Travelling to Kyiv?

Airports

Ukraines main international airports are based in its capital – Kyiv. There are two airports there - Boryspil and Zhuliany.

Boryspil (airport code KBP) is considered the main international terminal however, servicing most of the airlines (65%) flying into Ukraine, including Ukrainian Airlines, LOT, Lufthansa and British Airways.  The international terminal (terminal D), is located around 29km north of the city (approximately 30 minutes driving time).  It can be a bit of a confusing beast to navigate coming back from the city for departures however, as the airport itself has a number of terminals servicing charter flights, domestic and international – so make sure you ask for terminal D.

There are bus services ‘Skybus’ during the day and night travelling between the airport and the city, taking approximately 1 hour to reach Kyiv central bus station.  These leave between every 15-30 minutes meeting most arrivals.  The cost for this is 80UAH (approximately 3 Euro). For further information on how to purchase tickets, visit http://skybus.kiev.ua/en/

We would however recommend organising either a taxi or transfer to your accommodation.  For transfers, check with your hotel whether they offer such a service.  It should cost no more than 400UAH (14 Euro) for transport from Boryspil to your location.  Otherwise, order a taxi – these can be booked and paid for inside of the terminal at the ‘Official Taxi Office’, once again for 400UAH (14 Euro).  Remember whilst in Kyiv that rates should always be negotiated prior to entering any taxi.

Zhuliany (airport code IEV) Airport is the smaller of the international airports, located only 7km away in the citys’ south.  It is home to most of the international discount airlines, such as Wizz Air, Vueling and FlyDubai.

For transport from this terminal, you are looking at either pre-organising a transfer with your accommodation for pick-up (this should be approximately 200 UAH, or 7 Euro), otherwise you can organise a taxi at the ‘Official Taxi Office’ on arrival.  There are no specific bus transfer services offered from this airport.

We would also warn passengers that are currently booked to fly out of Zhuliany to check with their airlines in regard to their flights operation.  This airport will close on Sunday 14th May (yes, the day after Eurovision!) for runway repairs.  All flights therefore will be operating out of the bigger Boryspil airport at amended timetables.  Whilst the airport management have advised that all necessary arrangements are in place to cope with confused passengers (such as offering free transfers to the other airport for their flights) and airlines, we highly recommend that you take the time prior to double-check your flight details with your airline directly and make arrangements to ensure you arrive AT LEAST 2 hours prior to your flight at the correct airport in order to clear customs and immigration in time.

Visas

Whilst most of the Eurovision fan community will have no stress entering Ukraine, for those who are holding Australian or Albanian passports, the situation is a little trickier.

For Australians, it would be too late to pre-organise any Ukrainian visa now as the process takes approximately 3 weeks for processing via the Canberra-based embassy.  Instead, Ukraine are offering a ‘visa on arrival’ service for Australians, but it only offers a single-entry visa of 15-days length for Ukraine at checkpoints across the State Border of Ukraine (Kyiv Airports (Boryspil and Zhuliany), Odessa Airport and Odessa Sea Port).  Despite prior information indicating the cost of 20USD (which was far more economical than the pre-arranged visa), as of Easter 2017 the price of this service has increased 5 times over, to now be at a cost of 100USD.  Payment however must be in the local currency, which can be obtained at the airport ATM.  You must also provide documents proving the tourist nature of the trip (hotel booking, excursion booking, travel voucher or contract for the provision of tourist services).

Accommodation

As come to have been expected in Eastern European host cities, Kyiv employed the usual ‘availability blockout’ from last May up until March this year.  This means, rather than the hotels being ‘sold out’, they were taken out of public availability ensuring that delegations and media were able to secure their places first before the general fans.  The practice tends to lead to panic reservations in less than prime establishments and at inflated prices.  Now that the availability has opened up, you can see that regular chain hotels, such as the Holiday Inn, Ibis, as well as local and large establishments such as Premier Hotel Rus, are now open with rooms at much more reasonable prices – even just a week out from the contest.

In terms of your choice of accommodation – there are a wide range available, from private mini-hotels, to private apartments, and 2 to 5 star hotels. What we would most recommend however is looking at location.  Most of the Eurovision places such as EuroVillage, Euroclub and the Eurovision arena are on the ‘red metro line’.

Having a hotel that is also located close to a station on this line will save you both time and trouble trying to transfer in the middle of the city to reach your destination.

If you now find yourself debating whether to take that private apartment that is asking for your payment upfront and at a higher rate than originally booked, perhaps look at a well-known international hotel aggregator such as Expedia instead.  There is plenty of availability even now, and you will benefit from your credit card being charged in your own local currency and safely.

Currency

Whilst the acceptance of bankcards (particularly Visa and Mastercard) is widespread, ultimately cash is king in Kyiv.  Ukrainian Hryvnia is the local currency and will be accepted everywhere.  If you have GBP, Euro or USD, these currencies are easily exchangeable in booths across town into the local currency.

Coins of Ukraine. Ukrainian national coat of arms known as the Tryzub depicted in Ukrainian hryvnia coins.

Unfortunately, due to the fluctuation of currency in Ukraine, you are not able to pre-order Ukrainian currency prior to travels.  It is not available for purchase in any airport or bank outside of the region, including in the United Kingdom, Australia or America.  It is available in neighbouring countries such as Poland, Russia, Belarus and the Baltic nations, however it is substantially lower exchange rates (a loss of 30% of its actual value).

At the time of writing (22 April 2017), the exchange rates based XE.com are:

100 USD = 2670 Hryvnia
100 EUR = 2864 Hryvnia
100 GBP = 3422 Hryvnia
100 AUD = 2014 Hryvnia

What should be pre-warned is that whilst Kyiv is actually a very safe destination to visit as a tourist, financial security issues are rife.  Prior to your departure, make sure to notify your bank about visiting Ukraine, as many financial institutions will immediately block your card when trying to use it in the territory due to the high occurrence of fraud transactions.

ATMs should always be checked for hidden skimming devices and cameras, and it would be recommended to only use those located inside major shopping centres, hotels, or best of all, banks.  Additionally, black-market foreign exchange is seen across town, and to ensure that you are not ripped off, using official bank exchanges may seem not to be the best rates, but they are secure and do not charge commissions.

For those fans who are low on budget, or have only experienced Eurovision only in the likes of Austria and the Nordics, you will be relieved to know how cheap Ukraine can be once on the ground.

For example (prices in EUR):
Meal in an inexpensive restaurant €4.15
3-course meal for 2 people in mid-range restaurant €17.40
McDonalds Big Mac meal €2.40
Cappuccino (regular cup) €0.75
Local beer (half-litre) €0.50
Coke (can) €0.40
Water (bottle) €0.30
One trip on the local metro €0.15