After Gdansk, I was thinking where to go next. Speacking with people, everybody who was in Lviv recommended this place, and that's what prompted me to come there. I thought of travelling to other cities, but it was in the middle of the summer and I didn't feel like getting on a train. So Ukraine remains a to-be-explored country for me, as I've only been to Lviv.
I was a bit concerned at first, especially that there is a war going on in the country. Also, it's not in the EU and that always brings complications. The border crossings are way more involved, there is no mobile net on arrival by default, and ATMs might not work for me.
But things work in Ukraine also, and I was pleasantly surprised how things are in Ukraine.
Ukraine is huge, and there is absolutely no indication what is happening on the other side. I saw a few strange people, but otherwise I had not had any incidents. I lived in a hostel with quite a few Eastern European people and all I experienced was friendliness.
I took a flight to Lviv and the passport control was just fine. It took a few minutes, but I got the entry stamp without an issue.
But I've heard that flying in to Ukraine is the easy way. One guy told me it took almost the entire night for him to cross from Ukraine to Poland by bus. And it wasn't just waiting so hopefully you can just sleep through it, but every now and then somebody came and took his passport just to return it some time later.
I've heard similar stories about crossing the border by train. The track gauges are different on the two sides of the border and while modern trains are compatible with both, it still takes a lot of time.
I didn't take it, but I've heard the best way is to change the train at the border. But do your research before going this way.
One negative thing is that it seems Ukrainian airport security rules are stricter than in other places. I travel with carry-on only and I have a small pair of scissors with me. I had to surrender it as apparently there is no blade size limit here.
First things first, how to get local currency. At the airport there were ATMs and my Revolut card worked just fine. Know that there is a 1% extra cost for Hryvnia and another 1% on weekends, so it's better to get money on weekdays.
The ATM showed a warning before the transaction to stay vigilant when using the card. Seems like bank card fraud is kinda widespread here, but I did not experience anything shady.
Paying with card usually worked, but I had a strange experience with one shop. The cashier lady told me that I can use Paypass but I need to do 2 touches. No magic here, there is a separate charge for paying with card. But it was just one place.
Another crucial thing is to get a local SIM with Internet. I thought there will be some telcom company office at the airport just like in other places, but there is none. I asked at the information and they pointed me to a cafe that they sell SIM cards there.
Seems like there is absolutely no check when buying a local SIM. I asked for it, handed over the money and got the card. No passport/ID card checking, no registration. And I got 4G connection for my whole stay.
I can't remember the exact price, but it was very reasonable. But read the fine print as the unlimited packages are not without limits. You have something like 3 GBs a day and then the speed will be throttled.
No surprise, Ukrainian and Russian are spoken here, with very few things written in English. The trolley I took from the airport announced the next station in English as well as in Ukrainian, but that was the exception. On the other hand, people usually spoke some English, so I had no problems with it. But I've been only to the Western part, it might be different in other places.
But the alphabet is Cyrillic, which means things look really different. In my experience, the language itself is not more different than other languages. Many words are similar, like "university", "airport", "center", "cafe". But because of the different alphabet, everything seems alien.
I studied some Cyrillic before going to Ukraine and that helped a lot. Just being able to know how a word sounds helped immensely. At least I wasn't more lost than in other foreign places.
One funny difference between English and the languages spoken around here (Hungarian included) is the negation of must is don't have to. So if somebody translates from Ukrainian to English without knowing this difference, he'll say "must not" but he really means "don't have to".
When the bus broke down and all passengers had to change to the next one, a nice young couple told me that "I must not buy a new ticket". Not that anybody would fine me if I did, they meant "I don't have to buy a new ticket".
Lviv was my only destination in Ukraine, I arrived here on plane and left the same route.