Why do foreign tourists travel to Ukraine during the war: foreigners' opinion
We talked to our foreign tourists who visited Ukraine during the war. Find out what motivates foreigners to travel to Ukraine in wartime, which cities they choose most often, and what they remember and are most impressed by
Despite the overall decrease in the number of foreigners compared to those who crossed the border of Ukraine before russia's full-scale invasion, since the summer of 2022, there has been a tendency to increase the number of crossings of the Ukrainian border by foreign nationals with a preference for entry into Ukraine. Andriy Demchenko, spokesman for the State Border Guard Service, told Visit Ukraine. Read more about how the dynamics of crossing the Ukrainian border by foreigners has changed in our previous article.
So, we decided to ask our foreign tourists who visited Ukraine during the full-scale invasion what motivates them to travel in such a difficult time for the country and what impressions they have of traveling to a country that is forced to confront russian aggression.
Why do foreign tourists travel to Ukraine despite the threats posed by the russian invasion?
The first to participate in our survey was Liene from Latvia, who not only dared to come to the country during the war, but also made a significant contribution to Ukraine's victory by organizing fundraisers to support Ukrainians. In addition, Liene's husband is currently writing a book about the events in Ukraine, and she is helping him with the collection of materials by visiting various regions of the country where the russian invaders left their mark.
— Why did you decide to come to Ukraine, what exactly interested you or motivated you to travel?
I am a social traveler. I am not interested in museums, lying on the beach or climbing mountains. I like to travel where peoples life is somehow different from what I am used to. I was working for quite a while without a break and started feeling the need to go somewhere. And I started thinking – where? – decision was immediate – Ukraine.
I want to ride on trains and talk to people. And why should I spend my money anywhere else, if I can support Ukraine – when I suppose, not many tourists travel there. And it also felt like showing solidarity – Latvia is with you, guys.
— Was your first visit to Ukraine during the war, or have you been here before? If it was not your first time, how do you feel the changes (peacetime/martial law)?
It was my first trip during the war. A long time ago I was in Carphatian region.
— Did you have any contact with Ukrainians during your trip? If so, how would you describe them? And which cities of Ukraine did you visit and why did you choose them?
I had contact only with ukrainians, because I traveled alone. I didnt meet any foreigner in Ukraine. In Lviv and Kyiv I was staying in hostels. All the others, exept me, in hostels were ukrainians. In the daytime everyone left for work, but the evenings we spend together – chatting, watching news, laughing at new ukrainian jokes (the famous ukrainian humor)), and cried for the bad news. And sometimes I cooked a big pot of stew for everyone – the where happy to come back from work and have some home food ready.
In Kharkiv I rented a small room. The owner was very happy to have a tourist – he said, it feels a bit nostalgic. He was very kind to me and took me around Kharkiv with his car. I saw also the horror in Kharkivs region Saltivka. And the last city I went to was Sumy. There I stayed at a friends, whom I met in Kyiv`s hostel, place.
Lviv, Kyiv, Kharkiv was planned, Sumy was extra. And also the very nice Ukrainian soldier Misha together with Visit Ukraine took me to Kyiv`s sattelite towns – Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, Borodjanka and Romanivka. And it is a totally different expierience seeing it there than through a screen in the news.
Ukrainians are very beautiful people. Very strong, very patriotic, with a great sense of humor and empathy. Very kind, very friendly, very helpful. To anyone I spoke – everybody wanted sooner to get in EU. Funny thing was, that sometimes I was beeing told – now I really feel that I speak to a real european – I always answered that I feel the same about you – you are europeans. I never asked what is the difference between a european and non – european (although once I got the answer without asking. We were shopping for groceries with a friend from hostel and at the check out I took from my waist bag a canvas shopping bag – and my friend said – that`s what I understand! – that is EU! )))
— Describe your impressions of Ukraine, Ukrainian cities and service. What was most memorable or impressive?
When I was woken up in a minibus at crossing Ukraines border from Poland – I looked around – and yes – you do feel that you are entering a war zone. On the border were many convoys with a human help, convoys of khaki colour cars, which were donated to the army I guess.
Also in the morning, when arriving in Lviv – armed soldiers everywhere, also with big backpacks, going to the front, and locals greeting them with the famous war cry – Glory to Ukraine! – Glory to Heroes!
Every city I visited was different, but all of them beautiful. And surprisingly clean even during the war. The first sirens I heard in Kyiv. It was daytime, I was on the terrase in a cafe. I looked around, thinking what to do – ukrainians did nothing. And I thought to myself – they now better, when its time to run. So I also did nothing.
Service was always polite and kind. Ukrainian food is very tasy, and for a foreigners also its not so expencive to eat outside. One thing I remember is that nobody in any kind of service speaks russian. Not all speak english and at the beginning I tried to speak russian then (because I can speak it as well). And I got a good advice from a taxi driver – always...always when you speak russian, first thing you must say is that you are latvian from Latvia. Otherwise you will pay double or even will not be served. Later I found out that its prohibited with a law in servis/public space to use russian. Well done, Ukraine! Latvia is only slowly moving to that.
— What recommendations would you give to those who are just planning a trip to Ukraine? Perhaps which city is better to choose, or what to take with you, what to prepare for?
I recommend to choose relative safe cities of course. But it is all very unpredictable of course. Talk to locals – they will always know the situation better than you do. In every city I was given contacts to somebody in the next city I traveled to – because always someone in the hostel had relatives or friends there. Contacts were given “just in case”.
If you dont travel with your own car or actually even if you do – I recomend taking with a compact sleeping bag (I had a matress and a pillow too). Of course, you won`t sleep on the streets, but firstly train raids are long, bus raids are long – and you always get a better sleep covered with something warm. Secondly – you never know – there might be a situation, you have to stay for a while in a shelter.
I had also some thin, but very warm thermo – tops with. They dont take a lot of space in bag, but will keep you warm. In Kharkiv I slept in them (although it was almost summer already), because the room was without heating the whole winter. You never know. I also had a big thermo cup with. In Kyiv we were without electricity quite often, but I always had my tea ready in the cup.
Hand torch and head torch. Better both. One for inside, if you need to have your hands free for doing something, another – for outside, if you stay out after dark (in Sumy, there was completly dark in the streets. Completly. For the safety – city is very near russias border.) Locals, of course, are used to that, but I couldnt make a step without a torch.
Powerbank. First aid kit. A “tourist visit card” in a holder that you can carry at you all the time – name, adress, phone number of a realtive or anybody close to you, blood group. And I had an old style map as well – I like to see my trip all over the table, not only in phone or PC))
— Would you visit Ukraine again? And can you recommend a trip to Ukraine to others?
Yes. I am planning to visit Ukraine again, and maybe even quite soon.
Recommend to others. This is tricky because some people get angry about recommending visiting Ukraine – a war zone. But I do recommend. This was the journey of my lifetime. Very, very emotional. And I really do think, that visiting Ukraine in these hard for Ukraine times is a solidaritation with ukrainians. So that you, who fight for all of us, wouldn`t be left alone and everyone else just tired and fed up with ongoing war lives on happily. No. We must all be with you.
— Are you satisfied with the support of Visit Ukraine managers? What would you like to change or what was missing?
I didn`t miss a thing and Visit Ukraine actually exceeded my hopes. There wasn`t anything formal about Visit Ukraine – friendly, funny, helpful for the whole time I spent in Ukraine, and before, and after. And great, great patriots of Ukraine.
Thank you! Glory to Ukraine!
Which cities of Ukraine do foreigners visit most often: VU sales analytics
According to Visit Ukraine, the most visited places in Ukraine among foreigners are Kyiv, Lviv, Odesa, and the Carpathians. And this is not surprising, as most tourists come to Ukraine for the first time, and their main goal is to "touch" the cultural and historical soul of Ukraine, feel the atmosphere that is so much talked about abroad and see the unique Ukrainian landscapes with their own eyes.
Usually, we recommend tours based on the wishes, preferences and requests of our tourists, but if we were asked to give a general recommendation for those who cannot decide where exactly they want to go to Ukraine, it would look like this:
The capital of Ukraine is Kyiv
Seeing the Ukrainian capital first is the best option for those who have never been to Ukraine before. A tour of the ancient part of the city or a tour of the invincible hero city will help you discover the true character of Kyiv, which will best reflect the versatility and atmosphere of the Ukrainian capital.
Big cities of Ukraine are a must-see
If you've already been to the capital and don't know where to go next, or just want to start with something less obvious, head to Odesa or Lviv. These two Ukrainian gems embody the authenticity, special atmosphere, humor, and hospitality of Ukraine. A sightseeing tour of Odesa with Visit Ukraine is not just a simple "look right, look left", but you will get to know the true flavor of Odesa and the versatility of this city.
And you can feel the magical Lviv atmosphere by going on an individual tour of the city's churches or by choosing a tour of romantic and slightly mysterious evening Lviv.
The soul of Ukrainian nature - the Carpathians
And for those who prefer outdoor activities and natural landscapes to cultural attractions, we recommend going on a tour of the Ukrainian Carpathians. The ideal option would be to climb Hoverla or climb Mount Makovytsia along the Dovbush trails, which captivate not only with incredible landscapes but also with the interesting history of this place.
Choose tours in Ukraine to your liking, and we will do everything to make your trip truly exciting and unique!
Read the answers to the most frequently asked questions of foreign tourists about traveling to Ukraine in our interview with Anna Khmelnytska, project manager of the Tours department.
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