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As the country moves away from its Soviet past, the Ukraine is gravitating towards a capitalist market, and a multi-party democracy system. As the Ukraine's economy improves, travel to the region has increased dramatically.
However, the Ukraine is still very much a cash economy, despite its attempts to integrate into European and other international institutions. As a result of this, and without any regulatory bodies with any real clout to step in, there are many points for financial exploitation within Ukraine.
Before you visit Ukraine, here are a few important travel safety tips to keep you (and your money) safe while traveling here.
In the 2020 Global Peace Index, Ukraine ranks 148 out of 163 countries when it comes to safety and peace in the country – this is very far down the list, however it is not a reason to discount visiting Ukraine completely.
In Russia and Eurasia overall, Ukraine ranks #11 in peacefulness out of 12 countries in the region. However, political hostility and human rights abuses are widespread in the country.
Overall, Ukraine is a safe place to travel, whether you are visiting the capital Kiev or coastal towns such as Odesa. Check your government's travel advice and avoid areas with travel warnings – which may include Crimea, Donetsk oblast and Luhansk oblast in the southeast region, where the situation remains highly unstable.
Petty crime like pickpocketing has a similar risk to other major tourist destinations around the world. The best thing to do is never be flashy with valuables, avoid showing obvious signs of wealth, and keep your belongings on you and secure at all times.
Travelers will mostly feel safe on public transport in major cities, however be prepared for poor conditions if you drive on rural roads.
Political demonstrations are common in Ukraine, and during periods of civil unrest travelers should avoid all protests or demonstrations, and take extra care in crowded public gatherings.
The Ukraine police forces are notoriously corrupt. Bribes are solicited by police on a daily basis, and in many cases, officers are paid off by criminals to turn a blind eye to crime.
If you are in the Ukraine and encounter a police officer and it is understood you are foreign, chances are you will be questioned and quite possibly charged with an offense. Then, you'll probably get a solicitation for a bribe. Bribery is illegal here, but it is extremely likely that you will be the one charged with bribing a police officer – even though you weren't the one to offer it in the first place. Bribes usually don't run up any more than around US $5, but sometimes it can be more. Avoid paying bribes to help end the bribery epidemic.
Technically, this kind of intimidating activity is coercion, which is itself illegal. The problem is, who can you report the crime to?
Our tip is to treat the incidence of police bribery as you would any other money related crime. Try to politely decline and ask for a reasonable reason for the offense, and ask to be taken to the local police station where other officers may help you out of the situation.
ATMs are prevalent in Ukraine, especially in major cities, such as Kiev. However, they are big targets for criminals, and some people have created fake ATMs.
A few years back, it was reported in Ukrainian media that a set of criminals built a machine in the commercial centre of Kiev offering withdrawls with 'no commission', obviously looking to target travelers who would normally be none the wiser. This scam is thankfully no longer a threat, as these fake ATMs have been removed. However, you should still look for ATMs that are attached to an official bank.
When people inserted their card and tried to take their cash out, the machine spat out the message "Damage Of Equipment" - the card was stuck, and the crooks had access to the PIN.
There are still reports of "card skimming", where criminals record customers entering their PINs, or set up systems that allow the information on the card to be duplicated to a replica and used later.
But it's not just ATMs that have been a focus. Some of the biggest criminal undertakings in the world in regard to credit card number collection, especially on the internet, have been masterminded in the Ukraine. The key is to be very cautious when using credit cards or ATMs, and deal only with reputable businesses. If you are affected by a money crime, report it to your bank immediately and cancel your cards to avoid any further money withdrawls.
For many men, the way to find love is via 'mail-order brides'. This is a term to describe women who are looking to leave their country of origin for a new life in another country.
The internet is riddled with webpages listing women who are looking for a new start. And for many lonely men, the offer looks like it's too good to be true (which in most cases, it is). Unfortunately, many of those who are blinded by the idea also get duped out of thousands of dollars by unscrupulous operators.
If you have been in contact with an agency regarding love in the Ukraine, be very, very careful. You might be considering traveling to the country to meet your prospective wife – but there are a few things to keep in mind.
Not all agencies are fraudulent, but most are. You might get lucky with a legitimate business, but chances are, you are looking down the barrel of a huge scam. If you are contacted and have requests made for cash, money transfers, purchasing of items or financial support, be very cautious. Never hand your money to someone you have never met or have no way to know you can trust.
If you plan to travel to the Ukraine to meet the love of your life, do extensive research on the person before you pay to make the trip. Cross check their name with any number of websites that have been established which can help you find scam profiles.
A little bit of research can save you a lot of heartache. Better yet, don't give in to the idea, and find love in real life?
Before you buy a travel insurance policy, check your government travel warnings and health advice – there may be no travel insurance cover for locations with a government travel ban or health advice against travel.
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