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Should You Buy Your Warm Clothes At Home Or In Eastern Europe?

Posted by Emily Cummings on 5/23/17 10:00 AM

ILP Russia

So it gets cold in Russia, Ukraine and Lithuania. Really cold during some months, if you didn’t know. With the weather being freezing,  should you pack all your winter gear with you or just plan on buying it once you are there? We’ve the answers you are looking for. Well first things first! Congrats on going to Russia, Ukraine, or Lithuania with ILP — wait, you’re not a volunteer yet? You better check out what life is like while living in Ukraine then start filling out an application!

So, next order of business — the weather in these countries. Depending on your semester, you could be dealing with temperatures in the 80’s or 90’s for part of your time as a volunteer….who knew? But don’t worry, it’ll also be cold. And when it gets frigid arctic cold, here’s what alumni have said about bringing vs buying warm clothes: 

Bringing It With You 


  • You have it the minute you walk off the plane
    If you are going Spring semester, this is a huge pro. It could be 15° F the minute you land, which means you are going to want your hat, boots, gloves, earmuffs, scarf and coat ASAP. 

  • You know you can find what you are looking for
    You'll be able to buy warm clothes in Europe, but you just don't know what's there exactly till you are shopping, right? Buying them at home means you know exactly what you will be wearing all semester long. This is really the reason we recommend that you bring everything with you; there's nothing worse than the weather being cold and you still haven't found you need so you're going without.

  • You don't have to budget it in your semester money
    If you buy your warm clothes before you go, all your ILP budget money can go for vacations at the Black Sea or these gorgeous Russian castles


  • Fitting it all into your suitcase on the way there
    Coats and boots are bulky. You'll need to make room in your bulging suitcase for winter clothes, along with your school supplies and comfort foods from home

  • No need for the fur hat or coat souvenir 
    If you pack your winter clothes, you won't need to buy any while you are abroad, which could be a downside....a coat or hat would make a rocking souvenir. 

  • Making sure it's warm enough 
    If you're volunteering from a state that doesn't really do winter (hi there, Arizona!) you might be in for a shock. Your local malls might not carry the kind of coats and boots you'll need for a Russian or Ukrainian winter. Eastern European winters are more like Idaho or Wisconsin winters, so if you've survived a winter semester at BYU-Idaho walking to classes then you've got a good idea of what to expect.

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Buying It There 


  • Such a cool souvenir!
    Seriously, if you invest, you could be wearing your Russian boots or Ukrainian hats for years and years. (Oh and  don't miss out on these souvenirs — they are also cool). 

  • There's room in your suitcase 
    On the way over, there will plenty of room for your other clothes and school supplies because you won't need to fit a puffy coat or fur lined boots inside. 

  • It's a good option for Fall and Summer Semesters 
    For volunteers who are flying in during the summer or fall semesters, it's not going to be freezing when you land, so there's no rush to even have a warm coat for at least a month.

  • Get the chance to shop with your local friends
    Here's what Michael F. had to say (an ILP Russia volunteer): “I was very happy with my decision to buy my winter clothes here. Have some Russians take you shopping, they will know what to look for. I bought my coat with my host family and my boots on my own. I am still wearing my coat years later but my boots died a long time ago.” 


  • The clothes aren’t cheaper 
    Even with the exchange rate, things aren't much cheaper than at home. You will be able to find a cheap coat or boots there but they might not even last you the whole semester. So if you want quality winter gear in Russia, Lithuania or Ukraine, plan on that in your budget.

  • You’ll have to make sure you get it home
    You won't have to worry about bringing warm clothes over, but you will need to bring them back home, especially if you paid good money for those boots. 

  • You might not be able to shop around
    If you need to get a coat ASAP, you might not have much time to shop around, so this may not be a great option if you are coming for Spring semester — it will be cold when you first arrive and you'll definitely want a coat. 

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Tips for no matter what you decide

  • Layers !!
    This is HUGE. No matter if you bring clothes or buy them there, you want to pack lots of layers. Tee shirts, cardigans, long sleeved shirts, a couple sweatshirts...that kind of thing. 

  • Long Coat :
    Packing or bringing a long coat is a smart idea. If you have one that goes down around your knees, you'll have something to sit on while you wait for the bus to your next fabulous cathedral. And a hood is also a good idea — it helps with the wind! 

  • Quality Boots:
     For a semester abroad in this part of the world, you want good quality boots that are comfortable, will keep your feet warm and are waterproof. Good tread on the soles are also nice for icy pavement. This blog post  can help you with finding good brands!

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 It really all just boils down to what you want — there are definite pros and cons to both sides. But there really are no cons when it comes to choosing between these three countries! Russia, Lithuania and Ukraine are so rad. Come see for yourself by clicking these buttons: 

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Topics: Semester Preparation, Ukraine, Russia, Lithuania

Exploring The World For Over 25 Years

Over the years of assisting more than 6,000 volunteers in their desire to travel and make a difference in the lives of others, ILP has seen what works and what doesn't.

We've gathered our tips here for making your semester abroad a successful one.


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