Sometime visiting a country one has never been to can be a challenge in a way. This section of the Kiev Information Guide covers information on such essentials as climate, electricity, safety, documentation, language and other things that weren't included in the other parts of our Travel Tips.
Every visitor to Ukraine should obey Ukraineís customs formalities and regulations. When you cross the Ukrainian border you must fill out a customs declaration. Itís recommended to declare valuable items and money you bring with you in Ukraine. Items of high artistic and historical value cannot be exported without a permission issued by the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine. This applies to art collections or separate works of art, archeological or numismatic items, precious jewels, manuscripts, etc.
As compared with large cities of the world, Kiev is quite a safe city. Crime in respect of foreigners adds up with pick pocketing and cheating in the markets. It is mainly due to the fact that offensive weapons are illegal both to have and carry in public. In order to avoid pick pocketing, one should keep any valuables, important documents and money in a safe place and not to flaunt in public. A special money holder can be a good choice. Today you can buy it almost in every local shop for travelers.
If you visit a country you have never been to before, it is advisable to have at hand the address and telephone number of the embassy of your country in Ukraine. Foreign embassy network in Kiev numbers tens of embassies. Here you will find addresses and telephone numbers of the city's major foreign embassies. Write down your embassy contact information in case you get into troubles or need some urgent help.
The climate in Ukraine is temperate continental. It is mainly characterized by plentiful precipitation and cloudiness in winter and fall. Winters are usually long and cold. Summers are short but can be pretty hot. The average temperature in winter is 17-35 degrees F (-8 to +1 C), in summer - 65-80 degrees F (+18 to +27 C). In winter heavyweight clothing is recommended; lightweight clothing is good for summer.
The electrical current in Ukraine is 220V AC. The plug-and-socket connection is different from one used in the United States. If you take appliances from your home, do not forget to take a converter and a plug adapter in order you could use your electrical appliance in Ukraine. For valuable equipment, it is recommended that you bring a surge protector to keep your electrical appliance safe. Note that devices not rated for 50 Hz will hardly operate properly.
Time in Ukraine is 2 hours ahead of Greenwich Mean Time, or GMT. Daylight Saving Time is from late March till late October. Clocks are set one hour forward in the last week of March and one hour backward in the last month of October.
You may always find out the exact local time in Ukraine dialing 060.
Ukrainian is an official language of Ukraine. However, Russian is widely in use in the country. Most people in Kiev and in Eastern Ukraine speak Russian as a main language, while Ukrainian is a main language in Western Ukraine. If you are familiar with one of these languages you will be able to communicate with Ukrainians without any problems. As of English, now more and more people learn this language, which is the most popular one among other foreign languages in the country.
Before you go do not forget to learn some basics in the Ukrainian or Russian language. Such phrases as "Thank you", "Excuse me", "Please", "Do you speak English?", "Can you help me?", and others in the language of Ukraine will help you much even if this is all you know in Ukrainian or Russian. Knowing your hotel's location in Ukrainian (as well as other destinations you might need to visit) will help you greatly when talking to taxi drivers or people in the street.
Most offices and shops in Ukraine are open for eight hours a day, from Monday to Friday, with one hour for a lunch. One hour's interval is usually from 1 p.m. to 2 p.m.
Banks are open to public from 9 a.m. to 3 p.m. Most businesses start working at 9 a.m. and finish at 6 p.m.
As regards grocery stores, there are a lot of such stores in Kiev and other major cities that work 24 hours a day, without a break. Some cafes and restaurants are open until late at night.
Tap water is chemically safe in Ukraine, but it is recommended to boil water before drinking it. It is even better to use bottled purified water available almost in every shop. However, we recommend that you buy water in supermarkets, so you can be assured that the water is not spurious. Note that hot water can be turned off for about one month during the summer time. Most hotels provide electrical heating facilities in a bathroom, so you will not face such problems.
Cigarettes and alcohol are much cheaper in Ukraine than in most Western countries. You can buy alcohol on reaching 18. Do not forget that Ukraine is a zero-tolerance country, so never drink and drive. Ukraine doesn't have any strict regulations regarding smoking, but indeed smoking is prohibited in public places and on transport. It is advisable not to buy cigarettes and especially alcohol in the street.
Prior to visiting Ukraine or any other foreign country, it is suggested that you learn some basic rules of etiquette used in the country you plan to go. Our simple recommendations will help you avoid some uncertainty you might have under certain conditions when in Ukraine. Visiting someone in Ukraine it is advisable to bring a gift with you. If you want to bring flowers, do not forget that even number of flowers is intolerable.