Travel tips

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Travel tips

Customs
Travellers crossing the Ukrainian border must complete a customs declaration only if they are carrying more than $1,000 and/or 10,000 hr (or the equivalent in any other currency) and/or declarable goods. Those carrying more than the above amount must have an Al bank reference form. If you have less than $1,000 and no declarable goods, you only need to inform a customs officer verbally. Officers have the right to inspect your bags at any time.

Electricity
Ukraine supplies its residents and visitors alike with electrical current of 220 volts AC, 50Hz. All sockets require two round pins.. Many thinner Russian sockets are being replaced by their European cousins. Those with Russian sockets can buy a cheap adaptor for their European appliances. Adaptors for more foreign electrical societies are not easy to find in Ukraine, so bring your own.

Language
The country's official language is Ukrainian, but in practice the situation is much more complex. In the 2001 census more than 85% of ethnic Ukrainians declared Ukrainian as their mother tongue. This is certainly an encouraging sign, but the average foreigner on the streets of Kyiv won't be hearing the Ukrainian language anywhere near that often. Severe restrictions on the use of Ukrainian were imposed by Imperial Russia and then the Soviet Union, almost turning it into a foreign language in its native land. Since independence in 1991, it has become much more popular and widespread. Still, Russian is heavily used in Crimea and Eastern Ukraine, and only in Western regions is Ukrainian truly predominant.

Safety
The crime rate is rather low as compared to Western rates. Nonetheless, avoid walking alone late at night and showing that you are a foreigner-this means that you have a lot of money. Downtown areas are usually safer than the outskirts. If confronted by armed attackers, give up your valuables. Don't carry items you are not prepared to lose. If any of your possessions are lost or stolen, report the loss to the police.

Report loss of:
Travellers Checks to the nearest office of the issuing company or its agent; Airline Tickets to the airline company or travel agent; Passport to the police or if you are an American citizen, to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate; Credit Cards to the credit card company. It is reasonable to make photocopies of your documents (passport, driving license) in case your valuables are lost or stolen.

It is preferred to boil tap water before drinking it especially in the summer. Try to use bottled or purified water that could be easily delivered to your residency. Be forewarned that the water supply, especially hot, can be irregular. Radiation levels in Kyiv and most of Ukraine are considered safe and normal by the U.S. Embassy and other official bodies

Money
The national currency is the hryvnia (hr), which replaced the transitional karbovanets on September 2, 1996. Paper bills carry denominations of 1, 2, 5,10, 50, 100 and 200 hryvnias. Another word to the wise: two versions exist of the 1, 2, 5,10, and 20 hryvnia bills, and both are accepted every where. There are 100 kopecks in a hryvnia, with 1, 2, 5,10, 25 and 50 kopeck coins. You'll have no problem finding currency exchange points, but rates are better from central street kiosks. If it's traveller's checks you need to cash, look for a big respectable-looking bank. ATMs have become plentiful in Ukraine and many hotels and restaurants now take Visa and MasterCard . American Express is not very popular.

Driving
Carry your license and registration at all times to fully enjoy the Ukrainian driving experience. The official speed limits are 60 km/h in cities, 90 on secondary roads and 130 on highways. A zero tolerance drink driving policy applies in Ukraine.

Smoking
You're never too far away from a lit cigarette in Ukraine, and in some bars and clubs the term second-hand smoke just doesn't seem strong enough. On the other hand, smokers will enjoy the ridiculously cheap selection of cigarettes hawked by every corner babushka and kiosk.

Tipping
Restaurants prices generally do not include a service charge and it is customary to tip the waiter an average of 10 % of the bill. Give tips at the hotel. For other services, tip at your own discretion

Business hours

  - An eight-hour day is considered a normal work day, Monday through Friday. A lunch break is taken between the hours of 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Most banks are open without breaks, Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 5:00pm.

Telephoning

The international code of Ukraine is 380, for Kyiv 44. Long-distance call within Ukraine: dial 0, wait for dial tone, and then dial the city code and the number. International calls from Ukraine: dial 0, wait for dial tone, then dial 0, the country code, city code, subscriber's number.

The phone numbers in Kyiv are seven-digit and mostly in the cities with a population of more than one million, while the others have ten digits including the area code.

Public telephones can be operated using phone cards. Phone-cards of 90,120 and 240 units are sold in post offices and from newsagents. Long distance phone services in Ukraine are operated by Utel (Ukrainian Telecommunications), The rate for calls to Europe are about $,60-1.50 per minute. Calls to the United States are about $2.50 per minute

DIRECTORY INQUIRIES

Fire brigade

- 101

Militsia (police)

- 102

Ambulance

- 103

Directory Inquiries

- 09

Etiquette

When visiting Ukraine, there are a few simple rules of etiquette that may be useful:

If invited into a family home, it is customary to bring a gift. A bottle of wine, a cake or a bouquet of flowers is customary. If there is a child in the house, it is appropriate to provide him/her with a small gift as well. If you bring flowers, make sure there is an uneven number of them. It is considered bad luck otherwise.

Be prepared to remove your shoes upon entering a home. To keep apartments clean, most hosts will provide you with a pair of slippers. On public transportation, give up your seat to mothers with children, the elderly or the infirm.

At the entrance of upscale restaurants, expect that your coat, briefcase or baggage will be checked. When eating dinner at someone's home, casual dress is accepted. Be ready to give toasts at dinner, for guests are often asked to do so. Offer to share your snacks and cigarettes with those around you. Ukrainians are known for their generosity when it comes to treating others. Turning down a meal may be considered rude. For business, dress should be conservative. Men should not take off their jackets unless asked. In Orthodox churches women wear scarves or hats, and men take off their hats.

Do not shake hands across the threshold of a door.

When shaking hands, take off your gloves.

Be prepared to accept all food and drink offered you when visiting friends.

Don't put your thumb between your first two fingers - this is a very rude gesture.

Time

The time in Ukraine is set two hours ahead of the Universal time in Greenwich. To save electric power, it is altered twice a year. The watches are set one hour forward in the last week of March and one hour backward in the last week of October.