12 Secrets to Traveling Across Ukraine

1. If you’re traveling with a significant other, bring a padlock. (Don't worry, it's only for the Bridge of Love)
This bridge in Kyiv is completely full of (mostly) old locks that couples place here as a sign of their commitment. It's the green version of the heart-carved-in-a-tree tradition, if you will.

2. You will definitely meet some amazing people.

This is Yelena. She used a Kiva loan to buy goods for her little shop in a nearby outdoor market and told us that she's "very happy" with the growth her loan has provided.

This is Michail. The shack next to him holds a new heating system for his greenhouse, purchased with a Kiva loan. He had never taken a loan before due to fear of banking practices, but his experience with Kiva's partner, Hope Ukraine, was fantastic and he's no longer afraid.

Michail's heater uses wood to heat the water, as gas and electric pumps are too expensive and unreliable due to power outages. Michail gets up every two hours during the night from January until sometime in the Spring to put wood into the furnace and make sure the pump is free of debris. It pumps hot water through hoses in the ground near the roots of his tomatoes and around the walls of the greenhouse to keep the plants alive and provide a longer growing season.[/caption]

3. Don’t be surprised if store owners still use an abacus.

This shop owner still uses this sometimes, even though she also has a calculator. When I asked why, she said that everyone used these before calculators and it's still faster for her.

4. "Salo" (fatback with skin, aka bacon without any meat) is “The source of all energy and man strength,” according to a local.

Salo is best eaten with garlic or onion, as I did here. Pro tip: the onion is worse than the salo.

5. Multicolored nylon bags are all the rage.

6. Night trains are the best way to travel. (And you still get to see beautiful sights before bed)

7. Third-class cabins are nice and cheap

8. If you want to travel or live outside the city, you may have to use an outhouse. But they’re nice.

9. The towns have really cool names.

Like Zaporizhzhya (say that ten times fast)

Or “Proletariat.”

10. The Kyiv metro is not only spotless, but beautiful. (My fellow New Yorkers will appreciate this.)

Orthodox mosaic in the Kyiv metro 

11. Everything has cucumbers or beets in it, so develop a taste for them ASAP.

Lunch options: pizza with cucumbers or hamburgers with cucumbers. Ukrainians make everything healthier.

Of course there are always hot dogs with carrots, beets, and mayonaise.

12. Buy a one-way ticket, because you’ll never want to leave.

About the author

Jason Stout

Jason Stout grew up in Utah and the Netherlands and has spent nearly a quarter of his life living abroad. He is currently getting his Master’s of International Affairs, studying international finance and economic policy at Columbia University and works as an Analyst at Emerging Market Economics. In his spare time Jason helps manage a website and podcast he co-founded, which is dedicated to advocating service and poverty elimination (NoPoorAmongThem.org). Jason’s enduring passion is economic development and human rights. He served as a Peace Corps volunteer in South Africa, volunteered in Russia with a UN-affiliated refugee NGO and volunteered in Ukraine for two years with the LDS Church. Here he managed public health projects for over 25,000 youth and provided free English education. Jason has worked extensively with refugees and victims of human trafficking in the US with Catholic Charities and Child Rescue of North America. He is excited to return to Ukraine as a Kiva Fellow. Jason is a proud husband and father of a one-year-old. They currently live in New York City, where they enjoy Ethiopian food and old Russian movies.