marshrutkas are crowded and there are strong interactions between passengers (to pass the money to the driver, exchange money etc.) Great experience. Depending on routes you may take a trolleybus for only 3 UAH per ride (approx. $0.11) that can be used instead of marshrutka. Tickets for trolleybus are sold by a lady working inside the vehicle.
Things To Do In Kiev
MAIDAN NEZALEZHNOSTI (INDEPENDENCE SQUARE)
Central square of Kiev. It’s famous for many political protests which took place there (e.g. Euromaidan, Orange Revolution). Through Maidan goes the main street of Kiev – Kreshchatyk.
The complex of the most important Orthodox Christian monasteries in Ukraine. It’s worth to go there to see the unique gilded domes of these churches. There is also a possibility to see caves and many other exhibitions in Lavra. Basic entrance ticket to the area of monasteries costs only 20 UAH (approx. $0.75).
Closer to the center you can find a few other beautiful monasteries as well:
- SOPHIA’S CATHEDRAL
- MICHAEL’S MONASTERY
- ANDREW’S CHURCH
This residence that is placed in village Mezhyhirya just 20 minutes ride from north of Kiev, used to be owned by Victor Yanukovych – former President of Ukraine. During the Ukrainian revolution in 2014 Yanukovych was forced to flee the country. Then his unbelievably posh and elegant villa with 140 hectares of land became open to public and organized as a first and only “museum of corruption” in the world. The entrance ticket costs 50 UAH (approx. $2), but to see the estate inside you need to pay extra. The estate is full of luxurious staff like golf course, indoor and outdoor tennis courts, private zoo, beautiful gardens, garage for many sport and classic cars, huge yacht, helicopter landing ground and petrol station.
But there are two buildings that marvel the most: the house of Yanukovych called Honka and sport & wellness center called FOK. They are connected by a long underground tunnel, which he was covering by a golf cart. The only way to see these buildings inside is with a guided tour (only in Ukrainian language). They start at some full hours, but irregularly and only a few times a day. Just wait for a guide in front of FOK building.
After paying 200 UAH (approx. $8) you will see a bowling club, atrium with stuffed lion, tennis court, boxing ring and gym, salt cave and massage room (two Thai girls used to work there). Then you will go through the underground tunnel and find yourself in huge and wooden Honka. There your guide will show you a few meeting halls, private office (you can sit at the presidential desk), cinema, living rooms, bedrooms, billiard room, dining rooms, tea room, little chapel, balcony with the view over gardens and Dnieper, stairs like in Titanic movie and giant, impressive chandelier. However, probably the most shocking are bathrooms: taps, showers, soap dishes, tissue boxes and even toilet brushes are made of gold. The whole residence is estimated to be worth $75-100 million. It’s not possible for a tourist to see so easily such a lavish place anywhere in the world.
The 102 meters high monumental statue made by steel. It’s a part of the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in World War II. We can recommend this place especially to historians and military fans.
TROLLEY OVER DNIEPER
This attraction is perfect for extreme lovers. It’s a one-seat cable trolley that goes between banks of Dnieper – this is over 500 meters. A ride takes less than a minute and speeds up to 80 km/h. It guarantees great views over the river and much excitement. To make it even more scary, the trolley doesn’t slow down at the end, but you must hit the ending barrier at full speed to finish your ride.
You can buy tickets at the spot and cost 200 UAH (approx. $8) For students it’s only 100 UAH, but to 5 pm on weekdays. You can also rent a GoPro camera for your ride for 100 UAH or buy photos for 50 UAH (will be sent at your e-mail). To get to the starting station you need to look for People’s Friendship Arch – trolley is just next to it. By the way, the trolley goes only in one direction, so coming back is possible only on foot.
To gain more information about the trolley over Dnieper you can visit the official site of the Sky Park. Keep in mind that rides are available only during summer.
NATIONAL MUSEUM ”MEMORIAL TO HOLODOMOR VICTIMS”
This small museum not far from Pechersk Lavra memorializes millions of people killed by man-made famine in 1932-1933 in Soviet Ukraine. You can learn there the history of those people, see photos, watch documentary movies. Visiting this place is a sad experience but worth to do. The most memorable part of the museum are huge piles of grain. One grain symbolizes one victim. See on pictures below how many of them were there.
Entrance fee is only 5 UAH (approx. $0.19), students pay 2 UAH.
It’s a reconstruction of medieval main gate of the city. Although there are no original parts of the construction, it’s still interesting and can show a bit of historical Kiev.
Sleeping, Eating, Safety
Finding a place to sleep in Kiev is not only cheap, but also very easy. There are plenty of budget options in the town, even close to the center. Probably you won’t believe that prices for beds in hostels start from $3 and double rooms from $10. If you have a bit more money to spend you can stay in famous Hotel Ukraina. It’s beautifully located on a hill just over the Maidan Square. Everyone who visit the center is simply not able to omit it. Despite high standards of the hotel, you won’t pay so much there. Basic double rooms cost up to $58, but only if you hurry up and book it at least couple months before your arrival.
However, we still advise you to try Couchsurfing. There’s no better way to meet Ukrainian culture. We have never got more positive and nice replies to our CS requests than we got in Kiev.
Ukrainian dishes are really tasty and there’s one place that is a must to try them – Puzata Hata. It’s a canteen restaurant chain that serves national Ukrainian food. There are many options to choose, but we recommend Chicken Kiev widely known as a cutlet Kiev-style. We came back there next days and tried other meat dishes as well, but this cutlet was definitely the best. In Puzata Hata for not more than $5 you will get a soup, main course, drink and dessert. There are a few their restaurants in the city, but probably the easiest one to find is in Globus – underground shopping mall (near Maidan).
Another nice spot for a good lunch is Varenichna Katyusha. We found this cafeteria accidentally while walking near Leo Tolstoy Square. Tried pancakes there and spent some time to rest a bit. Staff was friendly, food tasty and prices very low – 38 UAH (approx. $1.4) for a portion of pancakes with chocolate sauce.
East part of Ukraine (Donbass and surrounding lands) is currently a war zone. All travels to these regions and close to them are extremely dangerous and inadvisable under any circumstances. Check the website of the ministry of foreign affairs of your country to get the current information about the safety in this area. However, this situation doesn’t affect the level of safety in Kiev.
From many sources you can get info that Kiev is a doggy city where you might feel unsafe on the streets. We completely disagree with it! We were walking during late evenings in darker areas and there was no need to be scared. Just standard precautions will be sufficient. However, the municipality of Kiev should improve the lighting of some districts so that it would be more comfortable to walk after dark.
How Much Does It Cost ? (Per Person)
flights RT: $20
airport – city (tram): 3 UAH (approx. $0.11)
city – airport (taxi): 140 UAH /2 persons = 70 UAH (approx. $2.5)
public transport: 60 UAH (approx. $2.50)
accommodation: free – Couchsurfing
Heroiv Dnipra metro station – Mezhyhirya (private car ride): 50 UAH (approx. $2)
Mezhyhirya – Maidan Square (minibus): 25 UAH (approx. $1)
Yanukovych Villa (admission + inside): 250 UAH (approx. $10)
Trolley over Dnieper: 100 UAH (approx. $4)
Pechersk Lavra: 20 UAH (approx. $0.75)
Holodomor Museum: 2 UAH (approx. 8 cents)
TOTAL for the whole trip (4 days): $68
Spending for 1 day (food + transport + accommodation): $7