Ukraine travel guide
Vast and mysterious to many, Ukraine is barely known to outsiders despite being one of the largest countries in Europe. Long-associated with its colossal neighbour Russia, it’s a country that stands out in its own right for its varied landscapes and surprising cultural diversity.
To the majority of those visiting for the first time, the reputation of Ukraine’s hardy inhabitants can seem formidable. But while, much like in neighbouring Russia, cracking a smile at a stranger in the street is deemed a sure sign of madness, locals tend to be a thoroughly welcoming lot once you’ve broken the ice. Before long they’ll be showing you round the sights and inviting you to their home for a steaming borscht – the country’s iconic beetroot soup.
Ukraine’s natural side is also seen as tough – and it’s true that in winter snow covers most of the land as temperatures plummet. During the rest of the year, though, it’s surprisingly clement. What’s more, with its largely unspoilt, verdant interior, Ukraine is ideal for hikers and cyclists.
The Carpathian Mountains that spill over the border with Poland, Hungary and Romania dominate the west of the country while flat plains carpeted with sunflowers and cereals make up much of the central and eastern region. To the south are the almost Mediterranean-like Black Sea coast and the Crimean Peninsula, which remains a huge draw for holidaymakers every summer. And even when snow falls through the winter, the landscape is beautiful, while there are many old churches and Soviet-era buildings to dive into for shelter.
Ukraine’s capital, Kiev, founded in the eighth century, displays a heady mix of architecture befitting of a city that was once capital of Kievan Rus, the precursor of the modern Russian state. A wealth of baroque and Renaissance architecture can also be found in Lviv, one of Europe’s oldest cities, while Odessa is probably best known for the Potemkin Stairway that featured in Sergei Eisenstein’s epic film The Battleship Potemkin.
Recently, Ukraine has been in the news for the wrong reasons due to Russian separatism on the border. Despite this, most of the country is completely safe for visitors.
603,700 sq km (233,090 sq miles).
44,624,373 (UN estimate 2016).
73.6 per sq km.
President Petro Poroshenko since 2014.
Prime Minister Volodymyr Groysman since 2016.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.
Last updated: 10 October 2017
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. ‘We’ refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to:
The FCO isn’t able to provide consular services to anyone in the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts not currently under control of the Ukrainian authorities.
The security situation in the southeastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine remains highly unstable with ongoing clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists. The UN calculates this has resulted in approximately 10,100 deaths and the internal displacement of between 800,000 and 1 million people residing permanently in government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting.
If you travel to eastern Ukraine to fight, or to assist others engaged in the conflict, your activities may amount to offences against UK terrorism or other legislation and you could be prosecuted on your return to the UK.
It’s illegal under Ukrainian law to enter internationally recognised Ukrainian territory through a border point that isn’t currently controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. If you do so, you risk arrest or a fine, and you may be subject to a travel ban. International border crossings that aren’t currently under the control of the Ukrainian authorities include all land border crossings into Donetsk Oblast and many or the land border crossings into Luhansk Oblast. Information on border crossing procedure, entry/exit regulations and checkpoints are provided at the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine website.
There are no scheduled flights into or out of Donetsk and Luhansk airport.
The FCO is not able to provide consular services to anyone in Crimea.
Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea. Following an illegal referendum on 16 March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March 2014 and tensions remain high.
Ukrainian International Airlines have cancelled all flights to and from Simferopol.
All train and official bus services to Crimea have been cancelled.
It’s illegal under Ukrainian law to enter internationally recognised Ukrainian territory through a border point that isn’t currently controlled by the Ukrainian authorities. If you do so, you risk arrest or a fine, and you may be subject to a travel ban. International border points that aren’t currently under the control of the Ukrainian authorities include all air and sea ports in Crimea.
Information on border crossing procedure, entry/exit regulations and checkpoints are provided at the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine website.
To enter or exit Crimea, foreign nationals will need to provide their passport and a special permit issued by the State Migration Service of Ukraine.
The European Union has imposed restrictions on economic relations with Crimea following its illegal annexation by Russia. These restrictions apply to all UK people and companies and include an import ban, a full ban on investment and a prohibition on supplying tourism services in Crimea. Exports of further key goods for certain sectors are also banned.
The Crimean sea ports of Kerch, Sevastopol, Feodosia, Yalta and Yevpatoria have been designated by the Ukrainian authorities as closed to international shipping.
Other parts of Ukraine, including Kyiv
The situation in Kyiv and other areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk is generally calm. Public demonstrations regularly take place at Maydan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square), in and around government buildings such as the Verkhovna Rada (parliament building) and the National Bank of Ukraine as well as elsewhere in Kyiv.
Although most are peaceful, public demonstrations can flare up and turn violent with little warning. Policing of these demonstrations may include road closures. Avoid all demonstrations and take extra care in public gatherings. You should remain vigilant throughout Ukraine. Monitor the media for information about possible safety or security risks.
The British Embassy in Kyiv is open to the public by appointment only. If you need to contact the British Embassy, please call +380 44 490 3660, or send an email to email@example.com
Around 70, 300 British nationals visited Ukraine in 2016. Most visits are trouble-free.
Take care on the roads. There are a high number of traffic accidents, including fatalities.
Beware of petty crime, especially in crowded areas and tourist spots or when using public transport.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Ukraine.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible safety or security risks. You should avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, as even peaceful protests may turn violent.
Most visitors to Ukraine experience no difficulties. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur. In some cases attacks have been racially motivated. Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.
You should report any incidents to the police by dialling 102. A list of local translators is available on the British Embassy website.
Be alert to the possibility of street crime and petty theft, which is on the increase in Kyiv. Foreigners may appear to be lucrative targets. Where possible, avoid walking alone late at night in dark or poorly lit streets. Keep valuables and cash safe and out of sight, especially in crowded areas, tourist spots, and public transport, where pickpockets and bag snatchers operate.
A common scam is to drop a wallet or bundle of money in front of a tourist. The criminal then “finds” the money and asks if it is the tourist’s or offers to share the money with them. If you are approached in this way, you should walk away without engaging in conversation.
Don’t lose sight of your credit cards during transactions.
Theft of and from vehicles is common. Don’t leave documents or money in your vehicle. Unregulated taxi drivers can overcharge. Use official taxis, which have the name and telephone number of the taxi company on the side of the door and on the top of the taxi.
Do not leave drinks or food unattended as they could be spiked. Beware of accepting drinks from casual acquaintances.
Bus, trolleybus and tram tickets normally need to be validated by being ‘punched’ when you board. You can be fined on the spot if you are travelling with a ticket that has not been validated.
There is a wide network of minibuses. The fare is normally displayed on the window inside the minibus. You may need to pass your money to the driver via other passengers.
There is no metro connection to Kyiv city centre from Boryspil International Airport. The most convenient way to reach the city centre is by taxi. Alternatively you can take the ‘Sky Bus’ from the airport to the city centre (via Kharkivska metro station to the main railway station “Pivdenny”). You can buy a ticket from the driver.
Use official taxis which display the name and telephone number of the taxi company. Where possible ask your hotel to get a taxi for you or ask for the telephone number of a reputable taxi company. You should agree the fare before getting into the taxi.
A number of local companies offer tours to Chernobyl. Some areas around the reactor are covered by an exclusion zone, and you may need to get a permit and travel with a guide. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, although some of the radioactive isotopes released into the atmosphere still linger, they are at tolerable exposure levels for limited periods of time. The State Agency for Managing the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has issued safety instructions and advice for people visiting the zone.
You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive legally in Ukraine, as well as your UK driving licence. Make sure you have original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers available at all times. These will be required if you are stopped by the police and when crossing borders. This also applies to rental vehicles. If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this.
Local driving standards are poor. Street lights are weak, speed limits, traffic lights and road signs are often ignored, and drivers rarely indicate before manoeuvring. There are a high number of traffic accidents, including fatalities. Speeding, drunk driving and infrequent use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles are the main contributing factors.
Roads are of variable quality. Driving outside major towns at night can be hazardous. Avoid night-time travel wherever possible.
You must wear a seat belt. Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited. There is a zero-tolerance policy on drink driving.
There have been reports of traffic police stopping vehicles and levying on-the-spot fines for minor traffic violations. Ukrainian law allows the police to stop a vehicle. The police officer should give their name and rank, explain why you have been stopped and make an administrative offence report. Fines have to be paid at a bank within 15 days.
In case of a road accident dial 102. Ukrainian officials generally only speak Ukrainian.
For information regarding bringing your car to Ukraine, see Entry requirements.
If you travel by train, make sure your belongings are secure.
Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment
Train timetables and ticket reservation is available online on the Ukrainian Railways site.
You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices – IATA Operational Safety Audit and IATA Standard Safety Assessment. These lists aren’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.
The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Ukraine.
Air Urga has been refused permission to operate services to the EU due to safety deficiencies. You can find a full list of airlines banned from operating within the EU on the European Commission website. Refusal of permission to operate is often based on inspections of aircraft at EU airports. The fact that an airline isn’t included in the list doesn’t automatically mean that it meets the applicable safety standards.
Direct flights between Ukraine and Russia ceased on 25 October 2015 and on 25 November 2015 Ukraine banned all Russian airlines from transiting its airspace. Check latest developments with your airline or travel company before you travel.
Local laws and customs
Penalties for being caught in possession of drugs are severe.
Smoking and drinking alcoholic drinks in public places is officially banned. Public places include transport, bus stops, underground crossings, cultural, sports and governmental establishments, playgrounds and parks.
Although homosexuality is not prohibited by law, public attitudes are less tolerant than in the UK and public displays of affection may attract negative attention. There’s no provision under Ukrainian legislation guaranteeing freedom from discrimination on the grounds of sexual orientation. The Kyiv Pride parade in June 2017 passed off without incident.
If you’re visiting Ukraine for the purpose of commissioning surrogacy arrangements you should consider the potential risks and challenges involved in pursuing international surrogacy and seek specialist legal advice on Ukrainian and UK laws prior to making any arrangements. You should research prospective clinics dealing with surrogacy in detail to make sure you’re dealing with a reputable organisation.
The British Embassy can’t help with enquiries about surrogacy arrangements, clinics, legal and immigration issuesor British passports. The FCO and Home Office have produced guidance to help inform you of the issues you may face when embarking on a surrogacy arrangement.
Commissioning a surrogacy won’t automatically mean that the child holds British citizenship. If you wish to bring your child born via surrogacy from Ukraine to the UK you must apply for a full British passport, for which a Ukrainian birth certificate will be needed. More information on local birth registration can be found at the Department for State Registration and Notary Services website.
Corruption remains a major problem. If you think you have been mistreated by an official then you should report your case to the relevant government department:
you can make a complaint about political corruption and mistreatment from the authorities to the National Anti-Corruption Bureau: telephone (+38 044) 200 06 91
Ukrainian officials generally only speak Ukrainian.
Carry your passport at all times for ID purposes. Police may carry out passport checks on foreign nationals, particularly in the central area of Kyiv. Policemen should introduce themselves (name, post, rank, reason for ID check) and present a document verifying their position. Your original passport is required since no other document can provide information on your legal status in Ukraine. If you are detained because you have been unable to present your passport, you should ask for an official report.
Don’t take photographs near government or military establishments.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Ukraine. The Ukrainian authorities have announced that they have disrupted a number of planned attacks, including in Kyiv. Attacks have mainly been aimed at official Ukrainian targets, but could happen anywhere and could affect western interests and places visited by foreigners.
British nationals haven’t been specifically targeted. You should remain vigilant and avoid large gatherings and demonstrations.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
British citizens are allowed to enter Ukraine without a visa for visits of up to 90 days within a 180 day period. Otherwise, you’ll need to get a visa. For more advice on entry requirements contact the Ukrainian Embassy in London or Consulate General in Edinburgh.
You don’t need to complete an immigration card. For more details, visit the website of the State Border Guard Service of Ukraine
Proof of financial means
You may be asked to provide evidence that you have sufficient funds to support you during your stay. The Ukrainian authorities accept the following as a proof of sufficient funds: cash, bank cards along with bank statements, accommodation bookings, tourist vouchers, a letter from the person or company you’re visiting stating that they will cover your expenses, a return ticket or onward travel ticket. You can find more information on the websites of the Ukrainian Embassy in the UK and State Border Service of Ukraine.
If you’re travelling without a visa, your passport should be valid for the proposed duration of your stay. No additional period of validity beyond this is required. If you’re applying for a visa, your passport may need to have an additional period of validity. Check with the Ukrainian Embassy in London for further details.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents are accepted for entry, airside transit and exit from Ukraine.
You can find general information about importing and exporting items on the website of the State Fiscal Service of Ukraine (in Ukrainian).
There are strict customs regulations governing the export from Ukraine of antiques and items of historical interest. If in doubt seek prior permission from the customs authorities: telephone: (+38 044) 454 16 13, e-mail: firstname.lastname@example.org
Bringing your car to Ukraine
For information about driving rules in Ukraine, see Safety and security
Non-residents are allowed to bring a vehicle for personal use into Ukraine for up to one year. There’s no need to complete a customs declaration form. The vehicle can only be used in Ukraine by the person that brought it into the country. The vehicle can’t be used for commercial purposes, dismantled, sold or rented to other people. If you want to do any of these things, you’ll need register the vehicle in Ukraine and pay the appropriate customs tax.
You must take the vehicle out of Ukraine within the required timeframe, or place it into the customs regime of the State.
If your vehicle breaks down and can’t be fixed, you should inform the Customs Service and provide them with evidence that it can’t be repaired. You may then dispose of the vehicle through the official channels of the Customs Service.
If you bring a private vehicle in Ukraine with the intention of transiting the country, you may be asked to complete a customs declaration form and pay a deposit.
You can find more information on bringing your car to Ukraine on the State Fiscal Service’s website (in Ukrainian).
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
There is no reciprocal health care agreement between the UK and Ukraine. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation.
State medical facilities in Ukraine are generally poor. Private clinics and hospitals offer a better standard of care, though these do not always meet western standards and practices. If you are involved in an accident or taken ill, it is likely that you will be taken to a state hospital unless you can show that you have comprehensive medical insurance cover.
English isn’t widely spoken and British patients may face communication difficulties.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip, dial 103 and ask for an ambulance. You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
ATMs are available and credit cards are widely used in cities. Cloning of credit and debit cards is common. You should be vigilant when using ATMs and not let your card out of your sight during transactions. Outside cities you should make sure you have sufficient cash in local currency.
The official currency of Ukraine is the Hryvnia (UAH). US dollars and Euros are the easiest currency to exchange in Ukraine. Sterling may also be exchanged at a more limited number of sites. Scottish and Northern Irish notes aren’t accepted. You should only use official exchange booths and make sure you’re given a receipt.
You’ll need to present your passport if you wish to exchange currency worth 150,000 UAH or over. Keep the receipt as you may need to produce it if you exchange money back on departure.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.