Is it safe to travel to Ukraine? Photo of Kiev

Ukraine Travel Safety: Are Kiev and Lviv Safe?

Since I traveled to Kiev (Kyiv) last month, and especially returned this week to visit Lviv, I’ve had a number of folks message me with concern over whether it is safe to travel in Ukraine.

I’ve been a little surprised by this. While I’ve definitely been willing to push the envelope a bit in terms of travel to places with travel warnings (like Egypt and Abkhazia), I just really hadn’t considered Ukraine to be a dangerous destination. But apparently quite a few people do. Since it seems to be such a common question, I thought I’d write up a quick post on the subject.

So is it safe to travel to Ukraine?

At least as of July, 2017: yes, as long as you stay away from some areas that you’re unlikely to want to go to anyway. While there is certainly some political instability to be aware of, if you are just traveling to Kiev and Lviv, you are unlikely to encounter many indications that there is an ongoing tragic conflict in the east.

Brief Background on the Ukraine Conflict

In late 2013, Kiev was rocked by protests against Ukraine’s then-president Victor Yanukovych, an ally of Russia who had rejected measures to integrate Ukraine with the European Union. The protests (and the government’s violent response to them) escalated and in February, 2014 led to a full-on revolution and Yanukovych’s fleeing of the country.

Russia refused to recognize the new government of Ukraine and staged a military intervention that led to the annexation of the southern region of Crimea. Separatists forces backed by Russia also started a war in the far eastern portions of Ukraine, leading to international condemnation and sanctions against Russia.

This war gained further international attention in July, 2014 when the separatists shot down a Malaysia Airlines plane flying from Amsterdam to Kuala Lumpur, killing the over 300 people on board.

Despite several ceasefire attempts, the war continues to this day, although it has settled into something a stalemate as of the summer of 2017.

Travel Warnings in Ukraine

If you are thinking about traveling to Ukraine, you should read the latest travel warnings from the US and UK governments.

My personal feeling has long been that such travel warnings tend to be overly cautious, but in this case I think they are actually quite consistent with my own experience.

Essentially both governments relay the advice that you should avoid all travel to Crimea and the eastern regions of Donetsk and Luhansk. But, as the British Government currently notes, “The situation in Kyiv and other areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk is generally calm.”

It is Perfectly Safe to Travel to Kiev and Lviv

For the vast majority of travelers, the main destinations in Ukraine will be the capital city of Kiev and the western cultural city of Lviv (and, to a lesser extent, the seaside resort Odessa).

And, while I don’t mean to minimize the seriousness of the war in the east, it is a regional war at this point and here is the key thing you need to bear in mind:

Ukraine is really, really, really big. Kiev is over 700 kilometers away from Donetsk and Lviv is more than 1,200 kilometers away. 

The simple fact is that visitors to Kiev and Lviv will be a long, long way away from the war zone.

In my experience, both Kiev and Lviv are as safe and comfortable as any city in Europe. They are both really incredible.

Lviv has a very cosmopolitan feel to it, with so many things to do. In many ways it feels like you are in a smaller version of an Italian city or Vienna. And Kiev is a vibrant, interesting capital city well worth exploring in it’s own right (plus check out how you can take a tour of Chernobyl from Kiev).

So if someone were to ask me if they should visit Kiev or Lviv, I would say absolutely. 

That’s not to say there isn’t any danger at all in visiting. Violence can, unfortunately, happen anywhere – and sadly has recently in many much more traditional tourist destinations such as Paris and the UK.

But, if you are comfortable traveling to other European destinations, you’re likely to feel perfectly safe in Kiev, Lviv, and the areas of Ukraine you’re likely to visit anyway.

Plus, it’s an incredible affordable destination – and going there right now is one of the best ways to travel cheap in Europe.

Download a free Lonely Planet Guidebook to Ukraine using this trick! Plus, be sure to figure out whether you need annual travel insurance for your trip

2 thoughts on “Ukraine Travel Safety: Are Kiev and Lviv Safe?”

  1. Quick question. I’m going to Lviv in July (2018)…so in a couple months. I’m looking forward to it as I’m American of Ukrainian descent. I have been trying to keep up with travel forums and such to get a feel of what to expect since I’m not fluent in either Russian or Ukrainian (although I can read signage and such). What do you recommend for getting from, say, the airport to the city center in Lviv? I read that it’s advised to be able to speak the native tongue with ride-share drivers and such or risk being ripped off. Truth to this do you know? Also, how’s the corruption? I know Ukraine, sadly, has one of the most corrupt police forces in the world and have heard stories from relatives who had gone to Ukraine and were hit up for bribes and what not because of their American accents. Is this pretty common to your knowledge, or should I not worry about it? I’m not concerned about violence.

    1. I wouldn’t worry all that much about language – there is a lot of English spoken in Lviv!

      In terms of getting from the airport, I actually just took the Trolley #9 – it was cheap, efficient and fast! Once you’re downtown, it’s easy to walk. Or a taxi shouldn’t cost that much. Here’s a link with some other options though:
      http://lwo.aero/en/transport

      I really wouldn’t worry too much about safety in Lviv! The stories you hear are unusual cases and in truth the city is as safe as any other in Europe! I never once felt like I was being hassled or ripped-off or anything like that.

      Sounds like a fun trip!

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