Quick Facts Primer about Ukraine

One of the most common Google search result suggestions when googling "Odessa" is "is Odessa in Russia?".

And while the city was founded during past Kremlin expansionist periods, and the lingua franca IS Russian, the real answer is that "Odessa is in Odessa".

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 Odessa", but the truth is, Odessa 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 the largest state in Europe

Ukraine is the Centre of Europe

The geographic centre 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 scale of meridians and parallels, set the Centre of Europe, 1887.")

Ukraine geographical center of Europe

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 which 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.

.First constitution in the world

The deepest metro station in the world (105 meters)

Arsenalnaya Metro Station (Ukrainian: Арсенальна) located in Kiev 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 built especially for the political elite.

The deepest metro station in the world Arsenalna

Ukraine is one of the largest grain exporters in the world

As of 2016 Ukraine was listed among 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 production and export of sunflower oil; Ukrainian exporters control 60% of the world market of this product. Low raindfall in 2017 meant a drop in the rankings, but its still some impressive numbers.

Ukraine grain exporter

The third most visited McDonald's in the world

The third most visited McDonald's in the world is located in Kiev, 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!

Ukraine McDonalds Railway Station

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.

Wedding ring right hand Ukraine

The world famous song "O Sole Mio" was composed in Odessa (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 Odessa 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 Kiev is the shortest yet widest main city street in the world. Its length is 1.2 km

Khreschatyk street Kiev Ukraine

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. It was founded in 1576 by Prince Vasyl-Kostiantyn of Ostroh.

Ostroh Academy first university in Eastern Europe

Ukraine is a 4th 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 at Kiev, 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 later being the current mayor of Kyiv!

Ukraine 4th educated nation in the world

The world's heaviest aircraft

The world's heaviest aircraft is An-225 Mriya is 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 the China is partnering with Ukraine to continue production of "the largest aircraft in the world"!

World heaviest aircraft AN-225 Mriya

Ukraine was a motherland for Trypillian Civilization

Ukraine was a motherland for one of the world's most ancient civilizations Trypillian Civilization. Neolithic archaeological culture which 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 Kiev.


Area 603,700 square kilometers (233,090 square miles)
Land use
56%  cropland 14%  permanent pasture 30% other (mostly urban)
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 United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs: Population Division.

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 additional decrease of Ukraine population by 2 millions 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 global sex ratio. The global sex ratio in the world was approximately 1,016 males to 1,000 females as of 2015. Below are the key figures for Ukraine 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

During 2016 Ukraine population is projected to decreased 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 on the previous year level, the population will be increased by 36,651 due to the 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 population in 2016 will be the following:
  • 1,260 live births average per day (52.49 in a hour)
  • 1,785 deaths average per day (74.39 in a hour)
  • 100 immigrants average per day (4.18 in a hour)

The population of Ukraine will decline by 425 persons daily in 2016.

Ukraine population density

Ukraine population density is 73.9 people per square kilometer as of September 2016. Density of population is calculated as permanently settled population of Ukraine divided by total area of the country. Total area is the sum of land and water areas within 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 we used above: population under 15, between 15 and 64 and population which is over 65 year old.

Note: The pyramid provided is not corresponding to data given above because the age groups have different number of years.

As we can see the Ukraine population pyramid has a contracting type. This type of pyramid is more common for highly developed countries with low birth and death rates. Usually countries with such kind of population age distribution model have 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

Dependency ratio of population is a ratio of people who are generally not in the labor force (the dependents) to workforce of a country (the productive part of population). The dependent part includes the population under 15 years old and people aged 65 and over. The productive part of population accordingly consists of population between 15 and 64 years. This ratio shows the pressure on productive population produced by the dependent part of population.

The total dependency ratio of population in Ukraine is 41.2 %. The value of 41.2 % is relatively low. It shows that the dependent part of population is less than a 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 population is less than 50% of working population. The value of less than 50% means that the pressure on productive population in Ukraine is relatively low.

Child dependency ratio

Child dependency ratio is a ratio of people below working age (under 15) to workforce of a country. Child dependency ratio in Ukraine is 19.4 %.

Aged dependency ratio

Aged dependency ratio is a ratio of people above working age (65+) to workforce of a country. 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

Life expectancy at birth is one of the most important demographic indicator. 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.

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.

(Aaccording to 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 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%. Youth literacy rate definition covers the population between the ages of 15 to 24 years.

Source: The estimation data for section "Ukraine population literacy" is based on the latest data published by UNESCO Institute for Statistics (retrieved March 13, 2016)

Ukraine historical population (1951 - 2016)

Year / Population / Growth Rate (The data is given as of 1st of January of a year.)
1951 37,556,734 N/A %
1952 38,088,163 1.42 %
1953 38,638,388 1.44 %
1954 39,193,974 1.44 %
1955 39,745,564 1.41 %
1956 40,287,987 1.36 %
1957 40,820,253 1.32 %
1958 41,345,132 1.29 %
1959 41,868,304 1.27 %
1960 42,396,236 1.26 %
1961 42,932,893 1.27 %
1962 43,476,552 1.27 %
1963 44,017,683 1.24 %
1964 44,540,111 1.19 %
1965 45,028,132 1.10 %
1966 45,472,127 0.99 %
1967 45,871,385 0.88 %
1968 46,234,732 0.79 %
1969 46,577,838 0.74 %
1970 46,916,713 0.73 %
1971 47,260,283 0.73 %
1972 47,608,410 0.74 %
1973 47,955,092 0.73 %
1974 48,291,145 0.70 %
1975 48,607,053 0.65 %
1976 48,897,594 0.60 %
1977 49,163,145 0.54 %
1978 49,407,842 0.50 %
1979 49,637,874 0.47 %
1980 49,859,481 0.45 %
1981 50,075,260 0.43 %
1982 50,283,773 0.42 %
1983 50,482,486 0.40 %
1984 50,668,824 0.37 %
1985 50,839,645 0.34 %
1986 50,992,374 0.30 %
1987 51,124,762 0.26 %
1988 51,233,160 0.21 %
1989 51,312,370 0.15 %
1990 51,356,992 0.09 %
1991 51,365,365 0.02 %
1992 51,337,400 -0.05 %
1993 51,265,534 -0.14 %
1994 51,134,870 -0.25 %
1995 50,932,213 -0.40 %
1996 50,650,620 -0.55 %
1997 50,293 032 -0.71 %
1998 49,875,836 -0.83 %
1999 49,426,035 -0.90 %
2000 48,971,582 -0.92 %
2001 48,528,543 -0.90 %
2002 48,100,732 -0.88 %
2003 47,692,209 -0.85 %
2004 47,310,441 -0.80 %
2005 46,961,212 -0.74 %
2006 46,649,016 -0.66 %
2007 46,375,957 -0.59 %
2008 46,138,836 -0.51 %
2009 45,929,594 -0.45 %
2010 45,739,104 -0.41 %
2011 45,562,594 -0.39 %
2012 45,398,820 -0.36 %
2013 45,372,700 -0.06 %
2014 45,245,900 -0.28 %
2015 42,773 039 -5.47 %
2016 42,617,345 -0.36 %

The data is given as of 1st of January of a year

By Principal Cities

Kyiv (Kiev): 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 (Odessa): 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 Kiev, temperatures range from about 21 degrees F in January to about 69 degrees F in July. Annual precipitation averages 24.2 inches/615 millimetres in Kiev. Droughts are not infrequent in southern areas.


The time in Kiev 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 is bilingual for 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 Odessa, Russia is more commonly spoken. It is said that Odessa is the 'freest Russian speaking city in the world'.


The national flag (proportions 3 by 2) has two equal stripes, of blue over yellow, symbolising 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 Euromadian revolution, plunging from about 8 to the dollar all the way up to 33 to the dollar at one point. Luckily it has stablised over the past year into the 25 to 26 per dollar range. One Hryvna = 100 kopecks. USD and EUR are the most popular in 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, 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. Travelers 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.

Public Holidays

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.

Working Hours

State and public offices are opened from 9 am to 6 pm Monday through Friday, with a lunch hour from 1 pm as a rule. The majority of stores are opened 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 lunch break, a few – from 8 am to 8pm. Most cafes and restaurants – from 11-12 am until a last customer leaves. Most banks are open to public from 9 am to 3 pm with a lunch hour from 1 to 2 pm, closed on Saturday, Sunday.

Custom Formalities

As the Ukrainian border is crossed, obligatory Ukrainian Medical Insurance is required. Even if you have a health insurance, you might be asked to pay for the temporary policy (cost depends on the length of your stay). Also, you will have to fill in the Entrance Customs' Declaration Form in which is better to declare all valuable objects you bring into Ukraine: money, traveller's cheques, expensive equipment, jewellery, etc. Make sure you kept these papers! You will need them when leaving the country.

Currency and jewellery export is limited in Ukraine, so be sure to quote all money and jewellery 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 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.

Ukraine Customs

Free import
  • Cash and travel checks totalling up to $10,000. If money you carry in exceed $3,000 it should be declared in written form.
  • Bank metals, which total weight is up to 100 grams per person, regardless 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 are no information on age restrictions
  • 1 litre of spirits (over 25% volume of alcohol)
  • 2 litres 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
  • Food stuff of up to the value of €50 in no more than one package weighing 2kg

  • Narcotics
  • Pornography
  • Counterfeit items
  • Explosive material
  • Pro-Russian propoganda materials

  • Live animals – health certificate required along with complete and valid inoculations. Contact 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.
  • Medication
  • Weapons and ammunition permissible only with authorisation obtainable from 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 artefacts 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 exceeds that limit must be declared in writing and have to have supplementary documentation confirming that the money had been withdrawn from 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 (English version is available), let them date-stamp the thing and keep it safe until you leave. You must declare all cash and jewellery 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 weighting more than 50 kg but less than 100 kg and cost of which is less than €1,000, will be subject to 20% Custom's Tax, 20% VAT and a Product Tax, which differs from one group of goods to another.
  • Goods weighing more 100 kg and costing more than €1,000 will be taxed on 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 values. 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 system is rather slow, but is a cheap way to travel within cities. Prices range from 3 hryvna, while for minibuses in Odessa, it is 7 hryvna, the highest in Ukraine.

Taxis: If you have a smarphone, get yourself Uber or Yandex apps and you should be okay. Taxis are comparatively cheap for Russian speaking passengers. Probably everywhere situation with taxi is like this – if one speaks a foreign language price for 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 connection with Kiev. Best air connection with other countries goes via Kiev. 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.

The Odessa Guide
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Wednesday, 24 August 2016 00:00
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Last modified on Friday, 13 September 2019 05:10
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