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Eurovision Song Contest 2017 was held in Kiev in Ukraine. This East European country has been part of Soviet Union but now it is totally independent country. EU citizens can go there visa free.
Also we decided to visit the city and to attend the rehearsal of Eurovision Song Contest final on Friday before the real final show on Saturday. Even though Eurovision Song Contest is a great event and it was well implemented, in this article we will concentrate on Kiev as a travel destination. Kiev is a quickly developing city and becoming slowly a popular tourist spot.
Is It Safe to Travel to Kiev?
Everyone knows Ukraine and Russia are having some conflicts and especially in East Ukraine there is a war going on. Unfortunately also during our visit some civilians were killed as a result of the war in the eastern parts of Ukraine.
Luckily Kiev, the capital, is located far from the war zone and the situation there is peaceful. There are not any signs of the war and everything looks just normal. During the Eurovision Song Contest the city was full of policemen and army soldiers who kept the city really safe. Huge amount of soldiers on the street looked a little weird but they did a good job.
Immediately after the Eurovision event week the number of policemen decreased dramatically but so did the risk level too. We consider Kiev as a safe travel destination. Walking outside also during the night time is possible if you choose a good bright route and there are some people with you.
As in every destination, use your brains. Obtain a travel insurance, don't get too wasted and don't get problems with policemen. There may still be some corruption.
How to Fly to Kiev?
The biggest airport in Ukraine is located at Boryspil. It is near Kiev and almost all international flights arrive there.
The airport is modern and it is also a hub of Ukraine International Airways. Some Western airlines fly there too, for example LOT and Air Baltic. From Finland the best option to fly to Boryspil is to take a direct flight from Helsinki to Boryspil by Ukrainian International Airways or to take a connecting flight from Turku, Helsinki or Tampere via Riga. Air Baltic offers very short and reliable connections to Kiev via Riga. From other European origins there may be even better options to fly to Kiev.
Boryspil airport is about 50 kms from Kiev and a bus or a taxi ride to the city takes 1 hour. A bus is a better option than a taxi and it costs about 2,50 euros one way.
Flight prices From Finland start from 150 euros return. See flight prices to Kiev on Skyscanner*.
Kiev is still developing as a tourist destination and there are not too many hotels. Compared to the situation five years ago the number of hotels has increased a lot. Funny also that their prices have gone down. So booking a cheap hotel in Kiev isn't an issue.
If you want to be really sure about your hotel quality, choose a chain hotel. For example Hilton has hotels in Kiev. If you prefer more local atmosphere, just choose an independent local hotel. Be prepared that Ukrainian customer service level does not always meet Western standards.
During Eurovision Song Contest we stayed in Ibis Kiev City Center*. The price was about 60 euros per night for a double room but the hotel is normally cheaper. It is rated as a 3 star hotel but I would say the quality was even better. The hotel was very clean and everything worked perfectly.
For more help about booking cheap flights and hotels please see our article about booking procedures. We have written tips how to book flights and hotels cheaply
Delicious Ukrainian Food
Ukrainian food is close to Russian food. However there are many international restaurants and many of them are Italian. Actually an Italian restaurant we visited was one of the best. Local and international food is priced from 5 to 15 euros. Local beer costs less than 2 euros also in good quality restaurants. So eating well in Kiev does not lead you to a bankrupt.
Public Transport in Kiev
Another extremely cheap thing is the public transport. Bus, tram or metro ticket costs from 10 to 20 eurocents. The system is really well working even though the trains are old Soviet style trains.
The public transport ticket procedures are old and you can still feel like being in Soviet Union. But the whole system is a like a big sightseeing.
During our short stay we didn't do shopping a lot. We visited one small old shopping mall and the experience was not nice. Ukrainian sales people in the mall really didn't know how to sell things or services. However, later we were told there are also many better shopping malls available. Many luxury brands are coming to Kiev and there are also fashion weeks in Ukraine. In small stores staff can sometime be a little unwilling to sell anything to a tourist because they are not used to it. But in Ukraine you will surely find cheap local products or more expensive luxury brands.
What to See in Kiev?
Wikitravel is a good source of sightseeing spot list in Kiev. We suggest you to see the following:
Arsenal Metro Station
The station is the deepest in the world and it has really long escalators. There is not anything else special there, but if you are interested in how deep a metro station can be, you should see this.
There are many museums in Kiev. They are cheap and very well made. Many items exist but descriptions unfortunately are mainly in Ukrainian and Russian language. Chernobyl catastrophe has been so tragic event so visiting this museum is a must.
If you have more time you can also take a (safe) tour to Chernobyl area. We tried to book one but unfortunately it was sold out. So book the tour early.
Tours to Chernobyl area take from 1 to 3 days and prices start from 50 euros. Radiation exposure there is a little higher than the normal level but it should not be dangerous according to the tour operators.
Kiev is full of beautiful orthodox churches. It seems local people like wandering around them. Churches are not just one building but often they have parks and peaceful area around them.
There are many modern Western style cafes in Kiev. Visiting one of them is boring. In other words we recommend you to find a real Soviet style cafe. They still exist.
If you are not an experienced East Europe traveller, make an exception and choose Ukraine as you summer holiday destination. All support to Ukrainian economy is needed. Meanwhile you can enjoy a great city and their cheap East European styled services there.
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