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General Information On Ukraine

Time
GMT + 2 hours
Ukraine uses DST (Daylight saving time), therefore all watches in the country are set one hour forward in the last week of March and one hour backward in the last week of October.
 
Population
48 760 000 people (July 2001 est.)
 
State Symbolic
The Ukrainian national emblem is a golden Trident (tryzoob), which dates back to Rjurik Dynasty, the governors of Kievan Rus.
FlagNational Emblem
 
 
 
Location And Boundaries
Ukraine is located in the central Europe at the crossroads between Europe and Asia. Ukraine borders on Romania, Moldova, Hungary, Slovakia, Poland, Belarus and Russia. Having the total area of 603,700 sq.km, Ukraine is one of the biggest countries of Europe.

The country is subdivided into 24 regions (oblasts) and the Crimea - autonomous republic.

The capital is Kyiv ("Kiev" in Russian transliterations).

 
Weather
The climate is moderately continental and comparatively dry with more than 290 sunny days in the year in the South Ukraine (Black Sea coast, Crimea). 

Average winter temperature:
from -8 to -15 C (between +17.6 F and +5 F)
In Southern regions the winter temperature hovers around freezing.
Falling snow and -10 C (+14 F) is a really rare occurrence, which is usually replaced by a thaw.

Average summer temperature:
from +18 to +25 C (between +64,4 and +77 F), though in daytime can get up over +35 C (+95 F). 


F = (1,8 x C) + 32 C = 0,55 x (F - 32)
Temperature calculator: F: = C:
Enter the value in appropriate field and press <TAB> button to calculate.
 
Geography
Ukraine is located in East-Europe plain. The most part of the country is in low-lying lands, fertile plains (steppes) with two highland areas: in the South -Crimean Mountains (the highest point: mt. Ramantkosh, 1,545 meters) and in the West - Carpathian Mountains (the highest point: mt. Hoverla, 2,061 meters).

Southern coast of Ukraine is washed by the Black and Azov Sea, coast line is 2,782 km. The majority of Ukrainian rivers flow into the Black Sea, among the biggest are Dnipro, Dnister, Danube, Desna, Pivdenyj (Southern) Booh.

Natural resources: iron ore, coal, manganese, natural gas, oil, salt, sulfur, graphite, titanium, magnesium, kaolin, nickel, mercury, timber and arable land.

 
Language
The State language is Ukrainian. Many Ukrainians are bilingual and speak Russian as well. The latter is used more widely in the Crimea, Odessa, Kharkiv, Donetsk and Dnipropetrovsk areas. Among foreign languages the most popular is English, though it is not possible to guarantee that you would meet plenty of Ukrainians speaking English fluently.
 
Food
You will be impressed with quantity and quality of restaurants - national Ukrainian cuisine, European entrees, Italian Pizzerias or just fast food. Medium-range restaurants have affordable prices even for a traveler of modest means.

Ukrainian cuisine becomes more and more popular with its traditional Borsch - tomato red and sorrel green; several kinds of Ukrainian Vareniki (dumplings) stuffed with all kinds of meat, cheese, potatoes with mushrooms; Golubtsy (cabbage rolls) - cabbage leaves with mixture of rice, meat, carrot and fried onion inside, these are usually served with sour-cream; jellied meat with horse-radish; suckling pig; delicious stuffed fish and plenty of other Ukrainian specialties. Our cuisine is very rich in natural components grown in the fertile Ukrainian soil under the hot summer sun. Tomatoes, cucumbers, sweet onion, lettuce, peaches, watermelons, apples, grapes - all vegetable and fruits produced in Ukraine taste really delicious.

 
Water
We do not recommend drinking tap water. Use bottled water instead, even to brush your teeth. The water purification system in Ukraine still needs serious upgrade.
Speaking about drinking water, the majority of food stores and supermarkets in Ukraine have a big choice of bottled water: carbonated and non-carbonated, mineral or simple potable water.
 
Electricity
The standard electricity supply in Ukraine is 220V/ 50 Hz. Ukrainian plugs are of the same type as the most European countries have - two round pins. If electric appliances you bring have different specs, make sure to pick-up a converter and/or plug adapter.
 
Public Transportation
Most Ukrainian cities have extensive public transport system operating from 6 a.m. to 1 a.m. Buses, trams and trolleys are rather slow and shabby sometimes, but it is still a popular and inexpensive way to travel within the cities. Prices range from 50 kopecks to 2 hryvnas per ticket.

There are numerous taxi services, orders are taken via phone: you will be asked for a phone number, pick-up address and time. At the assigned time the taxi operator will call to the phone number you have given, and will inform on the taxi arrival confirming the taxi number. Bad thing: taxi operators usually do not speak English. Good thing: you can use help of your hotel receptionist, Russian-speaking friend, colleague or tour agent in ordering the taxi via the phone.

A taxi or a gypsy cab can be also hired right on the street. Services of gypsy cabs cost less, but are not that good choice from the safety point of view. If you still wish to use a gypsy cab, you would need to make sure there is nobody else inside but the driver. Probably everywhere the situation with taxi is like this - if one speaks a foreign language price for a taxi goes up, so it might be wise to confirm/negotiate the price before you get in the car.

 
Service Tipping
Personnel of hotels, restaurants, taxi drivers, guides, etc in Ukraine expect tips as in any other country. The tips amount depends on your satisfaction and the total of provided services. Customary tips are about 10% of the order amount at restaurants, bars, etc. There is no obligation to tip the waiters, like any other personnel, but it is expected since tips are the major part of their income. Guides, interpreters, tour-drivers, hotel porters count on tips too. Greedy for tips taxi-drivers are difficult to satisfy, though tipping of 5-10 hryvnas to the originally agreed cost is considered to be fair.
 
Shopping
Ukraine is famous for its high-quality textile, as well as food products and drinks: delicatessen, caviar, confectionery, chocolate, juices, beer, vodka, wines and plenty of other things. Shops and markets accept for payment Hryvna only. Nowadays, more and more shops here start to accept credit cards (Visa or MasterCard/EuroCard). You can identify such places by credit cards signs on the entrance door or by the cashiers raw.

Buying a souvenir, a painting, a sculpture or other handcrafts it is a good idea to get a certificate identifying historical value (its absence) of the purchased good. This document might be useful when going through the customs upon departure from Ukraine.

 
Working hours
State and public offices are opened from 9.00 to 18.00, Monday through Friday, usually with a lunch hour from 13.00.
The majority of stores are opened from 10.00 to 19.00 and closed on Sunday. A lunch hour is usually either from 13.00 to 14.00 or from 14.00 to 15.00.
As for food stores, many of them work 24 hours 7 days a week, a few - from 8.00 to 20.00. Usual work time for cafes and restaurants is from 10-12.00 until last customer leaves.
Most banks are open to public from 9.00 to 15.00 with a lunch hour from 13.00 to 14.00 and are closed on Saturday and Sunday.
 
Ukrainian Holidays
There are plenty of Holidays in Ukraine, and list of the National Holidays can be seen at the bottom of this section.

To shed some light on how Sundays become working days or how so many off-business days happen to be in a row, we have put together the general rules for figuring it out.
According to the Ukrianian Law, extra days-off appear if a state holiday occurs on a weekend. The government also issues directives shifting some working days for Saturdays or Sundays in case there are several holidays in a row, to prolong off-business time. This way we have some working Saturdays in December or January, and a long chain of holidays and days-off in the beginning of January, sometimes up to two weeks long. The same happens in the first half of May.
Basing on "good traditions", these governmental directives are issued and announced last minute. We should admit, that private businesses do not or cannot follow them, due to the short notice or willing to keep the businesses going on holidays as well. While all state organizations and offices would be closed, as long as there is a directive.
Banks have their holidays in accordance to the National Bank directive, which issue it basing on the governmental ones.

Ukraine-Tours office operates during most holidays in a usual manner (10.00 - 18.00, Mon through Fri) though the requests processing might take longer, since our partners' offices, hotel booking offices and banks may be closed for celebration. We recommend booking your services in advance for those periods.
  • January 1 - New Year
  • January 7 - Christmas
  • March 8 - Women's Day
  • April 8 - Easter (for 2007)
  • May 1, 2 - Labor Day
  • May 27 - Whitsunday (for 2007)
  • May 9 - Victory Day
  • June 28 - Constitution Day
  • August 24 - Independence Day
 
Governmental system
Ukraine is a republic with a constitutional and democratic form of government, headed by the President. The power is divided among executive, legislative and judicial branches.
President of Ukraine: Victor Yuschenko (elected in 2004 by the popular vote for a five-year term). The President approves Prime Minister and designates regional governors.

Executive branch: Cabinet of Ministers appointed by the Parliament and approved by the President. Prime Minister: Victor Yanukovich (since Sep 2006).

Legislative branch: unicameral Parliament of 450 seats. Under Ukraine's election law, all of the Parliament seats are allocated on a proportional basis to those parties that gain 3% or more of the national electoral vote.

 
 
Currency 
References:

I have worked with Unipress Travel in Odessa for several trips to the Ukraine, and they have always bent over backwards to make sure my trips were very successful. I cannot recommend them highly enough!

Gary McAuley Templeton, California USA

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