Johnny's Guide to Ukraine: Kiev, Odessa, Lviv, and Chernobyl

It's 2017 and I'm back in Ukraine to enjoy the summer here and update this post! I never thought I'd come to Ukraine especially since they are currently at war with Russia. I really never thought I'd be traveling through Ukraine by land, but my buddy Sam wanted to the adventure and I joined in on the fun. We came to the land of former USSR to see the how nature reclaims houses after the nuclear devastation of Chernobyl, drink vodka, eat borscht, and see if the rumors of Ukrainian women being the most beautiful in the world was true.  It turns out it is and I did everything mentioned above, but there's actually so much more.

To start, I wouldn't have thought but I actually feel a lot safer in Ukraine than is most of western Europe or even San Francisco but I did. It's hidden gem with lots to see, kind people, and tons of history. It's a great place to visit if you're looking for a unique culture and a fantastic value as their current economy makes everything super cheap compared to the rest of Europe. Keep reading for my guide on what I did, what I ate, and how you too can travel through Ukraine like a boss. It's the perfect time to come visit especially if you're earning U.S. dollars as it's the best value in Europe, and it could possibly be the coolest, yet most underrated and least visited country I've ever visited anywhere in the world!

Getting to Odessa

We started our trip from Chișinău the capital of Moldova and ended up hiring a private taxi to take us to Odessa. It was about a 5 hour drive including the 1-2 hours it took at the border but was pretty exciting most of the way so not a bad trip at all. We would have taken a bus or train but there wasn't an easy option available and since we were splitting the taxi by three even at the first quoted 100 Euro it was only $35 per person. Luckily Phil, one of the guys I was traveling with found a guy on the car sharing app, Bla Bla car willing to do it for a lot less as he was coming this direction anyway.

Even though that ride actually ended up falling through as he wanted to leave at 3am, the driver was nice enough to set us up with is friend who was leaving in the morning. We ended up paying $50 total for the 5 hour ride which was about $20 each including the tip we left the driver. If you've listened to Episode 126 of the podcast, it was actually recorded in the backseat of that car during the drive. If you're coming from somewhere other than Moldova, you can fly directly to Odessa from Vienna, Prague, Warsaw, Munich or Kiev which would be the much easier option.

Stopping by a Winery on the way to Moldova for Lunch

At Purcari Winery in Moldova

Where we stayed in Odessa

The hotel we stayed at was right on the beach, within a 1 minute walk of tons of restaurants, coffee shops, and the hottest nightclub in the city. It also had an indoor pool, rooftop, gym, and best of all was super affordable at $75 a night. That being said, I wouldn't actually recommend it and here's why.

The hotel we stayed at is in Arcadia Beach which on paper seems like the ultimate place to be and if I didn't go explore the city on my own, I never would have left it as it had everything you needed. The problem is, it's the super touristy area that people just visit and no one actually lives in. All of the restaurants are made for tourists, the bars are the most expensive in the country and most of the people there are tourists as well which means you won't meet any locals, or eat at local restaurants.

But if your goal is to party it up for a night or two and lay on the beach then by all means stay at the Morskoy Hotel (Agoda). But trust me, don't' stay there for more than two nights or you'll get bored quick. Instead, stay in the city center, as close to the area just below Odessa Philharmonic Theater and Deribasovskaya Street instead. On our second trip in 2017, we stayed in the center and would take an uber to Arcadia beach on weekends which worked out better. We found a place through Airbnb for $30 a night for a 2 bedroom apartment which we shared, but look around on local sites as they can often be cheaper. However, many speak Russian only and many long term apartments want a 12 month leases, so it's currently difficult to find places on a monthly basis. See more in my Kiev section below, as it's the same situation.

National opera Theater in Odessa

Coworking Spaces in Odessa

The nicest coworking space in Odessa is technically Impact Hub, but they focused more on events than coworking and often randomly closed the space even during the week which was annoying. Instead, I worked out of Terminal 42 which had terrible chairs and was overall better than the more popular Impact Hub which seemed to care more about sponsored events than being a good coworking space.

I liked that Terminal 42 had multiple skype rooms with foam on the walls to reduce echo, great coffee, and was a responsible price, accepting credit cards. But just like other coworking spaces in Ukraine, don't expect to meet any other digital nomads or have any of the locals talk to you. I worked from there for over two weeks without anyone starting a conversation with me. 

What to do in Odessa

The great thing about the Ukraine is how different everything is, just ever so slightly which makes it super interesting. For an example, the free walking tour in Odessa is ran by locals who are genuinely just doing it for the fun of it and as a way to practice their English and meet travelers. I was super surprised when the guide wouldn't take my tip at the end of the tour as they explained to me it was really free. So instead of tipping, I took my guide to lunch and then hung out with her again the next day she was so cool.

At night you'll want to just walk around the city center as there are a ton of things do. It reminds me of 3rd Street Promenade in Santa Monica with street performers, games and shops all on a street that is closed off to cars and traffic at night. During the day you'll want to go check out the beach at Ibiza Beach Nightclub at least once as even though the water isn't at all clear, the atmosphere is great and you can get full service cabanas or chairs for a super bargain. I paid $5 per beach chair one morning and got coffee and breakfast delivered to me ocean side for about $4. If you want to splurge a bit and have a mini vegas style cabana by the pool, we rented one for the whole day for only $40 and paid less than $15 for a bottle of champagne. 

If you want to meet some locals, you can drop by one of the free language cafe meetups or look for an event going on as it's the best way to get plugged in with both the expats and English speaking locals. I'd also highly recommend meeting some locals and going on a few dates while you're here. I don't know what it's like dating Ukrainian men but the women are gorgeous and bluntly straightforward which is refreshing. No beating around the busy with tons of small talk needed, just be honest and tell them you want to buy them a drink or go on a date and if they like you, they'll say yes, and if they don't, they'll simply say no. Ukrainians don't do fake phone numbers, flaking out, texting back and forth or wasting anyone's time.

Ibiza Beach Club in Arcadia Beach

On the beach lounges at Ibiza Beach Club

Read more about Odessa for Digital Nomads here.

How to get to Kiev

There are four ways to go from Odessa to Kiev and somehow the three of us decided to each take separate journeys. Phil wanted to get there as quickly as possible as he only had one full day in Kiev before flying back to the U.S. so he took an early morning flight which is the fastest way to get there. I took the afternoon bus which I thought would be an easy 5 hour ride but turned out to be a super long eight hour journey. Sam thought taking the overnight VIP bus would give him a place to lay down and rest for the night, and allow him to wake up refreshed to have the day to work but ended up being uncomfortable for 7 hours in tiny seats that don't recline and with zero leg room.

If I were to have done it again I would have skipped the bus which was decently comfortable but just way too long and opted instead for a train which  you can walk around on or save some time and fly direct. You can book standard of overnight trains from Odesa to Kyiv (Ukrainian spelling) here. For my second trip to Kiev in 2017, I took a train from Lviv. I made the mistake of booking 1st Class as it was only $5 more and I assumed it'd be more comfortable, but it wasn't. I think the private cabins would be good if you are in a group of 4-6 people and want some privacy, but when you're sitting in a cabin with 3 other Ukrainian guys facing each out for 5 hours, it's a bit uncomfortable, especially since the seats which are designed to turn into beds, don't lean at all and aren't very comfortable. There also wasn't wifi on 90% of the journey, so be prepared to watch movies on your laptop or listen to a good podcast or audiobook to kill the time.

You can also buy one of these bad boys and drive

Where to Stay in Kiev

One really nice thing about Kiev compared to the rest of Europe and other big cities such as New York is the amount of sheer value you can get in a central location. I wanted to stay in the city center and ended up booking a place at the Dnipro Hotel ( which is 1 block away from Independence Square and where all of the tours start.

They were actually out of normal rooms but since the suite was only $70 a night I figured why not. Even though both hotels I've stayed in so far look like they were built in the soviet days and not remodeled since, for the price I'm paying including a great breakfast, it's a great value. Sam stayed at the Fairmont Grand Hotel which was far nicer and on a really cool street with a couple nice restaurants and bars and right by the river but I didn't feel like spending $200 a night so I opted to stay a bit closer to the city center and save some money at Dnipro instead. After deciding to extend my stay for four more nights to see more of the city and recover from being way too hung over from the wedding celebrations I booked a room directly inside independence square called Kozatskiy Hotel which is only $25 a night and in the best location possible, but also makes me feel like I'm i'm living in a room last updated during communist rule that was decorated by my grandma. 

The executive suite at the Dnipro Hotel

The Kozatskiy is on the far right

During our trip in 2017 we stayed at an Airbnb in the center near Khreshchatyk street. It was $800 a month for a two room apartment and was pretty old and crappy inside but somehow came with amazingly fast internet. In the future, I'd recomend staying in the Podil neighborhood instead, even though it's not as convenient to a lot of things in the center, it feels more like a trendy, cool neighborhood with great bars, restaurants and things to do, rather than a financial and tourist center.

Podil also has better gyms, coworking spaces, and a better overall vibe. But honestly, if I was to go back to Ukraine, I would stay in Odessa instead and skip Kiev altogether. As for finding monthly apartments, the cheapest option would be to find a local Ukrainian who speaks Russian to find, call, and negotiate places for you. But if you're just staying for 1-2 months, the easiest option right now is to do it through Airbnb. There are nightly apartments like or but they all charge nightly and aren't meant for monthly rentals. The monthly rental sites all want a minimum of 12 months so there is currently a huge gap in the market for monthly furnished apartment rentals across Ukraine, not just in Kiev.

Video Tour of My $75 Suite

Day tours in Kiev

As always the first thing I like to do in a new city is going on a free walking tour to get an idea of the history and see the sites. One nice thing about the walking tours in Kiev are that they have two separate tours, one at 12noon and one at 4pm which allows you the option to either do both in one day and see it all at once, or separate it out into two trips and have more to do.

I went with Kiev Tours and had a great professional guide which was free but accepted tips. I'm a bit sad to say that I completely forgot to take the 4pm tour during the week and missed it but I've seen enough of the city on my own so hopefully I didn't miss too much.

Another thing I didn't have a chance to do but sounded fun was to shoot AK-47's and drive a military tank. I don't know how they are as I didn't have time to go on the tour but you can check out their page here.

As far as safety in Ukraine, I was surprised how safe I felt everywhere, even at night. In every apartment I stayed in, the courtyards and common areas were pitch black with sometimes no lights as neither the tenants or the building owner want to spend money to fix common areas, so even though the first few nights I felt like I would be mugged, nothing never happened. Someone once joked that no one robs anyone in Ukraine because most people have nothing to steal. I assumed it was because no one wants to end up in a Ukrainian prison cell or get beat up by hardened locals who don't like getting ripped off. Either way, even though you would think Ukraine otherwise, it's very safe here. As for cyber crime, I never had a problem with my credit cards or ATM cards here or personally met anyone who did. Unlike Bali where everyone gets scammed, it was actually very safe in Ukraine.

At one of the stops of the noon tour, St. Michael's Cathedral

Visiting Chernobyl

One of the coolest things I did was go on a day trip to Chernobyl with Soloeast travel which I recommend as it was a great day. You can also go with Pripyat Tour. Either way make sure you book in advance as I did mine three days before I went and almost couldn't get a seat.

I wanted to check out the the old nuclear disaster zone as from photos it looked like nature had started reclaiming old buildings and I knew it was going to be a super unique experience. There is zero cell phone service out there so be prepared to be completely off line for the day. You also have to wear long pants, long socks, and sturdy shoes as there will be a ton of broken glass and nuclear debris to step over.

Sitting in one the abandoned bumper cars

One of the schools inside the exclusion zone

Left over gas masks in crates from the accident

How to Get to Lviv

If you are coming from Odessa, the best way to get here is by overnight train. Even the 3rd class tickets give you a bed to sleep in and I've heard that it's actually more fun than the 1st or 2nd class berths as you get to hang out with the locals who will all have picnic spreads of whole chickens, bottles of vodka, and be having a great time on the journey. However, if you really want some privacy, you can get a 2 or 4 person booth with the upper class tickets.  From Kiev you can get a train for about 6 hours. It's a bit of an upside down triangle geographically so if you wanted to you could pass Kiev as a center point as its 6-7 hours from either Lviv or Odessa. If you wanted to do all three, the most efficient route would probably be to fly into Lviv, train to Odessa, train to Kiev, then fly out of there, or do it backwards depending on where you're coming from. You can also fly into Poland and go to Lviv from there as it's right next door.

Personally this trip I flew with Wizz Air direct from Berlin to Lviv for around $70 including 23kg of luggage. The only downside to this budget airline is that they only fly this route a few days a week so you have to time it correctly and make sure you don't' miss your flight. Wizz is a Hungarian low cost airline with no frills and a panicky boarding structure as they didn't even start letting the 200 passengers start going through immigration until 20 minutes before the take off, but somehow it all worked out and was comfortable enough of a flight so no issues.

Where to Stay in Lviv

Probably my favorite part of Ukraine was the old city within Lviv. It was definitely the most beautiful and the most authentically Ukrainian. While most people in Kiev and Odessa speak Russian, in Western Ukraine, you'll find most people speaking their national language. There's even themed bars in Lviv that will playfully imprison you if they hear you speaking Russian. That being said, if you want to experience true Ukrainian culture, you're more likely to find it in Lviv than in the capital or beach towns and it's definitely worth the trip.

Unlike other cities like Warsaw in Poland where the old city is reserved just for tourists, the nice thing about Lviv is that it's where locals hang out as well when they want to go out. This makes it a really authentic feeling place where both locals as well as tourists mix. The other area worth staying in is just a blew blocks away near the university. But aside from these areas most other areas are lacking restaurants and cafes so I'd definitely stay as close to the old city as possible, especially if you're here for less than a week. I ended up staying at the Old City Hostel in Lviv which was the perfect location, but was also really outdated so I can't recomend it unless you really don't care about comfort and amenities and just want a convenient place to sleep. I happened to go during the Jazz Festival weekend which is why all of hotels in the center were either fully booked or 3x the price. But plan ahead and you should be able to find a decent hotel or airbnb close by for a fair price.

Living it up in Lviv

At first glance, there doesn't seem to be a ton to do in Lviv as the city center is small enough to walk around in less than an hour. But the really cool thing about Lviv is how many hidden gems it has when you get introduced to them by a local or a guide. The first day I walked around and couldn't even find a decent restaurant to eat at. But by the end of the week I knew of dozens of cool hidden spots I never would have went into. The same with things to do which is why you should definitely take a free walking tour on the first day you arrive as they'll show you things you'd miss on your own. I somehow ended up going on walking tours 4 out of the 5 days I was there, mainly to meet other people and to have an excuse to walk around the city, but also because I ended up learning something new everyday. 

The first company that popped up on Tripadvisor seemed to have shut down, which lead me to Lviv Buddy which at first seemed fine, but later made me realize how important it is to get both a good guide as well as choose a good company to go with especially if you're only there for a few days. With Lviv buddy I took their culture tour which was interesting but felt a bit like a dry history class. Then I went on their "must see" tour which didn't actually show me the must sees but instead, took us to the same churches and repeated the history. Luckily, the next day I went on the Free Walking Tour Foundation tour and discovered it was a million times better. The guides were local Ukrainian girls who grew up in the city and really give us a locals perspective. They also introduced us to the hidden restaurants, and the best coffee shops, cafes, places to eat, see etc, which the other "must see" tour completely skipped. 

A few of the must dos that I discovered is has to do with eating so I'll cover that in the next section, but as far as things to do, aside from taking a free walking tour (don't forget to tip your guide), you should also walk up to the bell tower of city hall which has an awesome view of the whole city, and also walk to the university park to drink a Kvass which is the Ukrainian version of Kombucha that tastes kind of like beer. There's also the coffee mine which is worth walking down into, as well as a chocolate factory, all in the main square which is an easy way to spend a few hours every afternoon. Lviv has a huge coffee culture which rivals Melbourne, San Francisco and Chiang Mai so expect to drink a lot of great coffee there. One of my favorite things to do was to get a bar of dark chocolate with coffee beans at the chocolate factory and sit on the terrace with a cup of Americano to people watch.

At night there are street musicians everywhere which makes it a really nice city just to walk around in, enjoy the music, and have a craft beer at the Beer Theater or a cherry vodka at the Drunken Cherry. Basically, just walk around, you'll find great music and drinks wherever you stumble upon. Just don't walk into the Masochist Bar unless you want to get playfully whipped by a waitress, or do it, you might like it. 

Drinking "Drunken Cherry" Vodka in Lviv

Secret Bars and Restaurants in Lviv

My favorite thing about Lviv has to be the themed bars and restaurants scattered around the old city. If you only go to one, make sure it's Kryjivka. If you really want it to be a unique experience, don't read too much about it and just go. It's a secret restaurant build in the old bunkers under the city and the only entrance is an unmarked door guarded by guys with machine guns. The password to get into Kryjivka is "Glory to Ukraine, Glory It's Heroes" which is pronounced "Slava Ukrayini, Heroyam Slava!" The funnest part is bringing friends there and having them stand there scared and awkward when the door opens, not knowing what to do or say.

Another interesting restaurant to go to is just upstairs in the same alley, which is also the easiest way to find Kryjivka in the first place since it's unmarked. You can either ask for or look for The Most Expensive Galician Restaurant which is a few doors down to the right of Drunken Cherry in Rynok Square (town square market.) Honestly, part of the fun is just looking for the places on your own, so try not to read too much about them before you go. Before going you should stop by either House of Legends or any of the restaurants owned by Fest/Lokal to get a Lokal Lviv Card which gives you an insane discount at the Freemason, Masonic Themed Galician Restaurant. When you go, don't worry about the prices, just order what you want and enjoy the meal, it's not cheap but you won't have to mortgage your house. But without giving away too much of the fun of going there, make sure you go upstairs from Kryjivka and knock on apartment #8 to find the most interesting restaurant in the world.

Here's the info I messaged my friend when she went to Lviv. It's all you need to know.

Pub - Good for lunch, bar food meals, and beer. In the main square, go to Rynok Sq., 14. There's no sign on the door, so just go straight inside and there's a small unmarked door on the left. Knock on it. If the guard asks if you're Russian or if there are any Russians with you, say no. If he asks for a password, tell him “Slava Ukraini!” which means Glory to Ukraine. Enjoy. I'd do this one first.

Restaurant - Good for dinner. Later tonight or tomorrow In the same entrance as  Rynok Sq., 14, go up the stairs to Apartment #8 and knock. You'll be let in by a nice guy. Stay for dinner. Don't worry about the prices on the menu. If it's unusually high, just ask for a discount at the end even if you don't the card.

Warning, do not read about or google any of these places, have faith and just go!

Inside the legendary Kryjivka bunker restaurant

More Restaurants in Lviv

Also if you like ribs, you'll love both Arsenal and Meat & Justice which for $3.50 you can get a full rack of tasty pork ribs and for $1 extra you can wash it down with a draft beer. Arsenal is better for groups, but if it's just a few of you, Meat and Justice was slightly tastier in my experience. The strangest thing however is all of the restaurants named above are actually owned by same the same group of Entrepreneurs, Andriy Khudo, Yurko Nazaruk and Dmytro Gerasimov. Without them Lviv wouldn't have any of the really fun themed restaurants, cafes, or the amount of tourism it currently does.  More about them and the restaurants on PRI radio here.

One restaurant that isn't part of the group that is exceptional is Baczewski which has an exceptional breakfast which is currently just 120 UAH ($4.60US) and is both all you can eat and even includes a coffee and your choice of champagne, whiskey, or vodka. The eggs, chicken mushroom crepes and a few of their other dishes were really good, and this place is highly recommended. Only problem is that they always have a line so be prepared to wait at least half an hour to get in. But trust me, it's worth the wait. I've been there now twice and would definitely go back again in the future.

Brunch at Baczewski in Lviv. This is a must go.

Video Highlights of Lviv

If you want a taste of what life in Lviv is like, watch this little video I put together where I show you some of the secret restaurants and bars plus all of the great live music and street performances! Watching this again makes me want to go back to Lviv again and bring my parents, cousin, best friends, and anyone else who I think would get a kick out of being here!

It's also the cheapest touristy city in Ukraine, which means compared to Kyiv and Odessa which are already super cheap, this place is literally 33% cheaper, making it difficult to even spend $200 over a week going out everyday, eating, drinking and having the time of my life!

Ukrainian Local Culture 

I was really fortunate and got to attend a local wedding in Kiev and meet a bunch of people there. I also went on a few dates while in the country and got to really connect and understand the culture from a locals point of view. Most notably I ended up dating the same girl and really getting to know her during my time in Kiev and it really showed me what real Ukrainians are like in their day to day lives. It turns out that Ukraine as a country and it's people have been through centuries of oppression, corrupt governments and dictatorship. Their currency has went from being worth 25 cents to the dollar now being worth 4 cents, which to put into perspective is still almost enough to buy a bus ticket which costs just 7.7 cents American.

The average person in Ukraine earns $200 a month (5,000UAH), with those in capital of Kiev making $314. (~9,000UAH) The craziest thing is the fact that those same people used to earn more than double that just a few years ago in 2013 before their currency devalued. The good news for digital nomads or expats is the fact everything here is super affordable for us, and our spending here is actually appreciated as their tourism has gone down in recent years. The stereotypes of women in Ukraine chasing you down the street to get married just because you have a U.S. passport are super untrue, but whenever you mention you're from California or somewhere else cool, people are genuinely super interested on why you would come to the Ukraine. 

Also the stereotype Ukraine women just wanting to marry an American for money and a green card are also really misunderstood. In the local culture, women really value stability as that's the one thing that has been missing from the Ukraine since the beginning of time. I asked a lot of locals this as I was super curious and everyone said that if the government and life in Ukraine was better they would rather stay there as they really love their country and culture. The only reason why they even want to move abroad is to have a stable life for their future children as raising a family is super important to them. That being said, unless you are chasing models and flashing cash, most girls I've met here are actually really down to Earth even though they are beautiful. I think the ideal amount of wealth for most people is being able owning a 3 bed/2 bath house, being able to afford two mid-range cards like a Honda Accord, and being able to dress up once a week and go to a decent restaurant. 

Celebrating Independance Day in Ukraine
A walk down the street on independence day in Ukraine

Where to Eat in Ukraine

One of the best things about eating out in Ukraine is how affordable everything is due to the currency exchange. Getting a late night snack will only cost you $1.50 and going out to a fancy restaurant usually won't break your bank. The first time I chose a top 3 restaurant on tripadvisor I was a bit concerned as it showed the price being $$$$ which normally in the U.S. means it'll be a $100 per person meal. But once I got there and realized that a dinner for two could be had for less than $40 I stopped looking at prices and just assumed that whichever restaurant we went to worth be within budget no matter how fancy it looked or if it was on the top floor of a nice hotel.

But my actual favorite place to eat in Ukraine was what locals consider their version of cheap fast food at a cafeteria style restaurant chain called Puzata Hata and meals there were as low as $1.50 depending on what you point at and how much you eat.

A few must tries are the Ukrainian Borsch, all of their various salads, their Varenyky Pierogies filled with mashed potatoes,  Holubtsi cabbage rolls, and of course their Chicken Kiev which you guessed it, was invented in Kiev. But in general, just each everything, all of their food is super hearty and tasty. It's almost a surprise how few Ukrainians are fat, but asking around and seeing what other people eat, it's just because they don't eat McDonald's, drink sodas or eat huge portions they stay slim.

I often ate here twice a day it was so good and easy

Just point at what you want a pay per item

Dinner at Spotykach Restaurant in Kiev, Ukraine

Coworking in Ukraine

I'm currently sitting in a beautiful coworking space in Kiev with 30+ other people so I assume they have a decent startup scene here, with a ton of developers but since Ukrainians aren't super open to talk to strangers I haven't actually met anyone to ask what they do for work. There definitely isn't a thriving Digital Nomad scene here but it's a good alternative to other parts of Europe as it's outside of the Schengen area and allows most people including Americans, Canadians, and Brits to visit without a visa for up to 90 days every 180 days. But for whatever reason Australians need to apply for a visa in advance.

The internet here is okay, and better than places such as Bali but far worse than Thailand or Poland as they still don't have 4G and for whatever reason their 3G networks and wifi tends to drop at the same time giving you periods of up to an hour a day without internet access. The good news is so far here at the coworking space the internet has been stable and super fast at over 80mps up and down. I really liked and recommend the downstairs cafe of Chasopys which is the coworking space I worked out of while in Kiev, but their actual main coworking area upstairs sucked. I liked that they had three skype rooms but aside from that it was uncomfortably silent with a zero talking rule and the chairs were designed to look nice but were terrible for your back and posture as they forced you to lean back the entire time.

Coworking at Chasopys Cafe in Kiev, Ukraine

Wifi and Internet 2017 

As an update to the wifi and data speeds, I have great news. Coworking in Kiev, Lviv and other big cities in Ukraine is becoming popular and the coworking spaces and internet connections are becoming really good. For whatever reason the mobile data is faster in Lviv than the capital city of Kiev but the good news is that unlike last year where it was spotty, the connection is now stable. Even better news is how cheap SIM cards and Data plans are in Ukraine. For only 50 UAH which is $1.91 I got a SIM card with unlimited calling, text, and 6GB of data! I think this might be the cheapest place on the planet for data. Ukraine still doesn't have 4G/LTE but mobile data speeds in Lviv were great at 12.33mb down and 5.84mbps upload. Here in Kviv it's slower but still useable at 9.43mbps down and .62mbps upload.

Coworking spaces however have great wifi with speeds 35+mbps up and down. I'm currently working out of Coworking Platforma in Kiev which is a huge new coworking space that reminds me of WeWork in the US. I'll be working out of a few more spaces this week so check back here for updates on which one I end up choosing. The good news is that even though there aren't a ton of digital nomads in Kiev or Ukraine, there are a ton of IT workers, startups, and most of them are working remotely from coworking spaces so it's a growing scene here for digital professionals, even though sadly it's not yet a popular place for digital nomads or location independent entrepreneurs but hopefully with the help of this blog we can change that.

Working out of Coworking Platforma in Kiev

Credit Cards and ATMs

You may have heard that lot of Credit Cards don't work in Ukraine because of the high amount of fraud there. This may be true but personally I didn't have any problems there and I don't think most people would either as long as you use some common sense. You have a much higher chance of getting your ATM skimmed or credit card scammed in Bali than you do in Ukraine. But as with anywhere in the world, try to only use ATM machines that are in front or connected to banks and not just random ones on the street or in a convenience store. The ones on the street often have super low limits only letting you take out $60 at a time and they still charge a $5 fee making it a bad value and a higher risk of being scammed. The better ATMs let you take out up to 8,000 UAH at a time which is just a bit over $300. 

Always physically feel the card insert to make sure there's not an attachment on it and cover your PIN code with your other hand so cameras or people don't see it. As for credit cards try to use things like the "tap" feature with Apple Pay on your iPhone or the paypass feature on your Android instead of handing over cards if available. But in general I had zero problems and all of my cards worked including my Barclay Arrival Card and my Capital One Venture Card. I withdrew money using my Charles Schwab ATM card many times which flagged my card but I just had to call in and verify it was me and everything was fine. The schwab card also refunds all ATM fees worldwide so it's worth getting either way. My advice is to always have 1-2 backup credit cards and ATM cards regardless when you travel. Just make sure they are using different banks so if one freezes your account or doesn't work in Ukraine, the others will. 

From Kiev, Ukraine

Overall Thoughts on Ukraine

I honestly didn't think I would like Ukraine as much as I did. I came here because it was so different and and off the beaten track that I thought it would be an adventure and a unique experience. Having military tanks drive by the street in front of my hotel the first night I was in the capital and the sheer adventure of getting here by land added to the overall experience. Listen to episodes 125 and 126 of the podcast to get a glimpse on what it was like traveling through Eastern Europe to get here. Also listen to the first 5 minutes of episode 127 to get an idea of how crazy it was to watch thousands of military personnel and vehicles drive by from your balcony. 

Aside from the craziness of being in a country currently at war with Russia and visiting the world's biggest nuclear disaster zone Ukraine is actually an incredible place to visit full of good people with warm hearts. They have endured so much and I wish there was something I could do to help fix their economy and political situation, but for now, I guess the best thing we can do is understand which I feel like I have a much better understanding of now. I thought Ukraine would be one of those places I would check off my bucket list and never return to but as I'm headed to the airport now in a few hours to leave, I'm already wishing that I had planned to stay even longer and will be back. 

I now have a special place and understanding in my heart for the people of Ukraine and won't soon forget either.  Watch this video below to see how drastically different various sides and life in Ukraine can be, even in a single day. 

I hope this post inspires some of you to come visit Ukraine and experience it for yourself.

Also read this post about my thoughts on Ukraine if you haven't already.

Warm Regards,

Johnny FD

Ukraine. You are beautiful.

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  1. Replies
    1. It's actually decently good. I never had a problem at restaurants, or anyone under 30 years old. But if you do, you can just use the google translate app which works really well in both Ukrainian and Russian.

  2. I was in Kiev last summer and I was astonished by how kind and happy Ukrainians are. They love their countries, they are pretty down to earth, and women are beautiful. And it's super safe. Fell in love with the city. I've lived in Prague and Vancouver and Seattle, Kiev is just awesome

    1. I was super impressed on how optimistic and positive Ukrainians are especially with all that is going on. +1 to everything you said.

    2. I've met a few Ukrainians here in the US (lots of Russians & Ukrainians here around Atlanta) and the women who were born abroad are very nice, and have some good opinions about ethics, men/women relationships, and much more.

      Definitely want to visit the Ukraine one day!

  3. I want to drive a tank and shoot AK47s, great post, never would of visited Ukraine, you have sold it to me JFD

  4. Awesome! Thanks for the tips! Because of your great content, I'll be sure to keep Ukraine on the list. Hope to run into you one day soon, bro.

  5. I went to Lviv recently because I had to get out of the schengen zone. It was awesome! I completely agree with your review. I'm looking forward to checking out Odessa next. Thanks for your pointers, I'll know where to go.

    1. Hey glad you enjoyed Lviv! I thought you would! Let us know how you like Odessa after you go.

  6. where did you meet those gorgeous women in your photos?

    1. I went to a friend of a friend's wedding here in KIev and met most of them there. But there are gorgeous women everywhere in Ukraine, especially Kiev.

  7. How would you rank the cities you visited in Ukraine from 1 to 3? Reason I'm asking is I may be taking a trip to Eastern Europe soon and I'll most likely only have time to visit one city in Ukraine.

    1. If you mean Kiev, Lviv or Odessa as best, it really depends on what you want. Lviv is great for couples and families as it's beautiful and very old town historic feeling. Kiev is great for single people who like big cities like New York. Odessa is overall a good mix between the two. It's bigger than Lviv so it doesn't feel a small town where everyone knows each other, and it has a nice old city. I'd say if you could only visit one, visit Odessa.

  8. i will be visiting Kyiv tomorrow, i bought ticket yesterday (2 days before departure dude!). Let see how it goes. Thanks bro for the post.

  9. Yo Johnny, I think you meant to say you DON'T know what it's like dating Ukrainian men? You wrote, "I know what what it's like dating Ukrainian men". Just an FYI haha. By the way, great content, as usual. Your real estate videos helped me sort some stuff out in my head. Thanks!

    1. Haha thanks for catching that! No wonder so many guys have been hitting me up for "coffee" lately. j/k. =)

      Glad you're enjoying the content by the way!

  10. Kiev, Lviv and Odessa are best cities in Ukraine, which are worth a visit. I was in all three. Now I'm in Kiev, I will teach professional training in self-development. By the way I was in Coworking Chasopys, but I prefer another coworking, in which I conduct seminars,I recommend to visit coworking UNDERHUB. And the food in Kiev is very tasty! I recommend to try real Ukrainian vareniki! Ukrainians are very friendly. Kiev is a beautiful, big city! Thank you for your article)

    1. hey Neal, glad you enjoyed your time in Ukraine. I worked out of Underhub a few times but it literally feels like working out of a cave with no natural lighting which was uncomfortable. The food and the varenkiki is indeed awesome though! =)


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