Watch Out for Police Wanting Bribes!
I found that often, the police in Ukraine try to get bribes from people, especially foreigners that they know have money. We noticed that the people in our group who obviously did not look like Ukrainians (such as one Korean guy) were constantly getting harrassed by the police, even though they had done nothing wrong. The police will try to make them think they have broken a law, and then try to bribe them.
1. If you are not white (obviously look foreign to a Ukrainian), keep a low profile, especially in public places like train stations, etc.
2. Avoid speaking in English or any other language besides Russian or Ukrainian in public places (or whisper quietly). The police key in on this to identify foreigners.
Make Sure You Register!
When you visit Ukraine, you are required to register where you are staying within two days of arriving (at least that was the law in 2000). Yes, this is all very communist, but I guess it takes time for these former Soviet countries to come out of the dark ages.
My buddy and I make the mistake of thinking that when we checked into our hotel and they took our passports, that they would automatically register us. Not the case. We found out a week later that we were in essence 'illegal', since we had not registered. When I was leaving the country from the Kiev airport, some police overheard me speaking English and wanted to see my passport. When they saw I hadn't registered, they wanted to fine me $150 US. My Ukrainian friend managed to talk them into accepting $50 (probably a bribe).
You need to go to the government offices to register. The hotels don't do it. Ask someone where this place is when you get there. It's free to register. It's not free if you do not register and get caught!
Each region of Ukraine charges...
Each region of Ukraine charges a certain amount of money for using their very BAD roads. For instance, in 1999 we had to pay 25 dollars to cross Odessa region. In 2001 we were supposed to pay 10 dollars to cross Kharkiv region. Why supposed? Because one can give only 5 dollars to a customs officer, he puts the money into his pocket and lets you go!!! If you don't accept his suggestion to give him 5 dollars, he does not let you go, and you pay 10 dollars officially in the cash office. Is not it weird?
On the whole, the situation with the traffic police in Ukraine has changed a lot for the better since 1999. In 1999 the local traffic police could not spare themselves a pleasure of fining you. They deliberately created different situations to make you violate the traffic rules! Imagine a highway outside towns and villages - just an empty road passing along fields or forests. The traffic police placed a sign of speed limitation up to 20 km per hour, and hid in the bushes. It seemed very tiresome to drag at such a low speed. You exceeded the speed, they suddenly appeared from the bushes to fine you. Thus being in the same area we were fined 3 times! Now, in 2001 I saw very few policemen on the road. The local goverment forbade them to stop cars, and they are no longer on the roads.
Tickets in peak seasons: If...
Tickets in peak seasons: If you wish to attempt such a desperate thing as to go to Ukraine (especially Crimea) in July/August and/or come back to Russia in late August/beginning of September, book your tickets well in advance. There's great shortage of them, despite all extra trains/planes provided during the peak season.
Ukrainian sole currency is gryvna (UAH). There are plenty exchange offices and nearly all of the exchange following currencies: EUR, USD and RUB (Russian rouble). The exchange rate is approx. EUR 1 = UAH 5 in June 2002. Many other currencies can be changed, but you may need some time to find a place.
To make most of the trip it...
To make most of the trip it would be advisable to study some Russian. In Ukraine less English is spoken than in Russia even it is part of the curriculum at schools. The official language is Ukrainian. However, even Ukrainian is the only language in schools, most people pay Russian better.
I think the warning No.1 is...
I think the warning No.1 is like everywhere - you must be careful at night and don't talk about politics as not everyone will be on your side and some people can get very agresive if they don't like your opinion...
Customs....I think their motto...
Customs....I think their motto is, Every day is a new day. In 17 visits to Ukraine in the last three years, I never know what to expect. There is really no danger, just a warning to not try to sneak any thing in or out of country, especially any thing over 50 years old.
A new law in Ukraine...
A new law in Ukraine supposedly requires all visiting foreigners to purchase Ukrainian medical insurance upon arrival at Boryspil Airport. Nobody approached me when I arrived, however, so I guess the law isn't really being enforced yet!
You have to say 'Goog bye' to...
You have to say 'Goog bye' to civilization. It is very difficult to find singboard in English. Don't hesitate to ask people. If they understand you, they'll explain you everything. Ukrainians are very nice and hospitable people, but not everybody speaks English. Russian are widely spoken in Crimea.
Hutsul villagers are...
Hutsul villagers are exceptionally friendly and hospitable people. However, as the case anywhere in Ukraine, some discretion is advised when traveling. Travel in groups of 3-4 people for safety. Traveling with a native Ukrainian is best.
Be on the alert for con-artists that are very creative with schemes to get your money. Be especially cautious when exchanging currency. Being gently pick-pocketed is much more likely than being outright mugged.
If you plan to go bike riding on roads, ride defensively, and keep in mind that cars expect you to get out of their way.
UHZGOROD I was only here a...
UHZGOROD I was only here a short while while our Aeroflot charter stopped to refuel on our way to Budapest. I snapped a few quick pics. This is the bridge accross the River Uhz on the way into town.
This was one of the few hotels my colleague and I could find free rooms. We were visiting the day...more
I was very excited at the prospect of staying in Hotel George because of the decor that I had saw on...more
My American friend Jack stayed at this new hotel for several days and he was kind enough to take me...more
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