Upon arrival to the airport try to avoid all those “nice” gentlemen offering taxi service right at the gate exit: this way you will avoid overpaying for a trip to the city center and feel much safer. Just use the taxi service which can be ordered over the phone upon arrival and brochures found at the information desks. Follow the same pattern when leaving for the airport. Personnel of any of the recommended hotels should be able to assist with a taxi service.
Though it is advisable to learn some general phrases in Ukrainian or Russian when arriving to the country, one should be able to find an English speaking person should such a need arise. Usually a younger generation speaks at least one of the foreign languages and personnel of hotels as well.
Money: Official currency in Ukraine is hryvnia (UAH). All the prices in the shops, hotels etc are shown in UAH as according to the law all official transactions have to be in Ukrainian currency. Currency exchange kiosks that accept EURO and USD can be found almost anywhere, however it is recommended to avoid exchanging foreign currency at busy transport joints of supermarkets as the exchange rate is somewhat (sometimes considerably) lower than at usual locations. Though it is safe to exchange the money in the exchange kiosks (which most of the time are owned by the banks), it might be a good idea to visit a local bank branch, as the variety of currencies offered for exchange may be bigger.
Using a credit card is quite safe (observing the general safety and anti-fraud advice) in the shops and ATMs. VISA, MasterCard and their Electron version are widely accepted throughout the country, just look for the credit card logo on the door or at the cashier of the shop or a café. American Express cards can be accepted at certain locations, but they are quite rare to find. Be advised: when using a regular credit or debit card issued by the foreign bank, no PIN code will be required from you in order to make a transaction, only your signature. Neither your ID (only when purchasing goods for more than 300UAH big shop chains will ask for your ID). Hence, pay attention to the receipts you sign and keep your credit cards safe.
ATMs can be found almost everywhere, but pay attention because local banks charge an extra fee besides your home bank for cash withdrawals from their ATMS, which usually is between one and three percent of the amount withdrawn.
Dining facilities: Almost every city in Ukraine has to offer nice dining facilities, ranging from small and cozy snack bars to fashionable restaurants. The prices range accordingly. Whether it is a snack or a dinner that you want, restaurants have to offer a variety of cuisines with personnel speaking English and perhaps other languages in most places. Personnel of the hotel you are going to stay at will be able to advise you on local places to eat at. At some restaurants a tip is included in the check, whereas at others you might want to leave some extra 10-20% of the price paid.
Public restrooms: it is quite rare to find a public restroom on the street, but even if found, their quality may leave some unpleasant impressions. It is recommended to use the restrooms when having a snack or a coffee in a café or a public cantina, as all of them should have restrooms that are in a decent condition and free of charge.
Business hours: working hours for businesses in Ukraine are usually from 9 am to 5 pm, but there can be variations of one hour. Big shops usually work from 8am to 10pm, with some being open 24/7.
Medical facilities/pharmacies: officially, medicine is open and free of charge in Ukraine. There are public and private clinics, with the latter charging its clients for the medical services. In the public system a twisted system exists: in order to have a medical surgery or an examination a patient has to provide all the necessary materials; and it is also a good idea to thank a doctor for taking good care of you. A visit to a dentist will cost you a lot. The amount of money you would have to waste is of course much smaller than if you were doing it in, say, the US or any European state (with quite high quality of work though), but still might be somewhat disturbing for your wallet. In case you get a runny nose or a headache or catch cold you do not need to worry that you forgot your medicine at home: pharmacies are located virtually everywhere in the center as well as in other parts of the city. The personnel in the pharmacies are very qualified and will be able to give advice on any medical troubles you encounter. Personnel in some pharmacies speak English, about which you would be informed by the little sign on the entrance door or the counter. Even if this is not the case, do not hesitate to ask, as help maybe available in the pharmacy. To inquire about the pharmacies locations as well as the medications they sell call 067 (available only in Ukrainian and Russian). You do not need a prescription from the doctor to buy most of the medications in Ukraine. Some of the pharmacies work 24 hours.
Shopping and Souvenirs: If you decide to go shopping it is a good idea maybe to visit the biggest shopping centers in the city, which have everything to offer from medium to high price boutiques selling virtually everything. In Kyiv, it would be interesting to visit the shopping mall “Ukraine,” shopping center “Globe” (“Globus”), shopping center “Mandarin Plaza,” “Caravan” and Kyiv Central Shopping Center. Most of the shopping centers are also entertainment centers, which have discos, many cafes and restaurants for a quick snack or a dinner. Besides shopping for clothes and other things it might be a good idea to buy some souvenirs before going back home; yet keep in mind that articles of antiquity require customs declaration to be filled out and it might happen that the articles will not be allowed to be taken out of the country should they possess some historical or cultural value and if there is no permission from the Ministry of Culture. For this purpose a place for folk craft in Kyiv would be Andriyivskyy Uzviz (Andrew’s Hill). Since it is people who craft the items sell them at the same time, it is a good idea to bring your negotiating skills to this market place, as prices may vary depending on your persistence. In other cities the hotel personnel will be able to direct you to the nearest shopping malls and places of folk craft sale. Therefore, enjoy shopping for national souvenirs, but do not get carried away and remember the customs procedures.