Kiev Essentials

Essentials to Know While in Kiev



The way of life in Kiev and standards of hotels, restaurants, taxis, air and ground transportation may be quite different from what you are accustomed to.  Be prepared for these differences, accept them as you find them, and you will have a most enjoyable time.

General:  Ukraine is +7 hours ahead of USA Eastern Standard Time.  The telephone country code for Ukraine is 38 and the city code for Kiev is 044.  Telephone numbers in Kiev are 7-digit, just like in the US.  So for example, to place a call to Kiev, you would dial +38-044-555-5555. 

Language:  The official language is Ukrainian.  But you will find that in Kiev many people still speak Russian, after the Russification period during the Brezhnev era. Shown below are 15 essential English phrases with their equivalent Ukrainian transliteration.

English PhraseUkrainian Transliteration
Good morningDobryy' ranok
Thank youDyakuyu
You're welcomeProshu
GoodbyDo pobachennya
Excuse mePereproshuyu or vybachte
I don't understand UkrainianYa ne rozumiyu po Ukrayins'ky
Do you speak English?Chy vy hovoryte po Anhliy's'ky?
What is your name?Yak vy nazyvayetesya?
How are you?Yak mayetes'?
Where is the toilet?De tut tualyet?
How much does this cost?Skil'ky tse koshtuye?
Cheers! (toast)Na zdorov'ya!
Do you accept credit cards?Chy vy pryy'mayete kredytovi kartky?
Please bring the billRakhunok proshu

Alcohol:  Ukraine is a Zero Tolerance country, so please do not drink and drive.  The penalties are severe and you are never sure what may happen in such incidents involving the Militia (as the local Police, is known).  It is highly advisable to purchase liquor in the better shops rather than small kiosks; this reduces the risk of weak, fake or dangerous products. 

Driving:  Most international driving rules apply in Kiev.  However, beware that most locals fail to follow many driving laws - Ukrainians are some of the worst speeders in the world - they love to step on the gas.  Officially, speed limits are 60 kph/37 mph in cities, 90 kph/56 mph in unpopulated areas, and 120 kph/72 mph on highways.  You can turn right on red lights, wherever there are signs.  Parking in Kiev is as difficult as in any other major European city. In downtown Kiev, many motorists park their cars on the sidewalks.  

Business Hours:  An 8-hour day is considered a standard work day.  Most offices and institutions operate on this schedule Monday through Friday.  A lunch break is taken between 1 and 3 PM.  Most banks are open without breaks Monday through Friday from 10 AM to 5 PM.  Many shops now stay open until 8 PM and later. 

Personal Safety:  While traveling in Ukraine protect yourself as you would in any other foreign country.  Be sure to place your passport, declaration form, airline tickets, any other official forms and cash in a safe place, if one is available, or carry them in a money belt under your clothing but not in a pouch on the outside of your clothing. 

Be sure to make a copy of your passport and airline tickets and keep one copy in your luggage and one copy on your person.  Do not flash large amounts of money in public and try not to go out at night alone, rather go out with another person. 

Health Information:  According to the US Embassy in Kiev, levels of radiation in food items and in the air are very minimal and do not pose a threat to your health.  DO NOT drink tap water.  Bottled water is easily available in most stores. Once boiled, as for coffee and tea, the tap water is fine. 

Electricity:  Electricity in Ukraine is 220-260 Volts/50Hz and appliance plug tips are of the smaller round European type.  If you plan on taking any electrical devices, you will need a voltage converter (transformer) of sufficient wattage.  Electric razors, hair dryers and appliances not rated for 50 Hz will fail to operate properly even with a transformer.  Some 60 Hz devices may even burn out.  ALL devices rated for 110 volts will burn out if used without a transformer.

Local Etiquette:  Here are a few simple rules of local etiquette that may help avoid embarrassment when visiting someone in Ukraine:

  • If invited into a family home, it is traditional to bring a gift, such as a bottle of wine and a cake.  A bouquet of flowers is also customary.  Make sure it is an uneven number of flowers (even numbers are for funerals).  If there is a child in the house, it is appropriate to provide him/her with a small gift, such as chocolate.
  • Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door.  It is considered bad luck.
  • When shaking hands, in winter, take off your gloves!
  • Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering a home.  To keep apartments or homes clean, most hosts will provide you with a pair of slippers called "tapochki".
  • Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so.
  • If you smoke, offer to share your cigarettes with those around you.
  • Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered you when visiting.  Ukrainians are known for their generous hospitality when it comes to feeding others.  Turning down food may be considered rude.


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