What You Need To Know
Odessa is the third most populous city of Ukraine and a major seaport and transportation hub located on the northwestern shore of the Black Sea. Odessa is also an administrative center of the Odessa Oblast and a multiethnic cultural center. Odessa is sometimes called the “pearl of the Black Sea,” the “South Capital”, and “Southern Palmyra”.
It’s known for its beaches and 19th-century architecture, including the Odessa Opera and Ballet Theater. The monumental Potemkin Stairs, immortalized in “The Battleship Potemkin,” lead down to the waterfront with its Vorontsov Lighthouse. Running parallel to the water, the grand Primorsky Boulevard is a popular promenade lined with mansions and monuments.
Area: 236.9 km²
UAH – Ukrainian Hryvnia. The Ukrainian Hryvnia is the currency of Ukraine. Our currency rankings show that the most popular Ukraine Hryvnia exchange rate is the UAH to EUR rate. The currency code for Hryvni is UAH, and the currency symbol is ₴.
Odessa has a humid subtropical climate or hot-summer humid continental climate that borderlines the semi-arid climate (BSk). This has, over the past few centuries, aided the city greatly in creating conditions necessary for the development of tourism. During the tsarist era, Odessa’s climate was considered to be beneficial for the body, and thus many wealthy but sickly persons were sent to the city in order to relax and recuperate. This resulted in the development of a spa culture and the establishment of a number of high-end hotels in the city. The average annual temperature of sea is 13–14 °C (55–57 °F), whilst seasonal temperatures range from an average of 6 °C (43 °F) in the period from January to March, to 23 °C (73 °F) in August. Typically, for a total of 4 months – from June to September – the average sea temperature in the Gulf of Odessa and city’s bay area exceeds 20 °C (68 °F).
The city typically experiences dry, relatively mild winters, which are marked by temperatures which rarely fall below −3 °C (27 °F). Summers on the other hand do see an increased level of precipitation, and the city often basks in warm weather with temperatures often reaching into the high 20s and mid-30s. Snow cover is often only light, and municipal services rarely experience the same problems that can often be found in other, more northern, Ukrainian cities. This is largely because the higher winter temperatures and coastal location of Odessa prevent significant snowfall. Additionally the city does not suffer from the phenomenon of river-freezing.
The official language of Ukraine is Ukrainian, an East Slavic language which is the native language of 67.5% of Ukraine’s population. Russian is the native language of 29.6% of Ukraine’s population and the rest (2.9%) are native speakers of other languages.
Street crime (pickpocketing and scamming) is common, particularly in crowded places, in tourist areas, in bars and nightclubs and on public transportation, especially after nightfall. This includes muggings. Armed robbery can also occur, especially in the larger cities. Racially motivated violence and harassment can occur without corrective action by local authorities.
Always carry your passport (or a good colour photocopy) with you. The police in Odessa, as in all of Ukraine, are notoriously corrupt and constantly on the look out for tourists to harass with the aim of fining them for breaking some imagined rule or law. Use common sense and caution around rowdy groups and drunks in the city, unless you speak good Russian.
Be very careful in the Arkadia district at night, as it might be not safe in the darker areas. Try to be with someone who knows the clubs and the places and speaks Russian.
The economy of Odessa largely stems from its traditional role as a port city. The nearly ice-free port lies near the mouths of the Dnieper, the Southern Bug, the Dniester and the Danube rivers, which provide good links to the hinterland. During the Soviet period (until 1991) the city functioned as the USSR’s largest trading port; it continues in a similar role as independent Ukraine’s busiest international port. The port complex contains an oil and gas transfer and storage facility, a cargo-handling area and a large passenger port. In 2007 the Port of Odessa handled 31,368,000 tonnes of cargo. The port of Odessa is also one of the Ukrainian Navy’s most important bases on the Black Sea. Rail transport is another important sector of the economy in Odessa – largely due to the role it plays in delivering goods and imports to and from the city’s port.
Industrial enterprises located in and around the city include those dedicated to fuel refinement, machine building, metallurgy, and other types of light industry such as food preparation, timber plants and chemical industry. Agriculture is a relatively important sector in the territories surrounding the city. The Seventh-Kilometer Market is a major commercial complex on the outskirts of the city where private traders now operate one of the largest market complexes in Eastern Europe. The market has roughly 6,000 traders and an estimated 150,000 customers per day. Daily sales, according to the Ukrainian periodical Zerkalo Nedeli, were believed to be as high as USD 20 million in 2004. With a staff of 1,200 (mostly guards and janitors), the market is also the region’s largest employer. It is owned by local land and agriculture tycoon Viktor A. Dobriansky and three partners of his. Tavria-V is the most popular retail chain in Odessa. Key areas of business include: retail, wholesale, catering, production, construction and development, private label. Consumer recognition is mainly attributed to the high level of service and the quality of services. Tavria-V is the biggest private company and the biggest tax payer.
Odessa is home to several universities and other institutions of higher education. The city’s best-known and most prestigious university is the Odessa ‘I.I. Mechnikov’ National University. This university is the oldest in the city and was first founded by an edict of Tsar Alexander II of Russia in 1865 as the Imperial Novorossiysk University. Since then the university has developed to become one of modern Ukraine’s leading research and teaching universities, with staff of around 1,800 and total of thirteen academic faculties. Other than the National University, the city is also home to the 1921-inaugurated Odessa National Economic University, the Odessa National Medical University (founded 1900), the 1918-founded Odessa National Polytechnic University and the Odessa National Maritime University (established 1930). In addition to these universities, the city is home to the Odessa Law Academy, the National Academy of Telecommunications and the Odessa National Maritime Academy. The last of these institutions is a highly specialised and prestigious establishment for the preparation and training of merchant mariners which sees around 1,000 newly qualified officer cadets graduate each year and take up employment in the merchant marines of numerous countries around the world. The South Ukrainian National Pedagogical University is also based in the city, this is one of the largest institutions for the preparation of educational specialists in Ukraine and is recognised as one of the country’s finest of such universities.
The public transport in Odessa consists of trams, trolleybuses and mini-buses (called marshrutkas), running throughout the city. Trams and trolley-buses are the cheapest, they cost UAH1.50, but may get very crowded, especially in the tourist peak season. There is no schedule that you may find on the marked stops, so you will just have to stand and wait for the next tram or trolley. In most of trams and trolleys there is a person who’s “patrolling” the tram/trolley and collecting the money. Just give him/her the money, you’ll instead receive a ticket and the change if necessary. There is no need to validate the ticket, unlike the other big Ukrainian cities like Kyiv and Lviv, you just have to buy the ticket on board, and there are no inspectors checking your tickets and issuing fines. In some of the trolleybuses (definitely in numbers 1 and 2) there is no one going and collecting the money from you, so you have to exit through the front door and pay the driver. In such a case you may get onto the trolleybus through any of the doors, but exit only through the front.
Mini-buses called “marshrutkas” are the main source of transportation in the city, as they cover a lot more ground than the system of public transportation. They are all private and nowadays most of them cost 5.00 UAH, you pay the money to the driver when you exit the marshrutka. There is also no schedule for marshrutkas and they also do not stop only on the marked stops. Basically, you can stop a marshrutka anywhere, provided it is not illegal to stop in that area, by waving your hand in front of the driver. You can also exit by saying where you need for the marshrutka to stop.
Taxis are exceptionally dishonest in Odessa, even by former USSR standards, but the rest of the public transportation is so poor and so confusing they may be your only option sometimes. The alternative taxi option is to raise your hand on the crowded street and wait for a taxi to stop. You need to understand the majority of taxis in Odessa are not marked in any taxi colours. There is also a long-time tradition of “carpooling” for money, you raise and wave your hand on the street and any car can stop and ask you where you want to go and how much are you willing to pay. Many drivers thus can save some money on their way to work, or even earn some extra money in their free time.
It is somewhat difficult to get around Odessa by car, because there is a lack of signs. You will see some “Kyiv” or “Airport” signs, but just from time to time. Buy a map before you get in. Nevertheless, you can drive your own car in the whole city, including the city centre. There are no restrictions in the driving areas and parking places can be found even in the centre. There are no parking machines and sometimes you may wonder whether the place is free to park.