Belarus and Moldovia with JC Travel Ukraine. The trip was absolutely fantastic. The Company offers various options so I took the one with Car and Driver. I put together my own itinerary and used Lonely Planet for Ukraine and Moldovia and Bradt for Belarus. Both were adequate although a little bit more info would have been nice. For me to consider a trip a complete success it must meet certain requirements. First the driver must know where every city and site is located. Time is precious when traveling (even if its 42 days) and I dont want to waste time getting lost. Well, my driver-Alex – never got lost and thanks to his car GPS and his smart phone he found every site I wanted to see in a particular city. When I say a particular site I dont mean just the main Cathedral or historic house but places off the typical tourist path such as a memorial to those who died in the “Great Patriotic War” or memorials dedicated to the unbelievable number of Jews who died during after that war. Some of these sites were not very obvious but Alex found them whether they be located on a private farm or behind a gas station. He was wonderful. I have taken many tours with car and driver and never have I been with a driver who was so much concern about me seeing every sights I requested in my itinerary. You need to understand that in some cities I listed 25-30 sites and he found them all. The second factor that I consider important in determining a trip’s success is the reliability of the vehicle. We drove close to 9,000 kms and NOT once was there any problem with the vehicle. Moreover Alex was a very good and safe driver. Thus I never once felt uncomfortable about his driving abilities. Finally as an American –and you know we have to be pampered–I requested clean rooms and bathrooms throughout the trip. I told Julia that I would leave it up to her to find me good 3 or 4 star hotels. I can now say that every night –with no exceptions- I stayed in wonderful hotels. While sometimes the room was a little small, the bed was very comfortable and all had good lighting. Also the bathrooms to my pleasant surprise were absolutely clean, bright, with showers that had strong hot water. Likewise, the breakfast in the vast majority of hotels was excellent. As stated earlier I opted for the tour with car and driver and I have no regreats. However, I was curious concerning other option offered which includes a local guide in each city. So one day I took such a guide offered by JC Travel Ukraine. Since I only did this one time please understand that this is not a very scientific method of evaluating the local guides in all three countries. But during this one time I found the young lady spoke excellent english, was very informative, and polite. She added some interesting points that were not in my guide books but on the whole I felt I did the right thing not getting more local guides. However, if you feel that you would enjoy such a guide by all means do it. I don’t believe you would regret it–although it will add to the price of the trip. After 42 days I believe that I have a good idea about this region of the world and also about JC travel. This is a young company that first and foremost wants you to understand and appreciate the history, culture and food of this region. Second, they want you to have a very enjoyable expierence in their country and in this area of the world. And only lastly are they interested in making a profit. I truly believe you would be making a big mistake not to consider this company if you wish to see this interesting area of the world. Save yourself the time, energy, and money and go with JC travel. You won’t regret it.
For many years I had the dream of traveling to Ukraine. It was never much of a possibility for me. This last year conditioned changed for me and I was able to consider making the trip to Ukraine a reality. I began to research the possibility. That is when I had the fortune to find JC Travel Ukraine and their offer for a tour of Western Ukraine. (I have a great interest in the Carpathian Mountains) I requested more information on their website and was answered almost immediately by Julia. She was able to offer me a customized tour on the dates that were available for me. She was also able to quickly put my mind at ease that JC Travel was a very viable way to see Ukraine and I did!
So about my trip: I visited 7 cities over 11 days. Each city had a guide that lived in the city and had great pride and knowledge of their city and shared with passion the history and heritage of their area. I cannot say that I liked any one guide or city more than another each had highlights I enjoyed. Including fortresses from hundreds of years ago and modern churches with incredible architecture. Between each city we traveled by van thru the country side. For me this was a highlight of the trip as I was able to have a glimpse of normal life in Ukraine.
I enjoyed seeing cows tethered along the road for grazing, farmers pulling their wagons with hay on them, and the most impressive, the well manicured yards. Keep in mind the yards were not manicured with grass as we may imagine, but with fruits, vegetables, small stacks of hay from the grass areas, and a variety of other things that were very cool. I have to say I also enjoyed observing the people in the cities the hustles of everyday life, but a people that as a rule will have a smile for you.
I haven’t included a lot of details about my trip because I truly believe it needs to be seen rather than imagined. I highly recommend using JC Travel Ukraine for a trip to Ukraine. Julia and Alex have great experience, go out of their way to provide personal service and are capable of handling all situations. To add to that Alex is an excellent driver, it is necessary! haha
I would be happy to answer any questions to anyone interested in visiting Ukraine and/or using the services of JC Travel.
In July of 2015 I went on a wonderful minivan tour of Western Ukraine with JC Travel. I was already vacationing Kiev with my husband, who was working there on a 3 week project, when I called JC Travel to see if there was a trip through Western Ukraine that I could join. Julia answered the phone and said yes, a trip starts tomorrow!
I spent nearly a week traveling with Julia and Alex in their very comfortable minivan. They took great care of us, stopping every couple of hours at some very impressive gas stations with good coffee and some great barbequed chicken! While some of the roads needed a bit of repair, Alex is a great driver, and it was always smooth sailing in the minivan. I discovered that I could put the seat back and sleep or read in comfort during the drive.
We went to cities with long, interesting, political, social, and architectural histories, and Julia provided local English speaking travel guides in each city. The guides spent the day and sometimes the evening with us, giving us incredible personal tours of their beloved cities. The 3 star hotels were always comfortable and provided nice, filling breakfasts that included some Ukrainian fare such as fresh sauerkraut and usually had spas and massage available. I also enjoyed trying Ukrainian dishes, and became a big fan of every regional style of beet borsht. Both the food and the cultural and political history of Western Ukraine were especially meaningful to me because of my Jewish roots. Jewish history and culture have deep roots in Western Ukraine.
Although I am not generally a great fan of military history, visiting Kamenyets Podilsky was one of the highlights of my trip to Ukraine. Their fortress-castle built in the fourteenth century is spectacular, and our guide, Maxim, was full of interesting and fun information and kept the military history from being dry.
For me, one of the best parts of traveling with Julia and Alex was that they made travel so easy, especially for someone traveling ‘on her own’, not having to be alert to secure my belongings and not worrying about getting lost.
I can heartily recommend JC Travel, and I would be happy to talk with anyone thinking of using their services.
Julia and Alex, I would first like to say THANK YOU! I had a stay of just about two weeks in Ukraine just recently. I had contacted Julia prior to my trip to make arrangements for Hotels and intercity travel. Certainly I was a little concerned, initially, working with unknowns in a land so very far away. However, my concerns quickly vanished up my arrival in Boryspil, to see that Julia and Alex were there to meet me, and were ready to take me on my journey, despite my later than planned arrival. The vehicle was incredible, and comfortable. Julia and Alex were accommodating, and very sociable. It made the many hours in the “van” so much more pleasant. My journey took me to Cherkassy, Kremenchug, Zaporozhe, Sumy, and Kiev. AND, as a result of a problems with the rail system (due to the conflict I think), Julia and Alex took care of a side trip to Kharkov for me as well, with only 24 hours notice. All of my accommodations in Kremenchug, Zaporozhe, Sumy, and Kiev were wonderful, and taken care of in advance of my arrival! So nice. The hotel rooms were a little smaller than I am accustomed to but, they were clean and well serviced. Besides, I only slept there. Every time I needed Julia and Alex, there were there! They were on time! They were ready to go!
My final experience with them was a tour of Kiev. Amazing!! Olga, the guide, was very easy to understand, took me to many historical, as well as fun locations. She was so well versed on her knowledge of the area, yet was able to deliver it with the enthusiasm of telling it for the first time! Thank goodness there was not a quiz! So much more than I could absorb in our time together!
Incredible service, no problems what so ever, and they even went above and beyond the call of duty a couple of times, helping with translation during some purchase I made, and making sure I got to my destinations (other than hotels).
Though the main highway between Kiev/Boryspil is a great road, all the others were travelled were, well, “turbulent” (LOL). And as it is winter, the roads were icy, and had snow on them during most of our trip. I never once feared for my safety with Alex! I thought perhaps I might have to get out and help push on one icy hill, but Alex took care of the issues, and we had a great trip.
You will have to come and make your own judgments of the country, as it is not one that everyone would like. I personally am impressed with the Ukrainian people and their generally greater creativity than my home land Americans. Their culture is rich, ancient, and full. I have come to adore this country and the people. I am reading the Kobzar. Certainly not light reading, but indicative of the times in which it was written. Kind of tragically beautiful. The cities are full of your typical soviet era, purpose over form, housing and structures. But even in this, one can find amazing beauty and depth, if you are willing to look hard enough. I am a “country” living (not cowboy) person, and found incredible beauty in the tree lined, hedge rowed, snow covered country side, with the occasional plain block constructed houses of the villages outside the cities. Within the cites is amazing intrigue and beauty with snow covered walks, monuments, parks, and frozen streams and rivers. I can only imagine spring and summer here, and hope to return to experience it first hands. Be prepared to break out your superstition handbook! So many wonderful ideas, both big and small. Pay the hedgehog, rub the cats, make a wish while you walk in the right spot, carry a few golden coins, and wish in the fountains and ponds and rivers, provide a purse with money – but only even numbers, flowers shall be only in odd quantities, and so many more. For those who know, an American $2 is highly prized, and greatly appreciated!!
JC Travel Ukraine, Julia and Alex, and Olga, you have my appreciation and gratitude, and my most sincere and highest recommendation! Thank you again!!! Perhaps I will return in the spring or summer when there are not “so huge flakes” of snow! Incredible!!!
I’ve known JC travel for a few years now and I can say I have always had good experiences with them. I chose them because I felt they were different then other generic mass producing travel companies. Can I say personal service! I found that my risk was rewarded. I have been to Ukraine twice and are thinking of going again. Would not go again without them.
Hi Julia and Alex,
We are home with fond memories of our trip. It started great with the time spent with you. We thought 4 of our 5 local guides were excellent (Irene, Zoya, Marta, and Tanya). In addition to being excellent guides, Zoya and Tanya were interesting people that we wish we had been able to spend more time with just talking to them. Pavel tried, but we would not recommend him.
Our favorite place was with Roman. While a taxi driver, not a driver/guide like we had expected, he was the highlight of the trip. Traveling with him was like traveling with a good friend, who was also experiencing the sights for the first time. We saw and learned more through him than we would have with the traditional professional driver/guide that we had expected. We will fondly remember the sites we saw, but Roman will always hold a special place in our hearts.
We truly liked the people of Ukraine. Almost everyone was warm and welcoming. The people in western Ukraine were filled with hope for the future, tempered by concern about the present. We share the hope for the future.
We did enjoy Medzhybizh Castle. Exploring it with Roman, we had the joy of discovery.
One problem that we encountered at the end of our trip, was the inability to convert hryvnia back to dollars as we left Lviv. The currency exchange showed us a green receipt that we should have requested when we converted dollars into hryvnia. We had the receipts that we had been given, but not the green one. We were only able to convert back to dollars thanks to a kind Ukrainian citizen who used her passport to convert for us. She would accept no compensation for her assistance. You may want to be sure to alert future clients to this.
You are sincere people who appear to be working hard to develop you company in a difficult time. We wish you luck.
Our trip to Ukraine with JC Travel exceeded all we could have hoped for! We booked a custom trip back in the fall 2013, before the political unrest started, so we were a little nervous about it by spring 2014, but everything was calm and peaceful. We had adopted our daughter from Ukraine in 2003 and she wanted more information about her past. We traveled with our four teens. Alex and Julia were amazing in all they did to make the trip successful. They made phone calls, appointments, and lots of preparation before we arrived. While we were in the country, they continued to help at every step. We were able to meet relatives, see family villages, and even see the house where a fire had occurred when our daughter was a baby. It was a very emotional time, and Alex and Julia handled it all with compassion and dignity. They went out of their way when one of our children became ill, taking us to the right doctor and helping with medications. We would not even have attempted this trip without help, and Alex and Julia were the best choice we could have made! We all highly recommend JC Travel, and we will certainly turn to them if we return to Ukraine in the future.
If you would like me to change any wording, please let me know!
Thank you for everything!
The right time to go to the Ukraine is now!! The news media made the Ukraine look dangerous but reassured by J.C. Travel, we continued to a quiet Kiev and wonderful vacation. We were in the middle of a cultural change (EU/Russia) and history being made in a most beautiful setting: The City of Kiev. Julia and Alex accompanied us our entire trip including one to the former President’s palatial home outside the city and Independent Square (Maidan). Local guides were provided in historical areas such as the world heritage sites. We visited the Chernobyl Museum and then a long, worth the trip, to the Missile Silo Museum (a site not destroyed and now a museum). A stay at the Fairmont Hotel is a must. The city of Kyiv has many beautiful sites that never show on websites. We drove through the middle of the Ukraine to Kamenets-Podolsky to visit the Fortress. Then on to Chisneau Moldova and the wineries. J.C-Travel is fantstic and took very personal care of us. Transportation was good, hotel selection excellent, and Julie and Alex fantastic. For a personal reference please contact me through JC Travel who will provide my EMail address. News Media are looking for the sensation story and the U.S. Government has a warning about every place you travel. However, recommend staying in Kyiv and have JC travel chart you a trip away from the current conflict. Ask JC Travel for our EMail if you have any questions.