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ATMs and safety in Lviv

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Hi-

Can anyone tell me if it's difficult to find ATMs in Lviv, Ukraine. Should I bring travellers checks? I'm also wondering how safe the city is. Is it safe for me to travel with expensive camera equipment?

Thanks,

Mike

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    The Ukrainians view Traveler's Checks as something completely foreign and incongruous (they tend to be properly suspicious when it comes to money, especially dollars). Even though a bank might have a poster advertising TC's, only cetain banks will accept them (no shops or retails will touch them) and there will be much scrutiny which could take you as much as an hour to get them cashed. If you do not speak Russian/Ukrainian, or have a friend that does, you can probably forget it. ATM's are available in major areas with various language selections (I suspect Lvov will have them), but make sure you have a PIN and it is numeric (my VISA card does not have a PIN, so I used my bank/debit card which is also VISA). The ATM's will give you Hrivni (UAR). You might take $500 - $1000 in TC's "just in case" but plan on bringing them home with you (cashing them isn't worth the effort or extra cost of 3-5%). Use a money belt, if you don't have one, buy one. The exchange rate is getting close to $1=5hr, it is prudent to exchange dollars on a daily basis because the rate has been increasing daily (it went from 4.20hr to 4.85hr during the time I was there). Just look around for the baliot (valioot) advertising the best rate, it can vary as much as 2 points between baliots.

    The Ukraine is as safe as anywhere else in the world, would you take your expensive camera equipment to LA or NY? I kept my camera and more expensive personal things with a few clothes in a carry-on flight bag, with a small luggage lock always at my side (or in the overhead), so that I didn't have to worry about the airline possibly separating me from that luggage -- or of customs behind my back. They do open and search your checked baggage behind the scenes, even if they are locked (I have a hard-shell Samsonite with built-in a key lock, and it was obvious both there and back that it had been rummaged -- it's Customs not theft, just be prudent).

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