Ah Kiev! So so cheap. Especially compared to some other eastern European countries that are getting more and more popular by the minute. The flights there might be a little pricey (we flew from London) but once you’re there the food and drink is cheap and there’s heaps of free things to do. I was pleasantly surprised how far 50bucks got me! And of course there’s the not cheap but once in a lifetime chance to visit Chernobyl! If you’re that way inclined…
The lack of western tourists can be almost refreshing, it feels a bit more adventurous!
Here’s how my boyfriend David and I filled our time in Kiev:
First things first – Visas
For some reason New Zealanders and Australians are part of the group that have to get visas to enter Ukraine. Brits (David), Americans, Canadians don’t have to the lucky bums! But we can just turn up and get the visa on arrival at the main airport Boryspil. We don’t need an ‘invitation letter’ like some other countries.
Top Tip: It’s extremely important to have everything printed off! If you don’t have you will have to pay US$60 to get something printed at the onsite travel shop. Things such as your accommodation confirmation with the address on it, tour booking confirmations, ongoing flights and your travel insurance. Keep your boarding pass from the flight you were just on too, as they need the flight number.
It’s a bit scary, but just try to keep calm and know that a lot of people have to do this, and they don’t want to send you home! My visa fee was €23, but a Chinese girl who was there, her fee was US$100! So it will vary depending on the country you’re from.
Things to do
Free walking tour – One of my favourite things to do in a new city is a walking tour as soon as possible. It helps me get my bearings and you get an inside perspective from a local. It will cross off a lot of the must see attractions such as Maidan/Independence Square, the stunning St Michael’s Cathedral, the beautiful St Andrews Church and the ancient Golden Gate. Plus you get more time later to enjoy other activities like lets say eating and drinking! I always go for the free ones, then it’s just the price of a well-deserved small donation!
We had the lovely Veronika of Free Tours Kiev show us around her beautiful city. We went mid August so it was hot, hot sunshine for me! I was a sweaty mess the whole time, but she always tried to stop in the ‘shadow’ as she called it. (Our Chernobyl tour guide also said shadow, I thought it was so cute.)
Walk along the Right Bank – I know, a bunch of walking right after a walking tour? But we had more to see! So after lunch we strolled down the winding Andriyvskiy Uzviz,. Our walking tour had pointed out the famous street, but we wanted another look at the quaint, descending road of mass souvenirs and stunning street art. From there it was onwards to the Right Bank. (After a bit of a trek) we could see a beach on Dnieper riverbank where locals were cooling off in the sparkling blue water from the 30 degree afternoon. I was rather envious.
We then got the metro down to Arsenalna stop, to walk through the museum area. We happened to stumble across the UNESCO World Heritage National Historical and Cultural Reserve. It had at least 10 different sites in it. It was huge! We arrived a bit too late as most things were closed, but by then we had done way too much walking for one day. So it was back to the apartment to chillax before heading out to dinner. Aaaaand that’s when my food poisoning kicked in.
Chernobyl day tour – Check out my post on that here:
Eat, drink and be merry
We knew of a couple of places we wanted to try while in the capital. We got to a couple before my horrible food poisoning episode! I won’t name the restaurant as it could’ve just been one dodgy meal and David was fine ! It could have something to do with all of our meals being lukewarm for some reason by the time they got to us?
Highly recommended – Slavutych Shato Brewery
It’s true that a lot of the time the restaurants on the main street of a city aren’t the best, they usually cater for tourists and pump out the meals. But this place seemed to be filled with locals just as much as tourists. As far as I can pick out a Ukrainian accent anyway. Which I can’t… Sooo that’s just what I’m telling myself. It was a great place to sit outside and watch the people go by on a warm summers night. We came here on our first night as it wasn’t too far from our Airbnb and brewed its own beer. David had a tasty pizza and I had to try a kiev while in Kiev. And the beer was delicious! A pint was 45 hryvnia which is €1.50/£1.30/NZ$2.30, which is pretty damn cheap.
Unfortunately my Kiev taste testing was cut short due to the above mentioned issue. So I missed out on 2 dinners and several other meals and I didn’t get to fully experience the Ukrainian cuisine. I was so sad. Food is one of my favourite things on earth and I love trying the local cuisine.
How to get around in Kiev
Airport to City Centre – There’s a bus that takes you into the central train station in Kiev, that took about 45 minutes for 60 hryvnia each. We got a great first sight of the city too! From there we got a taxi to our Airbnb as we were already running late due to my visa taking a lot longer than I thought it would. We are so glad we did, as it looked like walking would’ve been an absolute mission! The 10 min taxi ride cost 100 hryvnia, so cheap! (€3.30)
Metro – Metro was really cheap, like 4 hryvnia for a single journey. Tickets were pretty easy to figure out but figuring out which platform to take was a bit harder. Resulting in a few detours but it’s all part of the fun!
Walking – David and I are both fans of walking as much as possible. We only get taxis when absolutely necessary, not only to save money but you see so much more of a place that way. Of curse this is only really possible if staying in the city centre. So I think it’s worth paying a little more to be central so you spend less on transport and it’s less stress of trying to get around!
Taxis – Having said that, we had a flight at 7.30am on Sunday morning so we had to get a taxi to the airport at 4.30am. David downloaded the local taxi app – Uklon, (which you’ll find on google, apparently Uber was running since July, but no cabs were available). On Uklon, the fare was 70 hryvnia to the airport, but no one accepted. So David raised the fare to 100, boom, had a taxi in 2 minutes.
Turns out Zhulhany airport was only 20 minutes away. We could’ve had another hour in bed dammit!
Where we stayed
We went with an Airbnb for this trip, as ee found a really nice one that was so much cheaper than the hotels in our price range. It was in Baseina Street, right in the heart of the city for only £35 each for 3 nights. Bargain! My friend who has family in Kiev and visits a few times a year was a bit worried we were using Airbnb. She wasn’t sure if it’d be reliable but I can now confirm that it is!
Definitely worth it!
We only had 2 and a half days in Kiev, so not enough! We could easily have had another day, even two there. Then we could’ve spread out our exploring. I could’ve recovered a bit after my food poisoning and we could’ve had a sleep in one morning. So if possible I’d recommend at least 3 full days in Kiev.
On a side note – if you haven’t seen it already, I highly recommend watching Winter on Fire. The award-winning documentary on the 2014 political revolution in Kiev. It is incredible! I’m so glad I saw it just before I went to Kiev. It gave so much more meaning to what I was seeing, especially Maidan/Independence Square.