Public Transportation in Ukraine
How to use buses, trolleybuses, and street trams (separate article on the subway system)
Ukraine's ground transportation system is very well-developed. Buses small and large whisk passengers along all major city streets in all possible directions. Street trams and trolleybuses — the cheapest forms of transportation — plug slowly along their routes. None of these modes of transportation are particularly foreigner-friendly, but with a bit of study and exposure almost anyone can learn to use them.
Be advised that at busy times of day all these forms of transportation can be jam-packed, eliciting images of India or Sub-Saharan Africa, where people even cling to the outside of buses. If you're not prepared for an intimate acquaintance with other passengers, better take a taxi during these times of day.
Be aware that buses in Ukraine fall into two different categories — so-called "avtobusy" and "marshrutki." The difference is that avtobusy, or "buses," stop only at designated, equipped bus stops and are state-owned; marshrutki (sometimes called "minibuses" or "shuttle buses") are run by private companies and stop wherever passengers request. Marshrutki are the most popular form of public transportation in Ukraine.
These minibuses come in different shapes and sizes. More and more common these days are the larger buses (usually yellow) shown in the photo at top, but the smaller minivan type at right are also very common. The larger, taller buses are far more comfortable for standing, which is what many passengers end up doing. Standing half-bent over someone else's seat can be a painful experience. So, if you are tall, look for minibuses with a high ceiling if it looks like you will have to stand.
Paying bus fare
Passengers pay fare — between 50 kopecks and 2 Hryvnia (10 and 40 U.S. cents) upon entering the bus or minibus, expect for Sevastopol, where you pay upon exiting. In minibuses, you can take your seat first and pass your money to the driver via other passengers (you will need to tell them how many people you are paying for if it is not obvious). Fare almost never depends on the distance of your destination. If you wait too long to pay, the driver will yell at the passengers.
Sometimes you will get a little ticket stub back from the driver or his fare-collecting assistant, but often this formality is ignored.
Announcing bus stops
In buses (the state-owned buses) all stops are automatic and do not need to be requested. In minibuses (marshrutki) you will need to call out your stop no less than 100 m away. Here are some typical phrases below:
Russian:На остановке! ("At the bus stop!")На следующей остановите? ("Can you stop at the next stop?")Остановите, пожалуйста, возле метро! ("Please stop next to the metro!")Перед светафором! ("In front of the stop light!")На Глубочицкой! ("Glubochitskaya Street!")Ukrainian:Зупиніть біля магазину! ("Stop next to the store!")На зупинці! ("At the bus stop!")
Bus schedules are not posted anywhere. Buses run with intervals of 3-30 minutes (5-10 is most common). Main streets have multiple bus routes along them, so Ukrainians typically ask passers by for bus info or ask the driver as they get on the bus if it will take them to such-and-such a street.
Most buses run from about 6:00 a.m. to 11:00 p.m., but certain buses may run later depending on the demand for a certain route (e.g. to the train station).
Ukrainian trolleybuses and street trams
Trolleybuses and street trams ("tramvayi") stop only at designated stops. Street trams run along narrow train tracks, while trolleybuses are hooked up to electric lines above the road, so their movements are limited. The connecting rods on trolleybuses sometimes get dislodged, making the driver run out and realign them. This happens a lot.
Paying fare and avoiding controllers
On trolleybuses and street trams you need to be careful to buy a ticket, because ticket controllers sometimes get on and exact fines from unwary passengers. The allotted fine is somewhere between 10 and 15 UAH ($2-3 USD), but the controllers' behavior can get very aggressive if you don't pay immediately, and if you're not used to dealing with them, it may well ruin your mood for the day. This is enough of a problem that hotline numbers are usually posted in trolleybuses and trams for "questions concerning the actions of controllers."
Each city has a slightly different system, but you can usually buy a ticket at ticket booths at major stops; if not, you'll need to buy one from the ticket dispatcher ("conductor") in a special green or blue vest or — if there is none — from the driver himself. In some cities the ticket does not need to be punched, while in others (Kiev, for example), you will need to have it punched on a special punching device on the wall. When the carriage is crowded, people pass tickets to the hole-puncher by saying, "прокомпостируйте, пожалуйста" (Russ. - "punch this please"), or "закомпостуйте, будь ласка" (Ukr.).
Trams often have two carriages and only one conductor (who goes back and forth between the carriages), so if you don't have a ticket, get in the carriage where the conductor is in order to avoid controllers. Not to be paranoid or anything, but dealing with controllers can be a very unpleasant experience for inexperienced expats.