Ukraine – What to Beware of?

I found this Russian translation from a Polish travel website Koniec Świata, and decided to translate it into English. I have used the Russian translation and checked with the Polish original, I found the Russian translation to be a bit mechanical and lacking. The Polish site original seems to have been edited by editors of the website, professional travellers, who are also listed there, and hence it could be first hand experience. The text refers mostly to mountain regions of Ukraine near the Polish border…

Attention citizens! Ukrainians have very strong heads. If you have enough common sense not to fraternise with whom ever in a bar, you will avoid many problems.

The tourist should not show off his favourite equipment, and then go alone into the mountains, there could be muggings.

Ukrainians are not famous for their punctuality, do not be surprised if the groom is late three hours to the wedding, or when a disco begins at ten, and people start gathering around midnight.

Rackets and scams: As everywhere, you should be be careful when exchanging currency outside of an [exchange] office or a bank because you don’t know the law, language and mentality.

In the bazaar, the price for foreigners is always higher, one ought to bargain.

The police likes to stretch the fines for invented road crimes. Never hold too much money in your wallet because if [the cops] see it, the price will only increase. You should not pay more than 20-50 hryvnia (for invented crimes).

When Ukrainian cops see a Polish registration plate, no matter if they have a good reason to stop the Pole or not, they will stop you. Ideally, without much talking give them few hryvnia. In the opposite case, they will direct you to the main office (which is an unequivocal suggestion).

Pay attention to “parking officials” at free parking places, who demand payment for parking. In this case, it is good to ask drivers near by if you really need to pay. If not, just ignore the “parking officer.”

Water: Do not drink tap water. In the mountains, only use flowing water in the creeks, not from lakes.

In mountains higher up one can drink out of wells and streams without worry. In the valleys, wells are usually shallow, and I do not recommend it, to children especially.

Water in rivers: bearing in mind that all the sewage from the high up flows through little streams into rivers, the coasts are densely populated, sewers are a fiction. I did not decide to swim in the Cheremosh. (several years ago there was a hepatitis epidemic) Water in the creeks is clean.

Food: Ukrainian food is hard to digest. In shops in small towns many food items are expired.

Attention:  The meat bought at the bazaar should be fried well. It may not have been tested.

Coffee and tea, if you don’t ask otherwise, will be sweetened.

You will have to wait long in restaurants because the cooks will clean potatoes or make pierogi specially for you -seriously, seriously. Also, do not read the menu in restaurants, and rather ask what they currently have.

Ukrainian meals have a lot of fat, salo in particular. Locals have no issue with this because they burn it during hard physical work but visitors may have problems with digestion.

Road traffic: The cops. They are able to stop you for anything and convince you of any crime, and would give you a choice to pay the fine on spot or to return to a nearest city to write a protocol, which can take several hours.

Other drivers – not having lights on in the dark, overtaking on the third (I quite did not understand what is meant here) is a Ukrainian norm.

Cows and other livestock – the way from the pastures to the pens often leads through a road, and you can land with your car in the middle of a heard.

The drivers drive without lights as long as they see things. Lights at night are often parking lights or some strange blue lights. Often they are missing one light or stop light.

When entering the roundabout turn on the left signal, (WTF? but that’s what it says) unless you are turning right right away. Most roundabout are an intersection of roads, the entering has a precedence. It does happen that Ukrainians drive into a roundabout against the flow.

On the roads we mind the road, pedestrians, animals, cyclists and above all other drivers, many of them bought their driving licenses, many are youngsters trying out their new car. Drivers of brand new models of most expensive cars are people you should avoid on the road.

A difficulty for a driver from Europe are cyclists without lights and pedestrians dressed in black clothing. I don’t speak about drunk drivers, those usually drive slowly.

Note: Traffic checks have been intensified recently, they get many drivers on the balloon. Also recently, extinguishers and first aid kits have become mandatory -the first trial continues.

Roadsigns are usually after intersections and are not repeated as long as you follow the main road.

Beware of pedestrians at crossings, they feel safe there, they enter the crossing without paying attention

If you see a stop sign and a policeman, stop before the sign and start driving when the policeman allows (if you register eye contact). If he does not pay attention to you, move slowly and continue. It is a road control, they do not check every car.

It is more convenient to pay the cops than write a protocol.

Nature: You can encounter wolves and bears in the meadows.

Illnesses: Because sanitary conditions in Ukraine are not always the best, it is good to get inoculated against hepatitis. It is also worth taking with you medicine against digestive ailments (stoperan, coal etc.). Medical services for foreigners are expensive and the equipment in hospitals leaves much to be desired.

Jaundice – it is worth to get vaccinated. Before the war, the region of Hutsulshchina were known for… venereal diseases. I don’t know how it is now, no friend bragged about it.


Hepatitis B – recommended (depending upon the nature of the stay)

Difficulties with transport around the country: Not enough public transport in small towns. Lack of punctuality, dismal condition of the roads (with the exception of the main ones).

In Ukraine there are unique roundabouts on which the main road is marked. On the roundabout, a driver must allow cars that come from the main road to pass. These roundabouts are preceded by a corresponding sign.

Road signs are often obscured by grass that overgrows them or by tree branches… In cities the road signs are much higher and you have to look out.

On huge sections of the road, there are no lines dividing the lanes, (probably it means that you can overtake), therefore a multilane road forms at wider roads depending on how many lanes the drivers want.

In cities, drivers park wherever they want, they force priority, exceed speed limit, and do not pay attention to pedestrians (who also do not care about walking on lanes). When they are upset they sound the horn.

Of course, holes on the roads (except for national roads). Watch out for suddenly appearing speed bumps, which you cannot expect, because Ukrainian drivers generally do not have the intention to slow down on them. I do not recommend taking a new car, or a car with hydraulics to Ukraine.

During rain, sections of the road which are not asphalted are very muddy.

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