Backpacking Ukraine: 10 Reasons You Should Go

Kiev Ukraine

There are many reasons to go backpacking Ukraine. From the amazing Ukrainian cuisine, stunning nature and even its troubled history, Ukraine has so much to offer. Let me show you some of the many reasons I fell in love with the country and why I think you will to.

Is Ukraine worth visiting is something I have been asked numerous times since I went backpacking Ukraine and the answer is always yes. It is cheap, beautiful and full of history.

It is safe, different from many other countries in Europe and full of new places to explore. What is Ukraine like to visit? Completely different from anywhere else you have been in Europe or much of the world. I have put together this list to help show you why you should visit Ukraine.

Ukraine is Cheap

It is easy to do Ukraine on a budget. Ukraine along with countries such as Romania, Poland and Macedonia are super affordable for any budget. Backpacking Ukraine was so much more fun and relaxed as I did not have to worry about budgeting for activities such as a Chernobyl tour or partying in Kiev and Odessa.

For example, an overnight train from Kiev to Odessa cost will cost you around 400 UAH (€15), A good Ukranian meal will cost you 250 UAH (€10). Hostels in Kiev and Odessa around 250 UAH (€10) also.

After a visit to Kiev you will not want to spend a penny in another capital city again.

Ukranian History

Backpacking Ukraine
Independence square

Ukraine has had a very troubled history. From constant invasions including the Nazis and Communist Russia to more recent incidents such as the ongoing war in the Donbass and the 2014 Ukranian revolution, you would think that Ukraine is not safe.

But with a visit to Ukraine, you will learn and understand why its land and location are so valuable to so many people. You will get insights into Ukrainian culture and how it is a mix of European, Russian and Slavic. You will learn why the orthodox church also plays a central role to life in Ukraine and learning about this was something I thoroughly enjoyed.

And you will learn that Ukraine is incredibly safe.

A trip to Chernobyl

As mentioned above, Ukraine’s history isn’t without its share of tragedy and one of the biggest and most recent incidents must be the Chernobyl disaster. But with this has risen the opportunity to visit one of the most unique locations in the world.

The town of Pripyat, Chernobyl and the surrounding lands will be contaminated for thousands of years but with this is the opportunity to look at nature reclaiming the land, the world’s attempt to salvage the mess created in 1986 and to explore a unique place in world history.

Tours of Chernobyl can be organised from Kiev and include knowledgeable guides, tours of Pripyat and the disaster zone and a comprehensive history of the location and the impact of Chernobyl on the world and especially the USSR.

Also, tours of Chernobyl are very safe.

Odessa is beautiful

Backpacking Ukraine
Views of the Black Sea

Literally one of the most impressive places I found during my trip to Ukraine. Odessa is by the black sea and contains some of the most beautiful beaches I have ever seen, definitely on par with Brazil and Peru.

With partying locations, chilled beach clubs, workout stations and beautiful coastal walks, Odessa is the perfect summer break vacation for those in the East of Europe.

Although I was there during the low season, I enjoyed the scenery, beautiful beaches and chilled vibe I was not expecting to find in Ukraine. Being my first introduction to the Black sea, this is a place in Ukraine you must visit.

The people of Ukraine

The Ukrainian people are one of the main reasons I will be returning next summer. Friendly, helpful and extremely welcoming, Ukrainian people are always happy to meet tourist and backpackers.

I never felt unsafe walking in the cities or at night when exploring the nightlife around me, which is great when you are in a new country.

For the most part, I found people were surprised that people were visiting their country. More than once I was asked inquisitively why I had come to explore Ukraine. Over tourism luckily enough hasn’t affected Ukraine just yet.

You can go to a bar, restaurant or ticket office and you are greeted with a smile and happy service not found in many places that experience a lot of tourism. The language barrier in Ukraine was sometimes an issue but it was always something that I could figure out.

Soviet History

The Motherland Monument, Kiev
The Motherland Monument

Those with an interest in history such myself, Ukraine is a great location to learn about Soviet history and its long-term impact on affected countries.

In Poland and Hungary and other former-USSR countries, you will find much soviet history has been erased or glossed over, whereas in Ukraine the soviet history can be found all over.

This includes Chernobyl, WWII monuments such as the Motherland monument, the communist architecture found all cities such as Kyiv, Lviv and more. Although a period in history many would not like to return to, to learn about it to see its long-lasting impact is something I didn’t manage to do in any other country in Europe.

Ukranian Food

Borscht needs I say more. Well probably. Ukrainian food is some of the tastiest in Europe. Although I have not tried them, I was told it is similar to Georgian and Russian food. You will find a mix of soups, Ukrainian dumplings, different cuts of meat and a whole lot more when visiting a Ukrainian restaurant.

I found Ukraine food to be hearty, full of vegetables and extremely filling, a great by-product of their extremely fertile land.

The Location

Being on the fringes of Europe gives Ukraine the advantage of being a perfect place to visit countries such as Russia, Belarus, Romania and more. Tourism isn’t as large in many of these countries, making it perfect for those looking for adventure and off the beaten path locations, Ukraine is a perfect launching pad for visiting neighbouring countries.

Bus and train services from Kyiv to Moscow are frequent and affordable. For those with an EU passport, visas, travel rights and accessibility are all manageable from within Ukraine.

Due to its location, the culture of Ukraine is also influenced by its neighbours and proximity to different political and cultural differences within the region. So, for those who didn’t want to travel further, you would still get a taste of what life is like in these other countries.

Famous things in Ukraine

Pripyat, Chernobyl
Pripyat Ruins

If you are still asking yourself should I travel to Ukraine, then here is a list of famous things in Ukraine.

  • Chernobyl
  • Carpathian Mountains
  • The black sea
  • The ‘Breadbasket’ of Europe, Ukraine’s fertile lands
  • The Tunnel of Love, Klevan Ukraine.
  • Kamianets-Podilskyi Castle
  • Synevyr, the largest lake in the Carpathian Mountains.
  • Babi Yar

Ukraine the basics

  • Currency-€1=27 UAH $1=24 UAH (Always try to withdraw at Bank ATMs)
  • Population-42 million
  • Languages-Ukranian and Russian
  • Travel- Easiest by train when travelling regionally and by bus when in a city. Travel by car isn’t recommended due to road conditions.
  • Safety- Avoid drunk people, ATM scams, talking about politics and visiting conflict areas.

All you need to go backpacking Ukraine, is a little patience, a sense of adventure and an open mind to realise you are not in a tourist hotspot.