Beautiful Kiev, the capital of Ukraine, was on lists of hidden gems in Europe for a very long time. Visitors that ventured to this eastern edge of the European continent were rewarded with centuries of history along a bustling modern day city.
Amazing sites in Kiev include the Kiev Pechersk Lavra, a massive Orthodox Christian site including churches, monasteries, and more, the Motherland Monument, and the bustling street of Khreshchatyk.
Besides history and Orthodox holy sites, Kiev is also home to a thriving underground techno scene, a budding gastronomy scene remaking traditional Ukrainian cuisine, and plenty of fun for an affordable price.
Kiev would probably be on everyone’s travel list if they weren’t concerned about safety, especially given recent events in Ukraine. So, should you visit Kiev? Here’s our expert opinion.
Is Kiev Safe to Visit in 2024?
Right now, Kiev is extremely unsafe to visit due to the war in Ukraine. Governments advise their citizens to avoid travel to any parts of Ukraine, including Kiev.
Kiev the city has always had some crime, since it is a big city, but crime is the least of your worries when there is the potential for bombing at any time.
All of the world’s governments are pretty much unified when it comes to their travel advice for Ukraine — don’t go. The United States State Department has the country of Ukraine under a Level Four Travel Advisory, even telling citizens to draft a will before visiting.
All other governments agree. Due to the ongoing war in Ukraine, travel to any parts of Ukraine, including Kiev, are unsafe. Kiev was a safe city to travel to just a few years ago, but unfortunately the war changed everything.
There has been a low-scale conflict between Russia and Ukraine for the past few years following the Russian annexation of Crimea and the war in the Donbass in 2014, but most of the violence was confined to the eastern region of the country.
Everything changed on February 24, 2022, when Putin announced a “special military operation” that was actually a full-scale invasion of Ukraine.
The invasion immediately threatened Kiev, with Russians capturing Antonov Airport outside of the city and some fighting reaching the suburbs. The capital was heavily bombarded and Russian forces reached some of the neighborhoods before they were repulsed.
It is true that the heaviest fighting has been confined to the eastern and southern parts of Ukraine, especially after the initial Russian invasion in early 2022.
However, Russian forces regularly launch attacks on all Ukrainian cities, including Kiev. The Canadian government tells its citizens that on October 10th, 2022, the Russian government launched heavy attacks on all Ukrainian cities, including Kiev, with little warning.
Even if you decide to visit Kiev, it’s unclear how pleasant your trip will be. First of all, it’s impossible to fly into Kiev as all civilian air service is closed in Ukraine due to danger, so you would have to cross at a western land border and travel by land.
All of Ukraine is under martial law, Kiev is under curfew, just like the rest of the country. There are still regular threats of bombardment and air sirens.
Russian forces are targeting the city’s infrastructure, so most people lose power, hot water, and heating regularly. You might hear different advice depending on who you ask.
There are some travel companies, such as Visit Ukraine Today, that want to encourage people to visit cities such as Kiev to gain an appreciation for what Ukrainians are going through.
However, officials warn that they cannot guarantee anyone’s safety and that they would prefer foreigners visit Ukraine after the war, when it is safe. There is also the question of who you could turn to if something does happen during your visit.
The war has decimated a lot of Kiev’s vital infrastructure, including:
Most foreign governments have closed their embassies in Kiev, so you could not contact your government for help. Plus, security forces in the city are already stretched thin when it comes to managing a city at war, so they would not be able to help you much either.
Crime in Kiev
Considering the ongoing war, crime in Kiev is probably the least of your worries. However, it’s good to at least be aware of potential crime problems in the city.
Violent crime statistics in Kiev were moderate, especially considering that it is a city of several million people. Overall, Ukraine had a low homicide rate before the war of 6 incidents per 100,000 people.
According to some statistics, Kiev sees about 100 homicide incidents annually, which is low for a city of nearly 3 million people. Petty crime was far more common in Kiev than violent crime.
According to Numbeo’s crime index, Kiev’s crime score was 48.38 out of 100, which is a moderate score. Most of the crimes people reported having a problem with were petty property crimes such as break-ins, vehicle thefts, and thefts.
Kiev also has a problem with organized crime. The Canadian government warns citizens in its travel advisory about sporadic car bombings or bomb threats in Kiev, often linked to organized crime.
According to the Global Organized Crime Index, Ukraine is one of the European countries with the worst organized crime rates. Powerful Ukrainian mafia groups are behind crimes ranging from human trafficking to arms trafficking.
However, mafia activities almost never affect ordinary foreign visitors. Of course, most information about crime in Kiev comes from before the war. Since the war, it has been difficult to get accurate crime statistics.
The Ukrainian government does say that crime has decreased since the war began, especially robbery and theft, due to many Ukrainians fleeing the country and strict martial law including curfews in cities such as Kiev.
However, it might also be harder for the government to gather crime statistics when there is a war going on, so keep that information in mind. There’s also no use in worrying about your wallet getting pickpocketed when there is a bigger danger, namely an ongoing war.
Before the war, pickpocketing was one of the most common crimes that visitors encountered when they visited Kiev. The Australian government still includes some information about pickpocketing in its travel advisory.
Incidents most commonly occur in downtown Kiev, which includes most of the city’s busiest streets and tourist attractions. The public transportation system in Kiev, especially the metro, is also popular with pickpockets.
Public transportation is often overcrowded, creating the perfect environment for pickpockets to thrive. The same precautions that protect you from pickpocketing anywhere in the world will also work in Kiev.
Try not to make yourself a target by flashing around your valuables or looking like a tourist. Put your valuables in a front pocket or easily sealed bag. Always keep an eye on your valuables, preferably a hand — clutch bags close to your body.
Scams targeting tourists are also common in Kiev. A common scam is the “wallet scam,” where passersby drop a wallet waiting for an unsuspecting victim to try to return it.
They will then accuse the person of stealing from them and demand payment or to see your wallet for proof (of course, then stealing your money). Online scams, especially romance scams, are also common.
ATM and credit card scams are also common, although they are decreasing as Ukrainians as well move away from using cash. Only use ATMs in bank offices and other reputable businesses and never let someone walk away with your credit card when you are paying at a store.
Most theft incidents in Kiev are nonviolent, but there are often cases of muggings and robberies, especially after dark. The UK government also warned citizens about the threat of spiked drinks in nightclubs.
Perpetrators would then take advantage of their drugged victims to rob them or in more serious cases, sexually assault them. The best way to avoid being the victim of a mugging is to avoid areas that frequently experience these problems.
Avoid walking around Kiev at night except for bright, well-trafficked streets. If you’re coming back to your accommodation after dark, take a taxi instead of public transportation as the metro is a frequent location for muggings.
Of course, most of this advice is now moot as Kiev is under a military curfew. Since most muggings in the city occurred after dark, they are less common now that people can’t move around at night.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Like any big city, Kiev has some neighborhoods that are less safe than others. Some of Kiev’s northern suburbs were hit hardest by the war. These include the towns of Bucha, Irpin, Hostomel, and Vorzel.
Avoid going to these towns due to remnants of war, including potential unexploded ordinances. The city center, namely Independence Square and Khreshchatyk Street, are prime targets for pickpockets. You should still visit them, just keep your safety in mind.
Some neighborhoods in the outskirts, such as Troyeshchyna, Lisovy, and Obolon, have a reputation for being seedy, but there are no attractions there for foreigners anyway so it’s unlikely that you would be there.
Things to Consider
Here are some other safety tips to keep in mind when visiting Kiev:
- If you are a male Ukrainian citizen, even if you are a dual national, you may not be allowed to leave Kiev due to the ongoing conscription order for Ukrainian men of military age. Avoid going to Kiev if there is any possibility of conscription.
- Unfortunately, Kiev is a common location for hate crimes against people of color, especially people of African and South Asian descent. The war has not changed this as foreign students reported poor treatment when trying to escape Kiev.
- Carry your ID with you at all times, as police checkpoints are frequent.
- Avoid crowded areas or large gatherings, especially when you see people with military equipment. You don’t want to get caught in the crossfires of something that you don’t understand.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might have about visiting Kiev:
Is Kiev Ukraine worth visiting?
Normally, Kiev would absolutely be worth visiting. It has hundreds of years of history that you can see in the amazing architecture and museums.
And there’s also a thriving alternative cultural scene that is bustling with young people. However, it is not worth visiting ever since the war started as the sights are not worth risking your life to see.
Is it safe to walk in Kiev at night?
Before the war, you could safely walk in Kiev at night if you stuck to bright, well-trafficked streets and avoided the metro. Now, it is illegal to walk in Kiev at night due to curfew.
Is it safe to travel over Ukraine?
It is not safe to travel overland in Ukraine, although some parts in the very west of the country are mostly safe from bombings. The security situation is volatile due to the ongoing war and even places that were previously thought safe could change at any moment.
What is the safest place in Ukraine?
Right now, the safest places in Ukraine are towns in the western region, such as Lvov and Chernivtsi. Kiev is not safe as it is closer to the frontlines and is a frequent target for Russian bombing since it is the capital.
Is Kiev a walkable city?
Normally, Kiev is a walkable city. Now, you have to be mindful about the possibility that an air raid siren might go off as you are walking.
So, Should You Travel to Kiev?
Kiev is a beautiful city, but right now, it is not safe to visit. The main threat is not crime but the ongoing war, namely the Russian invasion of Ukraine. Save your plans to visit Kiev for when the war is over. Happy travels!