Odessa Travel Guide
This is my guide to Odessa after my 2012 trip took me to Ukraine.
Getting to Odessa
I arrived via train from Moldova. It was pretty straightforward. The train stopped at the Ukrainian border, we went through formalities and I had my Ukrainian entry stamp.
I had arranged to couchsurf while I was in Odessa, but was off on my dates when I arranged with my host Galya. I arrived in Odessa 1 day earlier than I had down on paper. Galya and her boyfriend Max were up in Kiev visiting family still, and so my first night in Odessa would be in a hotel.
I wandered around the Odessa train station for a while, until finally getting my bearings and headed towards a hostel I had booked the day before. It was about 30 minutes walk away in Arcadia Beach. I was hurried away quickly: They were full, my Hostelworld booking meant nothing here.
I walked back to the train station and figured I’d try my luck there. I finally found a taxi driver that could speak some English. My Russian and Ukrainian was very limited. I told him I needed a hotel, he said Tokyo Star and I hopped in.
He literally drove about 10 laps around the train station and dropped me off across the street. But whatever, at least I had a place to sleep.
It was an odd place. I paid anyways and dropped off my bags. It was the tiniest room.
After getting checked into what was the the smallest hotel room I’d ever seen I headed out to get a glimpse of the Black Sea.
I had a nice afternoon out in the sun and then going to a Ukrainian McDonald’s. Luckily the menu is English words, just written in Cyrillic. So the Чікін сендвіч I wanted to order sounds exactly the same as saying ‘chicken sandwich’ even at a Ukrainian McDonald’s. Obviously anywhere else that wouldn’t be the case because our words for chicken are different.
I headed back to the good ol’ Tokyo Star for the evening. It was a night filled with loudly watching Russian music videos to drown out the sound of the Russians next door having extremely loud sex next door. All that separated us was a paper thin wall.
The next morning when I did go meet Max and Galya at a cafe before heading over to their apartment they both about had a heart attack when I told them the Tokyo Star is where I had stayed. They said people get murdered there all the time and that’s the place you bring your prostitute and rent a room at an hourly rate.
Good thing I slept fully clothed and with my own pillow and blankets. At least I only paid the equivalent of $10 in Ukrainian Hyrivnia.
I’d highly recommend to stay at a nicer place than there, maybe at the beach. Or couchsurfing, and not be off a day like I was.
Couchsurfing with Max and Galya:
Was great! These two were awesome. Galya had contacted me when she saw my post on couchsurfing.org and invited me to stay with them. Galya and her sister Olga had worked at Silverbay Cannery the summer before in Valdez, Alaska.
What to go see in Odessa
The Black Sea beaches.
The beaches of Odessa are: Lanzheron, Otrada, Dolphin, Chkalovski, Arcadia and Malibu.
I spent most my time at Lanzheron beach because of how close it was to the city center. I did spend some time at Otrada, Dolphin and Arcadia beaches.
FYI: The Black Sea here is fucking freezing.
Monuments and Parks
There are a number of parks and different monuments around the city. Shevchenko Park is very large and runs behind Lanzheron beach.
The Odessa Opera and Ballet House is known as one of the most beautiful opera houses in the world. Unfortunately I didn’t see the inside.
Built for Prince Mikhail Semyonovich Vorontsov of Odessa by Francesco Boffo in the 1800’s.
The monument to Catharine the Great marks the city center of Odessa. She was the longest ruling female over the Ukraine.
The Potemkin Steps or Steps of Odessa are one of the most iconic sights of the city. I don’t know how I left without a full photo of them. They are considered a formal entrance to the city from the Black Sea.
Getting around Odessa
Your best bet at seeing the city is by foot and by use of trolley cars and marshrukas.
To take a trolley, wait at a stop and get on. There is usually someone working on there that you give your money to in exchange for your ticket.
Marshrukas are just vans that you squeeze into and pass your money up front. Your change will get passed back to you.
I wouldn’t recommend taxis after I got ran around getting to my hotel, unless you speak Russian or Ukrainian fluently and with no accent. They will fuck with you. However when I left Max and Galya called a taxi to pick me up and take me to the airport, they did all the legwork for me, which made it a good experience.
I left via a flight to Riga, Latvia. I had originally had plans to go by train to Kiev before leaving Ukraine. I ran out of time and wasn’t able to get a ticket on the train (it was the July, peak season). The airport is fairly small and took very little time to get through security. I tried to exchange my remaining Hryvnia there but they’re office was out of foreign currencies. I had read you aren’t allowed to take Hryvnia out of the country, but I had no problems with it leaving.
If you would like to read about my experiences in Odessa, visit my blog post: Couchsurfing Odessa.
And I’d like to give a big thanks to Max and Galya for hosting me. You guys are awesome!