Always watch prices
Maybe it could look just my small problem, but I would like to suggest you ;) When I came to Lviv the prices looked smaller than in my hometown Vilnius, let say, beer in bars was almost twice cheaper. Anyway, even if you are thinking it is cheaper, always look for prices, look in meniu, as it could cost you also more than you expected. It happened for me with a beer, that had standard price already in Western Europe standard.
The exception that proves the rule?
Ukrainian is the official language of 'the new Ukraine Republic', however, almost everywhere, Russian is the predominant 'yizik'...
L'vov is THE exception - it is THE city where Ukrainian is not only spoken on the street, but where speaking Russian is actually frowned upon...
Indeed, even the bus drivers have been banned from playing Russian pop music on their vehicles, such is the will to usurp what is regarded as the language of the oppressor...
I was sitting on an autobus at the bus station, when a woman boarded & started asking me ?'s in what I presumed to be Russian, to which I answered that I did not know much 'Russkiy yizik'...
This reply went down like a lead zeppelin & only brought about her response that she was not talking Russian!
So, in L'vov at least, if you cannot speak Ukrainian, you will probably only cause offence by speaking Russian, so it's better to try your own language, if it's English...
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Since the weather in Lviv is often rainy, it makes walking along the old pavement quite a difficult task.
The pavements tend to be slippery and you do have to watch your step.
Thank God nothing happened to me, but I can imagine how unpleasant it can be, if you are too careless to slip and fall down.
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In one of the exchange offices on the central place (near Shechenko monument), the clerk tried to scam me and to keep just a 100 Hryvna bill. But as I had counted immediately, he finally accepted my demand and gave me the correct amount.
So be aware!
TRAFFIC & SMELLY EXHAUST FUMES
I have to say that the biggest disappointment in Lviv, for me, is the horrendous traffic in the center area of Svobody Prospekt. My first impression was not that positive. I saw old Russian style buses and old cars spewing out smelly diesel exhaust fumes - not so healthy for its inhabitants. The noise and the traffic were disgusting. And certainly don't try to cross the streets anywhere but a pedestrian crosswalk. You will put your self in harm's way by the crazy drivers. Even with the pedestrian crosswalks, you have to be careful as it's not always a given that they will stop for you.
At 6am I'm too bleary eyed to figure out buses and trams and besides there's a herd of us getting taxis and we can share a ride. The 1st guy is following us around the train station, we have no Ukrainian currency and 2 of the 3 cash machines is coming up empty. We finally all have money and our guy says he can fit 5 people in the taxi and charge us 25hr. 5 circus performers maybe, but 4 people is just about all this taxi can hold so we smoosh in the back and as he's driving, the driver is punching in 50 on his little hand held calculator. Lots of screaming and yelling and gesturing and finally we give in, after all 50 divided by the 4 of us isn't much at all, it's 6am and I just want to get where I'm going. LoriPori got the deal of the day, she handed her driver 30hr and said that's it. Another group really got snookered, their driver wanted 60hr but they thought it was 600hr, that's one expensive 3 km cab ride and one very happy cab driver who could probably take the rest of the day off!
The key is to know the right fare (25-30hr), have the exact change and make sure you confirm the fare BEFORE you get in along with your luggage.
Beward of the Taxi Drivers
As with many cities in Europe, getting an hones taxi driver is an effort. They have large companies that charge a set price per mile and many private drivers who charge whatever they can get away with. We had arranged for one of the major taxi companies for a ride from the train station. He was friendly but when it came time to pay the price was much higher than what we were told later it should be. The return trip was a different. We again ordered a taxi from a major company but this time we knew the price to expect. This driver actually charger what we thought it should be. About ½ the price of the first drive.
Traffic, traffic lights and exhaust gases
As much as I like Lviv, there are two prominent annoyances. The first one is lack of traffic lights. There are some but in general, one has to run across streets or dodge cars, in the middle of the city. Compared to Wrozlaw or Krakow where the traffic light situation was even better than in America, this came as a rude awakening. The second annoyance is the quality of automobile exhaust gases. There probably is hardly any regulation for the quality of exhaust. The smell and looks of the gases were just awful. Unfortunately, this is typical of a developing or poor country so it will take some time for it to improve. There certainly were many, many cars along the main boulevards during the day. At night, the traffic died down quite dramatically.
Although it claims to be a top hotel in Lviv, Hotel Eney has been a disapointment to me. I have booked it via www.hostelbookers.com. I have also been charged 10% of my total fee in advance. When I arrived there, the administrator (Igor) claimed that I had no reserved room and that they have no agreement with hostelbookers. In fact I am more than sure that he gave away my room because I arrived a bit later in the evening. He also was very rude and when I tried to talk to the people at hostelbookers he barely allowed me 1 min of internet access. Of course he wanted to charge that too. In the end however he forgot to take my money.
Because of this experince I do not recommend under any circumstances either Hotel Eney of Lviv or the website www.hostelbookers.com. A total disgrace of service in my opinion.
Eventhough Lviv used to be a multiethnic city, it's not the case now. Foreign languages were ralely understood, except for - no surprise - Russian and Polish. The best is the bringing of an Ukrainian dictionary and the learning of the Cyrillic alphabet. Don't accept much help from locals when you ask them in English or German, those who doesn't speak it, will leave you alone, those who speak some German, will ask for money for their help
Lviv at winter
If you visiting Lviv at winter, keep at mind there can be just a lot of snow and a lot of ice on streets - becouse of bad work of community services, they just dont clear it away even in center district! Just be carefull.
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Buy the train tickets in advance
During my stay in Lviv I had some problems to get a train ticket in the day of the departure and I found out it's almost impossible, so buying tickets to the more popular destinations you should book it on the phone or buy it in advance (at least one day before the departure). Otherwise you will have to stay in Lviv one day longer, what is not that bad alternative on the other hand ;)
You can make the reservation on the phone (390050, 390051), but you will pay for that service 8hr. You will have to collect the tickets few days after your reservation, if not the will vanish. Making the reservation is not possible 5 days before the departure.
Since everythins is in the crylicalphabet you have to be a bit pations and take your time when you are ordering your tickets and thins like that.
Most people did not speak any english, german or french here. So you have to use your hands and your bodylanguage a lot.
It would be very helpful if you had a guidebook or something that will tell you the most basic things in crylic.
You'll always get by, but you just need to be patient!!
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Don't drink water from tap!
Water from tap is not suitable for drinking in Lviv so buy your drinking water in shops.
Also there are water reductions in Lviv so water is available twice a day - in the morning and in the afternoon for 2 or 3 hours. Reasons for this are the fact that there is not much water in the area and Soviet type of planning - they destroyed (reactionary) existing artesian wells but imported large workforce for new industries. The solution for water would be to cut population by half or to build 100 km of pipelines from Ivano-Frankivsk area.
In hotels there should be no water reduction.
Beware of cars! Pedestrian crossing is a place where you may cross the street only if there are no cars approachuing! First try to adapt to Lviv traffic rules - there are rules but they may not be what you expect them to be - cars will let you pass if you know when you may... In Vienna cars stop as you are approaching zebra crossing and if you are used to that be careful!!! On the other hand if you are from eastern Slovakia or Belgrade - act as at home! ;)
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