How to Take a Taxi in Ukraine
Last update: Apr., 2016 (major update for 2016)
There are two categories of taxis [taksi] in Ukraine — official taxis who work for taxi services and have lights or signs on the top of the car, and private drivers [chastnik — Russ.; pryvatnyk — Ukr.] who drive around town and pick up passengers.
As of 2016, there are far fewer "chastniki" than there used to be, and in large cities the market is now heavily dominated by taxi services using convenient SMS notification systems.
Taxi services in Ukraine
Cars from taxi services can be ordered over the phone, or they can be picked up on streets next to bus stops and busy locations.
Most of the time, you need to speak Ukrainian or Russian to order a taxi over the phone, though gradually they're starting to hire more English-speaking personnel. You'll need to state:
- your starting address
- destination address
- time of delivery
- last name (not anymore as of 2016 in Kiev)
This all happens very quickly now, and at the end the dispatcher tells you the price and when to expect SMS confirmation. They can see when you're calling from a cell phone.
It used to be that dispatchers would ask for your last name and a contact number and would usually not agree to send a taxi to someone standing outside, because there was too much risk the customer would ride away on another car.
The average time it takes to send a taxi to your address is 12-15 minutes, so there is no need to order a taxi more than an hour in advance. However, during rush hourin Kiev sometimes no cars are available at all. You'll get a text message saying, "Sorry, no cars are available." Make sure you have the numbers of several services for this case.
These days you can't just step out onto the road and flag down any old car like you used to. Well, you can, but the average wait is 20-40 minutes!!
Most taxi services will tell you the price over the phone based on the distance if you ask, but the price may rise if you get stuck in traffic. Each taxi service has its own calculation system. However, I have not yet had a taxi driver ask for more than the price stated over the phone. I have not felt any danger of being overcharged for many years now.
It used to be that meters measured time as well as distance, so you would end up paying more if you get stuck in traffic. I'm not sure this is practiced anymore. If there is any uncertainty, settle on a price beforehand. The minimum cost of a taxi ride is the equivalent of less than $2USD in Kiev and somewhat less in regional centers.
In addition to sedans, most taxi services offer station wagons with more baggage space (called "universal") and even minivans. The prices for these automobiles are slightly higher.
Uber now operates in Ukraine, but I have no experience using them.
Ah the good ol' days... You could just stick out your hand and flag down any car within 1-2 minutes, then agree on a price with the driver if he (more rarely she) was willing to take you where you want to go. This was a very common practice and was not considered at all dangerous.
These days the average wait is 20-40 minutes in Kiev. Everyone has switched to using taxi services, and the number of "chastniki" has plummeted.
In general private drivers are less expensive than taxis, but if you are a foreigner and speak with an accent or aren't sure of yourself, it will be harder to get a low price. If you speak English to the driver, he may ask for much more than usual, though in general this type of behavior seems to have largely disappeared.
Typical phrases for stopping a taxi
Довезёте до метро "Крещатик" за 50 гривен?
Довезете до метро "Хрещатик" за 50 гривень?
Can you take me to Khreschatyk metro station for 50 hryvnias?
Always suggest a price yourself, otherwise you will have to bargain down the taxi driver's price. Although drivers are less and less inclined to haggle since the culture has been changing towards increasing civility and efficiency.