Practical Info about UkraineInfo about Ukraine
Major cities of Ukraine
Kyiv - 2,635,300
Kharkiv - 1,575,900
Dnipropetrovsk - 1,161,200
Donetsk - 1,101,800
Odesa - 1,059,500
Zaporizzya - 887,400
Lviv - 805,900
Kryvyy Rih - 703,000
Mykolayiv - 519,000
Mariupol - 490,000
Luhansk - 493,300
Ukraine's Geography, Nature, Climate, and Demographics
Location and time zone
Ukraine is situated between 44 and 52 degrees latitude in the continental temperate zone in Eastern Europe and has an area of 603,000 km2. It borders Belarus on the north, Poland, Slovakia, Hungary, Romania, and Moldova on the west, and Russia on the East. Ukraine's time zone is 2 hours ahead of London, 7 hours ahead of New York City, 10 hours ahead of Los Angeles, and 3 hours 40 minutes behind Kathmandu.
Ukraine is a mostly flat or rolling country with mountains only on the Crimean peninsula in extreme southern Ukraine (rising to 1500 meters) and the extreme west (rising to 2000 meters in the Carpathians). The highest Carpathian peaks ("Hoverla" at 2061 m. and others) are barren and alpine. Ukraine has many rivers — the Dnipro (Dniepr), Pivdennyy Buh ("Southern Buh"), Dnister, Siverskyy Donets, Desna, Dunay (Danube), and many others — and its southern border is washed by the Black Sea, which connects to the Mediterranean Sea through Turkey.
Yearly precipitation ranges from a semi-arid 350 mm in parts of Crimea and the extreme south to over 1500 mm on high Carpathian slopes. 90 percent of Ukraine receives between 450 and 700 mm a year, making it ideal for agriculture. Hours of sunlight per year are between 1600 and 2400, excepting the misty Carpathian peaks. 90 percent of Ukraine has snow on the ground between 40 and 100 days a year. Water temperatures at Black Sea beaches in summer months are between 18 and 24° C (64.4 - 75.2° F).
Temperatures and best time to visit Ukraine
Average temperatures in January range from 0 degrees Celsius (32° F) on Crimea's South Shore to -8° C (17.6° F) on the northeast border with Russia and between 18 (64.4° F) and 23° C (73.4° F) in July. Ideal sunny months to visit are mid-April through June when everything is in bloom and the sun isn't too hot and September and early October when the temperatures are ideal and the leaves are changing. Throughout most of Ukraine be prepared for heat with thunderstorms and brief downpours in July and August, frequent rain in late October and November, and snow December through March. Fall colors usually reach their peak around October 20-25 and are most picturesque in Crimea and the Carpathians.
Around half of Ukraine is covered in chernozem soil (fertile "black earth"), roughly corresponding to its steppe zone (short and long-grass prairies with intermittent woods). Ukraine is the famous historical "breadbasket of Europe." There is a belt of mixed pine and deciduous forest (some of it high in Chernobyl radiation) followed by broadleafed woods running through northwest Ukraine. Particularly scenic are the foggy Carpathian needle-leafed forests and the diverse and peculiar vegetation of Crimea.
Cook using water from the cold water tap, as hot water undergoes less treatment. It is recommended to drink boiled water or filtered or bottled water. Many neighborhoods have free public wells with water fit to drink. Radiation levels are supposedly back to relatively safe levels around most of Ukraine, though official information on the subject sometimes seems to be suspiciously sparse. Air quality in towns and cities can be poor, especially without enforced automobile pollution standards. However, there are areas of each town where the air is excellent (the author happens to live in one), and rural Ukraine has wonderful fresh air.
Ukraine has five cities with one million habitants or more: Kiev (2.6 million), Kharkiv (1.5 million), Donetsk (1.1 million), Dnipropetrovsk (1.1 million), and Odessa (1.0 million). Western Ukraine has more densely populated rural areas, but its largest city, Lviv, has only 790 thousand habitants. Life expectancy for men is around 60-65 years, and for women 70-75 years. Low male life expectancy is tied mainly to alcohol and drug abuse and work accidents. Ukraine has one of the highest women-to-men ratios in the world. The population has dropped a few million since 1990 due to emigration and low birth rates, both due to economic instability. This situation is now improving, however.
In pre-war and pre-Soviet times Ukraine was somewhat more ethnically diverse. Today the largest ethnic minority are Russians (15-22%). The divide between Russians and Ukrainians, though, is very often hazy, and friction between the two groups is minimal. There are people that identify themselves as Ukrainians but prefer to speak Russian, as well as Russians that prefer Ukrainian. There is a growing population of Crimean tatars that Stalin had exiled to Central Asia at some point. In addition to the above groups, large cities have an increasing number of foreign student-age youth, especially from Asian and Arab countries, and traders from Turkey and China. On the whole, however, Ukraine is quite ethnically homogenous.