“Secret ticket will transport you from your daily routine for a weekend” – reads the motto of the new Ukrainian tour service, Secret Ticket. It allows you to discover Ukrainian cities through buying a weekend break, although your destination remains a secret until the evening before your departure. Besides train or bus tickets and a reserved hotel room, clients also get a specially designed map of the city with recommendations for sightseeing, restaurants, and spots to take stunning selfies.
“I want people to discover Ukraine,” Tania Kosianchuk, co-founder of Secret Ticket says. As a philologist, traveller, and tour-guide, she launched the service in the spring, with no funding base, just the enthusiasm and desire to organise interesting and unusual trips. She managed to bring on friend and colleague Serhiy Klepyk – a talented professional designer, to help launch the project.
Kosianchuk and I meet in a café, where she enters carrying a heavy backpack, joking this is her office and starts passionately explaining her project: “Modern technology today lets you visit any place in the world without even stepping out of your home. You can see the collections of world-famous museums or try an American rollercoaster with a virtual reality device, but you’ll never have a real adventure, something you get only when you travel. People work so much today, and when the weekend comes, they opt to stay at home and lie on the coach. A trip to a new place however can be reinvigorating. So the mission of Secret Ticket is to send people on a trip and allow them to have fun.”
Already, Secret Ticket has produced maps with recommendations for 15 cities in Ukraine. Each map features some of the most popular landmarks as well as more secret spaces – cosy backyards, panoramic views, or romantic statues. All of these city spots have been checked out by Kosianchuk herself or through speaking with locals, which makes their maps exclusive and full of surprises. The only big city not on the list of Secret Ticket trips is Lviv because the city is already so established as a tourist destination.
The secrecy of the destination adventurers are bound for is something that attracts people, Kosianchuk says. “We usually send an envelope with tickets the day prior to the trip, but there was one guy, who wanted to add an extreme element to his trip. We delivered his papers directly to the train-station, where he was wearing headphones with a scarf covering his eyes. His friend led him to the train, so he discovered where his destination was only the next morning, when he actually arrived. Another couple went even further: they wrote a message to me after their trip: ‘You’ve ruined our lives.’ I thought – Oh my God! – but in fact they decided to move to Vinnytsya after visiting for a weekend.”
So far, Secret ticket has sent about 200 people to discover Ukrainian cities. Among clients are also people from other countries, like Belarus and Poland, and Kosianchuk says English-language maps will also be available if required. “My friend – a tour-guide in Kyiv, told me the most popular Ukrainian place for foreigners remains Chornobyl. This is a pity because Ukraine has lots of beautiful places to visit apart from Chornobyl, and I want people see the real Ukraine.”
With the visa-free regime now in place, Secret Ticket will also be helping Ukrainians discover Europe. One couple is already travelling to a secret city in Europe for their wedding anniversary. Another new service is trips for people with disabilities. The only prerequisite regardless of who you are – be open to the adventure.