The skyline of Kyiv

Europe's Frontier: Moldova & Ukraine Trip Notes

Ways to Travel:
Guided Group
Destinations:
Moldova, Ukraine
Programmes:
Culture
Trip Code:
AWM8
Activity Rating - Leisurely/Moderate
Leisurely / Moderate

You are reasonably fit, enjoy the outdoors and are looking for some exercise. Some previous experience is preferable for activity based trips.

8 Days Flight Inclusive
8 Days Land only
Min age: 16

Trip Overview

With just over 120000 visitors a year, Moldova is one of the least-visited countries in the world. Sandwiched between Ukraine and Romania is has often been caught in the middle of an East/West game of tug of war. The capital Chisinau has struggled to shrug off its Soviet past, but this is part of its charm, while the countryside offers historic monasteries and one of the world’s largest wineries. Not to mention ‘independent’ Transnistria, where citizens cling onto their Soviet past and monuments to reflect this. Western Ukraine, by contrast, has always looked to Europe. Lviv, the country's cultural capital, certainly feels more European than Soviet, with its historic UNESCO listed old town and charming cafe culture. While its mighty capital Kyiv is just starting to emerge as a modern European hotspot of culture and nightlife. On this varied and fascinating journey we visit some great cities and we conclude with an optional trip to Chernobyl.

At a Glance

  • 6 nights comfortable and standard hotels, 1 night sleeper train
  • Sightseeing on foot
  • Group normally 6 to 16, plus leader. Min age 16 yrs
  • Travel by private bus and sleeper train

Trip Highlights

  • Visit two of Europe's least known countries
  • Milestii Mici Winery - the world's largest wine cellar
  • Visit 'independent' Transnistria
  • Historic Odessa and Lviv
  • Optional post-tour excursion to Chernobyl (must be booked in advance) 

Is This Trip for You?

This trip is graded as Leisurely/Moderate (2) and visits as much as possible in Moldova and Western Ukraine. There is a lot to see in a week yet the pace is not rushed. Although this itinerary is mostly based on sightseeing, please be prepared for a reasonable amount of walking between places of interest.

For our overnight train journey between Odessa and Lviv, we use second class compartments with 4 berths, and bed linen is provided. Hot tea is served on the train in the morning. Breakfast will be taken at the hotel in Lviv.

Our optional excursion to Chernobyl at the end of the trip is operated by a government recognised company and meets all the safety requirements set out by the National Tourist Board of Ukraine. Radiation exposure is similar to that of a standard x-ray.

Tourism is very much in its infancy in Moldova and you should come prepared for this. Hotels are of a good standard, but service may be a little slow.

Following a review of all our trips we have categorised this trip as generally not suitable for persons of reduced mobility. However if you are a regular traveller on such trips, please contact customer services to discuss the trip and your personal condition.

Adult min age:
16
Min group size:
6
Max group size:
16

Itinerary

Land Only Itinerary

  • Day 1

    Start Chisinau.

    Fly to Chisinau, transfer to hotel.
    Klassik Hotel or similar

  • Day 2

    Walking tour of Chisinau. Visit Ohrei Monastery.

    This morning we set out on foot from our hotel for a walking tour of the Moldovan capital. Although the city dates back to 1420, a huge earthquake in 1940 destroyed most of the historic centre, while WWII finished the job off. Chisinau was then rebuilt in a Soviet-style, leaving a city dominated by Brutalist buildings, but there are some real quirky gems including the now abandoned Winter Circus, Triumphal Arch and the bell tower of the Nativity Cathedral. The central market is another highlight, first opened in 1825 it has been the centre of life in the city ever since. It's worth braving the crowds for lovely fresh fruit, nuts and wine. 

    Heading out of the city we stop for a traditional home-cooked lunch in a small farmstead. From here we visit the beautiful, isolated hilltop Orhei Monastery dating back to the 14th century. Our final stop before returning to Chisinau is the Milestii Mici Winery, home to the largest wine cellar in the world! Here we will drive down into the cellar in the tour bus, past hundreds of barrels of the ‘holy drink’ as it’s known locally. We will try several varieties of wine and learn about the fascinating history of oenology in this unknown corner of Europe.
    Klassik Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast,
    Lunch
  • Day 3

    Full day excursion to Transnistria; transfer to Odessa.

    Our destination for today is one of Eastern Europe's strangest. Transnistria is a self-declared republic occupying a narrow strip of land in the east of Moldova. A microstate, officially only recognised by the people who live there, no one else! Yet they have their own currency, postal service and border force. The region harks back to the days of the USSR and is staunchly pro-Russian, although it gets little financial support in return. There are photo-worthy busts of Lenin all over the city. No trip to Moldova is complete without seeing Transnistria.

    In the late afternoon we transfer to Odessa on Ukraine's Black Sea Coast. Journey time is about 2 hours, however, the border crossing between Moldova and Ukraine may take some time. 

    Hotel Alexandrovsky or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 4

    Full day in Odessa; morning city tour.

    This morning we wake up in Odessa, Ukraine’s third largest city, on the Black Sea coast. A warm water port, Odessa has had a short but turbulent history. When founded in the 18th century Russia's Catherine the Great invited immigrants from across Europe to come and make their fortune in Odessa, thus creating a thriving multicultural city of Jews, Turks, Armenians, Italians, Germans and Poles, with the outbreak of WWII this population diversity would sadly be its downfall. In more recent times the city has had its problems especially during the 2014 revolution, but now the city is booming once again. Its beautiful tree-lined avenues and seaside boulevards are a perfect place to relax and see a different side to Ukraine. The ornate opera house and Potemkin Steps are architectural must-sees.

    After a city tour, we enjoy free time, before boarding the overnight sleeper train to Lviv.

    Sleeper train

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 5

    Arrive Lviv, guided walking tour.

    We arrive early into Ukraine's cultural capital Lviv, stopping for breakfast at our hotel and storing our luggage, we will try and obtain a couple of day rooms so you can freshen up, but please note this is not always possible.  We then head out for a morning walking tour of this beautiful city, before enjoying free time in the afternoon. We recommend climbing the clock tower of the town hall for a panoramic view of the old town. 

    Lviv's UNESCO listed old town easily competes with the likes of Krakow and Vilnius in the charm and history stakes! It's full of colourful townhouses, fine churches, cobbled streets and cosy cafes. Ukrainian cultural identity is stronger here than anywhere else in the country, but with a wonderful mix of Polish, Jewish, Hungarian and even Armenian history thrown into the mix. Lviv really is a delight and surprisingly untouched by mass tourism.

    Modern Art Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 6

    Transfer to Kyiv by train; free evening.

    This morning we board the train to Kyiv (journey time 8hrs approx.), Ukraine's mighty capital city and home to over 2.5 million people. The Ukrainian capital seems to have hardly left the news in recent years, sadly for all the wrong reasons, but its citizens are made of strong stuff and are keen to show their beautiful city to the world. 
    There will be some free time in the evening to enjoy the city or take dinner on the capitals most famous street, Khreshchatyk.

    Ukraine Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 7

    Morning tour of Kyiv; free time in the afternoon.

    This morning we enjoy a walking tour of Kyiv's main sights, including Maiden Square, the site of the revolutions of 2004 and 2013. As well as St. Sofia Cathedral and the Monastery of St. Michael Archangel. 

    The afternoon is free for you to enjoy this fascinating city at your leisure. You may choose to visit the Pechersk Lavra Monastery with its complex of caves housing mummified nuns. While the National Museum of the History of Ukraine in the Second World War gives you a macabre, Soviet perspective, it also offers great views of the city. 

    Ukraine Hotel or similar

    Meals included:
    Breakfast
  • Day 8

    End Kyiv / Optional day tour to Chernobyl.

    Our tour ends after breakfast. Alternatively, you may choose to stay another day for a guided tour of Chernobyl and the abandoned town of Pripyat.

    One of the most well-known events in Soviet history occurred at the Chernobyl nuclear power plant, 130km north of Kyiv in April 1986. Here reactor No.4 exploded, spreading lethal radiation, first over the town of Pripyat and later large swathes of Europe. Many see this event as the beginning of the end of support for the USSR in Ukraine.

    This tour takes you to the heart of the exclusion zone; you will see the power station and the abandoned town of Pripyat, frozen in time, like a scene from an apocalyptic future. Our expert guide will lead you safely through the area and tell the story of one of recent history’s most notorious disasters. This is a long day leaving the hotel at about 08:30 and returning to Kyiv at about 20:30, but certainly worth staying in Ukraine another day for. (Details and prices are in the Money Matters section of the trip notes).

    Ukraine Hotel or similar



    Meals included:
    Breakfast

Accommodation

Hotels & sleeper train

2 nights comfortable 3-star hotel, 4 nights standard hotel all with en suite bathrooms and 1 night sleeper train. All accommodation is based on twin-share. Wi-Fi is now free in all hotels but is sometimes unreliable. We use 2nd class compartments (4 berths) on the overnight sleeper train. Linen is provided. Please note that there may be other passengers, not with Exodus, travelling in the compartment with you. 1st class compartments (2 berths) can be requested up to 4 weeks before departure yet these are expensive and generally do not offer any extra comfort.

Single supplement from £190 not including the night on the train. 

Where a single supplement is available, paying for a single will only guarantee a room for single use. It does not necessarily mean a twin or double room will be provided for sole occupancy.

Please note that a member of the group may be allocated a single room by default if the make-up of the group means there isn’t anyone for them to share with. Paying the supplement in advance is the only way to guarantee a single room.

Single supplements cannot be refunded retrospectively.

Single supplement from £190.00

Food & Transport

Eating & Drinking

Moldovan and Ukrainian cuisine is quite similar and consists mainly of traditional European foods, such as beef, pork, potatoes, cabbage, and a variety of cereal grains. Traditional for the Moldovan cuisine are dishes combining diverse vegetables, such as tomatoes, bell peppers, aubergine, cabbage, beans, onions, garlic, and leek. Meat products hold a special place in traditional Moldovan cuisine, especially as an appetiser or the first course. Roasted and grilled pork, beef meatballs (known as pârjoale and chiftele) and steamed lamb are common. Meat and fish are often marinated and then grilled.

Moldova has a long history of wine making, dating back thousands of years. Domestic varieties include Feteascâ Rara neagrâ and Busuioacâ albâ. The country is particularly well known for its sparking Rosés and red wines.

Ukrainian cuisine stems from peasant dishes based on the plentiful grains and vegetables grown in the country. Staple crops include sugar beets, potatoes, grapes, cabbages, and mushrooms. These are often key ingredients in soups and salads. The most popular dish is borshch , a hearty soup made in a variety of ways. Other vegetable dishes include holubtsi (stuffed cabbage) and kartoplia solimkoi ("straw potatoes"). Kotlety Po-Kyivskomy (Chicken Kiev), a chicken breast stuffed with a buttery filling, is a well-known dish outside Ukraine, but tastes very different locally.

Transportation

We will use a modern air-conditioned bus, most of the drives are not long, no more than 2 hours, but border crossings may delay our journey time. The longest journey is by overnight train. The train from Lviv to Kyiv is fast and modern with comfortable seats and a buffet car. The majority of our sightseeing in Moldova, Odessa and Lviv is done on foot. In Kyiv, we will have a mini-bus.

Weather & Seasonality

When to go

Moldova and Ukraine are best enjoyed from spring to late autumn

Weather Information

Moldova has a moderately continental climate; its proximity to the Black Sea leads to the climate being mild and sunny. The summers are warm and long, with temperatures averaging about 20 °C, and the winters are relatively mild and dry. Annual rainfall, which ranges from around 600 mm in the north to 400 mm in the south, can vary greatly; long dry spells are not unusual. Ukraine has a mostly temperate climate, with the exception of the southern coast of Crimea which has a subtropical climate. The climate is influenced by moderately warm, humid air coming from the Atlantic Ocean. Precipitation is disproportionately distributed; it is highest in the west and north and lowest in the east and southeast. Western Ukraine, particularly in the Carpathian Mountains receive around 1,200 millimetres of precipitation annually, while Crimea and the coastal areas of the Black Sea receive around 400 millimetres.

Weather Charts

Joining Instructions

Travelling flight inclusive from London: 8 Days

The group flight from London is a daytime flight departing on Day 1 of the itinerary.

Flights from London

We normally use the scheduled services of Austrian Airlines (depending on availability). As flight
timings and schedules change regularly we recommend you call one of our specialist sales staff or
your agent to confirm up‐to‐date timings. Please note timings may change at a later date and cannot be confirmed until approximately two weeks before departure.

From March 2017, Wizz Air will be offering a direct flight from Luton to Chisnau and back from Kyiv's second airport; Zhuliany (IEV). Exodus can not book these flights, but you may wish to consider booking these yourself.


Travelling land only: 8 days starting in Chisinau and ending in Kyiv

Your trip normally starts at our accommodation in Chisinau in the afternoon of Day 1 of the itinerary. Details of how to reach the start point are provided in the Final Joining Instructions ‐ sent
approximately two weeks before departure.

Accommodation check‐in times are normally from around 15:00.

Regional Flights

The Flight Inclusive price is based on a London departure, but we are happy to tailor this to your local or regional airport. Please ask about flights from local or regional airports.

If booking regional flights other than with Exodus, you must allow a minimum connecting time (in addition to the international check-in time) of 1 hour at Gatwick, and 1.5 hours at Heathrow; this is longer than the official minimum, but baggage handling is known to be subject to delays.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers will be sent to you as part of our Final Joining Instructions. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

Transfers Details

Airport transfers are included for those on the group flights. Please note that transfers are not included for clients arriving on any other flight, even if Exodus has booked it.

If you require airport transfers, you may (by prior arrangement only) be able to join the group transfer. Transfers are arranged to coincide with the arrival time of the group flight - please check the group flight details 2 weeks before departure. If you do not take this transfer, or miss it, you must make your own way to the joining point at your own expense.

If taking a taxi from Chisinau Airport we recommend avoiding taxi touts and using an official taxi company located inside the arrival terminal (such as Taxi 14110).

The cost of a taxi is likely to be about 110 MDL should you decide to make your way independently.

Location start:
Chisinau
Location end:
Kyiv

What to Take

Essential Equipment

  • Waterproof jacket
  • Sunglasses; sunhat
  • Sunscreen
  • Strong soled shoes for walking
  • Fleece
  • Umbrella
  • Water bottle
  • Daypack
  • Shawl for women ‐ who should cover their heads in churches

Please note If you carry any medication prescribed by your doctor, you will need to carry the prescription to show at the border. Guides are likely to ask to see this.

At the time of writing the standard weight limit for hold baggage on the recommended international carrier for this trip is 20kg. We recommend packing only one piece of checked baggage.

As advice about luggage allowances for both hand and hold luggage is subject to change, we suggest you check the airline's website for the latest information prior to your departure.

Reading List

Lonely Planet Ukraine Marc Di Duca (2014)

Borderland: A Journey Through the History of Ukraine Anna Reid (2015).

Playing the Moldovans at Tennis Tony Hawk (2007) A fun journey through Moldovan culture

Practical Information

Passport

Moldova

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information offered below is to help you with that process. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Ukraine

All nationalities require a full passport that must be valid beyond the intended length of stay. It is your responsibility to have the correct personal documents and to obtain your own visa, if one is necessary, in accordance with the regulations of the country you are to visit. The information offered below is to help you with that process. We are not responsible for the actions of local immigration and customs officials, whether at points of entry or otherwise, and any subsequent effects.

Visa

Moldova

UK passport holders do not need visas for this trip. Other nationalities should check with the relevant embassies.

Ukraine

UK passport holders do not need visas for this trip. Other nationalities should check with the relevant embassies.

Visa regulations can change without notice: please check the current regulations in good time to obtain a visa if one is required.

There are no specific health risks on this trip.

Travel health can often be something people forget about before going away, but a little preparation and knowledge can go a long way to help you stay fit and healthy while abroad.

The above information can change at short notice; as we are not qualified to answer all your questions about travel health we strongly recommend you contact your Medical Professional or a Travel Health Clinic at least 8 weeks prior to departure for up-to-date information. Please note: vaccinations that are routinely recommended to residents of the UK, North America or Australasia are not considered to form part of the travel health advice, and you should ensure these are kept up to date where necessary.

For additional information please visit: https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/countries

Insurance - are you adequately covered?

It is a condition of joining any of our holidays that you must be fully insured against medical and personal accident risks (to include repatriation costs and air ambulance or helicopter rescue services where appropriate). On arrival in destination for your trip, you will be asked to present details to your leader or local representative of your policy.

If you are resident in the UK we strongly recommend the Exodus travel insurance policy, this is specifically designed to cover all activities on your trip. If arranging your own policy please ensure that you are covered for all activities that are part of the trip, optional activities that you intend to take part in and/or on high altitude itineraries, that you are covered up to the maximum altitude of the trip.

Local Time

Moldova's Timezone:
Europe/Chisinau EET (GMT +02:00)
Ukraine's Timezone:
Europe/Kiev EET (GMT +02:00)

Electricity

Moldova's Electricity:

Standard Eropean two pin plug

Ukraine's Electricity:

Standard European two pin plug

Moldova and Ukraine, both use standard European two pin plugs.

Money

Moldova's Currency

The national currency of Moldova is the Leu (MDL), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 23.6 to the UK£ and 17.6 to the US$.

Ukraine's Currency

The national currency of Ukraine is the Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH), with an exchange rate at the time of publication of approximately 31.87 to the UK£ and 25.61 to the US$.

ATM Availability

ATM's are easily accessable in all cities we visit on this trip. Credit and debit cards are excepted in largers shops and resaurants, but cash is preferred.

Do not bring travellers cheques as they are almost impossible to change.

Extra Expenses & Spending Money

Moldova and Ukraine are among the cheapest destinations in Europe. Below is a guide to average prices:

Beer (0.5lt) £0.70

Water (0.33lt) £0.35

Meal for in a mid‐range restaurant, three courses £5

Museum entrance between £0.50 & £1.00

Optional Excursions 

Chernobyl Day Tour/Extension

Full day excursion to explore the Chernobyl Power Plant at the end of this trip. The trip includes transport, lunch, guided tour of the power station and the abandoned town of Pripyat. As well as an extra night accommodation in Kyiv and an airport transfer (for the Austrian Airlines flight at 13:30).
The tour must be booked 1 month in advance with Exodus. It will not be possible to book once on the trip. Full passport details are also needed at the time of booking.

Price from £250 per person

PLEASE NOTE: This tour needs a minimum of 2 passengers to run.

Tipping

Our local staff are paid well and fairly for their work with Exodus. Tipping is discretionary but it is part of the way of life in this area of the world. We recommend you allow the following:

In small cafes and restaurants round up to the nearest £1/€1

In more upmarket restaurants ‐ 5%

For local guides ‐ £2 to £3 per person

For the diver ‐ £1 to £2 per day

For the leader ‐ £3 to £5 per day

Responsible Tourism

At Exodus we believe in the power of Responsible Travel.

Every time we travel, we are part of a global movement that creates jobs, builds more sustainable societies, encourages cultural understanding and safeguards common natural and cultural heritage. To learn more about what Responsible Travel means to Exodus click here… 

Exodus Community

Join the Exodus online community

Don't forget to visit the Community area on our website. You can view the range of Exodus videos and podcasts, read trip write-ups which have featured in the national media and take advantage of some special deals on travel gear and equipment.

In the Community Travel Forum you'll find the Departure Lounge where you can discuss your trip with fellow travellers before you depart. When you get back from your holiday remember to upload your images to the relevant trip page on our website. This helps other people see what our holidays are really like and you'll be entered automatically into our monthly photo competition.

To make full use of the Community you'll need to join My Exodus. It's free, registration is simple and easy, so what are you waiting for?

Important Information

On all guided trips

Although our leaders are well trained to deal with different capabilities, if they have any concerns about someone’s ability to safely partake in an activity, or their impact on other people’s enjoyment, we authorise them to take necessary action which, in some circumstances, may involve asking someone to miss that activity.

Although rarely enforced, by booking this trip you agree to section 14 of our Booking Conditions which clearly states that our leaders have the authority to do this. In these circumstances we will ensure anyone sitting out is safely provided for and offered alternative options where possible. Refunds will not be provided for activities missed and customers may be liable for additional costs incurred.

On all trips

In booking this trip you should be confident in your ability to participate in all activities described in these Trip Notes. If you have any doubt about your suitability you should call the Exodus office and ask to speak to one of the experts on this itinerary.

In an emergency, please contact our 24 hour out of hours service on +44 (0) 844 326 7041.

Every time that you travel abroad you should take the time to read the warnings in the essential information in the brochure.

Full joining instructions including local emergency numbers, and details of how to reach the start point, will be sent to you approximately 2 to 3 weeks prior to departure. If you do not receive these at least a week before departure, or require them earlier please contact our office or your travel agent.

The information in these Trip Notes is given in good faith. Where differences exist between the Trip Notes and our current brochure or website, the Trip Notes supersede the brochure and website. All holidays can be subject to unexpected changes; in order to enjoy them you should be prepared to be flexible where necessary. Occasionally, as stated in our brochure, it may not be possible to follow the itinerary as planned. This may be for a variety of reasons - climatic, political, physical or other. In these circumstances we will make the best possible alternative arrangements that maintain the integrity of the original itinerary.

As fuel prices, airport taxes and exchange rates fluctuate, and airlines manage their rates to match demand, it is proving harder than ever to guarantee our Flight Inclusive prices. Although we endeavour to keep our website as accurate as possible, daily fluctuations mean that our Flight Inclusive price may be out of date. For accurate prices we recommend that you contact one of our Travel Experts, or your Travel Agent.

TRAVEL AWARE – STAY SAFE & HEALTHY ABROAD

 

The Foreign & Commonwealth Office and the NHS have up-to-date advice on staying safe and healthy abroad. For more on security, local laws, plus passport and visa information, see https://travelaware.campaign.gov.uk/

Keep informed of current travel health news by visiting https://travelhealthpro.org.uk/

Advice can change so check regularly for updates.

For all latest travel information about your holiday, please visit our Travel Safety Advice page.

How to Book

1. Check availability

Go online to check availability, or contact us by phone or email.

2. Secure your place

You can provisionally hold a place on this trip, usually for between three and seven days.

3. Complete your booking and payment

When you're ready to book, go to www.exodus.co.uk for online booking, book over the phone or you can complete a booking form (available online or on request by calling us). We accept all major credit and debit cards, or you can pay be cheque. Book with confidence: Exodus is fully licensed and bonded as a tour operator. We hold Air Traffic Organisers Licence (ATOL) number 2582 issued and bonded with the Civil Aviation Authority (CAA). We are also bonded to the International Air Transport Association (IATA) and we are members of the Federation of Tour Operators (FTO) and ABTA ‐ The Travel Association. This means you can book your Exodus holiday with confidence, as all monies paid to us for your trip are fully protected.

TRIP NOTE VALIDITY

These Trip Notes are valid from the "Current as" date on page one. They will occasionally be updated post booking and pre-departure; if there are any updates that significantly impact the inclusions or itinerary bookers will be written to separately. All customers will also receive a link to the most up-to-date version of the Trip Notes with their Final Joining Instructions pre-travel.