Safety in Ukraine: Avoiding Theft and Personal Danger
Violent crime is less prevalent in Ukraine than in western countries, but pickpocketing and late-night robbery are a potential risk. Take your safety into your own hands by following the guidelines below.
Pickpocketing has become more common in recent years. The main targets are cell phones. Some people seem to have their phones stolen constantly through unattentiveness. Purses, wallets, pocket money, and passports are also targeted. The following suggestions all would have prevented real-life pickpocketing situations:
- keep your cell phone in your inside coat pocket and not the outside pocket
- zip or button up pockets whenever possible
- take off your backpack in crowded public transportation
- don't leave your purse on the table for a few seconds to make an order at McDonald's
- don't leave any valuables in coat pockets when you hang your coat up in public places
- if you happen to get drunk, don't walk around alone
- if you are wearing loose jeans in a crowded subway, put your money in your front pocket, not your back pocket
Almost all cases of muggings (i.e. violent street robberies) occur late at night (usually after midnight). Potential targets are:
- people who look drunk, are alone, and are well-dressed
- well-dressed young women in high heels who seem to be returning home from dates late at night
- others who look like they might have valuable possessions on them and look vulnerable
Muggings almost always occur in poorly lit areas. Sometimes attackers follow their victims from the bus stop they get off at. Sometimes they hang around outside and keep an eye out for potential victims. Usually they attack alone, not in groups. Attackers seem to prefer hitting victims over the head from behind to knock them out if possible, and then taking their possessions. Holding knives to victims' throats is less common, and guns are almost never used. In virtually all cases muggings can be avoided by adopting good habits of personal safety:
- if you are returning home after 10:00 p.m., walk briskly, stick to well-lit areas where other people are near, and be attentive to your surroundings
- if you are a woman and suspect you are being followed late at night, stay in a well-lit area near people and ask someone (or a group of people) to accompany you to your building, or call home to have a male meet you
- carry mace with you, but only if you have practiced using it!
- carry a flashlight with you
- don't dress up fancy clothes or flash valuable items (cell phones) when possible
- never be drunk and alone at night!!
Crime in Ukraine compared to the U.S.
Just in case this article has gotten you worried about traveling in Ukraine, please read this post from Andrew Ziebro, an experienced Eastern European traveler:
I wanted to add my reassurances on how safe it is to travel in most of Eastern Europe. I lived in Warsaw, Poland for a year and have traveled extensively throughout Europe. In Eastern Europe, the real problems I saw were petty theft, not personal violence. My biggest caution would be to watch your bags and belongings very carefully. Personal random violence, as is prevalent in larger US cities seems to be on a scale many times smaller. The one thing I love about Europe is the feeling of safety. You can walk at almost any time of day or night in almost any place and your only fear is the fear of getting lost. I rarely felt the fear of being assaulted or fear of someone suspicious.
If anyone warns you off from taking a trip it's either because they have never been there themselves and are only passing along things they've heard, or because they had a bad incident themselves. But honestly, I feel safer in most places throughout Eastern Europe than I do on my own street and neighborhood. A sad fact about American life today :(
Enjoy Ukraine you lucky guy!