Dangers & Annoyances
Kyiv is by and large a remarkably safe city, the odd revolution notwithstanding.
- Pickpocketing is common at the main train station, on the metro and on city buses, but otherwise theft isn't a major problem.
- Political strife flares up from time to time on maidan Nezalezhnosti; use good judgement, and if you sense things may get violent, retreat to a safer area.
- Far-right groups and militia have staged a number of attacks on Roma camps and pro-LGBT gatherings. Don't be paranoid, but beware of uniformed thugs.
- Ukraine has one of Europe's highest incidences of HIV, and Kyiv is one of the worst-affected cities. The message is clear: always practise safe sex.
- Kyivans drive fast and road accidents are common; to be completely safe, take the metro.
Emergency & Important Numbers
Gay & Lesbian Travellers
Kyiv was considerably homophobic in the two decades following the collapse of the Soviet Union, but now it is a battlefield for LGBT rights. On the one hand, the Maidan revolution gave a new dimension of freedom, exemplified by the now annual and ever-expanding Kyiv Pride and a host of other events and parties. On the other hand, it has released the genie of ultranationalism, which results in far-right thugs regularly attacking LGBT-themed political events.
Politics aside, the scene is getting livelier. Several new gay bars and clubs have sprung up in recent years, and the annual summer gay pride march has gone off without major incidents in recent years. The city's summer raves and festivals are all very gay-friendly, as are grassrootsy, bohemian initiatives like Closer, Izolyatsia and Skvorechnik, and indeed most bars and clubs. Other gay-friendly places are Hydropark and Trukhaniv Island. Still, open displays of affection are not recommended and extra-caution should be exercised at LGBT-related political events.
- LGBT Portal (www.lgbt.org.ua) The definitive guide to all things gay and lesbian in Ukraine.
- KyivPride (http://kyivpride.org) NGO supporting LGBT rights and hosts the annual pride march, as well as the annual KyivPride week, and has a map on its website of LGBT-friendly places in Kyiv.
Virtually all cafes, restaurants and hotels have wi-fi, and speeds are generally very good. Wi-fi networks tend to be open (no password required) so poaching wi-fi connections is easy.
3G internet access provided by the major cellphone providers costs almost nothing, coverage is excellent and speeds fast.
Open co-working spaces are a good option if you need extended time on the laptop.
Central Post Office Offers internet access (18uah per hour) and printing services.
Central Library Free internet on quality computers is available on the air-conditioned ground floor here. Or plop your notebook down on a table and take advantage of free wi-fi.
Both ATMs and exchange booths signposted 'обмін валют' (obmin valyut) are ubiquitous. Rates offered by exchange booths in hotels are not necessarily worse. Larger banks will cash travellers cheques and give cash advances on credit cards.
Museum box offices tend to close 30 minutes to one hour before the official closing time, so allow some wiggle room. Restaurant and bar opening times vary wildly.
Banks 9am–5pm Monday to Friday
You can purchase local SIM cards for your cell phone at the arrivals area of both airports. Calls, text messaging and 3G internet are all cheap – 50uah to 100uah should keep you going for a week or more.
Tour Info Kiev (www.tourinfo.kiev.ua) The city runs about a dozen of these booths, including at maydan Nezalezhnosti and near Bessarabska Rynok, and at both airports. They are of moderate usefulness, but are usually staffed by an English speaker who can answer simple questions and distribute free maps and brochures. For a small commission they also sell theatre and concert tickets as well as bus and train tickets. For more details, see www.visitkyiv.travel.
Travel with Children
Kyiv is a happening city for kids, although diversions are concentrated in the warm months.
Front and center are the flea market Kurazh Bazar and the food festival Ulichnaya Eda, both of which take place monthly at the wonderful Art-Zavod Platforma events venue on the left (east) bank. Both events have designated areas for family-focused activities.
Among the museums, Pyrohiv Museum of Folk Architecture is at the top of the list, with acres of rolling fields for kids to romp around in. There are craft workshops, a zipline, bicycle rental and, on weekends, activities such as archery or pottery making. A little outside of town is Mezhyhirya, the former presidential compound with a zoo, barnyard animals, and beautiful paved trails for bicycles or Segways.
In the city centre, you'll find creative playgrounds galore along Peyzazhna aleya, while near the top of the funicular, in Volodymyrska Hirka park, there are little pedal carts for rent, an airslide, a trampoline and a sand box. Shevchenka Park in the centre has similar activities, plus pony rides on some weekends. More pony rides can sometimes be found in Park Askoldova Mohyla, near the Friendship of Nations Monument. In the same park you'll find the child-friendly Water Museum and the Puppet Theatre. At all of the above, your kids will find plenty of local playmates!
The Dnipro River islands yield a few fun things, though we don't recommend letting your kids swim in the mighty river, both for safety and sanitary reasons. Hydropark has an old-school amusement park. The footbridge to Trukhaniv Island is a fun jaunt. Once on the other side, head to Skvorechnik, where there's always music or some such colourful event or activity going on.
At the very centre of the city, vul Khreshchatyk is closed off to vehicles and turns into a giant playground at weekends with kids' activities galore. Maidan Nezalezhnosti is a happening place with a colourful nightly dancing fountain that your children will love.
For food, Ostannya Barikada, hidden beneath the fountain on maidan Nezalezhnosti, is relatively fun and child-friendly. Or head down to Podil and drink wine at Vero Vero while the kids play around the fountain and bounce on its trampoline.
For shoppers, the Roshen confectionary shops are colourful and fun (plus have lots of candy).
- Kyiv is experiencing a mini–baby boom, which means more and more restaurants and public places have changing tables and high chairs. But they remain the exception rather than the rule.
- There is a slew of children's shops in the Globus Mall under maidan Nezalezhnosti.
- Nappies are readily available in supermarkets.
- Ubers and taxis do not supply child seats so bring your own.
- Sidewalks are wide and generally pram-friendly, at least in the centre around vul Khreshchatyk.
Travellers with Disabilities
Ukraine has pledged to promote access to public transport and buildings for people with disabilities under the UN Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities. Compliance with this in Kyiv is fair. On the one hand, sidewalks are wide and most hotels at the midrange and up have lifts. On the other hand, most buses, trolleybuses and street underpasses still lack wheelchair ramps. Some public buildings and museums are not fully accessible to people with disabilities – although, encouragingly, some are.