As football is my favorite sport, I am looking forward to watching the European cup this year in Ukraine. As my fiance is from Ukraine and as I have spent some time there, I would like to offer assistance to anyone who is planning to travel there this summer.
For me Ukraine has become my second home. I have friends there and more importantly family. Initially though it was a shock to my system, as the way of life is very different in some respects. Luckily I had already been to Eastern Europe before my first trip to Ukraine but it still took some getting used to
As I learned from my four months in Ukraine last summer, there are certain things to be aware of in order to have an enjoyable time.
Travel - Since most of the football games are in the large cities, getting a flight is the most practical way to travel. Once you arrive in Kiev you will find a number of flights each day to all the major cities.
Should you choose a different method, I would suggest travelling by train. The trains are a cost effective and safe way to travel and far easier than renting a car. The road systems in Ukraine are not the same quality we enjoy and the country is large so car travel is not advised.
There are three basic options of travel by train. The first is economy which is a very uncomfortable seat or six beds in a small cabin (not advised), the next is four beds in a small cabin (not a bad way to go) and cost effective, the last is first class which is two beds in a cabin.
This is my recommendation as the prices are very good, but if you want the cabin to yourself you will need to pay for both beds.
Once you arrive at your city you will probably require the services of a taxi at some point. I would strongly suggest asking the price of your travel first as the taxi drivers do try to take advantage. This is something even the local people deal with. The average rates are 2:50-3:50 per kilometer. In Kiev you should pay about £12-15 from the airport to the city center. Rates are always negotiable and they expect you to bargain with them.
Hotels - Every major city has a variety of hotels from five star down to small guest houses. These are easy to find on the internet and prices are standard and comparable to any other country. I have found that the best way to stay in Ukraine is to book a flat. These can also be found on the internet and are far less money and a better value. You can find anything from a studio to large four bedroom homes all in the center of the city. Each city has its own websites so if you require help please send me a message and I will give you the best sites for those cities. Most places deal in cash so ask them to send you an email confirmation to ensure your stay. Most flats are in good condition and offer everything required for a fun and comfortable stay.
Crime - I personally have found Ukraine to be one of the safest places I have ever visited. Having said this, one should always be aware and keep belongings in a safe place. I have heard of various scams used where women will lure men in offering sex and fun only to have two or more men attack and rob them and where men dress up in police uniforms and again rob tourists. I have never experienced this myself but staying alert to scams is important especially since the police and justice system are somewhat corrupt. Other than these supposed scams I have not heard or experienced any crime and have felt very safe.
Health and safety - Unfortunately the health system in Ukraine is appalling. I have to say that I felt the most vulnerable with this as the hospitals and doctors I experienced made me feel as though I was in the eighteenth century. I fully recommend taking out a good vacation health insurance to the point that your insurance covers you for emergency flight or travel to another more suitable country if you are injured. If you do decide to drive, take extra care as Ukraine drivers are the worst I have experienced. If you have an accident you are playing Russian roulette with the health system so be extra careful. I recommend avoiding hospital at all costs.
Phone/internet - Surprisingly Ukraine is quite up-to-date with their technology and the internet service is good. Most cafes and hotels have internet and most flats do also. Be sure to ask when you book. The wireless service is great in the cities so talking on the phone should be no problem.
So there is a summary of how I experienced Ukraine. All in all a great country and a lot of fun. If you want more specific information on anything please send me a message and I will ask the expert (my fiance). We are also getting a small group of us together to go and watch the games so if anyone has an interest in joining us let me know. We are fun to hang out with and of course we know Ukraine quite well.
I hope you all have loads of fun and travel safe.