Kiev overall is a great city with lots to see and do. It’s very accessible and easy to find your way around with the tourist information signs posted all over the city. That being said, I was happy to be there, but after my week was up, I was equally happy to leave.
Arriving at Boryspil Airport was easy. There was no line for customs, I didn’t have to wait for my luggage to arrive, and the currency exchange had surprisingly good rates. Getting into the city was my biggest concern because the airport is quite far from the city center. I didn’t want to get ripped off by the many taxi drivers soliciting rides as soon as I left the airport.
Just outside the door of the terminal is the SkyBus. I communicated to the driver that I wanted to ride the bus and gave him a 100 UAH bill. I had no idea what the price was. He didn’t have change and gestured to see him after the ride. 45 minutes later, we arrived at the Pasazhyrskyi Train Station where I paid the driver and headed toward the metro. For 40 UAH (as of May 2013), it’s very reasonable.
Finding the metro was a bit of a problem. Once the bus drops you off in front of the station, you have to walk all the way through to the other entrance, turn left, and you will see the Vokzalna metro station. From there, you can pretty much get wherever you need to go. This map shows how to walk from the SkyBus pickup/drop-off point to the Vokzalna Metro:
Getting around Kiev was very easy. I found the metro system to be efficient and the stops were fairly close to where I needed to go.
I stayed at a hostel called Dream House, located in Podil off the bottom of Andriyivskiyy Uzviz and tucked away behind a few other buildings. The hostel is just a seven minute walk across Kontraktova Square to the metro. I arrived quite early in the morning and my room wasn’t ready but it didn’t take very long for them to prepare it.
I had booked a single private room but was given a double for the first couple days. When I relocated to the single, the room was great, but the bathroom on that floor was out of order. The room was comfortable, but the walls were unfortunately paper-thin. I did, however, manage to get a good night’s sleep after quiet hours.
The hostel overall was great. The “Dream Girls” staff were always upbeat and friendly and very helpful when I had a question. The only real complaint I have is that the bathrooms were filthy by morning. As long as you got to them by 6pm, they weren’t so bad. The hostel also had a decent restaurant and bar on site, the Druzi Café. The food was good, especially the breakfasts, but service could be terribly slow at times. I had most of my breakfasts there.
For food, I ate most of my dinners in Podil. I tried the pirate-themed Korsar twice, once for Chicken Kiev and another time for a pork skillet dish. It was surprisingly good.
I also ate at Shangri-la twice. The menu is huge, with everything from Ukrainian national dishes to salads to kebabs to sushi to Uzbek cuisine. I tried and came back for the Uzbek dishes. The service was slow and it was a bit overpriced for the portion size, but it tasted great. They also had free wifi. Nobody spoke English but they went out of their way to help.
The other night I ate at Puzata Hata, which has just about everything on the menu, but it wasn’t anything special.
As far as having to interact with people, there’s an obvious language barrier if you don’t speak Ukrainian or Russian, even with the younger generation (although they did everything possible to help). The older generation, however, I wouldn’t say are unfriendly, but there was definitely an understandable lack of smiles from them. They also didn’t seem too amused when I tried to break the ice with humor. English wasn’t widely spoken even in tourist areas, but it’s not hard to get by.