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Possible Family Visit to Kiev / Ky'iv & Ukraine

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Jan 30th, 2008, 07:15 PM
  #1
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Possible Family Visit to Kiev / Ky'iv & Ukraine

Some old family friends who are going to be working in Kiev / Ky'iv for a while have invited our family to come visit them there this summer. Initially, I was very excited about the possibility, but then I checked airline fares and discovered that the plane tickets alone would probably cost the four of us around $4800. I've also picked up a guide to the Ukraine, but the sense I'm getting is that Kiev has a limited number of significant historic monuments -- it looks like you could do the major sights in 3-4 days -- and that unlike with London or Paris, there aren't a whole lot of other major attractions within a 50-60 mile radius of the city (most of the guidebooks seem to move on from talking about Kiev to talking about the Crimea or Lvov, which are hundreds of miles away).

My two children would be 11 and 13 this summer, and neither knows much of anything about the history of eastern Europe and the former USSR. Under these circumstances, I'm wondering whether a trip like this be worth the cost, or whether it would largely be lost on children of this age. I'd be interested in the thoughts of people who know more about Kiev than I do.

Also, is there anything I'm missing about the cost of flying to the Ukraine -- i.e., is there any way to do it for a bit less money?
jeffergray is offline  
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Feb 1st, 2008, 11:32 AM
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Here is the link: http://kievukraine.info/tourist_attractions.htm
I totally recommend Kiev, it is a beautiful city; however this is not the City where you can find out a lot about the Soviet Union,as Ukraine is independent country now, and almost every reminders or monuments form the USSR are gone.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 07:00 AM
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Jeffergray,
You did not mention when you planned on going to Kyiv.
Try Aerosvit.com, Ukrainian airline that flys from JFK. If you book approximately 30 or more days in advance the price drops.
4 adult(s) x (290.00 + 322.30) = 2,449.20 USD

total for all travellers 2,449.20 USD

The above is what Aerosvit quoted me on a round trip JFK/KBP.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 01:42 PM
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Assuming you are in the US, $1200 ea is fairly typical in summer from the west coast -- probably can find for less if closer to east coast (such as via JKF).

How well traveled are your children, and yourself? If not much, then the money would better be spent on England or Britain where English is spoken (assuming you don't speak Russian).

I wouldn't plan on spending more than 2-3 weeks in Kyiv, certainly not all summer, and especially if the people inviting you have to work much of the time. If you and the children don't speak the language, then it's going to be a bit tough getting around on your own (not impossible, but certainly challenging). And trying to purchase food/gifts with foreign currency in a non-english environment can be really tough (was that 33 kopeki or maybe 3 grivni? ... am I getting the correct change? ...how much was that again?).

In summer the water park on the Dniepro is open, where your kids would probably want to spend all of their time. There is also opera/ballet/theatre and pop music events, street faires, parks with various events, and don't forget the Tsum shopping complex. I wouldn't bother much with guide books on these, just Google it.

If your hosts have some time off, ask about taking a quick train over to Lvov for a couple days for some extra sightseeing (reasonable cost, where you're likely to experience a distinction between the more Russian Kyiv and the more Ukrainian Lvov). Or if you can swing it, spending a few days in Yalta.
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Feb 4th, 2008, 02:38 PM
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(assuming you don't speak Russian).

Please don't make the mistake of attempting to speak russian in Kiev. The language is ukranian. The cyrillic alphabet is mostly the same with the exception of 2 or 3 letters. The words are different.
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Feb 5th, 2008, 09:29 AM
  #6
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To Faina and all others who say something along the lines of "...it's Ukraine, not Russia" when it comes to language:

Stop misguiding people.

It is neither a mistake nor some kind of embarrasing gaff to speak Russian in Kyiv or Ukraine, for Russian remains the predominant language.

Although the state has reverted back to Ukrainian as the official language, and you will see everything from official documents to billboards now in Ukrainian, most Ukrainian adults today grew up with Russian as their primary language and were taught Ukrainian later in school as a secondary language.

There can be exceptions, most notably in western areas of Ukraine where the Russian language was not so easily welcomed or adopted. But Russian is fine for tourists, and actually more versatile when traversing the country and trying to converse in different regions.

Crimea has been slow to adopt the Ukrainian language, and the people of eastern Ukraine have a strong tendancy to continue identifying with Russia and the Russian language. One can draw a line from Kyiv to Odesa that will discern east from west, in very general terms.

In the historically cosmopolitan port of Odesa where the language has become a dialect (Russian/Ukrainian slang combined with european and western orient influences), Russian will still do you well as a visitor/tourist. Although understanding a response can put a native speaker to the test (I would compare it to a non-southern American hearing Cajun English).

After a couple more generations pass through school, the Ukrainian language will probably supplant that of Russian and dominate. But, I seriously doubt that Russian will disappear or become a useless language for Ukrainians or tourists (although it seems to me that English will also be a heavy influence during the coming years).

Even so, I have tried to adopt the "official" Ukrainian transliterations such as Kyiv instead of Kiev, and Odesa replacing Odessa. But, Russian remains the language of choice for those visiting the country and its residents.
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Feb 5th, 2008, 10:15 AM
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"Crimea has been slow to adopt the Ukrainian language" - from my experience it might be more accurate to say that Crimeans are refusing to adopt Ukrainian! After failing miserably to communicate with the woman running my hotel in Balaklava, using the Ukrainian in my Lonely Planet guidebook, I finally got the message that "here we say spasiba"! I sent really angry feedback to LP, as there was NO Russian in their guidebook. (Fortunately there was some in the Bradt guide.)

To the OP, I didn't make it to Kiev, but really enjoyed Lviv, and a smaller town in the countryside, Kolomiya. Certainly, try to make it to Crimea, but take a Russian phrase book!
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Feb 8th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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Okay, I was in Ukraine for two weeks in October 2007. I do not speak Ukrainian, I do speak a little Russian and I carried an electronic translator. The "gadget" did not have Ukrainian in it but it did have Russian. I would have to say that Russian still is a functional language for the tourist. Some restaurants have English menus. I was in Kyiv and traveled via train to other cities, buying train tickets can be challenging. My friends had managed to hire a car and driver while I was in Kyiv but his English was very limited but we managed with a guide book, the price was a daily negotiation. Have you thought about the other expenses? Local transportation, food, entertainment?
I would have to agree with DB, if you and your children are not well traveled, it might be better to consider another destination.
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Feb 19th, 2008, 04:16 PM
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I am of Ukranian descent and visited a couple of years back. I still don't know if I can classify my trip as a "vacation."

Kyiv was a large city with not much to do. Visits to a number of cathedrals one with catacombs was the highlight of the trip.

More interesting was the city of Lviv, Ivano-Frankivsk (spelling?) and a trip into the Carpathian mountains which was previously off limits during USSR days because missile silos were there.

We had a driver and interpreter while there. I remember having to ask my interpreter which bathroom to go into because both were written in Ukranian.

Russian was spoken in Kyiv. However, our driver stopped to ask a gentleman directions in Lviv and cursed him out when the gentleman spoke Russian to him.

I am glad I went to Ukraine to see where my grandparents were from. However, I have no need to ever go back there.

Travelling to Ukraine made me appreciate how good we have it here in the US. The Ukranian people are great, however. I still can't get over that an 84 yr old relative of my wife drank me under the table! Vodka with a hot pepper in the bottle was his drink of choice.

I think your money could be better spent going elsewhere. (Just my opinion)
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Feb 19th, 2008, 07:34 PM
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Wow Masterphil - sorry you had a bad trip! I loved Ukraine, and hope to go back. Just shows different people like different places I guess. Although - was this your first visit to Eastern Europe?
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Feb 20th, 2008, 01:21 PM
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Wasn't a "bad" trip. It was interesting and enlightening, but not what I would consider a vacation. I stayed at the Hotel Odessa which at the time was about $350 per night. We ate at a Arizona BBQ restaurant as well as a restaurant with a Marilyn Monroe neon sign in it. Flew to Ivano Frankivsk from Kyiv on Air Ukraine. The worn tires on the plane had some steel belt showing. They backed up an old rusted truck to the plane and plugged into the wing to start the engines. The seats on the plane were like beach chairs. My sister and her husband were invited into the cockpit by the captain. They stood in the cockpit the whole time including during landing! (No FAA there).

It was great for me to see where my relatives came from. If I have $5000+ to spend on a vacation, I'm going to Europe or Australia, not Ukraine! Obviously, just my opinion.

Relatives made us happy by making varenyky and holubtsi! At first, they didn't want to serve this to us because it is considered pheasant food. We insisted to our great delight!

We met the Ukranian ambassador and his daughter. She told us that she lived in Washington, DC for a couple of years. She hated it and couldn't wait to get back to Ukraine. So you are correct! Different strokes for different folks and there's no place like home! "Dobre dane"
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Feb 20th, 2008, 02:24 PM
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Sounds like quite a different trip, Masterphil! I didn't spend $350 in a day, never mind for a room! Or meet any ambassadors! I think the On the Corner B&B in Kolomiya was $25/night. I did "splurge" a bit for a hotel in Lviv, since the George was full, but the Eney was under $100, and I did eat a lot of delish red caviar, but it was really cheap. BTW, jeffer, my trip reports are at www.wilhelmswords.com/eur2006, and my pix at kwilhelm.smugmug.com/travel.
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