Republic. Gained independence from the Soviet Union in 1991.
Head of state:
President Petro Poroshenko since 2014.
Head of government:
Acting Prime Minister Arseniy Yatseniuk since 2014.
220 volts AC, 50Hz. European plugs with two round pins are used.
Vast and vaguely mysterious, 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 of varied landscapes and surprising cultural diversity. 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.
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.
Last updated: 26 February 2015
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.
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 visits are trouble free. But foreign nationals have been the victims of violent crime in Kyiv and other major cities. 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. A list of local translators is available on the British Embassy website.
Be alert to the possibility of street crime and petty theft. 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 South Station of Kyiv-Pasazhirskyy train station). Sky Buses go from Terminals B and F. You can buy a ticket from the driver or at the ticket office of Kiy Avia in Terminals B and F.
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.
You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive legally in Ukraine. 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 fifteen days.
The Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Department of Traffic Police has published the following Helpline and Duty Telephone numbers that you can contact for advice:
Ministry of Internal Affairs:
Helpline: (8044) 256 1675
Duty Telephone: (8044) 256 1002/4
Department of Traffic Police:
Helpline: (8044) 272 4659
Duty Telephone: (8044) 272 3660
Ukrainian officials generally only speak Ukrainian and Russian. See the AA and RAC guides to driving in Ukraine.
If you take the overnight train, make sure your belongings are secure.
Train timetables and ticket reservation is available online on the Ukrainian Railways site.