Like a training ground for Russia, Ukraine isn't anywhere near as bad. Yes, the roads are embarrassingly awful but I had a great time in Ukraine. Now, however, might not be the best time to visit for obvious reasons.
5th - 14th May 2013
As of September 2017, the UK Foreign Office still warns against all travel to Crimea and the east of Ukraine. The rest of the country seems largely unaffected.
Going from south to north, the countryside starts off mildly bumpy and gets flatter the further north you go. Nothing of the scenery in Ukraine will knock your socks off but the public displays of drunkeness will sometimes provide amusing scenes.
Ukraine's roads look like they were scatterbombed some time in the 70s and then just left to rot. They are, to be blunt, shit.
While in Prague I met a young Ukrainian. I told him I would be cycling to Kiev. He laughed in my face and said, "That's stupid. Nobody does that." And he was right. They don't. But this is the biggest thing in your favour. As an oddity the drivers might find you an interesting diversion rather than ploughing into you at seventy miles an hour. I say might. One nearly took me out. Generally though, away from the big cities, traffic was light.
It's hard to give a guide price for Ukraine. On my first day there I got the cheapest room of the entire trip for €8. On the other hand, I struggled to find any room at all in Kiev and when I did it was €52. The other four hotels I stayed at ranged from €22 to €28.
Food was cheap and usually very tasty. Beer could be had for less than €1 per pint outside of Kiev.
As you can probably sense from what's happening at the moment, there's a section of Ukraine's population that's very pro-Russia and another that feels the opposite. Therefore, attempting a few words in Russian might be worse than nothing at all. I got one snotty look from a checkout girl when I tried some Russki but maybe she had the 'dekoratori' in. Everyone else seemed fine with it.
It would really, really help you if you learnt the Cyrilic alphabet or at least took a cheat sheet. It's surprising how many words that look like Martian make some sort of sense when you just translate the letters. It's also a good idea to learn a few generic foody words - like chicken, soup, potato, etc. - if you plan to eat in restaurants. And you should. The food was always tasty and very cheap.
The 'Russian' experience, cheap, tasty food, giveaway beer, very friendly people (well, the ones I met anyway).
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