Kiev can seem quite foreign to the western tourist, as most signposts are in Cyrillic script. It is still largely a city where very few people know English, and the likelihood of encountering an English speaker is low - but not impossible. For the non-Russian or Ukrainian speaker, it's quite possible to get around easily, and it is a very interesting city to explore. It never hurts to speak English. Often, a shop assistant will ask customers who can speak English to act as translators.
It is advisable, however, to pick up a pocket Russian or Ukrainian phrasebook, and learn the Cyrillic alphabet, which can be fun and is easy to learn. Spend some time practicing key words and phrases (e.g. 'hello', 'thank-you' and 'bill please'). Even what you regard as a feeble attempt at Ukrainian or Russian will amuse most people to the point where they become comfortable engaging in pantomime or trying out the little bit of English they know.
It is impolite to chat loudly (e.g., in the Metro), point or wave one's hands. You should also avoid whistling inside or being under-dressed, although in summer very short mini-skirts are widespread. All of these actions will regularly attract the wrong type of attention, including outright hostility.
Pick up a "Kyiv Tour Guide" map book (Geosvit books - around USD3–4), which is available at a number of kiosks or at the central post office. Kiev#Post_Offices Basic tourist maps are available at the baggage carousel at Boryspil Airport. If you are spending much time in Kiev, get the matching Ukrainian version of your map, many locals have as much trouble with the version that is transliterated to Latin characters as you will have with Cyrillic. They need the version in Cyrillic. When asking for directions or setting out in a taxi, it helps to locate the place you want on the English map and then point out the same spot on the Ukrainian version.
The Metro (Ukrainian: Метро) is one of the pleasures of Kiev. It is a clean and fast subway system and it is easy to navigate once you realize that all three metro lines (red, blue and green) go through the city centre. In total there are 50 stations, with ambitious plans for extension.
When you enter the Metro, you must purchase an entrance token from the cash desk, Kasa (Ukrainian: каса) or from a special ticket machine. One token is valid for one trip, no matter how far you go. A token is UAH2 and one needs to slip the token into the turnstile to enter. A note of caution: make sure you walk through the correct side of the turnstile (that's usually on the left side of the turnstile you slip your token in), or you will be hit with a metal gate that will slam shut. You can also obtain an unlimited monthly ticket with a magnetic tape, which is available for sale for UAH95 during the first week of the calendar month or the third week for half the price (but not strictly so).
As of 2012, the Kiev metro has undergone a major improvement with respect to the navigation. Most maps and signposts are translated into English. Additionally, every stations has got its unique three-digit number, with the first digit showing the number of line (M1 for red, M2 for blue, and M3 for green). Once on board, every station is announced by loud speakers and TV screens. These screens show a lot of weird ads between the stations, but flag an impending station before arrival. Upon departure, they then show the next station.
Metro stations where you can interchange have two different names - one for each line. If you are changing lines, the other station can be reached by an overpass in the centre or near one of the ends of the platform.
Trains run every 30 to 150 seconds during business hours, every 5 minutes after 20:00, and every 10–15 minutes after 22.30. Last trains depart from the terminal stations around midnight, so your last chance to catch a train in the city centre is between 00.15 and 00.25 (check the timetable of late departures, which is signposted on each station). Trains are often very crowded. Be prepared to push, as this may be the only way you get on the train during peak hours.
It's interesting to note that the Kiev metro has some of the deepest stations in the world. The Arsenalna station (Ukrainian: Арсенальна) station is the deepest metro station in the world, at 107m deep, and the Universytet station (Ukrainian: Університет) has one of the longest escalators (87m long). Many stations have two long and intimidating escalators in a row.
If you enable "Cell Info Display" on your GSM phone, it will show you the name of the station (in transliterated Latin characters (for UMC and Kyivstar subscribers) just like your map) when you are underground in the vicinity of a station. Your mobile/cell/handy should work on most of the network, including between stations.
Spend some time looking at the stations. The red line features impressive architecture, similar to that seen in the Moscow and Saint Petersburg metro systems. Elaborate mosaics in the Zolotye Vorota station depict rulers and other historical characters of the medieval Kievan Rus.
There are two types of city-run buses available – bus (автобус) and trolleybus (тролейбус) – as well as slow and moribund trams. These can be hailed from assigned stops, which are marked by an inconspicuous sign on a telegraph pole. The buses are often very crowded during peak hours, but the norm is to push your way in. Once on board, you need to get a ticket and validate it by punching a hole with one of the small punchers that are attached to the posts inside the bus. If you can't get near the hole puncher, ask someone to validate your ticket for you. Tickets cost UAH1.50 and are normally available from a conductor on board (oddly enough, they first sell you as many tickets as you want, then asks you to validate one). Tickets can be also purchased from drivers or in kiosks throughout the city.
You can also travel on so called route taxis or mini-vans called marshrutky (маршрутки). These are privately run vehicles that travel assigned routes, which are listed on the front of the bus. You can hail a marshrutka at the assigned bus stops. When you board, you pay the driver directly or, if you're not near the driver, pass the money to the nearest passenger who will pass it to the driver. Your change will be returned in reverse order, but it is unwise to pass big bills. When you are reaching your destination, simply yell out to the driver to stop “Na zupyntsi" with stress on "-pyn-"', which literally means "on the stop" in Ukrainian, or use Russian: "Na astanovkie", stressing on "-nov-" (some 100 meters in advance to the bus stop you need). If you overshoot you get a nice walk and a driver gets a little extra stress a day. The fare ranges for about UAH2-3, and is usually stated on the front and sidewalk-side of the vehicle, so you will know how much you pay in advance. It is good to have some change, so you can pay exact amount. Marshrutka routes can be hard to figure out, but they have a list of stops on the window and a Metro logo for the metro stops. The best way to figure out where these go is to ask some of the locals. City maps usually picture all public transport, both normal buses/trolleybuses/trams and marshrutky. The one downside to using marshrutky is that they tend to be a little overpacked (understatement) and very warm or cold, depending on season.
Travelling by tram mostly for on or to suburbs can be an option. In western Kiev maybe a useful end station which is at the Kontraktova metro station. From here depart No.14 far to westward and No.18 to the 'Vokzalna' station. Also from Kontraktova depart to northbound No.11 to Obolon metro station, No.19 to Minsk metro station, No.12 to northwest, a bit out of city limit to Horenka settlement. For more info visit Kievpastrans website.
As with many former Soviet cities, it is perfectly acceptable for any car to stop and pick you up. An unmarked vehicle is a 'gypsy' cab. To hail a ride, simply stand with your arm out. When a car pulls over, negotiate a fare. As a rule of thumb, rides within the downtown should not cost more than UAH20-40 and moving across the city might be anywhere from UAH30 to UAH70 (also depends on car model, time of day, weather and traffic conditions, whether both of you need to get to the same part of the city, etc.). Therefore, you should choose a proper street side, and your gender and numbers usually matter for the price. Generally, girls would find informal taxis easier and cheaper than men. It is safe enough compared to many cities, but in the middle of the night you may be taking a risk. Official company taxis can be hailed, or booked over the phone. There is usually someone who speaks English working for the company. Simply ask 'pa angliski pazhalusta' (or "English please"). The operator will give you a quote, which will save you from the sometimes intimidating process of negotiating on the street. Taxi fares do vary widely. On the same route, a local could pay UAH15 while a foreigner may be quoted UAH60 with the driver being prepared to settle for UAH30. Don't hesitate to bargain!
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