Kyivís metro system is simple, inexpensive, and very easy to use. There are three lines in all, and it is limited in coverage, but if youíre going from somewhere close to a metro station to somewhere close to another metro station, it is by far the quickest way to get around.
Depending where you are in the city, the metro opens some time around 5.30am and you can catch the last trains at midnight, or shortly after. Trains come regularly, and times between each one vary from around 45 seconds at peak times to about ten minutes late at night and early in the morning. Generally speaking, you should have to wait no more than three or four minutes.
At peak times, which are between eight and nine in the morning, and six and seven in the evening, the trains are packed and youíre going to get squished no matter what. Try to avoid the front and back carriages, as they get the most crowded. In fact, best thing to do is to look for someone attractive near the middle of the platform and squeeze on next to them when the train arrives: at least that way you might make a new friend.
To use the metro you simply buy a token from the large, busty and brusque woman at the ĎKasaí (they all fit this description) by handing over some money and raising fingers to tell her how many you want (even if youíre fluent thereís no point talking, cause sheíll pretend not to hear you and look at you like a fool). Since independence, a ride on the metro has only cost 50 kopecks, but in grand Ukrainian fashion, earlier this year they whacked up prices by 200% to 2hrv. Then, after a lot of babushkaís complained, they brought it back down to 1.70 per ride, which is an annoying sum because if you find yourself using the metro regularly youíre going to end up with a pocket full of small change.
Once you have your token you insert it in the barrier and walk through, but be careful not to do so too quickly as arms automatically slam out to prevent you passing until the token has registered, and they more often slam into you than in front of you.
You may have noticed that Kyiv is built on a hill, and that means at the top of that hill the metro stations are a long way underground. Some locals declare that Arsenalna is the deepest metro station in the world, but weíve yet to verify that. The thing to remember here is that it takes quite a while to get down and up from some stations, so if youíre in the centre and only going one or two stops, itís often quicker to walk than get the escalator down, wait for a train, and get the escalator back up again. For example, our research shows that at 4 minutes 55 seconds, Pechersk metro station holds the record for longest escalator ride top to bottom: there are two escalators here, and they are both interminably slow.
Sometimes the direction of the trains gets confusing, so check that youíre getting on the train going your way. It may seem a simple point, but youíd be surprised how often people end up going two or three stops in the wrong direction before they realise.
Changing from one line to another is simple. There are three pairs of stations where you do this Ė Palace Sport/Lva Tolstoha, Kreshchatyk/Maidan Nezalezhnosti, and Golden Gate/Teatralna Ė and sign posts will send you in the right direction. Just remember that around rush hour changing from one platform to another is not for the claustrophobic as the crush is incredible, but if you suffer from that affliction you wonít be on the metro at these times anyway.
Two words of warning Ė firstly, watch out for babushkaís as they are the most violent passengers, and secondly, try to avoid the last train at night wherever possible as these are usually full of very drunk and obstreperous people.
These little mini-buses ferrying people all over the town are quite an eye-opener for first time visitors from the States and Europe, but in fact this method of transport is used in many places throughout the world, and Kyiv has one of the best developed systems there is.
These little buses and vans go from everywhere to everywhere and are ideal for filling in the gaps the metro doesnít cover. They are, of course, surface transport, and therefore subject to traffic jams, but that aside theyíre reasonably efficient.
What is quite incredible about these things is how many people can be crammed on board. You might be canned in like sardines and think that itís beyond the laws of space and time to fit even a mouse on board, but then the driver will pull over at a stop and you will be proved wrong as another half-dozen folk push on.
You can try to remain close to someone attractive so that itís them youíre squished up against when the thing becomes overcrowded, but the gods of marshrutka proximity are not kind and your more likely to have an overweight dedushka who hasnít bathed for a week and whose breath reeks of vodka crammed well inside your personal space.
The cost of a ride on a marshrutka varies between two hrv and two hrv 50, and you simply pay the driver when you get on. If you get on at the back of a crowded marshrutka, simply hand the money to the person in front of you saying, ďperiadite pazhalusta,Ē and it will be passed all the way down to the driver. If you need change, donít worry, it will be passed all the way back.
The big problem about marshrutkas for someone new to them, is guessing which one to get on. Every route has a number, and some stops are listed on the front of every bus, but itís not always easy to know if it will take you where you want to go. Help can be found at www.marshrutka.com.ua.
Buses (trolley and otherwise)
Just like marshrutkas only bigger and more comfortable (usually), but with less operating routes. For the routes they do cover, they operate under the same number as marshrutkas (or more accurately, the marshrutkas operate under the same number as the buses) which keeps everything nice and simple.
While marshrutkas will stop everywhere and anywhere, buses only stop at designated bus stops, which might not be as convenient, but means that they tend not to get quite so crowded. They can, however, still get very busy.
Using them is easy. You simply hop on board, and buy a ticket. Sometimes you buy one directly from the driver, but more often than not there will be a conductor on the bus who will sell you one. The fair, regardless of distance, is 1.50 hrv per journey. Do, however, remember to validate your ticket by using one of the little stamps you will find mounted on poles on every bus. If you donít then the ticket is not valid. You can buy books of tickets, but there is only convenience in this as a book costs the sum of the number of tickets in it.
We have to warn you that if you canít find a seat, make sure you hold on when the bus is in motion. Bus drivers (and marshrutka drivers for that matter) here have two modes in which they operate: full on the gas, and full on the break. If youíre not holding on you will find yourself in someoneís lap, and it is unlikely to be the beautiful devushka you were hoping for.
Passes for unlimited monthly travel can be purchased at all metro stations
Metro only: 95 hrv
Metro, buses, trams and trolleybuses: 230 hrv
Metro and bus or tram or trolleybus: 150 hrv
Getting taxis in a strange place is always a bit of a daunting task, and if youíre new to Kyiv it can be even more so, because basically everyone in a car can be a taxi. There are, of course, taxis with signage on the roof, but there are also a lot without such accoutrement. And then there are those who will become a taxi whenever the mood takes them, and if someone is heading in their general direction.
It is important to stress, that whichever type stops to pick you up, you are safe to get inside: incidences of anything bad happening are extremely rare. The only word of warning we have is never get in a car with two people in it, even if one, or both, of them are female. The chances are, if you do get in a car with two people, you will be perfectly safe as well, but nearly all reported instances of trouble in taxis have been under these circumstances. However, if you feel at all uncomfortable about the person inside, donít get in: simply shut the door and walk away.
The difficulty when it comes to taking taxis, especially if youíre just starting to learn the language, is negotiating the fare. Taxi fares were rising rapidly in the early part of last year, but now theyíre back down. You can travel anywhere in the centre for 20 hrv, and a fare anywhere in the city should rarely cost you more than 50 hrv.
Best thing is to decide how much you think would be a fair price for the distance youíre going, and stick to it (but bear in mind these guys work long hours for not a lot of money). For example, if youíre going from Arena to the Hyatt, 20 hrv is adequate, and you might be feeling generous and go up to 25, or 30 at a push. Agree the price with the driver before you even sit in the car.
If you donít speak the language at all, a neat trick is to have the money in your hand, state your destination to the driver and show him the cash. He will either say yes or no. If he says no, shut the door and put out your hand again. The great thing about getting a taxi here is you never have to wait more than a few seconds before another one pulls up. In fact, you will often find that as one car pulls up, another two or three will pull up behind it, just in the off chance you wonít agree a fare. This puts you in a very strong bargaining position.
We advise that you watch out for taxis sitting waiting. They generally tend to charge excessively, especially those sitting outside upmarket restaurants and hotels: those at the train station are especially bad at this. It is quite often better to walk a few yards and stick out your hand. Having said that, some of those sitting waiting offer decent fairs, so you can always ask before looking for something else.
There are many taxi companies operating in the city, and these are often the best options, but few of their operators speak English, so unless youíre fluent in Russian or Ukrainian, or can get a friend to call then they might not be suitable. Sometimes they keep you waiting longer than you want as well, so bear that in mind when booking one. They all tend to tell you the fair in advance, which is good.
There are some trams still running around town, mostly in the northern part of the town and Podil. These are ancient machines, most of which are falling to pieces, interminably slow, and prone to traffic jams almost as much as buses and mashrutkas. More often than not, itís better to walk!
Some Useful Phrases
Razreshite Pazhalusta: Let me pass please
Peredaite Pazhalusta: Pass this on please
Peredaite sdachu: Give me my change
Perestaníte tolkatísya: Stop pushing
Kakaya eto stanziya?: What station is this?
Ostanovite pazhalusta: Stop here please
Getting to and from the Airport
Taxis are the most convenient way to get to the airport, and the fare should cost you somewhere between 120hrv and 150hrv depending on where youíre coming from. If anyone tries to charge you more than this, donít pay.
The only problem with getting a car to or from the airport is that the traffic can be very heavy, but donít worry, there is an inexpensive way to get there that avoids the snarl ups, and thatís the metro. You canít, of course, get the metro directly to the airport, but instead you head to Kharkivska metro station on the green line. When alighting the train having come from the centre, take the exit to your left. Once through the double doors turn right, go to the end of the corridor, turn right again and walk up the stairs. You will see a bus stop a few yards in front of you, and the bus will take you directly to the airport for 17hrv, making the total cost of the trip less than 20hrv, and because Kharkivska metro is quite far out, you will have missed all the traffic jams.
If youíre coming from the airport, do the same, but in reverse. There are mashrutkas and buses that run this route, and while some only run to Kharkivska metro station, others come right into the centre. The fare to and from the centre is 25 hrv, but stops are limited, and you may fall foul of the traffic, so getting the metro is faster, and cheaper.