When you adopt from Ukraine, you will have to make a few trips in order to be matched with a child and complete the adoption process. So how can you prepare for your trips, and what will travel be like? Here is what it is like from our experience.
WHERE YOU’LL STAY
You will most likely be staying in an apartment in Kyiv (pronounced “Keev” locally) while you are in-country. The apartments are clean, well-kept and secure. You will have a bedroom, kitchenette, eating area, bathroom with shower, plenty of hot water, and a washer (your clothes will have to hang to dry). The apartments have heating and air conditioning. You will receive a key to the front door and to your apartment.
Many neccessities will probably be provided in your apartment, such as sheets & towels, dishes, knives, pots, pans, cups, hot pot, fridge, stove, microwave, tea, sugar, instant coffee, hair dryer, iron and ironing board.. There will be ATMs nearby which you can use to withdraw money from your US bank account. The apartments are very inexpensive at about $35.00-$65.00 per day, which you will pay in US dollars.
The section of the city you will be staying in is safe. It is safe to take walks, go to the market, eat at the restaurants, and generally get out and see the sights and enjoy the city. There are many nice places to walk in Kyiv. The city was built on seven hills, so it is very hilly.
If you will be staying in Ukraine for long enough to justify the cost, you can talk to your phone carrier about adding international calling to your plan. If you have an unlocked phone, you can purchase an in-country SIM card. This enables you to purchase pre-paid credit and data to use your personal phone on the Ukraine cell phone networks. If you don’t have an unlocked phone, you can purchase an older model unlocked phone to use while in the Ukraine. Your facilitator should also provide a phone for contacting him/her while in-country.
The internet makes communicating in today’s global world incredibly easy and convenient. Ukraine has many areas with free Wi-Fi, including the apartment you will stay in, the trains you will ride on, cafes, and the orphanage. Here are just a few great ways to talk to your family over the internet for free:
- Facetime on Apple devices
- Google Hangouts
- Facebook Messenger
Look into each option to decide which app will work best for you and your family. Email, of course, is always a great option since the time difference can make setting up a time to talk with your family difficult.
On your trip, you will be paying for various services with cash in the country. Ukrainian orphanages and government agencies may accept U.S. dollars. Your facilitator will guide you to appropriate money exchanges.
Make sure to check with your agency about the amount of travel expenses that might be recommended based on your individual situation. Make sure you bring more for food, lodging, souvenirs, and other general travel expenses.
On your third trip to Ukraine, you will need cash to pay for your child’s visa, medical reports, passport & passport picture, etc.
If you do not have a bag or purse with a secure compartment to store your cash while traveling, it is worth it to invest in one to protect all your cash. Whatever you use to store it, make sure it is a bag that you can have on your body at all times to avoid having it lost or stolen.
If you are traveling with a spouse or a friend you should have different credit cards in case your credit card is lost or stolen (especially important for a married couple). Remember to tell your credit card company you are traveling to Ukraine to avoid having them put a hold on your card.
You should have some of your cash converted into Ukrainian hryvnia (pronounced “grievna”) to spend while you are in the country. At the time of writing, 1 US dollar is worth 24.85 hryvnia (Google “US Dollar to Ukrainian Hryvnia” to find out current exchange rates). This is, of course, subject to change. Look at current exchange rates online to get an up-to-date figure before you go. Generally, you will pay more for currency exchange at the airport than at other exchanges. Your facilitator should be able to guide you to a local exchange after you leave the airport.
You should check with your bank to find out if you can use Ukrainian ATMs to withdraw hryvnia from your US bank account. Most banks will allow you to do this, but make sure you know that yours will before you leave. This takes some of the guess work out of trying to figure out how much Ukrainian cash you will need during your trip. Many Ukraine ATMs have a daily limit that is smaller than US limits, so you most likely have to exchange your US dollars.
When you are paying for goods & services in Ukraine, remember to keep all of your receipts. You will need them when applying for the adoption tax credit after your adoption is finalized. Consider bringing a small, wallet-sized coupon organizer to keep receipts for food, lodging, facilitator costs, and travel expenses organized.
MEETING YOUR CHILD
FINALLY! The big day is here!!!
You will probably go on the train to the orphanage. At least one orphanage is so far away that you travel all night long on a train and sleep on the train. You will get off the train and either go to your housing or right to the orphanage. If you take the overnight train you will go to the apartment and have a chance to clean up and change clothes before you go to the orphanage.
When you go to meet your child in the orphanage, here are a few things you might want to bring:
□ Pictures of hosting time if you have hosted the child before;
□ Pictures of your home, community, pets, activities etc.;
□ Small gifts for the orphanage director & child;
□ Small overnight bag if you take a day trip;
□ Cash for the train tickets for you and the facilitator, costs for the apartment in same town as orphanage, money for meals (plan on about $4-6/ person/meal), and money for the driver who takes you back and forth from the orphanage/train/apartment. The facilitator will purchase the tickets for you and he/she will tell you the cost so that you can reimburse them. Make sure you get receipts. You will also pay for the travel expenses for the facilitator and/or travel guide including meals.
- Call your credit card company or bank and let them know when and where you are travelling. Ask about out-of-country ATM fees or dollar limits.
- Contact your bank a week or two before you travel and let them know how much cash you will need in new bills so they can order them for you.
- Get any vaccines required for travel to Ukraine. You will have to start your Hepatitis A vaccine at least 6 months before traveling.
- Consider getting travel insurance for your trip. It is usually reasonably priced, and can increase your feeling of security while traveling. Call your health insurance company to ask if your health insurance will cover any out-of-country expenses. If your health insurance will not cover anything out-of-country, make sure you purchase travel insurance which includes healthcare coverage.
- Travel from the US to the Ukraine in comfortable but presentable clothing in case your baggage is delayed or lost.
- Download the CDC’s “Can I Eat This?” app on your Android or Apple device for on-the-go safe food & drink reference.
- Make sure to save all receipts!
- Please see the CDC guide to traveling
Ukraine does have an ongoing military dispute with Russia that has been in the news. As of February, 2015 the two countries have agreed to a cease-fire. If the situation in Ukraine deteriorates and your child’s orphanage is located near any disputed territory, travel will have to be adjusted, cancelled, or rescheduled accordingly. Kiev and many of the orphanages are far from the disputed zone and are very safe. Check ua.usembassy.gov for any up-to-date travel warnings.
The biggest thing to remember while preparing for and while on your trip is to try to stay stress-free. International travel almost never goes exactly as planned, so mentally prepare yourself for delays, unforeseen circumstances, and changes in the plan.
Adoption journeys are rarely completed without plenty of bumps in the road, detours, and road blocks. If you mentally prepare yourself for these circumstances, you will be better able to deal with delays and changes when they present themselves.
Be prepared, pack well, and make sure you get enough sleep when you can. At the end of it all, you will be flying home next to your beautiful new child!
If you have any questions about your adoption travel, make sure to ask your primary provider and facilitator. They should be able to answer all of your adoption travel questions or find the answers for you.
If you have any questions about Ukraine adoption, please feel free to contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org, give us a call at 607-756-6574, or click the button below to ask us your adoption questions.