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Useful Tips for Foreigners about Ukraine

Ukraine is a newly independent nation undergoing profound political and economic change, still in the process of stabilizing its relations with neighboring countries. Tourist facilities are not highly developed, and many of the goods and services taken for granted in other countries are not yet available. Travel within Ukraine is unrestricted. Though fuel shortages are generally no longer a problem, internal travel can be difficult and flight and train schedules can be irregular.

Ukrainian became the official language only in 1990, replacing Russian. Most of the population in eastern Ukraine and in Kyiv speak Russian as a first language, while Ukrainian is the first language in western Ukraine. Although those in the political world and the local media use both languages, official documents are now in Ukrainian. The two languages share almost the same Cyrillic alphabet, and if you arrive unfamiliar with either language a phrase book or interpreter is almost essential. Not much English is spoken here.

Ukraine has two time zones (two hours after Greenwich Mean Time in 24 oblasts and three in the Republic of Crimea). Daylight savings time is observed from the first Sunday in April to the last Sunday in October when you will need to advance your clocks by one hour.

A passport and visa are required. Visas can be obtained in advance from the Embassy of Ukraine, located at 3350 M Street, NW, Washington D.C. 20007, tel. (202) 333-0606 or 333-7507, fax: (202) 333-0817, or Ukrainian consulates in Chicago and New York. A letter of invitation from a person, company, or organization in Ukraine or a tour company voucher is currently required to obtain a visa.
You can find addresses of Ukrainian embassies and consulates here. Read also more about ukrainian visas and regulations at the web site of the Ukrainian Embassy to the United States of America.

All foreigners visiting Ukraine, except those staying less than three working days and minors (under 18), are required to register their passports with local law enforcement authorities. Visitors who do not register may experience delays when leaving Ukraine, or difficulty when trying to extend visas. The registration requirement is automatically met when foreigners stay in hotels, when resident business persons register their companies, or when students register under established exchange programs. Private visitors must have their hosts, relatives or landlords register their U.S. passport at the local Section of Visas and Registration Office of the Ministry of Internal Affairs (known by the acronym "VVIR" in Ukrainian and "OVIR" in Russian). A fee is usually charged for visa extensions or passport registration.
For details look at U.S. Consulate in Kiev page.

Medical care in Ukraine is limited. The availability of basic medical supplies, including disposable needles, anesthetics, and antibiotics has improved. Elderly travelers and those with existing health problems may be at risk due to inadequate medical facilities. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Foreighn medical insurance is not always valid for Ukraine. Travelers have found that in some cases, supplemental medical insurance with specific overseas coverage, including air evacuation coverage, has proved to be useful.

The new official ukrainian currency 'Hryvnia' (UAH) was introduced September 2, 1996 replacing the old temporary ukrainian currency 'Coupon' and became the only legal payment bill within Ukraine after September 15.
See more information about Hryvnia here.

You can easily change your dollars or other hard currecies for Hryvnias in major banks and special exchange points. Estimated exchange rate to dollar as of July 2000 is about 5.45 UHR for 1 USD. (You may also check our Hryvnia Currency Converter here.) Changing U.S. dollars for ukrainian Hryvnias or another currency is legal only at banks, currency exchange desks at hotels and at licensed exchange booths. There are a lot of such exchange points throughout the city. Beware of changing money on the streets or with private individuals: it's illegal and it can be dangerous. Remember however that old or damaged bills may not be accepted or accepted under the lower rate. The "hard currency" stores only accept Hryvnias but almost all of them have a money exchange booth on the premises.

Ukraine is a cash economy. Traveler's checks and credit cards are gaining wider acceptance in larger cities. Use of credit cards is limited to the better hotels, Western-style restaurants, international airlines and select stores. American Express, MasterCard, and Visa are commonly accepted. A passport or diplomatic card may be required whenever a credit card is used. Customs regulations prohibit sending cash, traveler's checks, personal checks, credit cards or passports through the international mail system to Ukraine. These items are regularly confiscated as contraband by customs authorities.

To export any antique items and/or works of art the permission of the Ministry of Culture of Ukraine must be obtained. In addition to samovars, paintings, and rugs, this restriction applies to collections or separate works of fine, applied, and folk art, archeological and numismatic items, valuable musical instruments, gold, silver, precious stones, hand-woven carpets, manuscripts, books published before 1966, and furniture made before 1945.

It is always a good idea to have a packet of tissues on hand, for it is a rare occasion when one finds toilet paper supplied in a public restroom. While any public restroom can be unsanitary, relatively clean toilets can be found in large department stores, restaurants and some hotels.

An eight-hour day is considered a normal work day, Monday through Friday. A lunch break is taken between the hours of 1:00pm and 2:00pm. Most banks are open without breaks, Monday through Friday from 9:00am to 1:00pm.

In official buildings the entrance hall is considered the 'ground floor'. The next flight up takes you to the 'first floor'. This floor numbering system is the same as the European system. For the private appartments the first floor is actually the 'first'.

Restaurant bills normally include a 5% service charge, however, you'll often find that a few extra hryvnias (10% suggested) can make your dining experience a lot more pleasurable.

Tap water in Kyiv is chemically safe but may contain elevated levels of lead from the pipes. This problem is remedied by letting the tap run for 10 seconds before collecting the water. There is a

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