I stayed at Allureinn on the central square. The main advantage is the location, and the room was comfortable and clean. The electrical system is unusual- there are some dials next to the bed on what looks like a radio, but actually you turn these to work the bed and table lights as well as the TV. Fine once you understand it! Staff are helpful, and there is always someone available who speaks English, though not all the receptionists do.
The main disadvantage is that there is no buffet breakfast. Breakfast is waiter service in the restaurant, which doesn’t open until 8 a.m. and is rather slow. However, when it comes, the food is tasty and filling- just be prepared to wait for around 15 minutes. On the day I had an early start to go to Khotyn and Kamyanets, they prepared me a packed breakfast, which I pre-ordered from the restaurant and collected from reception at 6.30 a.m. The best thing to do is just choose sandwiches from the restaurant menu, which are 35 grivny each. These come in a transparent plastic container, and can be a bit messy to eat as they have a lot of juice in, so make sure you have some paper napkins. I had 2 sandwiches and it was enough for a reasonable breakfast. Instant coffee and tea are available in the room, and there is a kettle and cups. So I ate my packed breakfast in the room and made a cup of coffee. I also ordered packed food for the long train journey back to Bucharest on the day I left- one sandwich for lunch and two for dinner.
The restaurant attached to the hotel is good, with a menu in English. It seems to be a popular venue for locals. The outside area has a lively atmosphere, but fills up fast- I had to eat inside on the first evening. As in most Ukrainian restaurants, the main courses do not come with vegetables, so you need to order these separately.
The other main accommodation option is Hotel Bukovina. This is a standard communist era concrete hotel, parts of which have been refurbished. It’s not in the historic centre- it’s about 1 km from the central square and about 500m from the Polish Church. It’s nearer to the bus station, but still quite a long walk- so taxi or trolleybus is probably still necessary. The Bukovina has breakfast included and I think it’s a buffet. Prices were slightly lower than Allureinn for the period I stayed, but not by a lot. Overall, Allureinn wins hands down for location and atmosphere, but the Bukovina is probably a reliable, if rather boring, option.
I was intrigued by Hotel Kiev just south of the central square, with its old inscription “Palace Hotel” at the top of the building. This is mentioned in my 2007 Bradt Guide, and is described as “dilapidated.” The more recent Lonely Planet guide doesn’t mention it, and it doesn’t seem to have a website or to be featured on hotel booking sites. But there was a tour bus parked outside when I walked past. So this may be one to watch in future- perhaps it has been renovated.
Visiting the University
It’s essential to book a tour of the University to see it properly. These can be arranged by calling Diana Costas on +38 050 176 4712 or emailing firstname.lastname@example.org . The cost is 30 grivny per person, and there is no minimum number- I was by myself. It’s very good value. The guide will come to meet you at the entrance gate. Without a tour, you certainly won’t be able to see inside- I’m not sure whether there is free access to the courtyard or the church.
I ate at the Allureinn restaurant on the first and third nights and this was good- tasty food, friendly staff and not too long to wait. For some reason the breakfast takes much longer to come than the dinner! They probably have more staff working in the evening.
On the second night, I ate at the Reflection restaurant, Holovna 66, which had a good write-up in Lonely Planet. The food was good, and there is an English menu, but some aspects of the service were post-communist. I waited 20 minutes after ordering, even though I was starting with a salad, so it really shouldn’t have taken this long. I asked for Ukrainian beer, which turned out to be Carlsberg, which the waiter then claimed was Ukrainian because it was brewed in the country. When the bill came, it was obviously a lot more expensive. I asked to see the drinks menu, which the waiter brought, but which, apparently, was not in English. I nevertheless pointed to the Ukrainian beer which was half the price and asked why I hadn’t been given that. The waiter claimed that it wasn’t available. These tedious little issues are typical of restaurants in transition economies, where it’s assumed and expected that foreigners will order the most expensive item on the menu. I got the feeling that this place was living off its reputation as an expat venue. Still a reasonable option, but I would keep an eye out for newer places.
The railway station is about a 1km walk from the Central Square, but it’s uphill and as the pavements are poor it could be a struggle with luggage. You turn left after you come out and start walking up the hill before eventually turning right. Taxis wait outside the station and tout for business. They probably ask for a lot more than the standard rate, especially if you don’t have any Ukrainian money.
The bus station is in the south west, about 3km from the centre. Trolleybus 3 gets there from the centre for sure (this is what the hotel told me) but I got on a different one to come back, possibly 1A. There are also several marshrutkas (minibuses) which go past, and I’m sure that many will go to the centre. Just ask a local “Ploscha Tsentralna?” (Central Square?) when something appears. The bus stop, both for trolleys and marshrutkas is quite a long walk from the bus station. When you come out, turn right and keep going for 3-5 minutes until you see the stop, where there will probably be a lot of people waiting. There are taxis which wait at the entrance to the bus station.
This is less straightforward than in Lviv, because fewer tourists go to Chernivtsi. There appears to be no exchange office in the station. There is one on the right after about 100m as you walk up the hill into town, but its hours are limited- it was closed at 7 p.m. when I arrived. If you arrive without Ukrainian money and need a taxi, bring small notes in euros or USD. I expect they will take you to most addresses for 5 euros, although the real rate to the Central Square is less than one euro!
In town, I had difficulty finding an exchange office in the centre which was open late, but there is one on Universitetska Street about 50 m on the right as you walk down from the cinema (heading away from the Central Square), which was open until 10 p.m. However they would not give a receipt, so I just changed what I needed for dinner that evening. In some less developed economies you need to show a receipt to change the currency back. I’m not sure if this applies in Ukraine, but it’s best to play safe and get one.
When leaving Ukraine from Chernivtsi get rid of your grivny before getting to the station, as there is nowhere to change it back and it’s almost impossible to change grivny outside Ukraine. I bought a Chernivtsi mug from one of the kiosks at the station. It cost 50 grivny and the lady in the kiosk let me have it for 45, because that was all I had left.
There are plenty of ATMs, which are the simple solution, but may be less good for small amounts depending on the commission your bank charges. Mine charges a flat 6 euros, which makes it uneconomic to use an ATM for much less than the equivalent of 250-300 euros.