Spotlight on: Travel to Ukraine
Official country name: Ukraine
Location: Eastern Europe bordering Russia, Belarus, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova. The coastline of the Black Sea forms the border at the south.
Noteworthy facts: The origins of modern Russia, Belarus, Ukraine actually trace back to Kiev. During the middle ages this was the center of Kievan Rus’, a center of East Slavic culture. Ukraine is known for being the breadbasket of Europe, with some of the most fertile and productive land in the world. Ukraine has been under foreign rule for much of its existence, including Poland, Lithuania, the Mongols, Tatars, and the Soviets. North central Ukraine was the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant explosion.
Independence: Ukraine gained independence on 24 August 1991 from the USSR
Currency: Ukrainian hryvnia (UAH)
Population: 45 million (Ethnic Ukrainian 78%, Russian 17%, 5% Poles, Belorussians, Hungarians, Moldovans, Romanians, Jews, and others).
What to Do in Ukraine:
Ukraine can be a fascinating country to travel as long as it’s safe (see below). The mix of Ukrainian folk culture and the Orthodox religion combined with centuries of outside influences and rule have left there mark, most visibly in the architecture of Ukraine’s cities. Most visitors to Ukraine spend their time visiting the churches, monasteries, and high culture of Kyiv along with the European vibe of old Lviv, considered Ukraine’s most elegant city. Other interesting stops for visitors include: Odessa, the literary port city on the Black Sea coast, Chernihiv, a historic small city packed with old churches from the days of Kievan Rus’, the manificient castles of Khotyn and Kamyanets Podilsky, and Chernivsti, a culture, educational, and architectural center in western Ukraine. The Crimean Peninsula was once a popular destination but has been occupied by Russia. Touring the site of the Chernobyl nuclear plant, is a surprisingly common stop among foreign tourist’s itineraries.
How to get to Ukraine:
Plane, train, bus, car, and even ship are all options. Land borders are open between several countries, including Russia, Belarus, Romania, Moldova, Poland, Hungary, and Slovakia. The easiest and most common way for most tourists is by flight to Kyiv or Lviv, or by land via bus or train to Lviv from Poland.
Should you travel to Ukraine?
You should. But, you should make sure it’s safe to travel there first. The US State Department puts out its travel warnings for Ukraine here. The warnings are generally much more cautious than they need to be. At the present moment, there is no reason to avoid western Ukraine, especially Lviv, which is suffering from the lack of tourism. Eastern Ukraine is probably a place to avoid. But news and safety information is changing on an almost daily basis, so check for updates.