Safety and security

Political situation

The situation in Kyiv and other areas outside Donetsk and Luhansk is generally calm. However, public demonstrations do regularly take place. Policing of these events may include road closures. You should avoid all demonstrations and take extra care at public gatherings. In Kyiv, the areas around Maydan Nezalezhnosti (Independence Square) and government buildings such as the Verkhovna Rada (parliament building) and the National Bank of Ukraine are most frequently affected.

Pay close attention to your personal security and monitor the media for information about possible safety or security risks. You should avoid demonstrations and public gatherings, as even peaceful protests may turn violent.

Eastern Ukraine

The security situation in the southeastern parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts of Ukraine remains highly unstable with ongoing clashes between Ukrainian armed forces and Russian-backed armed separatists. The UN calculates this has resulted in over 10,300 deaths and the internal displacement of between 800,000 and 1 million people residing permanently in government-controlled areas of Ukraine. Civilians continue to get caught up in the fighting.

If you travel to eastern Ukraine to fight, or to assist others engaged in the conflict, your activities may amount to offences against UK terrorism or other legislation and you could be prosecuted on your return to the UK.

The FCO isn’t able to provide consular services to anyone in the parts of the Donetsk and Luhansk oblasts not currently under control of the Ukrainian authorities.

Crimea

The FCO is not able to provide consular services to anyone in Crimea.

Russian forces and pro-Russian groups have established full operational control in Crimea. Following an illegal referendum on 16 March 2014, Russia illegally annexed Crimea on 21 March 2014 and tensions remain high.

Ukrainian International Airlines have cancelled all flights to and from Simferopol.

All train and official bus services to Crimea have been cancelled. To enter or exit Crimea, foreign nationals will need to provide their passport and a special permit issued by the State Migration Service of Ukraine.

The European Union has imposed restrictions on economic relations with Crimea following its illegal annexation by Russia. These restrictions apply to all UK people and companies and include an import ban, a full ban on investment and a prohibition on supplying tourism services in Crimea. Exports of further key goods for certain sectors are also banned.

The Crimean sea ports of Kerch, Sevastopol, Feodosia, Yalta and Yevpatoria have been designated by the Ukrainian authorities as closed to international shipping.

Crime

Most visitors to Ukraine experience no difficulties. Serious crime against foreigners is relatively rare, but incidents do occur. In some cases attacks have been racially motivated. Travellers of Asian or Afro-Caribbean descent and individuals belonging to religious minorities should take extra care.

You should report any incidents to the police by dialling 102. A list of local translators is available on the British Embassy website.

Be alert to the possibility of street crime and petty theft, which is on the increase in Kyiv. Foreigners may appear to be lucrative targets. Where possible, avoid walking alone late at night in dark or poorly lit streets. Keep valuables and cash safe and out of sight, especially in crowded areas, tourist spots, and public transport, where pickpockets and bag snatchers operate.

A common scam is to drop a wallet or bundle of money in front of a tourist. The criminal then “finds” the money and asks if it is the tourist’s or offers to share the money with them. If you are approached in this way, you should walk away without engaging in conversation.

Don’t lose sight of your credit cards during transactions.

Theft of and from vehicles is common. Don’t leave documents or money in your vehicle. Unregulated taxi drivers can overcharge. Use official taxis, which have the name and telephone number of the taxi company on the side of the door and on the top of the taxi.

Do not leave drinks or food unattended as they could be spiked. Beware of accepting drinks from casual acquaintances.

Exercise caution when travelling to Ukraine for a relationship initiated via the internet. There have been incidents of marriage fraud and attempted extortion affecting foreign nationals. You should be particularly vigilant if the person is uncontactable face-to-face or they ask you to send money urgently (for example, they may say that they’ve been arrested or have fallen ill). Unfortunately it’s very unlikely you’ll be able to recover your money if you’re a victim of such a scam.

Local travel

Bus, trolleybus and tram tickets normally need to be validated by being ‘punched’ when you board. You can be fined on the spot if you are travelling with a ticket that has not been validated.

There is a wide network of minibuses. The fare is normally displayed on the window inside the minibus. You may need to pass your money to the driver via other passengers.

There is no metro connection to Kyiv city centre from Boryspil International Airport. The most convenient way to reach the city centre is by taxi. You should only use registered taxi companies. Alternatively you can take the ‘Sky Bus’ from the airport to the city centre (via Kharkivska metro station to the main railway station “Pivdenny”). You can buy a ticket from the driver.

Use official taxis which display the name and telephone number of the taxi company. Where possible ask your hotel to get a taxi for you or ask for the telephone number of a reputable taxi company. You should agree the fare before getting into the taxi.

Chernobyl

A number of local companies offer tours to Chernobyl. Some areas around the reactor are covered by an exclusion zone, and you may need to get a permit and travel with a guide. According to the International Atomic Energy Agency, although some of the radioactive isotopes released into the atmosphere still linger, they are at tolerable exposure levels for limited periods of time. The State Agency for Managing the Chernobyl Exclusion Zone has issued safety instructions and advice for people visiting the zone.

Road travel

You must have a valid International Driving Permit to drive legally in Ukraine, as well as your UK driving licence. Make sure you have original vehicle-registration papers, ownership documents and insurance papers available at all times. These will be required if you are stopped by the police and when crossing borders. This also applies to rental vehicles. If you do not have these papers when stopped by the police they have the right to impound your vehicle and charge you for this.

If you intend to rent a vehicle for your travel to Ukraine, you should check with the car hire company and insurance company their policy on renting cars in Ukraine and any other country you will pass through, especially non-EU countries. Ensure they provide you with a rental agreement permitting you to cross the border into Ukraine.

Local driving standards are poor. Street lights are weak, speed limits, traffic lights and road signs are often ignored, and drivers rarely indicate before manoeuvring. There are a high number of traffic accidents, including fatalities. Speeding, drink driving and infrequent use of helmets, seat belts and child restraints in vehicles are the main contributing factors.

Roads are of variable quality. Driving outside major towns at night can be hazardous. Avoid night-time travel wherever possible.

You must wear a seat belt. Using a mobile phone while driving is prohibited. There is a zero limit on drinking alcohol and driving.

Ukrainian law allows the police to stop a vehicle. The police officer should give their name and rank, explain why you have been stopped and make an administrative offence report. The police may film interactions with members of the public. Fines can be levied for minor offences such as illegal parking or jumping a red light. The police may be carrying a credit card terminal to collect payment on the spot, or fines may be paid online or at a bank within 15 days. See payment options (in Ukrainian).

In case of a road accident dial 102. Local officials generally only speak Ukrainian and Russian.

See the AA and RAC guides to driving in Ukraine.

For information regarding bringing your car to Ukraine, see Entry requirements.

Rail travel

If you travel by train, make sure your belongings are secure.

Don’t agree to look after the luggage of a fellow traveller or allow it to be stored in your compartment

Train timetables and ticket reservation is available online on the Ukrainian Railways site.

Air travel

You can find a list of recent incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network.

The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of individual airlines. However, the International Air Transport Association publishes lists of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices – IATA Operational Safety Audit and IATA Standard Safety Assessment. These lists aren’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it’s unsafe.

The International Civil Aviation Organisation has carried out an audit of the level of implementation of the critical elements of safety oversight in Ukraine.

Direct flights between Ukraine and Russia ceased on 25 October 2015 and on 25 November 2015 Ukraine banned all Russian airlines from transiting its airspace. Check latest developments with your airline or travel company before you travel.