What if I travel to…Lviv, Ukraine? ($10/Day)

lv

Ukraine is extremely budget friendly, and not yet full mainstream. The benefit is that it is easy to still experience local daily life, there are few people trying to constantly sell you things, and it feels like an authentic experience in which to be a traveler, not a tourist. This is a country at war, and you will see a healthy number of soldiers home on leave and displays of patriotism in homes/stores, but do not let this discourage you or doubt the safety of traveling to Ukraine.

  • Dream Hostel is under 6 USD a night, with great atmosphere, big kitchen, and centrally located in Rynok Square
  • Skip the taxis and use Uber, from the center of town is less than 3 USD to/from the airport
  • Hike up to the High Castle Park for a city view and a chance to hike through some trails
  • The Bernardine Monastery is beautiful, especially lit up at night
  • Old trolleys operate around the majority of the city for less than a few cents, just slide the small hatch open to pay the operator and receive your change
  • Check out the former Austrian Citadel within the city for some urban exploring and a glance at former Nazi fortifications
  • Local markets are cheap, vibrant, and a great glimpse into daily life/consumables
  • Beer is great in Lviv, with some of the best dark beers in all of Europe (in my opinion)
    • go to the liquor store for 2 liter beers under a dollar

maso

  • The Masoch Cafe is an experience you have to see to believe, where the patrons are whipped and sometimes chained to the wall
  • Buses from/to Kraków are cheap, roughly 23 USD/20 euro, and take about 7 hours non-stop
  • Cash never card is the best way to go
  • Ukraine celebrates Christmas on January 7th, with grand markets, concerts, and decor
  • Lychakiv Cemetery is a popular stop among travelers and locals alike, with well adorned shrines and centuries of tombstones
  •  Lviv is a great jumping off point for Kiev and Odessa
  • Wonder outside of the city center to see a more complete picture of modern Ukraine and how people live

What if I travel to…Kraków, Poland? ($20/Day)

oldt

Kraków (Crakow) is backpackers urban paradise. The cost of living is cheap, the beer is great, the nightlife is wild, and the whole city is full of life. Keep in mind the trains never run on time and the main areas can be quite touristy, but as a whole there something about the general vibe that encourages a person to keep adding days to their stay and never quite being ready to leave.

  • Art is everywhere in Old Town, with paintings, graffiti, tattoos, and live music down alleys and in the main square arm
    • Rock’n’Ink does great work for a good price and are only a short walk from the central square (my own tattoo right after completion)
  • Try some of the local vodka and tea while visiting
  • Stay at Greg & Tom Beer Hostel for about 10 USD, it includes free dinner, a beer hour, and all you can eat breakfast. The staff is killer, the pub crawl is great, and it is an easy location to meet other people

ausc

  • Auschwitz is less than two hours away by bus, it is a heavy day trip but important to see. Tours are around 90 to 120 zloty, including round trip fare, but if on a budget or you want to be able to go at your own pace, round trip is 22 zloty and admission is free. Plan on spending 3 to 5 hours at the camp, there is more information than you can process throughout the camp and it is not easy to read
    • April through October tours are the only way to access the camp after 10 am
    • This is a whole day event, even if you finish in the early afternoon the mental toll is dramatic and every person I have encountered who visited need hours to process (myself included)
    • From town, go to the main bus station and ask for a ticket, when leaving the camp walk out the exit and to the right, when you get to the road you will see a bus stop

birds

  • Schindler’s factory is a 20 minute walk from Old Town, on the edge of the former ghetto. There is a line in the afternoon but get there early for a tour
    • Ghetto Heroes Square is a monument in the center of the former ghetto and is 33 empty chairs symbolizing the lives of those who are no longer with the community as a result of the Holocaust
  • The Jewish Quarter is full of beautiful buildings, a thriving market (some vendors sell old Soviet and Nazi items from the occupation), and good food. Also contained are several beautiful synagogues and churches
  • Cash not card is the best form of payment
  • Wawel Castle sits looking over Old Town and the surrounding districts, it is a wonderful space to catch a sunrise or sunset

bazaa

  • Ice skating can be found near the train station in the winter, along with a great Christmas Market in the main square
  • Father Bernateks Bridge (Lovers Bridge) currently features 9 acrobatic sculptures suspended in amazing positions of balance along the bridge by cables
  • Polish people were very friendly and helpful in my experience, the majority of the younger crowd spoke impeccable English and had no trouble being asked directions/recommendations