Friday, April 26, 2013

A Visa Run (sort of) to Kiev

Why Kiev?

The week before last, we finally sat down to plan a trip out of the country. David's 6 months in Russia were coming to a close, and we had to at least cross the border and come back in to get new registration, though his visa is good for 3 years.

We were planning on visiting the Baltics again. However, when we sat down and looked at the calendar, we realized that once again we couldn't get Andrei a visa in time! What a nightmare! One factor that was different this time was that we didn't need to DO anything out of the country, we just needed to leave Russia, and this could be done in one day's time. Whereas last time we had avoided booking a hotel room because we needed a longer stay, this time we could just purchase a 1-2 day tour and get Andrei a tourist visa.

As it turned out, we still didn't have enough time, nor the necessary documents.

I thought about just getting to the closest border alone with David. I started trying to find out if any friends would be able to enter Finland or Estonia with us. Andrei continued to pursue various visa requirements.

To make a long story short, our next step was to find a country that would let us all in without an entry visa...and that country, this time, was Ukraine.

A Quick Trip

After doing a little research, Andrei and I booked plane tickets to Kiev. With a little one in tow, we try to find a balance between comfort and frugality. In this case, needing to make a short trip was not worth a lengthy trip by bus or train with an infant to care for. We spent a little more money and booked a 2 hr flight. We also took taxis to and from the airport, to avoid dealing with public transportation...though we did check out the metro for a little sight-seeing, just not with all our baggage.

My Travel Notes

-off to a rough start...our route to the airport was blocked off by traffic due to bicyclists. Lots of nerves, but we made it.

-I was looking forward to buying a bottle of water once we got through security. Come to find out, it still wasn't allowed. The first place said they would only open it and pour it into a cup. I stared at the bottles in the cooler longingly...then downstairs I tried another place and they said they would sell me the bottled water, but without the cap. I am CRANKY when I don't have access to drinking water when I need it. I decided to buy it anyway and just chug it. Turned out it was 20 rubles MORE than the first place and I didn't even have enough money, so I had to go get more from Andrei.

-I forgot about getting on a bus from the terminal to the plane. Next time I will have to plan for getting dressed/undressed at every checkpoint!

-a few degrees make a huge difference! Kiev is "ahead" of St. Petersburg in terms of spring, and it felt SO pleasant, even with a brisk wind and the sun going down earlier in the evening.

-we loved the architecture! And Kiev seemed more sprawled out, like Moscow, and with hills, as opposed to the flat St. Petersburg layout.

-a different feeling, but with the same Soviet aura. Statues of Lenin...certain lettering on buildings. Andrei could explain it better, probably.

-handicapped ramps in a lot of places, yet tons of staircases and underground pedestrian tunnels-exhausting even for the person not lugging the stroller! I found this write-up:

-people seemed more friendly/familiar, starting with the cab driver telling us about his grandchildren (of course, that could have been just Andrei's talkativeness!) We visited a local church and they were very hospitable, even offering to show us around the city.

-same language "confusion" as Estonia-it's not Russia, but everyone speaks Russian, and/or English. However, Ukrainian is easier to understand than Estonian!

-people were more likely to take us (me?) for foreigners. First the cab driver guessed that I was American, which surprised me. Normally even if people don't think I'm Russian, they assume I'm from a nearby country or at least Europe. I wonder if I was wearing something weird, or maybe David's stroller looked American? Andrei's backpack? Someone randomly spoke English to us in the metro, too.

-non-smoking zones! It was a pleasant surprise to go out to eat and find that the restaurants were all smoke-free. I did see people smoking on the street, but they seemed more careful to not smoke out other people, especially with a young child.

-an amusing experience on the way back: we waited and waited for everyone to show their boarding passes and get on the bus from the terminal to the plane. Well, the plane was at the next gate. We waited 30 minutes only to ride about 10 meters. :)

What visa-free zone will we discover next?


  1. Sounds like a fun sort of adventure, overall. Is David a good traveler?

    I really enjoyed trying to pass as a Russian (after six years and that much language decay, I can't fathom how I did it, but I did). Since if I kept it simple (or silent) I could pass on the Russian, it seemed to boil down to the sort of thing you mention....details of hair or dress. So I'd try to wear my Russia-purchased coats, and HEELS, and put a not-so-warm-and-friendly look on my face - and wear a hat!

    Also fun is to spot Russians locally, and I've developed a sixth-sense. I'll see some woman across the grocery store and think "She looks Russian" and sure enough, we get close and she's speaking Russian. I don't give myself points if they are wearing leopard-skin print or have dyed red hair (just too obvious).

    1. David is getting wiggly, but he was happy as a clam to be with both parents 100% of the time, held in our arms the whole plane ride, sleeping in our bed, and snoozing in the stroller the rest of the time! Oh, and he got to munch on apples and nibble on little pieces of bread. He doesn't need much to be happy!

      I remember seeing a photo of you all bundled up in Ivanovo, and you looked like you blended in quite well.

      I have a sort of sporty light jacket, and a Russian asked me if I had bought it in Russia, so I've always worn it fairly confidently, but if the Ukrainians picked up on it, it must be more obvious that I'd thought.

      Yes, Russians can be rather conspicuous. :) They do like to get dolled up!


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