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Facts at a Glance
 Full country name: Ukraine

Area: 603,700 sq km (233,000 sq mi)

Population: 49.1 million

Capital city: Kiev (pop 2.6 million)

People: Ukrainian 73%, Russian 22%, Jewish 1%

Languages: Ukrainian, Russian, Romanian, Polish, Hungarian

Religion: Ukrainian Orthodox, Ukrainian Autocephalous Orthodox, Ukrainian Catholic, Protestant, Jewish

Government: Republic

President: Leonid D Kuchma

Prime Minister: Anatolii Kinakh


After Russia, Ukraine is the largest country in Europe, just edging out France. It's bordered by Russia to the east and north; Belarus to the north; Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania and Moldova to the west; and large stretches of the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov to the south. Ukraine's topography consists almost entirely of steppe - gently rolling, partially wooded plains. The horizon is broken by a belt of highland running from the north-west to the south-east, but the only serious mountains are a short stretch of the Carpathians in the far west and the Crimeans in the far south. There are forests and some scattered marshlands in the north; in the south the steppe is open and sparsely wooded. Nearly 3000 rivers flow through Ukraine.

Formerly known as 'the breadbasket of the USSR', over half the country is covered in fields of wheat, barley, rye, oats and sugar beets. A central 'black belt' of humus-rich soil - one of the world's most fertile regions - covers nearly two-thirds of Ukraine. Large tracts are set aside as grazing land, and in spring they explode into brilliant, swaying seas of

The creatures you see most often are the white geese and ducks that spot the green and black earth and fill countless ponds all over the countryside. Ukraine's diverse animal life includes wolves, foxes, martens and gazelles (all keeping mostly to mountain woodlands); over 350 species of birds, the secret messengers of many folk songs and fairy tales; and over 200 species of freshwater fish.

Inland Ukraine has a relatively moderate continental climate. The hottest month is July, when the daily high averages 23°C (73°F), while January, the coldest month, averages around freezing. The eastern areas catch a few of the chilling Siberian breezes, while the west gets the tail end of warm Mediterranean winds. On the coast, Yalta and Odessa are generally a few degrees warmer than the inland areas; in winter they rarely dip below freezing during the day. Inland, June and July are the wettest months; the coast experiences most of its limited rainfall during December and January.

Economic Profile
 GDP: US$108.5 billion

GDP per head: US$2200

Annual growth: -1.7%

Inflation: 20%

Major industries: Coal, electric power, ferrous and nonferrous metals, machinery and transport equipment, chemicals, food-processing (especially sugar), grain, sugar beets, sunflower seeds, vegetables, beef, milk

Major trading partners: Russia, China, Turkey, Germany, Belarus, US, Poland, Italy

Member of EU: no

Facts for the Traveler
 Visas: All visitors need visas. 'Emergency' visas good for 72 hours are available at border posts, and a one month visa can be obtained on arrival at Kiev's Boryspil Airport.

Health risks: Cholera, diphtheria, tick-borne encephalitis, Lyme disease

Time: GMT/UTC plus 2 hours

Electricity: 220V, 50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric

Money & Costs
 Currency:Ukraine grynia (UHA; sometimes spelled 'hryvnia')
Relative Costs:

  • Budget: US$1-3
  • Mid-range: US$3-8
  • Top-end: US$8 and upwards

  • Lodging

  • Budget: US$5-15
  • Mid-range: US$15-25
  • Top-end: US$25 and upwards
  • Food is ridiculously cheap in Ukraine, and accommodation isn't much more, especially outside Kiev. You can travel comfortably for around US$50 a day, though prices are 15-30% higher in the capital. If you stick to mid-range restaurants and hotels, you can expect to spend around US$30 a day. If you self-cater, share accommodation and rely solely on public transport you can reduce your costs even further.

    Exchange kiosks have the best rates, while hotels generally have the worst. Hard currency can be changed into grynia anywhere, but travellers cheques credit cards are only accepted at certain banks and exchange offices in a few larger cities. You'll need to bring wads of cash, the most commonly accepted being the US dollar and German mark. Using hard currency in restaurants and retail shops has been officially banned, but many services aimed at foreign tourists are exempt from this ruling and expect hard currency.

    At upscale tourist-oriented eateries, a tip of about 5-10% is expected; many include a 5% service charge in your bill, and you can add a bit more for excellent service. Haggling at the country's many food, art, souvenir and craft markets is expected and sometimes fierce.

    When to Go

    The best time to go to Ukraine is in spring (late April to early June), when the trees and flowers are in bloom. During this season attractions are less crowded and rainfall is lighter than in summer. The beaches at Odessa and Crimea are packed in summer (July and August). Winter (December and January) is cold and snowy, so travellers should be prepared to don thick wool sweaters and eat their vegetables pickled.

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