Pilgrim Info


The Practical Pilgrim

Money Stuff

It is recommended that you only change enough money in Canada to get you through a day or two. There will be a few opportunities to change money when you get to Ukraine. Currency exchanges are found in banks, hotels and airports. Try to exchange your money at a bank as they will have the best rates.

At the printing of this guide, one Hryvnia will cost about $0.061 Canadian. This fluctuates frequently, but usually not by a great amount.

It can be a hassle to change money every day and you have to pay a fee every time you do.   When you get the chance, change a substantial amount, but don’t carry it all in the same place.

VISA and MasterCard are accepted almost everywhere in Ukraine as are debit cards.

Do not use your debit card for paying as you go. The service charges will bankrupt you. Use it to withdraw cash every few days and pay cash as you go.

Make sure you notify your bank and credit card company that you will be traveling in Ukraine so they don’t freeze your credit and debit card when they notice activity outside of your normal habits. Also check with your bank if they have a “partner” bank in Ukraine If they do, you will not have banking fees if you use these banks. This is a good time to check that your debit card will work overseas.

Travellers Cheques might have been a good idea back in the day, but things have changed. The fees are high and it is difficult to find places that take them, usually you are restricted to exchanging them at a bank.

Keep your cash in a money belt.   Remove it only when you shower. Where we are travelling is relatively safe, but large events such as WYD attract many pickpockets. Avoid carrying a purse or wallet if at all possible.

Tipping is not widespread in Poland. In restaurants, all prices include a service charge. If you are satisfied with the service, you can throw in some spare change (seriously, just change). For an exceptional meal, you may tip 5% in a really nice restaurant.   This goes for taxi drivers, too. Bargaining is common at flea markets and with street vendors.

When deciding how much money you will need, it is recommended that you budget a certain amount per day. If you are willing not drink many coffees and forego the big ticket sightseeing experiences you will need much less than someone who wants to do a lot of shopping, and experience everything.

Remember that all of your meals are covered with the exception of airport meals.

You will be able to bring back goods worth up to C$750 without paying duty or taxes. You will have to declare all items purchased or acquired abroad whether they are for you or gifts for others.   Keep all of your original receipts and have them handy for inspection at customs. For more information on bringing things back to Canada, please see http://www.cbsa-asfc.gc.ca/media/facts-faits/060-eng.html

Travel Stuff

Canadian citizens need valid passports to travel to Ukraine and Poland and to re-enter Canada. If your passport expires in within 6 months of July 2016, you will be denied entrance into Ukraine.

Always have at least two forms of identification (at least one with a photo) on your person at all times during the pilgrimage.

Make 2 photocopies of the page of your passport with your photo, as well as your visas (if required), your birth certificate and any other important documents. Carry one set of copies in a safe place with you and leave a set at home with your emergency contact.

Medical Stuff

If you are bringing any medications (prescription or over-the-counter) or vitamins, bring them in their original containers or they will likely be confiscated.

If you take prescription medication, ask your doctor to write you an extra prescription to take with you in case your meds get lost or stolen. This is a good idea to do with your lens prescription if you wear contacts or eyeglasses.

If there are certain over-the-counter medications you usually take or might need, please don’t count on finding them in the pharmacies. Each country has its own regulations for these drugs and you may not find what you need.

Health Stuff

Jet lag is a very real thing that affects everyone (yes, even you) who travels over distances such as this. Please take it seriously to optimize your first few days in Ukraine.

  • Eat lots and lots of fruits and vegetables two days before you leave and three days after arriving.
  • Eat pasta or rice the night before your flight.
  • Avoid heavy meals for 24 hours before your flight and during your flight (this means large amounts of meat and fatty or fried food).
  • About 48 hours before your flight, adjust your watch to Ukrainian time. Begin to adjust your schedule to that time.
  • Drink copious amounts of water and fruit juice during the flight. Stay away from alcohol and caffeine during the flight. Your body will hate you and make your pay for it.
  • After arriving, spend as much time outdoors as possible. This will help your body adjust naturally to the time difference.
  • Your body generally takes one day per hour of time change to adjust to the time difference. The time change from BC to Ukraine time is 10 hours. SK and AB to Ukraine is 9 hrs. From MB it’s 8 hrs and from ON its 7 hrs. It will take a few days for your body to totally adjust to the time change.

Tips for Staying Healthy on Pilgrimage

  • Eat food that is thoroughly cooked and hot.
  • Eat street vendor food at your own risk.
  • Wash your hands every time you get a chance.
  • Wear insect repellent.
  • Wear sunscreen. Always.
  • Know your limits (physically, emotionally, mentally) and do not exceed them. Some people need more sleep and down time than others. If you are one of them, respect these needs and your experience will be much more pleasant. If you are not one of them, respect that others have these needs and your experience will be much more pleasant.

The public health-care system in Poland is pretty reliable. We will have a contact in case of an emergency or a trip to the hospital.

Communication Stuff

Email is quite easy to access in Ukraine and Poland. Internet cafes are available in most urban areas and wireless access is widespread in cafes and hotels.

To pass information between the pilgrims and loved ones back home, we will be running a blog which will be coming soon.

You will, of course, be able to call home and email on your own, but sometimes there can be days between opportunities to do this. Having this system set up ensures that our loved ones back home are getting regular updates and are not worrying too much.

If you want to bring your own mobile phone, check with your carrier to see if it can be turned on in Ukraine or Poland and how much it will cost to use there. Roaming agreements exist with most phone companies.

The country code for phoning in Ukraine is +380 Poland is +48. Emergency for police in Ukraine and Poland is 112. Not 911.

Safety Stuff

The legal drinking age in Ukraine and Poland is 18 but in some cases those as young as 16 years old will be served alcohol.

Never go wandering around alone. Always have a buddy. Always let at least two people know where you are going and when you plan to return.

  • Obey the instructions of the leaders. They have your best interests in mind.
  • Stay alert at all time, but don’t get paranoid! Stay with the crowds and traffic. Do not leave your bags unattended. EVER! Carry your wallet, if you have to carry one at all, in your front pocket. Keep a hand on your bag/purse at all times. USE A MONEY BELT! PLEASE! Don’t assume that because something is in a cargo pocket (zipped/Velcro-ed) that it is safe.
  • Carry only small amounts of cash on you.
  • Hitchhiking is a bad idea in any country!
  • Never carry your passport, travel tickets, identification, cash, credit cards and insurance papers together. If they are stolen or lost, you are left with no identification or funds.

Climate Stuff

Spa Hats, umbrellas and light-weight clothing are necessities.

Culture Stuff

Ukraine’s official language is, you guessed it, Ukrainian. Russian is also widely spoken in Ukraine.  About 5.3% of the population in Ukraine is Catholic.

Poland’s official language is Polish. Many people in Poland speak English and German. About 88% of the population in Poland is Catholic.

Conservative casual wear is recommended for World Youth Day events.


Packing Stuff

Packing Tips:

If you can’t afford to lose it, don’t bring it!

If you will only use it once, don’t bring it!

If you might need it, don’t bring it!

If it turns out you absolutely need it, you can borrow it or buy it.

Dark colours look clean longer but will be hot in the sun. Choose fabrics that are light weight, dry quickly and don’t wrinkle.

Place only the things you think you absolutely need on your bed; then pack half of what you see.

Pack your carry-on bag with enough to live on if your bag/suitcase should decide to make a pilgrimage of its own. When traveling by air, all liquids, gels and creams must be in containers 100mL or smaller and altogether may not exceed 1L. They must be in a re-sealable, clear plastic bag.

Pack your medications in their original containers in any easily accessible place in your carry-on. You will have to show these at customs.

Mark your bag with your name, address and phone number, ideally on a covered luggage tag so it can’t be read by anyone passing by.

Dress modestly out of respect for the host culture and the type of event in which you are participating. Leave the following at home to avoid the embarrassment of being asked to change your clothes: short shorts/skirts, tube tops, spaghetti (thin) strap tops, halter tops, short shirts, anything with crude slogans/images, saggy pants that let everyone see more of your underwear than they care to. In some locations such as Cathedrals you might need to have your shoulders covered and have skirts and pants at knees length (at the minimum).

The following packing list is built on experience. Everything on it is optional EXCEPT your Passport, Visa (if required) and air tickets… and one set of clothes! You decide what you bring. And what you bring, you carry.

Important Documents

  • Plane Ticket
  • Passport (carry this with you at all times, the only time to take it off is when you shower)
  • Visa
  • Picture ID
  • Money
  • Money Belt
  • Debit Card
  • Credit Card (if you have one)

Stuff to Have in Your Carry-On

  • Prescription Medications in ORIGINAL containers. Have a list of all medications (prescriptions and over-the-counter) you have in your possession, as you will likely have to claim them at customs. Keep the medications in your carry-on so they are readily available for inspection.
  • Copies of your prescriptions in case you lose your meds
  • Toiletries (toothbrush, toothpaste, soap, deodorant, shampoo, razor, comb/brush)
  • Small mirror
  • Travel packs of Kleenex
  • Personal First Aid Kid (anti-diarrheal, band aids, blister care (moleskin is amazing), analgesic, antiseptic ointment)
  • Anti-Bacterial Hand Sanitizer and /or Hand Wipes
  • Water bottle (wrap some duct tape around your water bottle, you never know when you might need some duct tape!)


  • Pants/Skirts – 2
  • Shorts/Skirts (appropriate length) – 2
  • Shirts – 5 (light, light weight)
  • Walking Shoes
  • Outfit appropriate for Church – 1
  • Underwear (5-7)
  • Socks (3)
  • Hat or bandana
  • Rain coat
  • A light weight sweater
  • Travel Umbrella – good for sun and rain
  • Modest Sleepwear (remember, you may have who would appreciate NOT seeing you in your see-through most comfy boxers).
  • Modest swimsuit
  • Earplugs (for yourself, or enough for your roommates if you snore like a velociraptor).
  • Copy of your lens prescription in case your glasses break or get lost.

Other Stuff

  • Sunscreen
  • Sunglasses
  • Lotion
  • Lip Balm
  • Insect Repellent
  • Small transistor radio (essential to hear translations to English at events)
  • Something you can use for a pillow (camp pillows are great and compact)
  • Comfortable Shoes
  • Items for Trading (from Canada, your province or city)
  • Small Flashlight (essential for nights and mornings in shared accommodations)
  • Laundry Detergent / Fabric Softener
  • Travel Games / Deck of Cards
  • Electric Convertor / Plug Adaptor
  • Camera / Batteries / Memory Cards
  • Prayer book / Bible
  • Journal and Pen
  • Pre-printed address labels for family and friends to send postcards
  • Pre-printed labels with your contact info to give to new friends.
  • Rosary
  • Positive Attitude
  • Flexibility (Hurry Up and Wait!)
  • Servant’s Heart


The Popular Pilgrim

 Tips for Being a Popular Pilgrim

  • Don’t be a whiner! This is going to be mostly a wonderful, amazing experience. But pieces of it are going to be difficult and are going to be challenging. This is not going to be a surprise to us. When tempted to complain, offer up your sacrifice for those who will never have the opportunity to be in Ukraine and Poland on pilgrimage.
  • If you have an issue with someone, bring it up with him or her. Don’t complain about others if you are not willing to make an effort to improve the situation.
  • Follow the Code of Conduct.
  • Realize that, because of the nature of pilgrimage, you have given up the right to privacy and individualism in order to live and work together as a Christian community.
  • Be slow to anger and quick to forgive.
  • Approach conflict with others as you think Jesus would – with love, gentleness, and charity.
  • If you bring an iPods or other personal entertainment devices please realize that they are tempting items for thieves. Also, they are not conducive to the purpose of pilgrimage – prayer, formation and friendship. If you do bring these devices and use them at an inappropriate time, you will likely be asked to put them away. Appropriate times to use these devices: When you are trying to sleep on the flights, or at any time during the pilgrimage when everyone else around you is already asleep. Using them during a group situation where there is potential to interact is considered rude and inappropriate for pilgrimage.
  • You have, no doubt, already developed some friendships among the group. This is wonderful! Please be aware that each person on this pilgrimage is a little piece of God. Getting to know them will enrich your life. Make an effort to spend some one-on-one time with each person on our trip. Of course, you won’t become best friends with everyone, but you will be richer for knowing them as more than an acquaintance, and they will be richer for knowing you. If you see that someone is struggling…to fit in, to be included…don’t wait for someone else to take the first step. Be Jesus…look for the least, the last and the lost and welcome them in!
  • You may be an introvert: Someone who likes to be with a few close friends, rather than a large group, and needs time alone to recharge after a busy day; someone who needs time to process ideas and think about how to answer questions. Your challenge will be not to withdraw from the group and to contribute to discussion and sharing willingly even though it may be very difficult and uncomfortable at times.
  • You may be an extrovert: Someone who loves to be with lots of people, needing to spend time with other people in order to recharge when stressed; someone who knows what they want to say or share almost as soon as the question has been asked and who processes ideas out loud by bouncing them off of others. Your challenge will be to realize that you can become draining and annoying if you don’t respect the need for some quiet and silence during discussion times, if you are always the first to speak, and if you feel the need to have a comment for everything that is said or done by anyone.
  • Be on time! If the group is supposed to leave at 7:00 pm, don’t start making your way to the meeting spot at 7:00 pm. This is a simple matter of respect and courtesy for your fellow pilgrims.


The Praying Pilgrim – Maximizing the Pilgrimage Experience

  • Pray each day for your fellow pilgrims, your hosts and your pilgrimage leaders.
  • The Leadership Team is here for you. They have put in thousands (not an exaggeration) of hours into planning and preparing this experience so that you will have an opportunity to grow and experience new and wonderful things. Nothing was thrown together. Everything was thought about, prayed about and included because it would enhance the pilgrimage experience.   Please respect their knowledge, experience and sacrifice by entering into the pilgrimage with a positive, gracious attitude.
  • Always remember that you are not on vacation. You are on pilgrimage – that means simplicity, sacrifice, and service!
  • You will probably be doing much more prayer and “church stuff” every day than you are used to doing. Having a mind and heart that are open to this, even if it seems like a lot, will allow God to do wonderful and amazing things in your life.
  • Have a servant’s heart at all time. Look for opportunities in every situation to serve others.
  • Show the attitude of a learner.
  • Respect the culture of our hosts – dress codes, customs, religion. Different ways of doing things should be seen as opportunities to grow and learn, not to compare, criticize and condemn. We are guests…and should act with graciousness at all times, being grateful for whatever we are given.
  • At all times, make an effort at being open and honest in your communication.
  • Participate with all your heart, soul and mind in all pilgrimage events. This is difficult to do if you are overtired or feeling the effects of too many late nights and overindulging.
  • It may be that many issues, questions, doubts, etc will surface for you during this pilgrimage. The Team is here to support you, listen to you, and journey with you. Please feel free to approach any one of us at any time if you are struggling, need to talk or just want someone to sit with you. Oh…and we like it, too, if you have some new and exciting revelation to share! We are on your side and will be there for you if and when you need us.

Journaling & Reflection

It is very easy to get caught up in the momentum of experiencing a new culture, country and people. Take time each day by yourself to reflect on what you are experiencing. Journalling can help you do that. Here are some points on which to reflect that will help your journaling and maximize your experience on pilgrimage.

  • What was my first impression today of sights, sounds, smells?
  • What feelings and emotions am I experiencing today?
  • What expectations do I have about today/tomorrow?
  • Who did I meet today? What is their contact information?
  • What were the highlights of the day?
  • What events or encounters touched my heart with grief or joy?
  • What stories did I hear today?
  • What do you think God is trying to teach you through what happened today?
  • Are there any significant conversations I had today or did anyone say anything that I want to record (quotes)?
  • Did anything funny happen today?
  • What did we pray about today? What do I need to pray about?
  • How did you experience God in others (pilgrims, leaders, hosts) today?