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When it comes to international tourist visitors numbers in Europe, Ukraine comes fairly low on the list. While this might not seem like a great advertisement, it comes with a massive advantage: You get to enjoy all that this wonderful, European country has to offer but without the hordes of tourists. The real question you might be thinking is, “Is it safe to travel to Ukraine alone?” Well, the answer is, “yes” and I’m here to tell you more. Ukraine is a wonderful destination for solo female travelers. It’s really Europe’s best kept secret, a totally underrated European destination that shouldn’t be missed!
Ukraine offers so much to those who travel there, from charming and vibrant cities and fascinating historical sights to stunning landscapes and thrilling activities. So, why don’t more people head to Ukraine for their holidays? Unfortunately, due to the recent war and occupation in some parts of the country, and with the events of 2014 still fresh in a lot of people’s minds, the media have helped to paint Ukraine as a dangerous place to visit.
As someone who has not only traveled to Ukraine in very recent years, but who’s lived there and continues to live there a few months of the year, I can personally attest that, contrary to what the media may tell you, Ukraine is easily one of the safest places I have ever visited. Never once did I feel like I was in any kind of danger, even when walking alone after nightfall. Of course, like with any destination you visit, there are certain precautions that you should take and definitely things you should consider when planning a solo female trip to Ukraine.
Here, I will break down the important points to remember for a holiday in Ukraine and how to plan a safe trip for a memorable stay. Your ultimate Solo Female Travel Guide for Ukraine!
Table of Contents (skip directly to the info you're looking for)
- 1 The Ultimate Solo Female Travel Guide to Ukraine
- 1.1 Do I need a visa to travel to Ukraine?
- 1.2 How did I arrive to Ukraine?
- 1.3 Why should you visit Ukraine now?
- 1.4 Places to visit – and where to avoid
- 1.5 Getting around Ukraine
- 1.6 Accommodation options
- 1.7 Communication
- 1.8 Food and Drinks
- 1.9 Crime
- 1.10 Discrimination issues
- 1.11 Corruption
- 1.12 General Ukraine Travel Advice
- 1.13 Other Practical Precautions and Ukraine safety tips for Solo females traveling in Ukraine
- 1.13.1 Locate your country embassy and learn the emergency number
- 1.13.2 Send your itinerary to, and check in regularly with, friends or special loved ones
- 1.13.3 Be mindful of your surroundings
- 1.13.4 Be aware of pickpockets
- 1.13.5 Download any necessary travel apps in advance
- 1.13.6 Consider joining a group tour or maybe some day tours
- 1.13.7 Create a Pinterest account and save destination related tips and recommendations to your board
The Ultimate Solo Female Travel Guide to Ukraine
Do I need a visa to travel to Ukraine?
In my case, as an American, I do not need a visa. I get 90 days free visa stay, the same applied to Europeans, Canadians, etc. If you have doubts whether or not you will need a visa for Ukraine, check the requirements on your government’s website prior to planning your visit.
How did I arrive to Ukraine?
I took a flight directly from New York City into Kyiv (Kiev), and then, from there, a domestic flight to my first stop Lviv, Ukraine. I would recommend booking in advance. You can find really great deals by using Skyscanner and I also like to compare flights on Google Flights.
Other times, I have gotten to Ukraine by bus or train from Krakow, Poland. It is very easy to travel from there to Lviv. So, if you are in Europe, search for possible bus or train transportation. I personally prefer day buses, since there are stops at the border, and I feel safer when arriving alone during broad light, as a general rule. Makes it especially easier to locate my hotel or a place to stay. But know that Lviv is super safe for solo female travelers. You only need to take the same precautions you would anywhere you travel.
Why should you visit Ukraine now?
There are many top reasons why it is worth it to visit Ukraine now, but to list a few: It is a very authentic country, the food is great, the music and cultural dances, the intact traditions, the beautiful landscapes, the Carpathians mountains with Hutsul villages, the beautiful castles and, more than anything, the locals are so helpful. They will go out of their way to help you and give you advice, even when they do not even speak English.
I’ve found Ukrainians to be so hospitable and so patriotic, they totally love their culture, and their country, so they love to show it off. I have had opportunities to celebrate many important events in Ukraine while there, such as Vyshyvanka Day (Embrodeiry T-shirt day), Ukrainian Independence Day and other holidays. Every time, Ukranian people made me feel part of the culture. They always made me feel at home, which is why Ukraine is one of my favorite countries.
Places to visit – and where to avoid
As you are probably well aware, Ukraine has had some political problems in the recent past and there are areas which are currently occupied by Russian forces: These are Crimea, Donetsk oblast (administrative area) and Luhansk oblast. We strongly advise against all travel to these areas due to the ongoing clashes between the Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-supported armed separatists. It is also worth remembering that entering Ukraine via a non-Ukraine border is illegal. So, not only should you not visit these areas, you cannot enter the country via them either. Although the idea of an armed conflict sounds scary, you should keep in mind that these areas make up just a small percentage of the entire land mass of Ukraine. As long as you stay away from them as recommended, this will not affect your trip.
The three main tourist cities in Ukraine are Kyiv (Kiev), Lviv and Odesa. Other cities, such as Kharkiv, Chernivtsi, Mukacheve and Chernihiv, are also popular destinations. The majority of travelers who visit these cities experience no problems whatsoever; the same goes for all of areas which are not controlled by Russian forces. Occasionally, there may be political protests in the capital of Kiev but, for the most part, the city is peaceful. However, if a protest occurs during your visit, it is best to stay away from wherever it is taking place just as a precaution.
Chernobyl, the infamous site of what is considered to be the worst nuclear meltdown in history, also attracts a high number of visitors. It is really one of the most fascinating places to visit in Ukraine; it is a place where time-stands-still that is also slowly being taken over by nature. However, although Chernobyl is now clean, it is still forbidden to visit the site on your own. You must join an authorized tour with a genuine tour company. While on the tour, follow the advice of your guide and make sure you do not wander off on your own. Leaving your group to explore by yourself could result in fines. It is also important that you stick to the paths rather than walking into the vegetation. Radiation is still pretty high within green areas; if you see an area marked with a radiation sign, do NOT ignore it. You can read my full experience visiting Chernobyl below.
Getting around Ukraine
There are a number of ways to travel between different Ukrainian cities and other places of interest. I personally traveled by Intercity trains, which are no different from the kind of trains all over other European countries. Travel times can vary – for example, the journey between Lviv and Kyiv (Kiev) can take anywhere between five and 15 hours (depending on the number of stops) – so make sure to double check when booking your tickets. Although I’ve never traveled via a long-distance bus in Ukraine, I know people who have done, and they did not encounter any problems. In fact, the biggest problem they had with buses is that they are not as comfortable as the Intercity trains.
If you happen to be traveling overnight, it is a good idea to book a bed on a train with a platskart. These are carriages, which do not have compartments but have lots of beds in an open space. This might not seem like the safest option, but as they are generally fully booked, there are always lots of people around. Plus, each carriage also has its own security guard, making it near impossible for someone to harass you, or cause problems in any way.
As when traveling anywhere else, it is best to keep your belongings in sight at all times including when in bus and train stations, especially at night. If you are traveling by train, book your tickets in advance; the train is a particularly popular mode of transport, so seats can get booked, and trains become full, pretty quickly.
There are all kinds of accommodations available in Ukraine for all kinds of travelers and, overall, the prices are quite budget friendly. You can find anything from Airbnb accommodations, to renting an apartment, from budget to luxury hotels.
Know that you should have no problems finding somewhere to stay in the major cities and main tourist destinations. There are plenty of hostels, hotels and guest houses, from budget conscience to the luxurious. As Ukraine is a less expensive country, unlike other European countries, prices are generally reasonable, even if you go for the more expensive options. I would recommend staying in hotels over hostels when in Ukraine. Hostels are still in their infancy and will take a long time to get to the standard of boutique hostels that you see in Western and Central Europe nowadays. Hotels just tend to be of a better standard and quality, and you will feel far more secure and comfortable.
Another interesting fact to point out, in reference of budget accommodations, which might come as a bit of a culture shock. While hostels are usually the domain of backpackers, in Ukraine you may find yourself sharing a dormitory with lots of Ukrainians. In some cases, living in a hostel dorm is much cheaper than living in a rented apartment, so people, especially young Ukrainians straight out of university who have moved to the big cities for work, also opt to live in hostels. You should not experience any problems in hostels in Ukraine, although you should use your common sense when it comes to your belongings: Do not leave valuables lying around and, if possible, lock your things away while you are out and about. If you are staying in hotels, there should be no issues surrounding security.
Ukrainian is the official language, a language that has more similarities with Polish than Russian, which surprises some travelers. I experienced people using the Polish language when in Lviv and Kiev, and being answered back in Ukrainian, but they understood each other. Not sure if you know that places, like Lviv, were part of Poland once, so you will find many such influences around Ukraine.
Note: If you can, learn some Ukrainian phrases before you head to the country or use Polish, if you know that language; not only will it make things easier for you, Ukrainians will also be pleased that you have made an effort to at least try using their language. It is also useful to learn how to read the Cyrillic alphabet. Almost all street signs are in this alphabet, with the exception of Lviv, so it will make sightseeing and walking around that much easier.
Recommended: Why you should visit Lviv
If you are planning on visiting Lviv, you will have no problem with communicating in English. Lviv is a popular tourist city and so it’s pretty much a prerequisite of hotel and hospitality staff to speak at least a couple of languages, one of them often being English. In other major cities, including Kiev, a lot of young people will know at least some English; you may find that older Ukrainians will not know any whatsoever. When speaking with people in the tourism industry, they will most definitely speak English, but be prepared for the fact that those working in official positions, including police officers and those working in train stations, are unlikely to understand you.
From my experience, it is best to avoid Russian in certain Ukrainian cities, such as Kiev. Although most Ukrainians do speak Russian, anti-Russian feeling is strong in many places and, if you speak Russian, there is the possibility you will be ignored. It always depends, but overall I found Ukrainians to be helpful, if they see you respect their culture and use common boundaries.
Pro tip: I got a sim card while in Ukraine and, in certain areas, since I need to work on the go, I used my portable wifi device, Tep Wireless, to stay connected. I also downloaded the offline version of Google translate English to Ukranian and vice versa version, which I was able to use as needed. It is not completely accurate at times, but you get the general idea of what people mean. It specially saved my life when I get to restaurants without an English Menu. I was able to read the menu with the app’s camera, it helped me at least to differentiate main things like finding chicken options vs pork or beef. It helped me keep my belly full and happy!
Food and Drinks
Talking about happy bellys, we’ve now arrived to most people’s favorite part of any guide: the food and drinks. The main thing you need to remember regarding food and drinks is to NOT drink the tap water. I advise this not because it is unhealthy but because, in many areas, they use chlorine to treat it and it tastes awful. Apart from this, there should be no issues regarding food. Cooking standards are high, and Ukrainian food is delicious, so do not be afraid to try anything. There are tons of delicious Ukrainian dishes you must try!
If you are drinking alcohol, it goes without saying that, as a solo female traveler, same rule of thumb as anywhere you visit: You should not drink too much in the company of others that you do not really know, or leave your drink unattended. You should always know your own tolerance and monitor the amount consumed. You don’t want to find yourself in a situation, which is difficult to get out of, especially if your judgment is impaired by alcohol.
As with everywhere else in the world, petty crime and pickpocketing can be an issue in Ukraine. Watch your belongings when you are traveling by train, bus or metro, and be mindful not to make yourself look too much like a tourist. Scams and robberies of tourists are not unheard in Kiev although, since the introduction of the new police force in 2015, these incidents have decreased. As a solo female traveler, this might be a little scary to hear but there really is no need to worry. As long as you are vigilant, and do not go off anywhere with strangers, or walk in unlit, deserted areas after dark, you should experience no problems. Be smart about your safety, as you would need to be in any major city in the world.
It is also advised that, when traveling alone as a woman, you should consider taking taxis or Ubers (if available in the area) after 9pm rather than walk home alone. However, if you are staying in an accommodation right in city centers, especially in Lviv, Kiev and Odessa, this is probably being a little too overly cautious. There are usually lots of people around. As you can probably guess, even the most confident of robbers are unlikely to try to mug anyone surrounded by people.
If you are stopped by the police for any reason, you will need to produce some form of ID, so make sure you carry your passport or another form of identification with you at all times.
Like with a lot of other ex-Soviet countries, there is a slight undercurrent of racism and homophobia among some Ukrainians. The media has certainly exaggerated this and violent attacks are definitely rare, but if you are traveling outside of the major tourist cities, you may find people treat you differently if you happen to not look Caucasian or are openly gay.
As much as this should not be the case, it is better not to mention your sexuality in the company of others, even when in tourist centers such as Lviv. Kiev is probably the most liberal of all Ukrainian destinations when it comes to LGBTA visitors, but it is still not completely accepted by a lot of people. If you happen to be visiting Ukraine when a Pride march is taking place – yes, they do happen here – and you want to attend, take extra care; although these marches are heavily patrolled by police, right-wing supporters do show up as well and can be violent or, at the very least, thuggish.
Although some Ukrainians do not feel too fondly towards those who are not of Caucasian ethnicity, in particular the Roma, this is more often than not expressed in the form of indifference or mutterings to their close friends and family; outright hostility or violence are not commonplace.
Ukraine, along with a lot of other ex-Soviet states, used to have a reputation for corruption, with stories of police and border guards demanding payment of ‘fines’ still abounding. However, this is no longer much of a problem. If a border guard or police officer does approach you on a train, or in the street, and they suddenly ask for payment of a fine, act dumb. Do not give any indication that you understand what it is you are supposed to pay for. This may not be the most feminist piece of advice, but here it is better for you to just pretend you do not understand what they are talking about. If you are stopped on the street, request to be taken to a police station; if they are being dishonest, or are conmen pretending to be plain-clothes police officers, they will usually walk away and are pretty much never aggressive. The likelihood of this happening is extremely minimal; so do not let it prey on your mind too much.
General Ukraine Travel Advice
This might come across, as a bit of a weird one, but as a female traveler you should not smile too much in Ukraine when you first meet somebody; this includes workers such as waiters, hotel staff and taxi drivers. Again, it is one of those things that seems incredibly unfair, but women who smile a lot are seen as either being sexually promiscuous or not very intelligent. This viewpoint is probably a hang over from the Soviet era, when it was believed that smiling was connected with being overly friendly, and therefore you may come across as too trusting and easy to trick. Of course, times have changed but long-held beliefs take a lot longer to do so. If your taxi driver strikes up a conversation or your waiter makes a joke, it is perfectly OK to start smiling then. You just do not need to have a cheesy grin permanently slapped on your face.
It is also important that you do not engage in any conversations regarding the political situation or the Russian occupation. While many Ukrainians are quite calm when discussing the topic, politics can nevertheless be a sensitive topic, like it is in many countries. It is better to avoid these conversations rather than risk upsetting someone.
Although it might seem like an obvious thing to say, it is a fact that many people worldwide still regard Ukraine as a Russian enclave and refer to the country as part of the Soviet Union. Doing this is a sure-fire way of getting yourself into an argument; so make sure to speak of Ukraine as an independent country. Part of this is not calling it ‘the Ukraine’; many Ukrainians see this as referring to the country as a region rather than an independent state, so always make sure you omit the ‘the’. As we all know, there are many European countries with similar issues, so as a tourist you always want to appear as neutral as possible on hot button topics like politics.
Other Practical Precautions and Ukraine safety tips for Solo females traveling in Ukraine
Locate your country embassy and learn the emergency number
It is a rule I have when I am traveling solo anywhere. Better to be safe than sorry.
Send your itinerary to, and check in regularly with, friends or special loved ones
It is good to check in and to let people know your whereabouts. It is always important for someone to know where you are. I do this everywhere I travel.
Be mindful of your surroundings
Anywhere you go, you should use your common sense. Look around and take same precautions as you would in your own neighborhood or country. Do not walk along dark or isolated alleys alone. If it is too late, take a taxi or car sharing service. Walk with groups and remain in well lit areas.
Be aware of pickpockets
As in any country, pickpockets can be anywhere. Take care of your bag, belongings, and do not leave anything unattended.
Download any necessary travel apps in advance
You might have limited internet bandwidth, so it is smarter to download apps and anything else you may need to your phone, or other electronic devices, before leaving for your trip or at your accommodation.
Download the offline version of the area you are visiting using Google Maps, even download maps.me offline version which sometimes works better than Google Maps and, as I suggested above, Google translate is a must. Also download any car sharing apps, or any other thing you will truly need during your trip to Ukraine.
Consider joining a group tour or maybe some day tours
Sometimes, joining tours is a great way to meet other solo travelers, or new friends in general. It is also a way to learn history and other facts that you might not know otherwise. I personally enjoy booking walking or biking tours in cities when I arrive, along with food tours, since they introduced me to the highlights of the cities, and even provides me with an opportunity to ask for local recommendations on places I must try and visit, places to eat, etc. The locals always know what’s best.
I personally love to not only give tips on this travel blog, but I also love saving useful itineraries, travel tips and ideas of places I am going to visit on Pinterest. It is a good way to find unique places to visit, while keeping it all accessible in one place. I also bookmark useful guides and itineraries I’ve found on other travel blogs. I like to refer to them, or to make a list of places I must see while visiting any country.
BTW, shameless self-promotion, but if you are on Pinterest, follow me for tips and, if enjoyed this article, pin it at the bottom. This way you can refer to it as needed.
In summary, if you have not yet considered a trip to Ukraine, you really should add it to your travel bucket list. It has so many interesting places to visit, the people are very hospitable and friendly, it is incredibly cheap, and offers so much diversity in its landscapes and cities. As someone who has traveled there quite often, and has even lived there for some months of the year, I can tell you that it is not a dangerous country. Ukraine is totally worth a visit and, as long as you use your common sense, you should have no problems when traveling around. Warning, you might fall in love with Ukraine, like I did, and keep returning for more!
Have you ever been to Ukraine? How did you enjoy your visit? Any tips that you would like to add? Share your experience and thoughts about Ukraine with me in the comments.
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