Unfortunately, not many people in Ukraine can speak English. This is different from Europe where you can get around if you have some English. So do not rely on your English: pick up some words and phrases in Russian. And do learn the alphabet so you can read street names, etc.
Euros are as welcome as (or even more desired than) US dollars though you cannot use them anywhere in Ukraine; you have to use local Ukrainian currency which can easily be exchanged anywhere in a big city (you do not need to look for a bank, exchanges are everywhere and they offer a better rate, longer hours and faster service than banks), you can use foreign currency to pay for your apartment, interpreter and other fees, but to buy food in a store you must use Ukrainian hryvnas.
ATMs are crappy and may fail when you badly need money; and many places that claim to accept cards may tell you that they cannot do it now; so do have some cash on you and several additional cards; do warn your ATM company that you are going to Ukraine.
Make sure to bring in cash in new notes, not torn, not rubbed or badly stained; Ukrainian banks/exchanges will not accept them.
Always have small change on you including coins and small bills (UAH1, 2, 5, 10, 20; UAH100 may be a big problem in a kiosk, and with UAH200/500 you will usually have to look for a big store).
Avoid taxi drivers at train stations and airports as they will charge at least twice the going rate — try to use a bus.
If you hire a cab one way and pay $1 and then hire another and pay $2 it is not a rip-off, it is a free market; negotiate before you get in; best of all is to use a radio taxi (call on the phone and order — usually you will be told the price on the phone).
Overnight trains are available between all major cities. Thus, you save your day and one night in a hotel. However, you may find trains uncomfortable especially the 2nd and 3rd class even if cheap. The 1st class is OK but expensive, similar to a flight although it takes much longer, but for some reason, flights are mainly available between Kiev and other cities (Odessa, Simferopol, Harkov), that is you usually have to fly via the capital which does not make sense. However, if you need to get to/from Kiev, flying would be the best option.
Always have a copy of your passport and your migration card with your Ukraine apartment/hotel address on you.
Avoid talking English and running or standing out of the crowd in any other way when cops are around, do not look at them, do not look foreign to them, make sure you do not attract their attention. They often regard foreigners as easy prey to extort bribes.
It is safer in Ukraine than in the USA so if you are not stupid and reckless you should be basically OK nearly anywhere most of the time, even at night unless you stand out (e.g. if you are black or speak English loudly) — actually, the cops are the biggest hazard. Odessa and Kiev are quite safe. Other towns like Jitomir, Simferopol, Nikolayev may be less safe.
When in your private apartment, never answer the door if you are not expecting anyone. Ask the landlord to schedule a visit on the phone if they need anything. Sometimes it can be a plumber but anyway you cannot help them because you do not know anything and cannot speak Russian, so just ignore it.
Dial 101 from a landline or cell phone to call the emergency service.
Avoid women from dating agencies because most of them are only there to make some money as they get a cut from what the agency charges you. Try to have direct ways to contact women. It will save you a lot of money and, most important, you will stay away from professional daters (women not interested in marriage and only interested in going out at your expense).
Don’t try to date women who are much younger. The age difference should be reasonable, let’s say up to 10 years. Of course, this is individual but you have to bear in mind that most women would not be serious about a man who is 20 years their senior. Even if they date you this may be because they have other interests like money.
I want to particularly stress than women younger than 25 must be avoided and are absolute waste of time and emotion. If you are looking for a wife, forget about 21 y.o.’s!
Internet cafes are available in most Ukrainian cities but sometimes difficult to find. They are very cheap. It is best to have your laptop on you. In some apartments you can get a high-speed cable or Wi-Fi connection or the landlord may provide you with a wireless modem.
Wi-Fi is available in some places in the downtown of Odessa, Kiev and some other Ukrainian towns.
If you have an unlocked GSM band cell phone (you can actually buy it here very cheap) you can get a Ukrainian SIM card and make calls within Ukraine at a very low price and save on mobile roaming charges. You can also use it to log on to the Internet if you connect it to your laptop and use as a modem. However, this could be quite expensive unlike calls.
If there is a landline in your apartment you cannot use it to make long-distance calls or call cell phones. It is only good for calling around the town or cell phones with direct numbers.
Eating out is relatively cheap in Ukraine while the quality is usually high. Avoid expensive restaraunts because the service may be bad and food is often old (because of prohibiting prices).
Tipping is expected but not obligatory and should not exceed 10 per cent. Do not tip if the service was bad: you do not have to, and tipping bad service encourages it.
If you wish to save, you can use fast-food cafes. There are plenty of brands. The food is much healthier than in McDonald’s while they are even cheaper.
If you want to save even more, you can buy food and cook in your apartment. Generally, it is a good idea to have a supply of drinking water, juice, snacks at your apartment even if you are not going to cook.
A private apartment is usually a better option than a hotel because it offers more room, privacy and flexibility than a hotel while the price may not be higher and security is as good. As for services, you can usually get them in private apartments too (like laundry). However, you usually have to book an apartment by paying for one night while many hotels do not require that, and it is non-refundable.
Push/pull the door of your apartment while working on the lock if you cannot unlock it. This would release the locking bar of a tight door.
Try to have your things packed equally into two suitcases so if one of them is lost by the airline (often the case) you still have some clothes and underwear. However, you can buy clothing cheap here so think if you really need to bring too much. The less baggage you have, the easier it is to travel and less to worry about. After all, you are coming here for a few days, usually not longer than 10. You may do without half of your baggage if you think.
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