Learn more about how to navigate the city of Odessa
Odessa is a port city, and due to its proximity to the water, it also has lovely beaches which tourists frequent. With its mild climate and elegant ambiance, Odessa is looking to rival other cities around the world.
A majority of its classical architecture still endures to this day. The city was established around the 18th century and Odessa still maintains its classical identity, but has modernized the city to adapt to the changing times.
Much of Odessa can be explored with ease, but without prior knowledge of the know-hows of transportation and how to get around the city in general, you might end up wasting precious time hopping from one bus ride to the next.
Here we will give you all the information you would need so that you wouldn’t have to spend half your vacation unintentionally getting lost in the city.
English will get you around, but Ukrainian will get you everywhere
English has been the de facto language most tourists use when going on vacation. It’s not established as the international medium for communication, but since a good number of nations use English to communicate daily, it has filled that gap.
While exploring the city of Odessa, it is best to learn a wee bit of Ukrainian. Not all residents of Odessa can speak English, so asking for directions or general conversations will be harder if you rely on English alone.
Restaurants in Odessa will also not have English menus; well, except for high end restaurants and hotels, so ordering food will become quite a challenge. Lately the local government has mandated a more prevalent use of the English language around the city in order to boost tourism in the region, so by the time you get to Odessa soon, English might be a little more common. This does not mean that local residents will be adept at the language though.
So, “подумайте про свій український 101, це просто може врятувати ваші канікули” (brush up on your Ukrainian 101, it just might save your vacation).
How to get around the city?
Odessa, Ukraine today has a variety of options for transportation services. You can either opt to rent a private vehicle, or you can utilize the public transportation system. Odessa doesn’t have city cards you can use on commutes though, so you’re going to have to bring some cash.
Renting a private vehicle
It is somewhat difficult to get around Odessa by car, because there is a lack of signs in languages other than in Ukrainian. You will see some “Kyiv” or “Airport” signs, but just from time to time. Buy a map before you get in. Nevertheless, you can drive your own car in the whole city, including the city center.
There are no restrictions in the driving areas and parking places can be found even in the center. There are no parking machines and sometimes you may wonder whether the place is free to park. Don’t worry, you may park your car unless there is a sign that prohibits it.
If the parking area is not free, you will be approached by a guy demanding some UAH 5–10 (Hyrvnia or abbreviated as UAH is the Ukrainian currency) from you. You may try negotiating a lower price, but usually not lower than UAH 5, if you indicate you will be parked for a short time, like 30–60 minutes for example.
The City of Odessa has a comprehensive public transport system that includes taxi cabs, trams, and small yellow buses called Marshrutkas. Currently, companies that offer private vehicles for hire like Uber are also in the city and serve as a viable option for tourists.
As of 2011, Trams have been the main public type of transport system in Odessa. Today, Odessa is operated by a total of 19 regular and 5 irregular tram routes. It would be best to look into the various routes that are available to you. These lists of trams and their routes are available through the Department of Transport and tourism websites when visiting Ukraine.
Tram rides will cost you around 2 to 5 UAH, and they don’t offer city cards like in the United States or the United Kingdom, so it would be best to make sure you have cash with you.
Taxi cabs are available for rent in Odessa, however, cab drivers in the city are known to be quite dishonest and would jack up prices especially for tourists who don’t know the city very well.
If you do decide to rent a cab, make sure your driver sticks by the regulated taxi meters. Some drivers will also take you through longer routes to make the meter run longer, so it’s best to bring a map with you.
Marshrutkas are essentially mini buses that are bright yellow in color. These buses are usually very crowded during the rush hours at 7am in the morning and 7pm. Marshrutkas are an affordable way to get around Odessa. They’re usually not located in large bus terminals, you can usually hail these buses as they go along their route. Typical costs of Marshrutka rides would usually vary depending on how far your destination is. The benchmark for Marshrutka rides is usually around 3–7 UAH.
The great thing about a vacation in Odessa is that you have relatively quick access to Kiev, the capital of Ukraine. A lot of tourists opt to take on multi-city trips to explore more of the Ukrainian Culture.
There is a daily high speed train that goes from Odessa to Kiev and vice versa. The travel time would usually take around 9 hours, so you have to prepare for quite a long train ride. Luckily, these modern rail rides come with a bit of convenience as most of these trains have bathrooms, and food and drinks as well.
Other than Kiev, Odessa also has access to Moldova. A bus ride from Odessa to Moldova would usually take around 4 hours by train. This will not only give you more tourist destinations to choose from, but rather make your multi-city tour into a multicultural immersion via international travel.
The city of Odessa, Ukraine will be one of the most beautiful cities you will visit, so it’s important to be able to use your time wisely. Other than planning a travel itinerary, it’s important to make sure that you also plan out how you’re going to get to those places. This will give you control of your time and will significantly make your trip stress free.