I totally agree on the domestic travel bit. It can be a bit daunting.
Good to have your post as its always good to hear from those that have been there and experienced it. We always learn from others - thats life really !!
Not flying from Mariupol to Odessa, there not many flights to Kiev from Mariupol, but it's only about an hours taxi ride from Donetsk to Mariupol, unless the police stop you, And there are plenty of flights from Donetsk to Odessa. So that cuts the trip down to 2 hours. It's only an hour flight from Donetsk to Kiev. So for the 100 dollars he could be in Mariupol in two hours or her to Odessa. In my opinion it's not the distance but time you spend traveling.
Yes, I agree you can do the trip as you stated. I could do this and perhaps you could do it with your experience but this guy is a newbie. For him to pull off the logistics of traveling to flyshitville Mariupol would be too diddicult and risky in my opinion. Also, he stated all the girls he was going to meet were in Odessa or the region. It just makes more sense to have this one girl come to Odessa in my opinion.
Ah My friend, everyone must visit Shitville at least once in their lives. LOL, I understand your point. But it also gives a person the reality of everyday life in Ukraine when you venture out to other places besides the show places of Kiev,Odessa,Yalta etc. Though, I fell in love with two things, A sweet lady from Mariupol and the city of Yalta. I told Larissa I may retire in Yalta, she thinks it's a joke from me but I'm pretty serious.
Also there are many of us, yourself included that has traveled these area's and can help newbies from falling into some treacherous situations. All regions have their bad points, Odessa and Mariupol included. It's up to us guys that have been there to help the others.
As a newbie booking a flight to Kiev in January or Feb can I ask some advice? Risk to renting a car? Its Europe so I assume they have trains going everywhere? Advice on staying in hotels on the fly? Are men likely to posture an American to violence (in clubs, on the street, etc.) and how how violent is the culture (just trying to gauge an appropriate threat response posture:) Someone made a reference about local police, is there a danger in being stopped by police? Advice on obtaining local Internet access?
You'll probably get a load of answers on here, but I'd suggest searching the forum for more depth of answers - these are common questions (I asked them myself a while back).
It's actually not Europe, although Kiev itself is SIMILAR to some European countries. Yes, there are trains everywhere, but unless you've been somewhere that doesn't use the latin alphabet, it's difficult to imagine how 'other world' it is. You can't even read the signs for words that sound 'similar' to English. For instance, the word 'Cheeseburger' is pretty much recognisable anywhere in the world when spoken, and it's usually the same WRITTEN everywhere in the (latin alphabet) world, on a McDonalds menu in Kiev, it looks like this:
Getting about by yourself is difficult if you don't speak or specifically read the language, especially if you're a newb. On my first trip I stayed in Kiev and Nikolaev. I had English speaking contacts in Kiev, not so much in Nik. There's just no comparison in how much easier Kiev was. My advice is don't fly solo with travel & arrangements on your first trip. Taxi isn't too expensive from the airport to the city. Plenty of taxi drivers speak passable English at the airport (they REALLY want your business, and are probably negotiable on the price. Be prepared for harassment). If you stay in the city, you probably wont need any trains - the city isn't that big, and taxi's within the city cost pennies (suggest getting your contact to negotiate the price though, or call ahead to book. Either way you save 2 thirds of the price)
Apartments are pretty cheap. Check out welcome-to-russia.com or ukrainefare.com. You'll no doubt get other recomendations. In any case, the apartment agencies can usually have a taxi waiting at the airport with your name written out.
Keep kievconnections.com handy as a back up. Their website shows stuff about restaurants, internet cafes, nightclubs etc. They also rent apartments and sort out taxi's etc. Not the cheapest option, but a pretty good one stop shop if you're in a pinch.
From my experience, the place isn't violent at all. There are scammers and con artists around (including some police 'officers') and mugging does happen (very) late at night, but certainly no more than most American cities - in fact probably a lot less. If Police stop you and ask for money, ask them for a ticket (this makes the stop official, no good if they're after a shakedown). Don't stop to pick up wallets (see recent threads for more on that one). DON'T put your wallet in your back pocket, and in general, don't look like a 'victim' (which is just general advice for deterring muggers).
I once saw a drunk old tramp shout 'I hate America' in hilariously slurred fashion, to a bunch of (obviously) American tourists just ahead of me. This is the only overt display of displeasure I've ever seen towards westerners after visiting four cities there. It was in Kiev, but they just looked puzzled and kept on walking. You'll get plenty of stares and what you think are unfriendly looks, but don't worry. Smiling at strangers is seen as something idiots do in their culture, so dour faces are the norm.
There are internet cafes about, and any decent apartment has broadband (mine did - $65pn within walking distance of the centre). Also, the McDonalds in Independance Square has free WIFI.
Have you checked these 5 girls who you are going to meet on scam websites?
Is there any history on them on the fiance.com forums?
Have even asked to get their private details, like REAL postal address, tel number? Or are you just contacting them thru agency?
What if they(one of them) don't show up?
Have you thought about that?
There are many scam profiles already listed on this forums what went wrong?
Keep us posted how your trip goes?