Useful and useless information about Ukraine, and why Odesa is not in Russia.
One of the most common Google search result suggestions when googling "Odesa" is "is Odesa in Russia?".
And while the city was founded during past Kremlin expansionist periods, and the lingua franca IS Russian, the real answer is that "Odesa is in Odesa".
The city proudly considers itself fiercely independent (first to rebel against the Tsars, one of the last to fall to the Bolsheviks, and they even bloodied the Nazis pretty well after the Soviets fled to Crimea). They like to joke here that "they built Ukraine around Odesa", but the truth is, Odesa is a long-fabled part of the Ukrainian nation-state.
As such, we have a primer of useful info about Ukraine to inform your visit here;
Ukraine is the largest state in Europe
Ukraine, the largest state situated entirely in Europe, appeared on the map of the world in its modern form in 1991. It was quickly recognized by the international community. It has an area of 603,628 km2, making it the largest contiguous country on the European continent.
Ukraine is the Centre of Europe
The geographic center of Europe is on the territory of Ukraine not far from Rakhiv in Zakarpatia oblast. As far back as 1887, experts of Austria-Hungary had determined this point, stele and land-surveying sign marking it, in Latin, with the following words bring engraved there:
"Locus Perennis. Dilicentissime cum lіbеllа lіbrаtіоnіs guае еst іп Аustrіа еt Нungаrіа соnfесtа сum mеnsurа grаdum mеrіdіоnаlіum еt раrаllеlоumіеrum Еurореum. МD ССС LХХХVІІ".
(which translates as: "Permanent, exact, and eternal place. Very precisely, using special apparatus made in Austria and Hungary, with the scale of meridians and parallels, set the Centre of Europe, 1887.")
World's First Constitution
In 1710, Ukrainian Hetman Pylyp Orlyk introduced "Pacts and Constitutions of Rights and Freedoms of the Zaporizhian Host", at that time a super-progressive document that meant to separate powers into three branches and regulate the rights and responsibilities of the government and citizens. Some researchers believe that this document is one of the world's first constitutions. For example, U.S. Constitution was adopted in 1787 and French and Polish in 1791.
The deepest metro station in the world (105 meters)
Arsenalnaya Metro Station (Ukrainian: Арсенальна) located in Kyiv is the deepest in the world (105 meters). The station was built in 1960, very close to the House of Parliament. According to some reports, the tunnels near Arsenalnaya house secret shelters were built especially for the political elite.
Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters in the world
As of 2016, Ukraine was listed among the top number three nations in the world ranking of grain exporters trailing only the U.S. and the EU. Ukraine is also in the world's top 10 exporters of butter and the leader in the production and export of sunflower oil; Ukrainian exporters control 60% of the world market of this product. Low rainfall in 2017 meant a drop in the rankings, but it is still some impressive numbers.
The third most visited McDonald's in the world
The third most visited McDonald's in the world (before the war) is located in Kyiv, near the train station. This restaurant has always been in the top five most crowded McDonald's in the world, yet service is still surprisingly fast, having recently reopened!
Ukraine, on its own initiative, refused the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world
Ukraine, on its own initiative, refused the third largest arsenal of nuclear weapons in the world. At the moment of the declaration of independence, Ukraine had over a thousand nuclear warheads and the third largest nuclear potential after Russia and America. The warheads and missiles were given to Russia, silos were destroyed. In response, Ukraine received the money for disarmament, plus security guarantees from the nuclear powers (which some say have proven worthless in light of Russia's invasion and annexation).
Wedding ring on the right hand
Ukrainians wear their wedding ring on the ring finger of their right hand instead of their left hand.
The world-famous song "O Sole Mio" was composed in Odesa (Ukraine)
O Sole Mio is often referred to as a Neapolitan song. Neapolitan songs were songs written for an annual songwriting contest for the Festival of Piedigrotta, which began in 1830, in Naples, Italy. O Sole Mio was composed by Eduardo Di Capua in Odesa during April 1898. Setting his music to the poem by Giovanni Capurro, Di Capua drew his inspiration while touring Crimea with his father (a violinist street musician). Di Capua and Capurro sold the rights of the song to the Bideri publishing house for 25 lire.
The shortest main city street
Khreshchatyk Street in Kyiv is the shortest yet widest main city street in the world. Its length is 1.2 km
The first university in Eastern Europe (1576)
The National University of Ostroh Academy is the successor of Ostroh Slavic, Greek and Latin Academy, the first higher educational establishment of the Eastern Slavs. Even before the famous Charles University in Prague, it was founded in 1576 by Prince Vasyl-Kostiantyn of Ostroh.
Ukraine is the 4th most educated nation in the world
Ukraine is a 4th-educated nation in the world: 99.4% of Ukrainians aged 15 and over can read and write. 70% of adult Ukrainians have a secondary or higher education. Ukraine has about 150 colleges and universities, of which the most important are in Kyiv, Lviv, and Kharkiv. There are about 70,000 scholars in 80 research institutes. The current heavyweight boxing champions of the world, Vitali and Wladimir Klitschko from Ukraine have doctorate degrees, the latter being the current mayor of Kyiv!
The world's heaviest aircraft
Before being destroyed by barbaians, the world's heaviest aircraft is the An-225 Mriya, created by the Kyiv-based Antonov design bureau. The plane was designed to airlift space shuttles and rocket boosters, however, is now carrying oversized payloads. It was recently announced that China is partnering with Ukraine to continue production of "the largest aircraft in the world"!
Ukraine was a motherland for Trypillian Civilization
Ukraine was a motherland for one of the world's most ancient civilizations Trypillian Civilization. A neolithic archaeological culture that existed between 5500 BC and 2750 BC on the territory of modern Ukraine.
Ukraine is situated in East-Central Europe. It is bordered by Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova to the West, by Belarus to the North, and by a belligerent Russian Federation to the North-East and East. To the south lie the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov. The capital is Kyiv.
Area 603,700 square kilometers (233,090 square miles)
Land use 56% cropland 14% permanent pasture 30% other (mostly urban)
Coastline 1,729 miles Land borders 2,832 miles Ukraine is currently preparing to conduct a new census.
The following information comes from the latest available sources as of Sept. 2016 via the United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division.
The population of Ukraine 2015
As of 1 January 2016, the population of Ukraine was estimated to be 42,617,345 people. This is a decrease of -0.36 % (-155,694 people) compared to population of 42,773,039 the year before. In 2015 the natural increase was negative, as the number of deaths exceeded the number of live births by 192,479. Due to external migration, the population increased by 36,785. The reason of the additional decrease of Ukraine's population by 2 million people in 2014 is that Crimea has become occupied by Russia. The sex ratio of the total population was 0.852 (852 males per 1,000 females) which is lower than the global sex ratio. The global sex ratio in the world was approximately 1,016 miles to 1,000 females as of 2015. Below are the key figures for Ukraine's population in 2015:
- 461,521 live births
- 654,000 deaths
- Natural increase: -192,479 people
- Net migration: 36,785 people
- 19,603,583 males as of 31 December 2015
- 23,013,762 females as of 31 December 2015
Ukraine population 2016
In 2016 Ukraine's population is projected to decrease by -155,127 people and should reach 42,462,218 in the beginning of 2017. The number of deaths will exceed the number of live births by 191,778, so the natural increase is expected to be negative. If external migration will remain at the previous year's level, the population will be increased by 36,651 due to migration reasons. It means that the number of people who move into Ukraine (to which they are not native) in order to settle there as permanent residents (immigrants) will prevail over the number of people who leave the country to settle permanently in another country (emigrants).
Population dynamics in 2016 According to UN estimations, the daily change rates of Ukraine's population in 2016 will be the following:
- 1,260 live births on average per day (52.49 per hour)
- 1,785 deaths on average per day (74.39 per hour)
- 100 immigrants on average per day (4.18 per hour)
The population of Ukraine will decline by 425 persons daily in 2016.
Ukraine population density
Ukraine's population density is 73.9 people per square kilometer as of September 2016. The density of population is calculated as a permanently settled population of Ukraine divided by the total area of the country. The total area is the sum of land and water areas within the international boundaries and coastlines of Ukraine. The total area of Ukraine is 576,320 km2 according to the United Nations Statistics Division.
Ukraine age structure
As of the beginning of 2016 according to our estimates, Ukraine had the following population age distribution:
Below is a simplified model of the population distribution pyramid which is broken down into 3 main age groups. The groups are the same as those we used above: population under 15, between 15 and 64, and population which is over 65 years old.
Note: The pyramid provided is not corresponding to the data given above because the age groups have a different numbers of years.
As we can see the Ukraine population pyramid has a contracting type. This type of pyramid is more common in highly developed countries with low birth and death rates. Usually, countries with such kind of population age distribution model have a long life expectancy, high level of education, and good health care.
Source: The estimation data for section "Ukraine age structure" is based on the latest demographic and social statistics by United Nations Statistics Division.
Age dependency ratio
The dependency ratio of population is a ratio of people who are generally not in the labor force (the dependents) to the workforce of a country (the productive part of the population). The dependent part includes the population under 15 years old and people aged 65 and over. The productive part of the population accordingly consists of a population between 15 and 64 years. This ratio shows the pressure on the productive population produced by the dependent part of the population.
The total dependency ratio of the population in Ukraine is 41.2 %. The value of 41.2 % is relatively low. It shows that the dependent part of the population is less than half of the working part. In other words, the working population (labor force) in Ukraine must provide goods for itself and cover expenditure on children and aged persons. And this part of the population is less than 50% of the working population. The value of less than 50% means that the pressure on the productive population in Ukraine is relatively low.
Child dependency ratio
The child dependency ratio is the ratio of people below working age (under 15) to the workforce of a country. The child dependency ratio in Ukraine is 19.4 %.
Aged dependency ratio
The aged dependency ratio is a ratio of people above working age (65+) to the workforce of a country. The aged dependency ratio in Ukraine is 21.8 %.
Source: The estimation data for section "Ukraine age dependency ratio" is based on the latest demographic and social statistics by United Nations Statistics Division.
Life expectancy at birth is one of the most important demographic indicators. It shows the number of years a newborn infant would live assuming that birth and death rates will remain at the same level during the whole lifetime.
The total life expectancy (both sexes) at birth for Ukraine is 68.6 years. This is below the average life expectancy at birth of the global population which is about 71 years.
Male life expectancy at birth is 62.8 years.
Female life expectancy at birth is 74.8 years.
(According to the Population Division of the Department of Economic and Social Affairs of the United Nations).
Literacy of population
According to our estimates, 36,675,767 persons, or 99.76% of the adult population (aged 15 years and above) in Ukraine are able to read and write. Accordingly, about 86,382 adults are illiterate. Literacy rate for adult male population is 99.79% (16,562,543 persons). 34,356 are illiterate. Literacy rate for adult female population is 99.74% (20,113,224 persons). 52,026 are illiterate. Youth literacy rates are 99.72% and 99.81% for males and females accordingly. The overall youth literacy rate is 99.76%. The youth literacy rate definition covers the population between the ages of 15 to 24 years.
Source: The estimation data for the section "Ukraine population literacy" is based on the latest data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (retrieved March 13, 2016)
Ukraine's historical population (1951 - 2016)
Year / Population / Growth Rate (The data is given as of the 1st of January of a year.)
|1997||50,293 032||-0.71 %|
|2015||42,773 039||-5.47 %|
The data is given as of the 1st of January of a year
By Principal Cities
Kyiv (Kyiv): 2,797,553 Kharkiv (Kharkov): 1,430,885 Dnipro (Dnepro): 1,032,822 Donetsk (Donetsk): 1,024,700 (before the invasion, significantly lower now) Odesa (Odesa): 1,001,558 Zaporizhzhia (Zaporozhye): 796,217 Lviv (Lvov): 717,803 Kryvyvi Rih (Krivoi Rog): 652,380 Mikolaiv (Nikolayev): 510,840 Mariupol (Mariupol): 481,626 (before the invasion, slightly lower now) Luhansk (Lugansk): 452,000 (before the invasion, significantly lower now) Makeyevka (Makeyevka): 376,610 Vinnytsia (Vinnitsa): 352, 115 Kherson (Kherson): 320,477 Sevastopol (Sevastopol): 340,735 (currently occupied by Russia) Simferopol (Simferopol): 331,936 (currently occupied by Russia) Poltava (Poltava): 317,847 Chernihiv (Chernigov): 307,684 Cherkasy (Cherkassy): 297,568 Sumy (Sumy): 294,456 Zhytomyr (Zhitomir): 282,192 Horlivka (Gorlovka): 278,550 Khmelnytskyi (Khmelnitsky): 262,154 Rivne (Rovno): 255,106 Kirovohrad (Kirovograd): 249,454 Dniprodzerzhynsk (Dneprodzerzhinsk): 248,575 Chernivtsi (Chernovtsy): 236,250 Kremenchug (Kremenchug): 227,494 Ivano-Frankivsk (Ivano-Frankovsk): 204,200 Ternopil (Ternopol): 235,676 Lutsk (Lutsk): 213,661 The names of the cities are given in transliterated Ukrainian, with the Russian version in parentheses.
The climate in Ukraine is temperate, with the Black Sea coastal region experiencing milder winters. In Kyiv, temperatures range from about 21 degrees F in January to about 69 degrees F in July. Annual precipitation averages 24.2 inches/615 millimeters in Kyiv. Droughts are not infrequent in southern areas.
The time in Kyiv is 7 hours later than US Eastern Standard, 2 hours later than Greenwich Mean. As of April 1997, Ukraine covers one-time zone, although, in the Donbas and Crimea, the occupying authorities there have reverted to the Russian time zone (and to 1997 economically and mentally).
The official state language is Ukrainian, an Eastern Slavonic language written in Cyrillic script. Russian, Romanian, Polish, and Hungarian are also spoken. The majority of Ukrainians are bilingual in Russian which is used widely too. Few people know foreign languages, the most popular is English, followed by German. In the Eastern part of the country, in cities like Odesa, Russia is more commonly spoken. It is said that Odesa is the 'freest Russian-speaking city in the world'.
The national flag (proportions 3 by 2) has two equal stripes, of blue over yellow, symbolizing the blue skies over fields of grain.
Weights and Measures
The metric system is used.
The standard electric voltage in Ukraine is 220 volts. Make sure to take a plug adapter as well as a converter, if you bring electric appliances.
Money and Currency
The Ukrainian national currency is Hryvna (UAH), pronounced griv-nee-ya. Yet convertible, Hryvna is extremely unstable currency. The currency took a bit of a beating in the immediate aftermath of the Euromaidan revolution, plunging from about 8 to the dollar all the way up to 33 to the dollar at one point. Luckily it has stabilised over the past year into the 25 to 26 per dollar range. One Hryvna = 100 kopecks. USD and EUR are the most popular at exchange booths. Other currencies are difficult to exchange and have low exchange rates because of minor circulation in Ukraine. VISA and MasterCard are accepted in major hotels, restaurants, and stores, although credit cards are not in wide use in the many cities of Ukraine, with such a large 'grey economy' many businesses still only accept cash for payments. Owners of American Express and Diners Club may experience problems when using their cards even in regional centers. Traveler's checks and credit cards can be cashed less out with a bank fee (which is 1-4% of the amount) at the majority of banks. The most popular Travelers Cheques in Ukraine are Thomas Cook and Visa.
New Year's Day: January 1-2 Christmas: January 7 Women's Day: March 8 Spring & Labor Day: May 1-2 Victory Day: May 9 Independence Day: August 24, and from 2017, December 25 Western Christmas.
State and public offices are open from 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday, with a lunch hour from 1 pm as a rule. The majority of stores are open from 10 am to 7 pm, closed only on Sunday, and have a lunch hour, which is usually either from 1 to 2 pm or from 2 to 3 pm. As for food stores, many of them work 24 hours without a lunch break, a few – from 8 am to 8 pm. Most cafes and restaurants – from 11-12 am until the last customer leaves. Most banks are open to the public from 9 am to 3 pm with a lunch hour from 1 to 2 pm, closed on Saturday, and Sunday.
As the Ukrainian border is crossed, obligatory Ukrainian Medical Insurance is required. Even if you have health insurance, you might be asked to pay for the temporary policy (the cost depends on the length of your stay). Also, you will have to fill in the Entrance Customs' Declaration Form which is better to declare all valuable objects you bring into Ukraine: money, traveler's cheques, expensive equipment, jewelry, etc. Make sure you kept these papers! You will need them when leaving the country.
Currency and jewelry export is limited in Ukraine, so be sure to quote all money and jewelry you bring into Ukraine and to keep your declaration till departure because you will be asked to present it on departure. If you are going to bring out more than $1000 US from Ukraine it is necessary to have the Entrance Declaration stating you have brought it in. For preventing any problems with artwork export when leaving, we advise you to obtain a license for exporting your purchase (easy to get). As for national currency, its export is prohibited, so be sure to spend it, or exchange it for some other currency.
- Cash and travel checks totaling up to $10,000. If the money you carry in exceeds $3,000 it should be declared in written form.
- Bank metals, which total weight is up to 100 grams per person, regardless of age. Must be declared.
- Checks, issued by foreign banks and non-bank organizations and amounting up to $50,000 (or its equivalent in other currency), must be declared.
- 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars 250g of tobacco. There is no information on age restrictions
- 1 liter of spirits (over 25% volume of alcohol)
- 2 liters of lighter alcohol beverages (up to 25% volume of alcohol)
- Non-commercial amount items for personal use up to €200 of gifts or new items
- The foodstuff of up to the value of €50 in no more than one package weighing 2kg
- Counterfeit items
- Explosive material
- Pro-Russian propaganda materials
- Live animals – health certificate required along with complete and valid inoculations. Contact the nearest embassy to obtain permission.
- Endangered species and any products or parts thereof as outlined by CITES maybe be brought in only with CITES permission.
- Weapons and ammunition are permissible only with authorization obtainable from the Ministry of Interior.
- Gifts or new items of value exceeding €200 but not exceeding €1000 will be evaluated and a customs tax will be levied. Please note that items of value exceeding €1000 are taxable according to cargo import procedure and not personal import procedure.
- Cultural artifacts and other culturally important items may be brought in only when accompanied by appropriate documentation confirming your ownership and are not subject of any international investigation.
- Currency of value up to €10,000 can be declared orally, amounts that exceed that limit must be declared in writing and have to have supplementary documentation confirming that the money had been withdrawn from a legitimate source.
For carrying bigger amounts of imported currency or goods Export procedures:
- You have to fill in a customs declaration form at the border (an English version is available), let them date-stamp the thing, and keep it safe until you leave. You must declare all cash and jewelry upon entering Ukraine, and understand that undeclared items may be confiscated.
- Bigger amounts and weights of goods will result in Customs and other fees: Goods weighing more than 50 kg but less than 100 kg and cost of which is less than €1,000, will be subject to 20% Custom Tax, 20% VAT, and a Product Tax, which differs from one group of goods to another.
- Goods weighing more than 100 kg and costing more than €1,000 will be taxed on a commercial rate basis.
If your customs form is lost or stolen, report it to the local police, known as militia, and obtain a certificate to show authorities when departing Ukraine. If you cannot obtain a police certificate, come to the Consular Section of your Embassy in Kyiv for a notarized letter of explanation. This letter is usually, but not always, accepted by customs authorities.
Export procedures: If you purchase any items of value you must have the receipt when you leave Ukraine.
In addition, if you purchase any antiques or items of possible historical value, such as icons, etc., you must obtain a certificate from the store that sold the item or from the Ministry of Culture stating that it has no real historical value. Currency may be exchanged only at legal, licensed booths, banks, and hotel exchange desks. You should save all receipts from currency exchanges and from any purchases you make while in Ukraine. You may not take more money out of the country than you brought in unless you have receipts showing that you received money from a credit card, wire transfer, or other means.
Public City Transport: Operates from 6 am to 1 am. Bus, trolley bus, and tram systems are a rather slow but cheap way to travel within cities. Prices range from 8 hryvnias, while for minibusses in Odesa, it is 15 hryvnia, the highest in Ukraine.
Taxis: If you have a smartphone, get yourself Uber or Bond apps and you should be okay. Taxis are comparatively cheap for Russian or Ukrainian-speaking passengers. Probably everywhere situation with taxi is like this – if one speaks a foreign language the price for a taxi goes up immediately. There are numerous taxi services, orders are taken via phone or mobile app. You can often hitch a ride with a taxi right on the street simply by putting out your hand. Be wary of taking a car having more than one passenger. Prices need to be agreed upon beforehand.
Trains: An extensive network of railroads connect Ukraine with many European and Asian countries. Trains are cheap though slow and sometimes not very comfortable. First class compartments are mostly air-conditioned (very important in summertime) and have 2 berths (some trains do not have a 1st class option), second class has 4 berths. It is advisable to buy tickets for the whole compartment, especially when traveling alone. Prices for foreign citizens and Ukrainians are the same. Trains are the most popular and easy way to make intercity trips in Ukraine.
Air: Most cities of Ukraine have air connections to Kyiv. The best air connection with other countries goes via Kyiv. Some domestic flights are not very reliable in terms of schedule - it is never too much to make sure that the flight you have chosen is made on a regular basis. Please, note most domestic train/air tickets can be obtained easily only in Ukraine.