Believe me, I only wanted to see my younger sister, who lives and schools in Kharkiv (Kharkov in Russian). My mum raised independent children, that’s why we are all over the globe. My sister speaks Russian so it works well for her.
Visa To Ukraine
This is the most expensive and hardest visa I’ve had to get in my entire life. It cost more than £200 to get this visa which includes, an arranged invitation from Ukraine, the original must be sent to you via post. Unfortunately for me, I had no idea that if you apply for a visa less than two weeks before your travel date, it automatically becomes an express visa which is double the price. You can find all the detail here for visas from the UK.
Getting to Kharkiv
There are no direct flights to Kharkiv from London. One could choose to connect via Istanbul, Warsaw, Moscow, Vienna, Kyiv (Kiev in Russian). I desperately wanted to connect via Vienna or Warsaw, so I could make the most of my connection, but the flight times and price just didn’t work. I ended up on an Aeroflot flight via Moscow.
It never feels like I am traveling anywhere until I am in the airport. I was so excited. I flew at night, after work and woke up in Russia. The connecting flight to Kharkiv took only an hour and few mins. So by 10 am I was on Ukrainian soil.
Ukraine is cheap. Food, transportation, accommodation, the basics. Don’t try buying luxury goods here. The most expensive thing was the visa. Aside that, flight should cost no more than £200. In total, you are looking at £500.
I really like their notes. The Ukrainian currency is actually pronounced ‘Gry-vns’ It’s hard to obtain outside of Ukraine, so just load up with dollars (many shops accept) or get ‘Gry-vns’ from the local cash machine (Visa, Mastercard, etc)
Language & People
If you understand and speak Russian, you are in luck. Most people here speak Russian, they can also speak their native Ukrainian, but you’d have to go into a deep village to find someone who knows no Russian. Don’t expect English at all. The folks are largely curious about you and would stare till they get bored.
Taxis are so cheap! it’s crazy. I’m talking about a 15 mile journey costing £3. Even cheaper of course are the buses and train. Kharkiv has a well developed underground system, Kharkiv Metro.
The Metro is so sci-fi, the most beautiful ‘tube’ stations I’ve been in. The barriers in the Metro stations are ruthless. They are initially open but when you try to walk past without slotting your ticket, the force it uses to slam close on your face can cripple you. There’s so much advertising in the trains, and also in the buses. The buses remind me of the typical danfo in Nigeria.
Things to do in Kharkiv
Kharkiv is Ukraine’s second largest city. It undoubtedly carries the ghosts of it’s soviet past. You have soviet architecture everywhere but it seems to me that the Ukrainians are typically optimistic, cheerful people, seen in their love for yellow buildings. From the city centre you get to see Freedom Square, Shevchenko park, Lenin statue, Kharkiv’s National University, the Derzhprom, Constitution Square, Gorky Park, Mirror Stream fountain, Kharkiv Historical Museum etc.
Top Ten Things To do in Kharkiv by Kharkivblogger
First Time Thrills
Trip to a Dolphinarium – This was so awesome. I saw these animals up close, it was amazing. There was a show where we watched dolphins and seals do many tricks, it was so much fun.
The Circus – When I found out Kharkiv had a circus, I just had to go there. The first thing that hits you is the smell, but it was so much fun, so many well trained animals and clowns, it was very funny. I’d love to go to a circus again, especially with children, they love it.
Water Park – This was a big surprise, a jungle park in Kharkiv?? I absolutely loved it. The water in the park could have been warmer, but I didn’t know I could have so much fun going down water slides. Highlight!
Would have loved to see an opera, my sister has been lucky to watch the Bolshoi perform in Kharkiv.
My sister took me to an authentic Ukrainian restaurant where even the locals eat, not that there’s a lot of tourists, but the place is usually packed! You could spend 15mins in a line to get food because it is buffet style. Oh my word, I don’t think I have ever enjoyed international cuisine as much I did. The food is amazing, the beer, perfect. I had to try to some borscht, it was nice.
I would only go back to Ukraine, when I don’t have to spend a fortune to get a visa. I’d love to go to Kyiv, Lviv, Odessa. I’d be nice to do a combination trip with Russia.
Overall, I had a great time, much more than I could imagine. It was cold but only warm memories remain with me.