What is the first thing that pops into your mind when somebody mentions the word ‘Ukraine’?
War? Nuclear disaster? Poverty? Perhaps all those. But would you think I’ve lost my marbles completely if I told you that the words you should be thinking of are paradise, luxury, incredible architecture and beach holiday?
Well, you should! Because all this and so much more can be found on the South-West corner of Ukraine, by the Black Sea. Odessa is a city full of history, incredible architecture, beautiful sandy beaches, and amazing food. And the people, I’m lost for words how much I love the people there ♥
I will be writing a full itinerary on what we got up to on our holiday but here’s a little sneak peek at what went on and my most important tips to consider when traveling to Ukraine.
When my colleague got the idea of checking flights and possibly booking a holiday to Odessa, Ukraine I was immediately in! That’s me, though, you suggest anything a bit out of the ordinary and I’m on board.
Ukraine has been drowning in negative press for years now, and not even because of something caused by Ukraine itself, but instead caused by the insanity of one man in another country. It’s so sad because Ukraine and in particular the Ukrainians deserve so much better!
I’ve lived in Slovakia so I already knew how wonderful the people in Eastern European countries are. On top of that, my Ukrainian colleague and a dear friend provided us with all the information we needed to make this trip nothing short of AWESOME.
Because there actually are couple things you need to consider before traveling the Ukraine. Basic everyday things don’t necessarily work out the way they would when traveling inside the EU borders (at this point I gotta wish the best of luck for my Brit friends and followers).
Couple things to bear in mind when traveling to Ukraine:
Internet (first things first, eh?!)
First up, as simple a thing as your SIM card is, it becomes completely useless when you arrive there. Roaming may work, but weakly, and the bill that you end up accumulating by using roaming is really not worth the shock.
Instead, you can purchase a local SIM card from any electronics shop in the city. There are plenty of them, and one that most of us probably know is Vodafone. A packet for a week costs between 5€ – 10€, whereas the worth of the peace of mind that comes with it is immeasurable.
We actually got our SIM cards sorted even before getting keys to our AirBnB. Our taxi driver from the airport was a true professional, so he had a pack of brand new SIM cards in his car. A monthly package with unlimited internet.
We each paid him 10€, he swapped the SIM cards and checked that each of our phones worked. We had been without internet for just half an hour but I don’t think I’ve ever felt so lost, so he literally saved our lives before we even needed saving.
He even called our land lord who was late and didn’t speak a word of English. Service 10/10!
People & Service Culture
But that’s Ukrainian people for you; the most warm-hearted, friendly and the most hospitable. But prepare yourself for the fact that their English skills can, in many places, be quite poor. I think German could’ve been more beneficial. But this was no problem!
Already when checking into our AirBnB we ended up using Google Translate with our landlord who tried to explain that the Wifi wasn’t working but he was getting someone to fix it. Even though we didn’t need the Wifi now that we had our life-saving SIM cards he insisted on fixing it for us. And he did.
Another interesting exchange of words, miming, and eventually using Google Translator was when tried to ask if a waiter knew of any bars and restaurants with Happy Hour.
No matter how frustrating we must have been sometimes asking for things they had never heard of before, every single waiter, random by-passer and shopping assistant patiently did their best to get their message across to us with a smile.
Now, this may sound like exaggeration for some, like what’s so special about a smile, but let me remind you, we flew to Ukraine from Estonia. There smiling sometimes seems like a crime that’s punishable by death. So yes, smiling is an undervalued art, never take it for granted.
Local Currency & Prices
When it comes to money, my Ukrainian friend gave us the most important tip: get cash already at home and exchange that in any of the many exchange kiosks at the destination.
If you get money from an ATM in Ukraine your bank is likely to charge you for an astronomic amount, whereas the exchange rates at the kiosks are really good. Also, you can pay pretty much everywhere with card, so there’s no point carrying enormous amounts of cash with you anyway.
The Ukrainian currency is called hryvnia and 100UAH is about 3,50€. It was easy enough to count even for me.
Prices in Odessa were already cheap when we arrived, even though it was still season. But on Monday, when August had officially turned to September, there was a drastic drop in prices particularly at the beach clubs.
On the first weekend a chair and a towel cost us about 13€ (+ 18€ deposit for the towel, which you got back if you returned the towel), but from Monday onwards we only paid 10€ and no deposits.
Some examples of the price range there;
- a glass of wine 3€
- main course in a restaurant 5€ – 10€
- facial in a spa 20€
- massage at a beach club 14€
- an apartment for sale in Arcadia with a sea view 80.000€
Luxury brand products were the only thing that were more expensive in Odessa than back at home.
Accommodation & Food
When it comes to accommodation you’ve got all the options; a selection of great hotels, cheap but amazing AirBnBs or couch-surfing. Our apartment was on 18th floor in a brand new building in the luxurious Arcadia area, close to the beach. Very clean apartment with everything we needed for just 50€/night.
One thing we did not expect was the adventure that going to a public toilet turned out to be. Now, the story is so good that I’m gonna save it for the full itinerary next week, but I can give you a hint: posh hole. 😎
From toilets it’s natural to move on to food and drink… Or was it the other way round? In any case, we’re doing it! Tap water I would not drink but food-wise we were positively surprised.
In Odessa you can find whatever food you feel like eating, from pizza to sushi, from local seafood to Eastern European classics ( like my favourite, pierogi, which are pretty much the same as Russian pelmenis).
We had one food-retard with us, who needed everything gluten-free, and even if she wanted a chicken sandwich, they were happy to make it for her without the bread. Service was always patient and left us feeling very welcome.
When it comes to sights and what to do in Odessa, I’ll get back to you next week! All I can say right now, is that you should definitely put this beautiful, sunny city to your travel bucket list.
I realize my photos are a bit cloudy, but that’s because we had ONE cloudy day and that was the day when I had my camera with me. Otherwise we enjoyed over 30 degree heat and nonstop sunshine every day.
Odessa is perhaps an unlikely paradise, but a paradise nonetheless! As long as you respect them (and keep Russians out of any conversation) they will respect you above and beyond. All you need to do is to enjoy the service, great food and chill atmosphere of the beach clubs.
Would you travel to Ukraine? Or have you already been somewhere where most of us perhaps wouldn’t consider traveling? I’d love to hear! ♥
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