Geographical Location: Ukraine is situated in the south-eastern part of Central Europe and has its own territory, government, national emblem, flag and anthem. It borders on
Russia, Byelorussia, Moldova, Slovakia, Romania, Hungary and Poland on land and Russia, Georgia, Bulgaria, Romania and Turkey on sea.The total area of Ukraine is about 603,700 sq. km.
People Population: 51,867,828 (July, 1995 est.) Literacy: Literacy of total population is 98% State language: Ukrainian.
The climate of the country is moderate. Winter is rather mild, with no severe frosts but with regular snowfalls everywhere except the south. The rivers and lakes freeze in winter. The average winter temperature varies -20 Centigrade in the north to -3-5 in the south. Summer is quite hot and dry, with occasional showers and thunderstorms. The fertile black soil is well watered in spring and autumn and gets plenty of sunshine in summer.
The territory of Ukraine is mostly a level, treeless plain, calls "steppe". There are the Crimean Mountains in the Crimean peninsula and the Carpathians in the west, but they are not very high. Mixed forests of pine and fir-trees, beeches, limes, oaks and elms cover the mountains, but the thickest woods can still be found in the northern part of the republic, in Volyn. Kiev and Cherkassy lie in the midst of Ukrainian southernmost pine forest. The main Ukrainian river is the Dnieper. It is one of the longest European rivers and one of the republic's main source of hydroelectric power. The Dnieper and its tributary the Ross had been the cradle of the Ukrainian and Russian people in time immemorial.
Kilometre chart of Ukrainian cities
Most major rivers flow south to the Black Sea; they include the Dnipro River in central Ukraine, the Southern Bug and Dnestr rivers in the west, the DonetsRiver in the east, and the Danube in the far south. The Western Bug flows northward through the western part of the country and joins the Vistula, which empties into the Baltic Sea.
The country is rich in natural resources, such as iron ore, coal, color metal, oil, gas, mineral salts, clay and potential water power. It has developed a varied industry, concentrated mostly in and around big cities, such as Kiev, Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk, Dnyeprodzerzhinsk, Odessa, Kharkov, Lviv, Nickolayev and other. It produces planes and ships, lorries and buses, motorcars and locomotives, computer and electronic equipment, precision instruments and agricultural machines, TV and radio set, chemicals and textiles and various consumer goods. Odessa, Sebastopol, Nickolayev, Kherson and Kerch are main ukrainian ports. Ukraine contains approximately 5 per cent of the world's total mineral resources. Ukraine has deposits of more than 80 types of minerals.
Currently the private sector accounts for approximately 50percent of GDP. The economy of modern Ukraine is formed by both agriculture and industry.
Industry contributes more than 40 per cent of GDP and accounts for more than one-fourth of total employment. Ukraine is a major center for heavy machinery and industrial equipment production, machine tools, large electrical transformers, ships, locomotives, rail cars, passenger and cargo aircraft, agricultural machinery as well as textiles. It also has a well-developed chemical industry that produces various plastics, tires and fertilizers. The Ukrainian aerospace and defense industry, which includes more than 500 military enterprises and research institutes, is known for its state-of-the-art technology and production of reliable equipment.
Agriculture accounts for about 25 per cent of Ukraine's total GDP and approximately the same percentage of total employment. Mainly due to extremely fertile soil, Ukraine is a major producer and exporter of a wide variety of agricultural products, including sugar, sunflower oil, flax, wheat, maize, buckwheat, different crops and dairy products, red and green vegetables, all kinds of fruit, melons and berries. Due to favorable climatic conditions, Ukraine is traditionally an agricultural area. Ukraine is one of the world's main centers of sugar production. It produces sugar both for its own needs and for export.
- General Principles and State Power
Ukraine is a Republic
Constitution: 1996 Constitution.
Head of State: President (Mr. Victor Yuschenko since 2005).
Head of Government: Prime Minister (Yulia Timoshenko).
Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament (Verkhovna Rada) with 450 seats. The Verkhovna Rada of Ukraine elects from among its members the Chairman of the Verkhovna Rada.
Suffrage: 18 years of age; universal
Legal system: based on civil law system; no judicial review of legislative acts.
Administrative divisions: 24 oblasts, 1 autonomous republic (There autonomous Republic of Crimea (Krym) ,2municipalities (Kyiv and Sevastopol)
Railroads: total: 23,350 km (broad gauge - 1.524 m); 8,600 electrified
Inland water ways: 1,672 km perennially navigable (Prypyat and Dnipro Rivers)
Seaports: Berdiansk, Illichevsk, Izmayl, Kerch, Kherson, Mariupol, Nikolayev, Odessa, Yuzhny, Sevastopol.
The cheapest way to fly into Ukraine is through Kiev Boryspol. The main international hubs for these flights are Frankfurt, Milan, Munich, Prague, London, Rome, Vienna and Warsaw with several flights a day of Austrian AUA, CSA Czech Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa, Alitalia, Air France, British Airways, KLM and MALEV; also Ukraine International, which code-shares on these routes with the respective carriers, and another Ukrainian carrier, AeroSvit. Special offers on flights come and go, depending on the whim of the carrier. The only low-cost carrier flying into Ukraine, as yet (February 2007), is AirBaltic, with flights routing through Riga, Latvia, or Vilnius, Lithuania, although AeroSvit could be considered a somewhat low-cost carrier (considering there aren’t many others.) There are several airlines which offer direct flights to cities like Dnipropetrovsk (Lufthansa), Donetsk (Lufthansa, Austrian), Odessa (MALEV, LOT, Austrian, CSA Czech Airlines), Kharkiv and Lviv (LOT, Austrian Airlines), but they are more expensive. To fly inside Ukraine, the most common airline is AeroSvit. Ukraine International also recently introduced flights within the country from its hub in Kiev, mainly flying newer Boeing 737 aircraft.
The quickest way to get around big cities is the so-called marshrutka - the minibuses which follow routes much like the regular buses do. You can generally flag them down or ask them to stop at places other than the specified bus-stops. The fare is paid as soon as you get in, and is fixed no matter how far you want to go. This is the same for the conventional buses, tram, trolley-buses and the Metro. You tell the driver that you want to get off when you’re approaching the destination. Each city has an inter-city bus station from which you can go pretty much anywhere in Ukraine. Fares and quality of service vary widely.
Taxi is comparatively cheap for Ukrainian/Russian speaking passengers. Probably everywhere situation with taxi is like this – if one speaks a foreign language price for a taxi goes up. There are numerous taxi services, orders are taken via phone. A taxi or a gypsy cab can be hired right on the street simply by putting out your hand. Services of gypsy cabs are less expensive but are not recommended from the safety point of view. However, if you wish to use a gypsy cab make sure there is nobody else inside but the driver and negotiate the price before you get in the car.
To shop you will most certainly need local currency (hryvnia). US Dollar, Euro and other currency exchange points are very common in cities, and the exchange rate is usually very fair. However, sometimes and in some banks there are problems with cash deposits (or that is the official version), so do not exchange too many dollars unless you’re traveling to the more provincial areas. When doing person-to-person payments you might be able to pay in US dollars or Euros, as those are widely recognized, and you might in fact get better rates than in official exchange points. However, be careful, because it’s not legal to make payments with foreign currency.
If you want to buy any kind of artwork (paintings, Easter eggs) in Kiev, the place to visit is Andriivsky Uzviz.
BE AWARE THAT IT IS ILLEGAL TO TAKE OUT OF THE COUNTRY ANY ITEMS OF HISTORICAL IMPORTANCE including badges, medals, icons, historical paintings, etc... This law is strictly enforced at all exit points of the country and one risks heavy fines and/or imprisonment.
1 UAH = 0.2 USD (1 USD = 5 UAH)
1 UAH = 0.165 EUR (1 EUR = 6.05 UAH)
You will be impressed with quantity and quality of restaurants here - national Ukrainian cuisine, European entrees, Italian Pizzerias or just fast food. Most restaurants have affordable prices even for a traveler of modest means.
Ukrainian cuisine is quite tasty, but just as other cuisines in the region uses a lot of fat ingredients, especially in the festive dishes. Traditional local food includes “salo” (salted lard)
Salo and soups like “borshch” made of red beets or “solianka”
which is a delicious vegetable soup. The first, salo, is perhaps something you might not make yourself try - however is a delicious side dish, as for the soups being a must-have dish.
If you are outside a big city or in doubt about food, exercise caution and common sense about where you buy food. Try to buy groceries only in supermarkets or large grocery stores, always check the expiration date, and never buy meat or dairy products on the street (you can buy them on the market, but not near the market).
When choosing a restaurant at which to eat, you will find one that you like based on the menu posted by the entrance of every establishment. This may sound strange, but in most towns in Ukraine there are some very good restaurants, sometimes even luxurious ones, and these restaurants do serve properly made food. If you like traveling to more remote parts of the country and are in doubt about what to eat, remember that vegetables are always a safe choice.
Along the way you may find nice places to eat not by following the rare signs, but just by tracing the sky for the smoke of traditional wood fires. These are often places where they serve traditional Ukrainian food, including very tasty shashlyky (shish-kebab). Restaurateurs are very friendly, and more often than not you will be one of their first foreign visitors. Next to the “borshch” you might also ask for “varenyky” (dumplings filled with meat or vegetables) or “deruny” (potato pancakes). You have to try varenyky with potatoes and cottage cheese in a sautéed onion and sour cream sauce - it’s a fantastic dish. These are just starters, but ones that might fill you up quickly.
The Ukrainian specialty is horilka (the local name for vodka) with pepper. Other kinds of vodka are also quite popular - linden (tilia), honey, birch, wheat. Souvenir bottles are available for higher prices (some bottles reach upwards of $50 (35€)/0.5. There is a great choice of wine, both domestic and imported. The domestic wines mostly originate in the south, in the Crimean region - known for wine making dating back to early Greek settlement over 2,000 years ago, although wines from the Carpathian region of Uzhgorod are also quite tasty.
There are a lot of beverages (both alcoholic and non-alcoholic). Ukrainian beer is of very good quality. Beer from barrels or kegs (more common in cafes) is often watered down. Canned beer is not very common in Ukraine and sometimes not of the same quality as the same variety in sold in bottles. The best beers are brewed by Obolon and Sarmat. Imported beers are also widely available but more expensive. All told, Ukrainian beers are very tasty and gaining popularity elsewhere in Europe.
Of non-alcoholic beverages one should try kvas – a typically slavic drink made of rye or wheat. During the summer one can easily buy it from designated street vendors. It’s better to buy it in bottles. Dairy drinks, of all sorts, are also available, although mostly in supermarkets. Bottles of mineral water are available everywhere, as well as lemonades, beer, and strong drinks. When seeking to buy bottled water make sure to ask for “voda bez gazu” (water without gas) otherwise you are likely to be handed the carbonated drink.
WARNING. Never buy vodka or kognak (the local name for brandy) outside supermarkets or liquor stores, for there are a lot of fakes.
Your Financial Security
Ukraine is a predominantly cash economy. The network of bank offices and ATMs is growing fast and has become sufficient in the large cities. So you can use your credit cards (mostly MasterCard, Visa) or cash travel checks easily. But avoid using your credit cards for payments at establishments in smaller towns as retailers are not trained and controlled enough to ensure your card privacy. Instead, it is widely acceptable to pay cash. Locals (especially businesspeople) sometimes carry, and pay in cash amounts considered unusually large in other countries. Don’t suspect criminal activity in every such case.
Also, it is strongly recommended to avoid individual (street) currency exchangers as there are thieves among such exchangers, that may instead give you old, Soviet-era currency or also coupons that have been withdrawn from circulation since the mid 1990’s. Use special exchange booths (widely available) and banks; also be wary of exchange rate tricks like 5.059/5.62 buy/sell instead of 5.59/5.62.
The US dollar is generally accepted as a form of currency, particularly in tourist areas. The Euro, while exchangeable, is generally not used as a form of currency, however gaining popularity. When it is used you’ll be paying with it as though it was a dollar, which is not particularly favorable. If you want to bring spare cash, it is best to bring US dollars.