Backpacking Ukraine

Eastern Europe is getting more and more popular with backpackers. This trend includes, of course, the region’s second-biggest country, Ukraine. Considering its many neighbors – Moldavia, Poland, Russia, Romania, Slovakia, Hungary, and Belarus –, it’s no surprise that Ukraine is an incredibly diverse country. This diversity can be found in both the landscape and the culture. The scenery includes everything, from the beaches of the Black Sea to the peaks of the Carpathian Mountains and the steppe-like plains of the east. Ukraine’s culture is similarly diverse because of its influences from both Central and Eastern Europe as well as from Asia. Have fun exploring the perfect itinerary for a backpacking trip through Ukraine!


Important Basics

Official Language

Ukrainian

Basic Vocabulary
EnglishUkrainian
YesTak
NoNi
Thank youDyakuyu/ Spasibi
HelloPrivit
GoodbyeBuvay
Capital City

Kyiv

Form of Government

Semi-presidential republic

Phone Country Code

+380

Currency

Hrywnja (₴)

Climate

Highest temperature by day: 0–28 °C

Highest temperature by night: -6–16 °C

Summer: June to August

Winter: November to March

Fun Fact

The literacy rate in Ukraine is one of the highest in the world.

Cities

Kyiv

Your journey starts in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. If you’ve ever been to another Eastern European capital, for example Budapest or Bucharest, and you enjoyed your time there, then you’ll probably love Kyiv as well. But even if this is your first time in this part of Europe, you’re still bound to become a big fan of the city.

Keep in mind that the street signs in Ukraine are written in Cyrillic, so it might be a bit difficult to navigate them at first. Kyiv’s main square is Maidan Square, where, in 2013, independence was declared during the conflict with Russia. The city’s architectural highlight is Saint Sophia Cathedral, which is famous for its green and golden domes. They are visible even from great distance and make it easy for you to find your way around the city.

You can continue your way through Kyiv’s main shopping street, Khreshchatyk, where you can find a lot of cafés. It’s a great spot to just sit and watch the city go by. It’s also the perfect place to try a typical Ukrainian sweet, Verhuny. This crispy puff pastry is deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. It’s a great sweet snack between meals.

Kyiv is a very popular city. The beach in the city center attracts a lot of young people to the capital. Large areas of the city are also covered in amazing colorful street art. Staying a night in the middle of Kyiv will cost you around €11.

Odessa

After a few days in the capital, it’s time to get to know the other sides of Ukraine. The night train (€10) will take you to Odessa in the south of the country. It’s the ideal city by the sea with beautiful, long beaches and majestic buildings from the 19th century. It’s therefore no wonder that Odessa is where a lot of wealthy Ukrainians spend their summer vacation.

The pretty buildings of the old town will take you back in time. Especially the Opera and Ballet Theater is simply stunning – it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful theaters in the world, and anyone standing in front of it can easily see why. The best spot for your next Instagram post is on the Potemkin Stairs. Although the 192 steps may not offer the best view of the city, their design makes the stairs look different from every angle – a fantastic playground for professional and amateur photographers alike.

The most beautiful beach in the area is Arcadia, just outside the Odessa. The Black Sea’s water may not be as crystal clear and blue as that of the Caribbean, but its beaches will give you that holiday feeling nonetheless. Along the promenade, there are fancy beach clubs and sun lounges, where you can enjoy the sunset with a cocktail in your hand. The evening sun also makes the city even more romantic, so just let yourself be enchanted by Odessa’s outstanding beauty!

Spending a night in a dorm room here costs around €5.

Kamianets-Podilskyi

In a country as large as Ukraine, traveling overnight is the best way to save some time. That’s why we recommend taking the night bus from Odessa to get to your next destination.

Kamianets-Podilskyi is a city located in the region of Podolia, and it’s mainly known for its historical buildings and fortifications. Kamianets-Podilskyi’s was first mentioned in writings from the 12th century, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. Due to its strategical position on the Smotrych river and its elevation of 360 m, the former fortress was one of the most important commercial and military centers in the area.

Make sure you have enough time to visit the whole fortress. We would recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the large tourist crowds. Although the city only has a population of about 100,000 people, it’s still worth staying there for a night or two, especially if you’re coming from the busy streets of Odessa. There are three different markets in Kamianets-Podilskyi – a Polish one, an Armenian one, and a Ruthenian one. You should definitely check out all of them!

You have the choice between several hostels in the city center. The prices for a night in a 4-bed room start at around €9.

Kolomyia

From Kamianets-Podilskyi you’ll continue your journey eastwards to Kolomyia. The bus ticket for the three-hour drive is only about €5. Kolomyia is situated in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains in the Hutsulshchyna national park. Life here is very traditional and slow, which will be especially noticeable after you’ve spent the last few days in large cities.

The area is therefore perfect for slowing down a bit. Hiking fans also get their money’s worth, as there are countless trails you can follow for a few hours or even several days. If you’d rather pick up the pace a bit, you can, of course, also go cycling here. There are different routes of varying length and difficulty available.

After all of this exercise, we recommend relaxing in one of the simple restaurants in Kolomyia’s center, where you can enjoy a rich dinner and a glass of Ukrainian beer, such as an Obolon. At the end of this long day, get a good night’s sleep at one of the city’s hostels, where a bed in a 4-bed room is around €5.

Lviv

Just three hours away from Kolomyia is the increasingly popular city of Lviv. The train ticket to get there is around €5.

Over the years, Lviv has become the secret new capital of Ukraine. Because of its proximity to Poland (about 70 km), many young people settle down here to make use of the shopping facilities in the neighboring country. The city now has a population of more than 1,000,000 people, and it’s still growing.

Lviv’s old city center (“ploscha rynok” in Ukrainian) invites you to stroll around its narrow cobblestone streets. You can find a large selection of bars, cafés, and restaurants here as well. There are also a lot of international food options in the city, so if you’re longing for a pizza, a burger, or some ramen after days of eating mainly borscht, you’ve come to the right place!

Lviv’s most famous landmark is the High Castle, towering above the city. But don’t worry, the hill is not as high as it seems, and you can reach the castle fairly easily. The climb is absolutely worth it, because the panoramic view from the top is simply breathtaking. A cemetery as a sight may seem a bit strange at first, but the Lychakiv cemetery is undoubtedly worth seeing. It was built under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and holds a lot of historical treasures.

You can spend your final nights in Ukraine in one of Lviv’s hostels, where a bed in an 8-bed dorm costs around €8. To fly back home, you can either leave directly from the airport in Lviv or go back to Kyiv by using the high-speed train between the two cities.


Kyiv

Kyiv

Your journey starts in Ukraine’s capital, Kyiv. If you’ve ever been to another Eastern European capital, for example Budapest or Bucharest, and you enjoyed your time there, then you’ll probably love Kyiv as well. But even if this is your first time in this part of Europe, you’re still bound to become a big fan of the city.

Keep in mind that the street signs in Ukraine are written in Cyrillic, so it might be a bit difficult to navigate them at first. Kyiv’s main square is Maidan Square, where, in 2013, independence was declared during the conflict with Russia. The city’s architectural highlight is Saint Sophia Cathedral, which is famous for its green and golden domes. They are visible even from great distance and make it easy for you to find your way around the city.

You can continue your way through Kyiv’s main shopping street, Khreshchatyk, where you can find a lot of cafés. It’s a great spot to just sit and watch the city go by. It’s also the perfect place to try a typical Ukrainian sweet, Verhuny. This crispy puff pastry is deep-fried and sprinkled with icing sugar. It’s a great sweet snack between meals.

Kyiv is a very popular city. The beach in the city center attracts a lot of young people to the capital. Large areas of the city are also covered in amazing colorful street art. Staying a night in the middle of Kyiv will cost you around €11.

Odessa

Odessa

After a few days in the capital, it’s time to get to know the other sides of Ukraine. The night train (€10) will take you to Odessa in the south of the country. It’s the ideal city by the sea with beautiful, long beaches and majestic buildings from the 19th century. It’s therefore no wonder that Odessa is where a lot of wealthy Ukrainians spend their summer vacation.

The pretty buildings of the old town will take you back in time. Especially the Opera and Ballet Theater is simply stunning – it’s considered to be one of the most beautiful theaters in the world, and anyone standing in front of it can easily see why. The best spot for your next Instagram post is on the Potemkin Stairs. Although the 192 steps may not offer the best view of the city, their design makes the stairs look different from every angle – a fantastic playground for professional and amateur photographers alike.

The most beautiful beach in the area is Arcadia, just outside the Odessa. The Black Sea’s water may not be as crystal clear and blue as that of the Caribbean, but its beaches will give you that holiday feeling nonetheless. Along the promenade, there are fancy beach clubs and sun lounges, where you can enjoy the sunset with a cocktail in your hand. The evening sun also makes the city even more romantic, so just let yourself be enchanted by Odessa’s outstanding beauty!

Spending a night in a dorm room here costs around €5.

Kamianets-Podilskyi

Kamianets-Podilskyi

In a country as large as Ukraine, traveling overnight is the best way to save some time. That’s why we recommend taking the night bus from Odessa to get to your next destination.

Kamianets-Podilskyi is a city located in the region of Podolia, and it’s mainly known for its historical buildings and fortifications. Kamianets-Podilskyi’s was first mentioned in writings from the 12th century, making it one of the oldest cities in the country. Due to its strategical position on the Smotrych river and its elevation of 360 m, the former fortress was one of the most important commercial and military centers in the area.

Make sure you have enough time to visit the whole fortress. We would recommend getting there early in the morning to avoid the large tourist crowds. Although the city only has a population of about 100,000 people, it’s still worth staying there for a night or two, especially if you’re coming from the busy streets of Odessa. There are three different markets in Kamianets-Podilskyi – a Polish one, an Armenian one, and a Ruthenian one. You should definitely check out all of them!

You have the choice between several hostels in the city center. The prices for a night in a 4-bed room start at around €9.

Kolomyia

Kolomyia

From Kamianets-Podilskyi you’ll continue your journey eastwards to Kolomyia. The bus ticket for the three-hour drive is only about €5. Kolomyia is situated in the middle of the Carpathian Mountains in the Hutsulshchyna national park. Life here is very traditional and slow, which will be especially noticeable after you’ve spent the last few days in large cities.

The area is therefore perfect for slowing down a bit. Hiking fans also get their money’s worth, as there are countless trails you can follow for a few hours or even several days. If you’d rather pick up the pace a bit, you can, of course, also go cycling here. There are different routes of varying length and difficulty available.

After all of this exercise, we recommend relaxing in one of the simple restaurants in Kolomyia’s center, where you can enjoy a rich dinner and a glass of Ukrainian beer, such as an Obolon. At the end of this long day, get a good night’s sleep at one of the city’s hostels, where a bed in a 4-bed room is around €5.

Lviv

Lviv

Just three hours away from Kolomyia is the increasingly popular city of Lviv. The train ticket to get there is around €5.

Over the years, Lviv has become the secret new capital of Ukraine. Because of its proximity to Poland (about 70 km), many young people settle down here to make use of the shopping facilities in the neighboring country. The city now has a population of more than 1,000,000 people, and it’s still growing.

Lviv’s old city center (“ploscha rynok” in Ukrainian) invites you to stroll around its narrow cobblestone streets. You can find a large selection of bars, cafés, and restaurants here as well. There are also a lot of international food options in the city, so if you’re longing for a pizza, a burger, or some ramen after days of eating mainly borscht, you’ve come to the right place!

Lviv’s most famous landmark is the High Castle, towering above the city. But don’t worry, the hill is not as high as it seems, and you can reach the castle fairly easily. The climb is absolutely worth it, because the panoramic view from the top is simply breathtaking. A cemetery as a sight may seem a bit strange at first, but the Lychakiv cemetery is undoubtedly worth seeing. It was built under the Austro-Hungarian monarchy and holds a lot of historical treasures.

You can spend your final nights in Ukraine in one of Lviv’s hostels, where a bed in an 8-bed dorm costs around €8. To fly back home, you can either leave directly from the airport in Lviv or go back to Kyiv by using the high-speed train between the two cities.

Ukraine Route Map

Itinerary and Stops.

Tag
Route/Station
Transport
Unterkunft
1. Home – Kyiv
Home – Kyiv
Flight
50
8-bed room
11
2.  Kyiv
 Kyiv
-
8-bed room
11
3.  Kyiv
 Kyiv
-
8-bed room
11
4. Kyiv – Odessa
Kyiv – Odessa
Night train
10
Night train
5. Odessa
Odessa
-
8-bed room
5
6. Odessa
Odessa
-
8-bed room
5
7. Odessa – ​ Kamianets -Podilskyi
Odessa – ​ Kamianets -Podilskyi
Night bus
19
Night bus
8. Kamianets -Podilskyi
Kamianets -Podilskyi
-
4-bed room
9
9. Kamianets -Podilskyi
Kamianets -Podilskyi
-
4-bed room
9
10. Kamianets – Podilskyi - Kolomyia
Kamianets – Podilskyi - Kolomyia
Bus
5
4-bed room
5
11. Kolomyia
Kolomyia
-
4-bed room
5
12. Kolomyia – Lviv
Kolomyia – Lviv
Train
5
8-bed room
8
13. Lviv
Lviv
-
8-bed room
8
14. Lviv – Home
Lviv – Home
Flight
50

Total price.

Flights 100,00
Transportation 39,00
Tours 0,00
Accommodation 87,00
Total226,00

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Dos and Donts, Food & Drinks, Costs.

Breakfast

Donuts: a Ukrainian breakfast is usually very sweet and rich. You’ll often find filled donuts or bacon served with coffee and bread.

Soups

Borscht: this creamy vegetable soup is made from beetroot and other vegetables. It’s a true Ukrainian specialty!

Yushka: this fish soup is mostly eaten on the coast. It’s often made from carp.

Main courses

Wareniki: these Ukrainian dumplings come with different fillings, such as potatoes, mushrooms, or meat.

Pirozhki: these dumplings are deep-fried and make a good snack or side dish.

Kutia: this dessert is often a festive meal and is similar to a semolina pudding. Made from wheat, poppy seeds, and honey, it’s simply delicious!

Roulades: roualdes, which are mainly served with cabbage and a spicy sauce, are very popular in Ukraine.

Chicken Kyiv: this is a chicken fillet prepared with delicious garlic butter. Traditionally, it is served with potatoes.

Drinks

Vodka: in Ukraine, vodka is also called horilka and is a true specialty of the country.

Samogon: many Ukrainians pride themselves on their moonshine.

Ukraine

The exchange rate for ₴10 is around €0.33 (as of March 2020). You can see the prices for certain products as well as the cost of living below.

Cost of Living

Food

Free time

Personal Hygiene

Dos

Shoes off: when entering a private room or house, you should always take off your shoes.

Handshake: people greet each other with a long and firm handshake here. If your handshake is too weak, you might be considered arrogant and indifferent.

Giving a toast: in the Ukrainian culture, giving a toast is very common.

Don'ts

Revealing clothes in church: the dress code in churches is pretty strict. If you want to visit a church, make sure you’re wearing appropriate clothing.

Politics: politics is a sensitive topic in Ukraine, and especially references to Russia are not well received.

Opening gifts immediately: if you receive a present, you should wait some time before opening it to avoid bad luck.

Feet on top of the furniture: in Ukraine, feet are considered unclean, so they should always remain on the floor.

Visa, Visa, Passport & Vaccinations

Passport

Yes

Temporary passport

Yes

National ID

No

Temporary national ID

No

Child’s pass

Yes

Visa

(Not necessary)

Vaccine

Robert Koch Instituts

Additional Remarks.

Traveling to Ukraine with a temporarily lost passport is not possible, even if the loss has been reported to the police. You won’t be allowed to enter Ukraine and will be sent back to the country you were traveling from. This process may also include having to remain in the airport for a period of time, which can last up to several days. Please also find out about the current entry regulations regarding COVID. You can find further information at your country’s Foreign Office.

The team at Backpacker Trail wishes you lots of fun and an unforgettable trip!

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