Friday, July 2, 2010

Getting Around in Ukraine When Traveling

I've done a ton of traveling around Ukraine and am pretty used to the transportation "system." It is so counter-intuitive and hard to master for Americans, and yet so beautifully effective at getting you where you need to go in the most efficient way possible.

Let me describe the transportation legs of a recent trip to Crimea.

1. Home to train station (in Kiev)

Took minibus ("marshrutka" or маршрутка) to a metro station, then took the metro (subway, underground, U-bahn...) to the train station. Total time: 40 min. from apartment door. Cost = 3.70 UAH, or nearly $0.50 USD.

2. Kiev to Bakhchisaray

Overnight train, 3rd class ("platzkart" or плацкарт). Time: 16 hours. Cost = roughly 120 UAH, or $15 USD.

3. Bakhchisaray to Sokolinoe

We hopped out of the train to see what transportation was available at 5 am. I was expecting a different bus, but we quickly altered our hiking route to take advantage of the bus that was there that was leaving soon. Time: ~ 30 min. Cost = 8 UAH, or $1 USD.

From here we hiked through the mountains, enjoying scenery like this:

4. Road near Foros to Yalta

After descending to the road, we asked to find out which direction the nearest bus stop was, walked there, and began stopping any public transportation heading to Yalta. 3 minibuses passed by that were full before a large bus stopped to pick us up. A local lady at the bus stop told us this bus was coming "around 1 pm." Before that I had just about decided to start hailing cars and get a hitch, which might have cost up to 50 UAH after some haggling. We had to stand in the aisle of the bus until some people got out and freed up their seats. Time: ~ 45 min. Cost = 12 UAH, or $1.50 USD.

5. Yalta to Luchistoe turn-off (near Angarskyy Pass)

First we went to the Trolleybus station, but I didn't like that they took so long to get to the pass, so we walked up to a nearby minibus that was filling up with people. I asked if it was going to Simferopol. The driver said no and pointed me across the street. There we waited a minute until a minibus backed in. It wasn't going where we wanted, but someone pointed us to the bus station where a bus was supposedly just about to leave. We ran 50 meters and got the last seats before it filled up and left. I asked the driver to stop at the turn-off to Luchistoe. He asked me to remind him when we got close. The price of 20 UAH ($2.50 USD) for this minibus was standard regardless of destination. Time: ~45 min.

From here we hiked through more mountains, enjoying scenery like this:

6. Generalskoe to Solnechnogorskoe

We got to the small settlement of Generalskoe 40 minutes after one of just 2 or 3 daily buses had left. We started walking down the road till we got to the place with taxis and jeeps for tourists who want to visit the nearby Dzhur-Dzhur waterfall. I waved my hand at the price of 50 UAH a driver offered to take us to Solnechnogorskoe, just 7 or 8 km away (I was prepared to pay 10-20 UAH for a ride with a car already going in that direction). So we walked it and enjoyed the views and the quiet road.

7. Solnechnogorskoe to Alushta

Here we stopped to hang out at the beach for a couple hours, then walked up the road to enjoy some tasty, but fatty Uzbek cuisine for 80 UAH ($10 USD) for two people. Along the way I enquired about buses to get that issue out of the way. They said they drove by every 20 minutes or so. After our dinner we went to the bus stop and ended up getting in a minibus to Alushta, although we really needed to get to Simferopol -- further down the road. Time: ~ 45 minutes. Cost: ~12 UAH ($1.50 USD).

8. Alushta to Simferopol

We were let out at the Alushta bus station. Somewhere nearby was the trolleybus station, but I decided to enquire about buses first. After waiting a few minutes in line, I found out that the next few buses were already all sold out, so we would miss our train if we didn't find another option. So I did what you do in Ukraine -- approach a bus driver directly. I asked him if he had "standing spots" available (стоячие места). He asked how many of us there were. "Two," I replied. Turns out he had one seat free, so one of us got to sit and hold the backpacks. Officially this bus had no seats left. I paid the bus driver directly. We left just a few minutes after getting on the bus. Time: ~ 1:15. Cost: 25 UAH ($3 USD).

9. Simferopol to Kiev

Overnight train. See above.

10. Kiev train station to apartment

Metro + minibus. See above.

Total cost: roughly $40 USD.

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