Kharkov (pronounced “Kharkov” in Russian and “Kharkiv” in Ukrainian) is the second largest city of Ukraine with a population of approximately 1.5 million people. It was founded in 1654. Below, I hope you will find some information about Kharkov that I hope will prove to be useful during your visit(s) to Kharkov.
Getting to Kharkov
There are two main ways to get to Kharkov from outside Ukraine:
- Fly to Kiev (or Kyiv as it is known in Ukrainian) and then come by car (private car or bus), train, or plane to Kharkov.
- Fly directly to Kharkov .
If you wish to come by car or bus, the drive is approximately 500 kilometres (or 310 miles) and will take between 6 and 8 hours depending on traffic. Naturally, a private can can offer a more comfortable and quicker journey than a bus; also, it does not force you to be tied to bus company’s timetable, meaning that you won’t have to wait around for the bus to depart from Kiev and thereby allowing you to get to Kharkov earlier.
Taking the bus is the least flexible, the most uncomfortable, and the most economical option. The company I recommend is Autolux. At the time of writing, there are two buses a day: the first leaves Kiev at 11:00 and arrives at Kharkov at 18:35; and the second leaves Kiev at 23:50 and arrives at Kharkov the next day at 08:20. Single tickets cost UAH 100
Coming by train via Ukrainian Railways (known in Ukraninian as Ukrzaliznytsia) via one of the express trains (which get you to Kharkov in around four hours and 40 minutes) can be a good option so long as you don’t mind waiting around till the departure time for one of the three intercity trains. At the time of writing, single tickets cost around UAH 280 for a second class seat and UAH 425 for a first class seat, with trains departing Kiev at 06:46, 13:33, and 18:01).
Finaly, you could take a direct flight via Ukraine International Airlines. As of Spring 2017, there are two flights: one at 15:50 and the other at 19:35. Flights from Kiev’s Boryspil International Airport (KBP) to Kharkiv International Airport (HRK) take apprximately one hour.
The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, but in Eastern Ukraine, partly due to the close proximity to the Russian border, most people speak in Russian rather Ukrainian. Only a small pecentage of Ukrainians can understand English and an even smaller percentage can speak it.
Ukraine’s national currency is the Hryvna (UAH); it is pronounced as “grivna”. To get local currency, you can go to a bank, a foreign exchange bureau, or an ATM (locally knows as “bankomat”). To minimize the risk of encountering an ATM that has been tampered with (using a card skimmer), please try to use ATM in either major streets in the city center or in shopping centers. Also, please be aware that ATM from some banks (for example, PrivatBank) may charge a cash withdrawal fee, although you will usually be warned about this.
Although Kharkov, like other major Ukrainian cities, offers several cheap (at least by comparison with Western countries) public transport options, such as buses, trolleybuses, minibuses, tram, and metro/subway, unless you are going some part of the city that does not have a metro station, the cleanest, quickest, and most comfortable choice is the metro. It is a good idea to download a map of the metro and either print it out or keep it in your smartphone. One ticket, which costs UAH 4, lets you go from any station to any station. A paper ticket (with a barcode on it) can be purchased from the ticket machines (which take UAH 1, UAH 2, and UAH 5 notes) located at the entrance. Alternatively, there are machines that sell electronic cards that can be loaded with whatever amount of credit you wish. When you get to the barrier gates that allow access to the trains, if you have a paper ticket, you need to insert it into the machine. However, if you have an electronic with at least enough credit for one journey, you need to get your card to touch the scanner at the top of the gate. Please note that smoking inside the metro is not allowed; also, you should refrain from eating/drinking.
If you have access to a web browser, you can use the EasyWay website for directions on how to get from point A to point B using the public transport system. Additionally, if you have an iPhone or an Android phone with internet access, you can download the EasyWay mobile app from the Apple App Store or the Google Play Store.
Taxis are, of course, more convenient and more expensive (but still quite cheap compared to most other European cities) than using the metro (or any other form of public transport for that matter), but they do have the important benefit of allowing you to get from point A to point B without having to do any walking (which really becomes important in winter when it can get very cold in Kharkov).
The main problem with taxis is that, in general, taxi dispatchers and drivers do not speak any English. Once you have booked a taxi (either by calling a taxi company such as Lider or using a taxi booking mobile app such as “OnTaxi” or “Uber”), you will usually get a call from the driver (either just after he sees your booking or just before he gets to where you are) to find out exactly where you are waiting. If you do not speak Russian or Ukrainian, this can be a very frustrating experience!
Many cafes and restaurants offer free Wi-Fi. In particular, this is true for all branches of McDonald’s. However, the speed may not be that great and accessing the internet in this way is not as secure as using the Wi-Fi in a private apartment or using the data plan (if any) from your mobile phone service provider.
For anyone with an unlocked smartphone, it is quite inexpensive and easy to get internet access by buying a prepaid (or “pay as you go”) Ukrainian SIM card (usually, a starter SIM package costs between UAH 25 and UAH 50), adding some credit to it (by using either a prepaid refill card or via one of the many iBox bill payment terminals located around the city), and then sending a message to the SIM card provider to choose a call/data plan). As an example, one telecom company, Kyivstar, was recently offering a prepaid plan (i.e. no contract) costing UAH 70 per month with unlimited calls within Ukraine to other Kyivstar subscribers, 100 minutes of calls to mobile numbers from other Ukrainian telecom operators, and 1GB of data.
You can buy SIM cards from many places, but the sellers usually do not speak English. Please let me know if you need any help with purchasing and setting up a Ukrainian SIM card.
If you would like to see a fairly comprehensive list of bars, cafes, and restaurants, you should check out the list at TripAdvisor. Here, I will focus on a few establishments that are either my personal favorites, very popular with my clients and their guests, or both.
If you have a good appetite, you must try the “All You Can Eat” breakfast (everyday) for UAH 380 or lunch (or weekdays) for UAH 185 at the Pacific Spoon restaurant, which is located on the second floor of Premier Palace Hotel Kharkov (nearest metro station: Universytet).
For a great cup of tea or coffee in a stylish cafe with excellent food and friendly service , it is very hard to beat the very popular Some Like It Hot (nearest metro station: Universitet) and Paris (nearest metro station: Pushkinska). The former has a very fresh, modern, airy ambiance and is an excellent choice for any kind of meeting. As for the latter, as its name suggests, it almost makes you feel like you are sitting in a 5* cafe in Paris, and it is much more suitable for a meeting between two women who are close friends or for couples than for a business meeting. Most of the tiny tables are for two and there is not much space between the tables, but the classic French interior design is so beautiful that it makes it hard to mind. Other excellent cafes that I can recommend in the city center include Sante, Cherdak, and Gingerbread; all three are within a 10 minute walk from metro station Universytet.
There are very few vegetarian or vegan cafes or restaurants. The best two are Yoga Bar (at the very peaceful and elegant Maharaja Yoga Center on the 4th floor of the Palladium Shopping Mall) and Gorodskoe Cafe 1654 (nearest metro station: Istorychnyi Muzei).
If you want a place you can go to for a romantic date where you can can have a leisurely lunch or dinner in a setting that makes you feel very close to nature and yet is no more than a 20 minute drive from the city center, there are two good choices: Nasha Dacha and Dubrovsky. The latter is a little more expensive than the former but is worth it because it has more extensive grounds (hosting a small lake). Note that both of these places are quite expensive (for example, you might be paying around $15 for a steak) by Kharkov standards, but are definitely worth visiting. And if you want similar high quality food in a formal elegant setting — right in the city center — that is suitable for any kind of meeting, then Chekhov (nearest metro station: Universytet) is perhaps the best choice.
If you like Japanese food, I can recommend the following relatively inexpensive restaurants: Yakitoriya, Yaposhka, Sushiya, and Mafia. It is worth noting that four of these restaurants provide a home delivery service.
For Italian food, the most popular place (which means you should always book a table at least a day in advance) by far is Trattoria; they have three branches, but my favorite is at 22b Kultury Street (nearest metro station: Naukova).
One of the largest pharamacy chains (if not the largest) in Kharkov, with over 180 branches, is Apteka 9-1-1. In the downtown area, they have 24 hour branches near metro Universytet (address: 39/8 Sumska Street), metro Maidan Konstytutsii (1 Konstytutsii Square), metro Naukova (9/8 Nauky Avenue), and metro Architectora Beketova (1 Darvina Street). One interesting fact about Ukrainin pharmacies is that they sell many pharmaceutical drugs that require a prescription in Europe or North America, such as antibiotics, over the counter without requiring a prescription from a doctor.
Dental & Medical Clinics
Public clinics and hospitals are best avoided for many reasons (most importantly, the insufficient funding by the government).
Kharkov is a very good destination for dental and medical tourism because costs of diagnostic procedures (e.g. blood tests, X-rays, Ultrasound, MRI), outpatient consultations with specialists, dental treatment, and various outpatient medical treatments can be significantly cheaper than in other Europoean countries or in North America.
The only problem is that many (if not most) staff members in these clinics have a limited ability to communicate in English. So, you either need to go to a clinic that specifically caters to foreign visitors by having English-speaking staff or be accompanied by an interpreter with good experience of dealing with hospitals and clinics. I am happy to help you in both scenarios. In the case of the former, in the paragraphs below, I give examples of a few of such clinics that I can highly recommend (based on personal experience as well as what I have heard elsewhere) but with which I have no affiliations. In the case of the latter, there is, of course, greater choice, and I will be happy to guide and help you through the whole process, from booking the first appointment to accompanying you on your last day of treatment.
Let’s talk about private dental clinics first. Here, you can get a ceramic crown for less than $100 and a dental implant for around $500. One example of an excellent English-speaking dentist, who stays up-to-date with the latest advances in dentistry by training with the best dental surgeons in Europe and attending international professional workshops/conferences every year, is Andrey Kuritsyn, the owner of LEA Shans Dental Clinic (nearest metro station: Naukova).
As for private medical clinics, there are several good ones to choose from: Medical Center Health (nearest metro station: Universytet), Medical Center Eviva (nearest metro station: Universytet), and Medical Center Doctor Alex (nearest metro station: Pushkinska). Consultations with specialists start from around $10. MRI scans start from approximately $50.
There are many fitness clubs in Kharkov (and almost all offer day passes). Here are a few of the top clubs located in the center: Egoiste, Tetra, and Safari. Typically, in such places, a day pass costs $10-15 and a 10 day pass goes for $80-100.
The best and largest city park is Gorky Park (more formally known as “Maxim Gorky Central Park for Culture and Recreation”). It is a 15 minute walk from either Naukova or Universytet metro stations.
Another one of my favorite parks, which is much less well-known than the two parks mentioned above, but definitely worth visiting for couples and families is Feldman Ecopark. It is located on the edge of the city: roughly a 30 minute car ride from the center.
The top three malls (or shopping centers) in Kharkov are Karavan (in the Saltovka neighbourhood), Dafi (also in the Saltovka neighbourhood), and French Boulevard (in the Akedemika Pavlova neighbourhood). Karavan probably is the best of the three when it comes to buying clothes or electronics. Dafi is the best place for shopping for jewellery.
It is also interesting to visit (as a sighseeing exercize and not necessarily for actual shopping) Barabashova Market (nearest metro station: Akedemika Barabashova); this is the largest market in Eastern Ukraine and covers a territory of around 75 hectares (or roughly 185 acres in Imperial/US units).
Some Important Phone Numbers
- Fire Brigade (or Fire Department): 101
- Police: 102
- Ambulance: 103
- Gas Service: 104
- US Embassy in Kiev (Emergency Assistance Line): +380 44 521 5566 during regular business hours or +380 44 521 5000 after hours
- Canadian Embassy in Kiev (main phone line) : +380 590 3100
- Australian Embassy in Kiev: +380 44 290 6400
- British Embassy in Kiev (Urgent Assistance Line): +380 44 490 3660