Difference between revisions of "Kiev"
Revision as of 21:18, 25 March 2013
Kiev  (Ukrainian: Київ - Kyiv, Russian: Киев - Kiev) is the capital and largest city of Ukraine with - officially - over 2.7 million inhabitants (unofficially up to 4 million inhabitants). The city is in north central Ukraine on the Dnieper River (Ukrainian: Днiпро, Russian: Днепр). The common English name for the city ("Kiev") is historical. The transliteration of the city's name from Ukrainian is "Kyiv", and this variation is used in official English language materials in Ukraine.
Ukrainians are very proud of their capital's role in establishing European civilisation in Eastern Europe.
Kiev is one of the oldest cities in Eastern Europe, dating back to the 5th century, although settlements at this location existed much earlier. By the late 9th century, Kiev had become the de facto capital of an emerging Eastern Slavic state. Between the 10th and early 13th centuries, the city reached its golden age as the capital of the first Ukrainian state known today as Kievan Rus, (Kyivan Ruthenia, or Rus-Ukraine). This state created the religious and cultural foundations for modern Ukraine, Belarus, and Russia.
In the middle of the 13th century, Kievan Rus was overrun by the Mongols. Later that century, Kiev became part of the Grand Duchy of Lithuania. In 1569 the city was absorbed into the Polish-Lithuanian Commonwealth and in 1654 it was liberated from that Commonwealth by the Cossack, Hetman Bohdan Khmelnytsky, who then promptly signed the city over to Russia. This action continues to be a sore point for Ukrainian nationalists.
In 1775, Kiev was annexed by the Russian Empire. The city remained under Russian rule, with brief but uncertain periods of independence between 1918 and 1920. Over these two centuries, Kiev experienced growing Russification and Russian immigration. After the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991, it became the capital of independent Ukraine and is now discovering its place as a large European capital.
It is generally acknowledged that the population is over 3,000,000 (2006 estimates). About 85% claim Ukrainian ethnicity and about 12% Russian. However, the census numbers are believed to be unreliable so these percentages must be taken with a pinch of salt. There are many minorities in the city, including Armenians, Azeris, Belarussians, Jewish, Georgians, Polish, Romanians and Tatars. Since 2001, not only has the population of Kiev increased, but also the percentage of people claiming Ukrainian ethnicity. This is probably a result of the strong nationalist movement centered in Kiev during the Orange Revolution (October 2004 to January 2005).
In Kiev, Ukrainian is primarily spoken by immigrants from Western or Central Ukraine, while most Kievans usually speak Russian, sometimes with a few Ukrainian words (called "Surzhik"). Officially, all signs are in Ukrainian only. Since 2011, signs with Latin transliteration have been installed in the city centre.
According to the national census taken in 2001, about 93% of the population has a secondary education, and nearly 46% received higher education.
Average temperatures are maximum 26ºC (79 ºF) / minimum 15ºC (59ºF) in summer and maximum -2°C (28ºF) / minimum -8ºC (17ºF) in winter. Spring and autumn (fall) can be very brief. Heat waves featuring temperatures as high as 38ºC (100ºF) are rare but not unheard of in the summer months and brief but potent cold spells with temperatures as low as -20ºC (-4ºF) are not uncommon in winter.
In general the people in Kiev are hospitable and will be eager to help you. However, if you don't have a knowledge of Ukrainian or Russian you may find service in restaurants and shops difficult, although this will change with time as more people begin to study English.
Boryspil International Airport (IATA: KBP)  (Міжнародний аеропорт "Бориспіль") is about 20 km south-east from the city border (40 minutes by car from the city center). The city's second airport Zhulyany (IATA: IEV)  (аеропорт "Жуляни"), used mostly for domestic flights and low cost airline WizzAir, is located within the city border (20 minutes from the centre).
Ukraine has two major international airlines - Ukraine International Airlines  (Міжнародні Авіалінії України - Mizhnarodni Avialiniyi Ukrayiny) and Aerosvit  (АероСвіт). These airlines have daily flights to major European cities. Aeroflot, Alitalia, Austrian Airlines, British Airways, Czech Airlines , Delta , Estonian Air , Finnair , KLM , Lufthansa , Turkish Airlines  and others have scheduled flights to Borispol airport. Semi-Budget airlines flying to Kiev include AirBaltic . Budget airline Wizz Air  has flights from several European cities to the smaller Zhulyany airport. There are occasional budget charters from Italy, and in summer, Ukrainian Mediterranean Airlines runs charters to destinations including Italy and Turkey. Aerosvit and Delta are the only airlines with non-stop service to North America.
As of may 2012, Boryspil Airport operates terminals B and F. Most international flights arrive in the terminal F, whereas terminal B is used for domestic flights and few international destinations (e.g., Moscow by Aeroflot). Terminal B is much older than F and dates back to Soviet times, but in fact they differ in small details only. Both terminals are very cramped and inconvenient. Expect long queues at the immigration control, which is inevitably haphazard. Despite separate lanes for Ukraine citizens, 'non-visa', and 'visa' passengers, few booths are usually in operation, so foreigners may easily find themselves in a lane for Ukraine citizens, and the other way around. The new, and bigger, terminal D is scheduled to open in summer 2012 and may remedy the congested traffic situation.
The passport control will on average take at least 30 minutes. It is usually a huge queue. Bag belts follows after, and since you waste so much time at the immigration queue they might be already off the belt, just besides it. After you get out of the security zone, still inside the airport, ATMs are to your left.
The simplest way to get to the city centre from Boryspil (KBP) is the Sky Bus  that operates a regular bus service between the airport and Central Railway station. Buses depart frequently and the cost is 27 UAH. Tickets are bought from Kiyavia booking-offices in Terminal F and B or online on the web-site www.skybus.kiev.ua. On average, it takes 40-70 minutes to get to city center by bus. To find the buses, you must walk over to terminal "B" and they will be outside, which is to the right of the arrival terminal. Buses terminate at the southern side of the railway station, while the metro (Vokzalna station) is on the northern side. To change for the metro, enter the railway terminal, follow the bridge over the railway, leave the building, and turn left.
The other bus option is a "white bus" that has a small sign by the door that says "SOUTH CENTRAL/RAIL STATION". Apparently all the rail stations are central, south only means that it drops you at the south side of it. For this bus no reservation is needed and you buy the ticket from the driver. Note that the queue may be chaotic and if you don't act fast you may loose your place in the bus even if you arrived early...
Taxi from the Boryspil airport starts from 150 UAH. The minimum price to the city centre is about 200 UAH when you book in advance and call a cab from the city. The official taxi service at the airport (Sky Taxi ) is slightly more expensive (6.50 UAH/km, 34 km to the city centre). Unofficial cabs may demand yet higher prices, so feel free to bargain and always arrange the price before you enter the cab.
And if you are arriving at Zhulyany (IEV) you can use Kiev's public transport to reach your accommodation or the train station. There are two terminals - they are around 1 km away of each other. They're connected by trolleybus no. 22 that takes you further to downtown. From old terminal (domestic) you can also walk (cca 500m) to Volynsky trian station and take regional train (elektrichka) to main railway station. From the backside of the trainstation bus no. 169 and 368 also pass via zhulyany airport.
When leaving there can be very large queues waiting to go through security. Travelers flying to the United States may be required to go through a second security checkpoint. Going through check-in queue, security queue and passport control queue may take less than 30 minutes but can be much longer. Check-in counters open two hours before the scheduled departure time and going from the city to the airport may take anything between 30 minutes and 2 hours depending on city traffic.
Kiev's central railway station Kiev Passazhyrskyi (Київ-Пасажирський) is close to the city centre. Metro station Vokzalna (метро "Вокзальна") on the M1 line connects to the railway terminal. The terminal building straddles numerous railway tracks, and effectively comprises two separate buildings adjoined by a bridge. The building on the northern side (next to the metro station) is the main station. The building on the southern side is, respectively, the south station with its own ticket office and hotel. Public transport stops on both sides of the railway. Buses and trolleybuses to the city centre depart from the main building, buses to the Boryspil and Zhulyany airports operate from the southern station. Finally, suburban trains may also depart from a small station Pivnichna (Пiвнiчна) located under the square adjoining the main station. This station is separated from the other two buildings and has its own entrance equipped with turnstiles.
Direct day and night trains are available from all major cities and towns in Ukraine. There are five daily departures from Dnipropetrovsk (5½-9 h) and up to ten from Lviv (9 h) with an express train departing 6:35AM except Tuesdays and taking just six hours. The eastern city of Donetsk is only served by night trains taking 12 hours. Connections with the Black Sea region Crimea are plentiful, most night trains depart from Simferopol (14 h, from 300 UAH, 2nd class) but some originate in Sevastopol (16 h) as well. Prices for domestic train ranges between 90-120 UAH for seats and from 250 UAH for second class sleeper. To Kharkiv 2nd class seat by intercity 4½ h, 256 UAH (2013).
There are good international connections with central Europe and Russia. Departures from Belgrade (36 h), Budapest (24 h), Bratislava (29 h), Chisinau (15 h), Minsk (12 h), Prague (35 h), Sofia (37 h) via Bucharest (26 h) and Warsaw (16 h) are nightly. From Moscow there are a multitude of trains with the fastest one being Metropolitan Express taking just 8½ hours. Saint Petersburg is also well served with an overnight train taking 23 hours. Berlin (22 h) have nightly connections during summer while departures from Vienna (34 h) are nightly Mon-Thu. There is also a connection from Venice (45 h) via Ljubljana (41 h) once a week, departing Thursdays.
More exotic cities with infrequent departures include Astana (73 h, Thu), Baku (64 h, Wed) and Murmansk (61 h, seasonal). And if you are looking for a real journey, hop on train 133E linking Kiev with Vladivostok. It's one of the longest journeys possible by train, taking eight nights!
The main route into Ukraine from the West is via Poland - the only 24-hour customs post is in Lvivska Oblast (Region) at a place called Krakovets. The nearest significant town on the Polish side is Przemyśl, and it's straightforward to find by following route #4 (which passes through Przemyśl). When you arrive at the border, the road is fairly narrow (no motorway/autobahn), and there is always a queue of trucks and vans parked to the right of the road. Don't park behind the goods vehicles, slip up the side of them and then feed into the customs area when the guy flags you forward (for courteous Europeans, you're not jumping the queue as commercial traffic goes through a different process). If you're in an EU-registered car then find the EU-passports section. Then, proceed to Ukrainian passport control and then Ukrainian customs and you're through. It used to be a nightmare, with apocryphal tales of 5-6+ hours at the border, but the Ukrainians have made great advances in efficiency with a 1-2 hour border crossing now possible.
Once through, just follow the main road towards Lviv (Львів) on the E40 - this is the route right across Ukraine to Kiev (and thence the East). Stick to this - the main towns on the way are Lviv, Rivne (Рівне), Zhytomyr (Житомир). Care is required as the road still remains in a miserable condition, even though it is the main East/West highway and the main road route from and to the EU.
International buses stop at the central station, which is a squalid place that is anything but central (metro station Demyvska, M2 line). There are frequent direct buses of variable quality from Germany, Poland and Moldova.
It is possible to organize trips down the Dnieper to the Black Sea in summer. A travel agency in Ukraine can book these trips for you.
Kiev can seem quite foreign to the western tourist, as most signposts are in Cyrillic script. It is still largely a city where very few people know English, and the likelihood of encountering an English speaker is low - but not impossible. For the non-Russian or Ukrainian speaker, it's quite possible to get around easily, and it is a very interesting city to explore. It never hurts to speak English. Often, a shop assistant will ask customers who can speak English to act as translators.
It is advisable, however, to pick up a pocket Russian or Ukrainian phrasebook, and learn the Cyrillic alphabet, which can be fun and is easy to learn. Spend some time practicing key words and phrases (e.g. 'hello', 'thank-you' and 'bill please'). Even what you regard as a feeble attempt at Ukrainian or Russian will amuse most people to the point where they become comfortable engaging in pantomime or trying out the little bit of English they know.
It is impolite to chat loudly (e.g., in the Metro), point or wave one's hands. You should also avoid whistling inside or being under-dressed, although in summer very short mini-skirts are widespread. All of these actions will regularly attract the wrong type of attention, including outright hostility.
Pick up a "Kyiv Tour Guide" map book (Geosvit books - around US$3-4), which is available at a number of kiosks or at the central post office. Basic tourist maps are available at the baggage carousel at Boryspil Airport. If you are spending much time in Kiev, get the matching Ukrainian version of your map, many locals have as much trouble with the version that is transliterated to Latin characters as you will have with Cyrillic. They need the version in Cyrillic. When asking for directions or setting out in a taxi, it helps to locate the place you want on the English map and then point out the same spot on the Ukrainian version.
If you need more detailed tourist info visit Tourist Info Center on Khreshchatyk 19 (in same building with metro Khreshchatyk). There you can pick up all kinds of city maps and brochures, get a free guide, join free walking tours, use wi-fi and get an answer for any question. Open: 10 am- 7 pm daily. Staff speaks English, Russian, French, German, Spanish and other languages.
There are two types of city-run buses available – bus (автобус) and trolleybus (тролейбус) – as well as slow and moribund trams. These can be hailed from assigned stops, which are marked by an inconspicuous sign on a telegraph pole. The buses are often very crowded during peak hours, but the norm is to push your way in. Once on board, you need to get a ticket and validate it by punching a hole with one of the small punchers that are attached to the posts inside the bus. If you can't get near the hole puncher, ask someone to validate your ticket for you. Tickets cost 1.50 UAH and are normally available from a special lady on board (oddly enough, she first sells you as many tickets as you want, then asks you to validate one). Tickets can be also purchased from drivers or in kiosks throughout the city.
You can also travel, although with less comfort, on route taxis or mini-vans called "Marshrutky" (Маршрутки). These are privately run vehicles that travel assigned routes, which are listed on the front of the bus. You can hail a Marshrutka at the assigned bus stops. When you board, you pay the driver directly or, if you're not near the driver, pass the money to the nearest passenger who will pass it to the driver. Your change will be returned in reverse order, but it is unwise to pass big bills. When you are reaching your destination, simply yell out to the driver to stop "Na a-sta-nov-ke" (some 100 meters in advance to the bus stop you need). If you overshoot you get a nice walk and a driver gets a little extra stress a day. The fare ranges from 2.00 UAH to 3.00 UAH, and is usually stated on the front and sidewalk-side of the vehicle, so you will know how much you pay in advance. It is good to have some change, so you can pay exact amount.
Marshrutka routes can be hard to figure out, but they have a list of stops on the window and a Metro logo for the metro stops. The best way to figure out where these go is to ask some of the locals. City maps usually picture all public transport, both normal buses/trolleybuses/trams and Marshrutky. The one downside to using Marshutkas is that they tend to be a little overpacked (understatement) and very hot or cold, depending on season.
There are two types of taxi in Kiev - official company taxis, and 'gypsy' cabs.
As with many former Soviet cities, it is perfectly acceptable for any car to stop and pick you up. An unmarked vehicle is a 'gypsy' cab. To hail a ride, simply stand with your arm out. When a car pulls over, negotiate a fare. As a rule of thumb, rides within the downtown should not cost more than 20-40 UAH and moving across the city might be anywhere from 30 to 70 UAH (also depends on car model, time of day, weather and traffic conditions, whether both of you need to get to the same part of the city, etc.). Therefore, you should choose a proper street side, and your gender and numbers usually matter for the price. Generally, girls would find informal taxis easier and cheaper than men. It is safe enough compared to many cities, but in the middle of the night you may be taking a risk.
Official company taxis can be hailed, or booked over the phone. There is usually someone who speaks English working for the company. Simply ask 'pa angliski pazhalusta' (or "English please"). The operator will give you a quote, which will save you from the sometimes intimidating process of negotiating on the street.
Taxi fares do vary widely. On the same route, a local could pay UAH15 while a foreigner may be quoted UAH60 with the driver being prepared to settle for UAH30. Don't hesitate to bargain!
The Metro (Ukrainian: Метро) is one of the pleasures of Kiev. It is a clean, fast subway system, and it is easy to navigate once you realize that all three metro lines (red, blue and green) go through the city centre. In total there are 50 stations, with ambitious plans for extension.
When you enter the Metro, you must purchase an entrance token from the cash desk, Kasa (Ukrainian: каса) or from a special ticket machine. One token is valid for one trip, no matter how far you go. A token is 2 UAH and one needs to slip the token into the turnstile to enter. A note of caution: make sure you walk through the correct side of the turnstile, or you will be hit with a metal gate that will slam shut. You can also obtain an unlimited monthly ticket with a magnetic tape, which is available for sale for 95 UAH during the first week of the calendar month or the third week for half the price (but not strictly so).
As of 2012, the Kiev metro has undergone a major improvement with respect to the navigation. Most maps and signposts are translated into English. Additionally, every stations has got its unique three-digit number, with the first digit showing the number of line (M1 for red, M2 for blue, and M3 for green). Once on board, every station is announced by loud speakers and TV screens. These screens show a lot of weird ads between the stations, but flag an impending station before arrival. Upon departure, they then show the next station.
Metro stations where you can interchange have two different names - one for each line. If you are changing lines, the other station can be reached by an overpass in the centre or near one of the ends of the platform.
Trains run every 30 to 150 seconds during business hours, every 5 minutes after 8 PM, and every 10–15 minutes after 10.30PM. Last trains depart from the terminal stations around midnight, so your last chance to catch a train in the city centre is between 12.15AM and 12.25AM (check the timetable of late departures, which is signposted on each station). Trains are often very crowded. Be prepared to push, as this may be the only way you get on the train during peak hours.
It's interesting to note that the Kiev metro has some of the deepest stations in the world. The Arsenalna station (Ukrainian: Арсенальна) station is the deepest metro station in the world, at 107 meters deep, and the Universytet station (Ukrainian: Університет) has one of the longest escalators (87 meters long). Many stations have two long and intimidating escalators in a row.
If you enable "Cell Info Display" on your GSM phone, it will show you the name of the station (in transliterated Latin characters (for UMC and Kyivstar subscribers) just like your map) when you are underground in the vicinity of a station. Your mobile/cell/handy should work on most of the network, including between stations.
Spend some time looking at the stations. The red line features impressive architecture, similar to that seen in the Moscow and Saint Petersburg metro systems. Elaborate mosaics in the Zolotye Vorota station depict rulers and other historical characters of the medieval Kievan Rus.
A scenic way to get from the upper city down to Podil (or, naturally, the other way around) is to catch the funicular from Mykhaylivs’ka Ploscha to Poshtova Ploscha in Podil. You can enjoy views of the Dnieper and left bank on the way down. The cost is 1.50 UAH, and the Funicular runs from 06:00 to 23:00 during summer and 07:00 to 22:00 during winter. As with the Metro, you buy a token and insert it into the entrance barrier.
Women are supposed to cover their heads and put on skirts before entering the caves or churches. However, this is not always enforced for tourists. You may be invited to take the church's shawls - one to cover your head and a second to wrap your legs like a skirt. Or you may buy nice shawls at Kiev Pechersk Lavra.
There are a number of private schools where you can learn Ukrainian or Russian, either part-time or full time . There are also experienced teachers in the city - check out resources such as Kyiv In Your Pocket, The Kyiv Post , and What's On Weekly for details of schools and teachers.
Foreigners can sometimes find work teaching their native language. Pay is usually decent enough to live on in Kiev if you get enough pupils and live by local standards.
As is the nature in a global economy, professionals with skills in demand, e.g. accountants and IT professionals, can be employed with global firms in Kiev, without knowledge of Russian or Ukrainian languages.
Getting a work permit (visa) is a necessity for foreigners if they are going to be employed by any legal entity (exceptions apply only for international institutions and representative offices of foreign companies). The work permit is more of a hiring permit. The potential employer has to apply with the labour administration for hiring an non-resident employee. With the application a complete cv, as well as documents showing an accredited education, have to be submitted.
Go to the market at Andrew's Descent (Andriyivskyi Uzviz) for a nice collection of traditional things, old communist goods (real goods as well as some that are fake and mass-produced), matrioshka dolls, etc. The best days are Saturdays and, especially, Sundays.
The unit of currency is the Hryvnia (UAH) (гривня) [pronounced: Hryvnia (in Ukrainian), Grivna (in Russian)], which equals about 10,1 UAH to the Euro and 8 UAH to the US Dollar (May 2012). There are many exchanges booths that will convert Euro, USD or Russian rubles to UAH, just look for signs with exchange rates posted on about every block in the downtown area or any bank outside downtown. Exchange rates vary a lot and deteriorate fast when you get into less competitive places or outside of standard business hours. You should also make sure to get a receipt when buying UAH. Rates at the airport are not as good as in the city center. However, beware that not all hotels will change money and if you arrive in the evening or Sunday you could find yourself with no money for dinner if you don't change at least some at the airport. Most banks operate on Saturdays as well as Mondays to Fridays.
ATMs are known as 'bankomat' (банкомат), and can be found everywhere. All major credit cards and debit cards can be used at some ATMs throughout Ukraine, but do not work in many. You can withdraw UAH but in some cases also US dollars. Be sure to contact your credit card company prior to your visit or they may freeze your card! As a backup, it is possible to get dollars from most banks using a cash advance from a Visa or Mastercard. There is a small service charge (3%) to do this in addition to whatever your bank charges. Debit cards such as maestro do work in ATMs. Cirrus/Maestro/Plus bank cards could be most effective way to get cash in Ukraine. Many ATMs, such as Aval Bank and Express Bank ATMs do not charge any transaction cost to cash withdrawal transactions from foreign cards (unless you are withdrawing dollars). Not all ATMs indicate that they support the Plus system, but in most cases they do support it if they support Visa. PrivatBank ATMs do indicate that they support Plus, but they do not work with North American cards.
It is often expected that one carries small change in Kiev. Most retail establishments will scowl at you if you try to pay for a UAH4 purchase with a UAH20 note. They generally keep very little change on hand and will always ask if you have the right amount. Keep small change to use the toilets.
In general, it is very cheap to dine in Kiev by European or US standards. So long as you stay away from the places that totally pander to tourists or to the Porsche Cayenne-driving "elite", the food is great and cheap. Try the Borscht, chebureki (чебуреки), chicken Kiev (Котлета по-київськи) and the Mlyntzi and then try absolutely everything else. Baked goods are cheap and great too. Even the ice-cream on the street is great. Try, for example, the one to the right from Khreshchatyk metro exit - blue kiosk with varying length of queues.
When you see vendors selling some liquid from big yellow/blue tanks on the street, you can be sure that it is "Kvas," which is a brewed bread drink. Some people like it and others hate it. It tastes a bit like malt, and the alcohol content is so low (0.05-1.44%) that it is considered acceptable for consumption by children. Try "Odyn Malenkyi" (one small) drink.
You should not drink the tap water (for reasons both chemical and microbial). It is advisable to buy bottles in the supermarkets; they usually have English section on the label for "ingredients". You can always order "Bonaqua" (sparkling mineral water), but beer is just about as cheap.
For anyone near Kyiv-Mohyla university, there's a small cafeteria-style place down a few steps on the ground floor of a building on the main square (near Illins'ka st).
It's also worth checking out pubs and restaurants that offer business lunches during weekday lunch. These are set menus that usually cost around 40 UAH, and include soup, salad, meat dish and a drink.
The leading supermarket chains are "MegaMarket" (МегаМаркет), "Furshet" (Фуршет), "Velyka kyshenya" (Велика кишеня), , "Silpo" (Сільпо) which are conveniently located to the city centre. The closest MegaMarket to town is on 50 Gorkoho (Горького). This MegaMarket is big but can get busy. Foodstuffs are available on the ground level, and non-food available on the first level. You do not have to go through the cashier on each level (which means two long lineups on busy days) - fill your basket with food on the ground floor and use the 'secret' elevator near fish tanks to get to the upper floor where queues are shorter.
The closest Furshet to the city centre, and most central supermarket, is on the basement level of the Mandarin Plaza, which is at the back of Bessarbabsky Square. This supermarket stocks many imported goods, and also has five restaurants.
"Fora" (фора) is a popular chain of mini-marts that are widely distributed, particularly on the Left Bank side of the city. They are about the size of 7-11 and stock most staple items, including toiletries, bread, dairy, sweets, and of course alcohol. Plastic bags are available but are not free, and some stores do not take credit cards. Bag your own groceries. If you're paying in cash, make sure the cashier gives you correct change back as some are careless or dishonest.
Most bottled waters are sparkling. To purchase regular bottled water, ask for Water Without Gas (VoDA bez gaza). A 500ml bottled water cost UAH 3-UAH 6 in August 2009, occasionally they will inflate the price to UAH 10 if you look like a rich tourist.
Do not forget to buy a few big jugs of bottled water such as Staryi Myrhorod (Старий Миргород) or Truskavetska (Трускавецька). Kyivskij tort (київський торт) is another thing you should eat in Kiev if you love cakes. Dark rye bread, Ryazhenka (Ряженка, ukrainian style yogurt), Kvas (Квас, fermented drink made of bread) could be also be interesting things to taste.
Chocolates, cakes, lollies, crisps and biscuits/cookies are widely available at low cost and very popular with Ukrainians - after years of being deprived western brands, snack foods are becoming big business.
There are several nice places in Kiev to get a drink. From small cafés that are only frequented by locals (they look dirty at first sight) to expensive places. Locals often buy drinks (beer) at a stall in the street and drink it in a park, leaving their bottles for the homeless to collect and cash in. However, since 2011, drinking beer in the street is prohibited and whilst you will see locals drinking in the street, you will make yourself an easy target for the police to stop and try for a bribe if you do. Locals often buy some chips or other salted things to go with their drinks.
The prices are quite reasonable by European standards. You will easily find decent Ukranian beer for 20–30 UAH and get 5 cl of vodka or similar alcohol for about 20 UAH.
If you are not keen about alcohol, try one of the abundant coffee houses. No matter whether their names are well-known and international (Starbucks, Costa Coffee, Russian-based Coffee House and Shokoladnitsa) or weird and local (Coffee Land, Coffee Life, and other similar variations), they are always neat places with similar menu featuring all imaginable versions of coffee, a good choice of tea, fancy milk shakes and smoothies, and a selection of cakes. Their main advantage is free WiFi, while on the downside are the prices that are rather high on Kiev standards. Coffee and piece of cake start from 20 UAH each.
When you urgently need a shot of espresso, you can also try coffee sold on the street. Basically, every second kiosk will offer some cava (Ukranian word for coffee), but its quality is at best iffy. A safe choice would be special cars equipped with coffee machines. These cars can be found in most public places and next to entrances to the metro stations. They offer decent take-away coffee for 8-10 UAH.
There are several Irish pubs, none authentic, but OK if you're in need of a Guinness and expat company. One is located near Golden Gate (Zoloti Vorota) on Volodomyrska (called, eponymously, The Golden Gate Pub). Another (and the first in Kiev) is O'Briens on Mykailivska (one of the streets running west off Maidan sq., the one to the right, with a branch of OTP Bank on the corner). Both are expensive by Kiev standards. A new one has opened in Podil, on the corner of Gostyny Dvor, near the Dutch embassy (can't miss it as it's close to the bottom of Andryevsky) called the Belfast Pub. Other than these centrally located ones, others lie scattered around Kiev, they do not cater to the ex-pat crowd and have better prices than you expect to find in any 'western' country. Keep your eyes open. Also try Dockers Pub.
There are two Belgian beer cafés. One is located across the road from the Golden Gate, close to the South Korean Delegation (Le Cosmopolite, Volodymyrska street). The other is close to the Olympic Stadium (Belle-Vue; ul. Saksahanskoho 7). Prices range between normal western prices (€1.3 for 0.5l of Stella Artois) and splurge western prices (€4.5 for 0.33l of Leffe Blond). Service is in perfect English usually and they do serve Belgian beer and traditional Belgian food (expensive).
Kiev has a nice club scene. Ranging from very cheap to overly-expensive, you can find what you want.
The usual "don't be stupid" advice seems to be adequate. Avoid drinking the water from the tap--bottled water is cheap and available everywhere (Morshinska/Моршинська, Mirgorodska/Міргородська is good). Kiev is a generally open and friendly city and stays lively until at least 11PM in most districts.
If you are female, and especially if you are traveling alone, try to take a taxi instead of public transit after 9 p.m. These are prime drinking hours and the metro and marshrutky may be crowded with drunken men. This is particularly true on the weekends. Ask a local English-speaker to call the taxi for you and get the amount of the fare in advance; drivers may greatly inflate the fare once hearing your accent.
Robberies and scams on tourists are fairly common in Kiev. The best approach is to be extremely selfish and ignore anyone who approaches you. Avoid eye contact with suspicious looking people. If you do get caught up in a scam (such as the infamous wallet scam or the "Look, I've just found money" scam or even if you are stopped by someone claiming to be a policeman), simply ignore the person and walk away, indicate that you want to call your embassy or go to the next police station to get the problem sorted. That will usually shake the person off.
If you are leaving your baggage in the station, it is better to leave it with the guys in person rather than use a locker. Stories have been heard of people 'assisting' with the locker and overseeing the code, then walking off with the bag afterwards.
On the metro, always keep your belongings securely zipped as close to your skin as possible. Pickpockets are highly organised and often in gangs that know what they are doing.
There are occasional (rare) reports of visitors being shaken down by corrupt officials, often customs officials. Naturally, the best protection is to make sure that you stay on the correct side of the law and, if there is any question, to keep your cool and not become argumentative. It seems that the cost of an error is surrendering the object in question and paying a "fine." The officials are skilled at ensuring that people who argue miss their flights. Making, or giving the impression of making, a cellphone call to your country's embassy has been known to clear up "problems" quicker than actually paying the "fine" --- or pretend to have a very late flight :-)
Some thieves like to abuse new tourists, for example, by playing plainclothes cop. They are rarely aggressive. They will go to you only if you're walking alone and don't look too familiar with the town. A bit of resisting usually shakes them off (but not too much since you never know).
There is still some corruption in Ukraine; some services might openly ask you to bribe them to process your request, and denying it might make them refuse to help you.
The people are very tolerant and it is only reasonable to assume that they expect the same in return.
Mobile (cell) phones: GSM (900/1800) and 3G (CDMA, UMTS) is used in Ukraine. This system is compatible with mobile phone networks used in Europe, most of Asia, Australia, New Zealand.
If you have an unlocked GSM phone, you can get an Kyivstar , MTS  or life:)  (Astelit) SIM card for a few dollars at street vendors which will give you a local number and free incoming calls. Note that most of those cards don't have money on their account so you may want to buy a payment card when you buy a sim card. If you don't have an unlocked phone already, new ones can be had for USD 30-40 and a touch cheaper if you buy a pay-as-you-go sim card at the same time. Incoming calls are free in Ukraine so in extremis you can just SMS/text a request for a return call for a small charge.
If you want to use 3G connection, you can get OGO! (ex-Utel)  for UMTS and PeopleNet , CDMAUA  or Intertelecom  for CDMA, for mid 2011 last three operators don't have English version of site.
If you are roaming in Kiev, SMS messages do work well. They are confirmed to work for most foreign networks. Do note that the size of the country and the relative low population densities of rural areas means that sometimes there might be 'black-spots' where mobiles will not work. But of course these are away from the main cities/urban areas (and most of the main arterial road and rail routes also have reasonably consistent call signals).
If you are trying to call the US from your GSM phone, you may find that the access numbers for your calling card are blocked. Plan ahead and sign up with a callback service (such as UWT  **warning, lead-time required**) before you start your travels and you can provoke them to call you (at much better rates) when you need to make a call.
The easiest way to maintain internet connectivity if you use your own laptop is to buy a 7-day unlimited Lucky Internet callback card. They are about UAH36 at the street kiosks. When you dial in, you will be initially firewalled off from everything until you activate by visiting their website 
You may also buy wireless internet access for your laptop for about 10 UAH per day. See  for details or just google "wireless internet in Ukraine".
Internet cafes have a good service. They usually have different types of computers with varying prices. Near the metro station on ul Khmelnytskoho (on the left side at a corner) there is one that is very good, open 24 hours non stop. The cheapest computers cover your basic needs, the most expensive ones are usually for hardcore gamers.
Also most foreigner-friendly cafés (see "Drink" section above) and a lot of fast food restaurants (including McDonald's) offer free Wi-Fi. Some require password to use their access point, ask waiter to get it.
Kiev was part of the former USSR. Some things work well and other things may be broken. There is no point in stressing about this. Arrive with that realization and be prepared to roll with a few surprises.