Sunday, April 15, 2007

Transport in Kyiv 101: The Metro

My readers often ask me, "Little Miss Moi, how do you move about the city of Kyiv?" (I made that up. My readers couldn't be faffed to ask me about that, but I'll answer the question anyway).

I have four main means of transport around Kyiv. Here they are, ranked from most frequently used to least frequently used:

  • On foot
  • On the Kyiv Metro
  • In a taxi
  • Being driven by someone else's driver.
Today's lesson will focus on the Kyiv Metro.

My experience on the metro here is that it's fast, reliable, clean and a great spot to see some bad fashion. I've previously alluded to how deep the metro stations are, and this Wikipedia article gives you a good run down of the metro altogether (notice the big map? Bold names in Ukrainian, lesser names in Russian. This is why I have so much trouble learning the darn lingo).

To ride anywhere on the metro costs 50 kopioks or kopeks, which is about 12 cents Aussie, about 10 cents US, and 5 pence sterling. To travel, you buy a zhiton (token) from the kassa (cashier), slot the token into the gate and jump on the escalator to go down.

The only bad thing about the Kyiv metro is that there are no signs in latin letters (i.e. ours), and the only time one sees a route map that isn't written in Cyrillic, is once you're on the train. Not a lot of help if you then find you're going in the totally wrong direction. This makes is hard for people like Mr Moi, who still hasn't learned the whole Cyrillic alphabet.

There's one confusing thing about the metro, but works OK once you get used to it. In, for example, Sydney, the Town Hall station has about six platforms because there are four of five lines running through it*. But regardless of the line, the station is called Town Hall.

In Kyiv, when you come to a station where there's two lines running through, each line's platform has a different name. Albeit, the platforms for the two lines are usually separated by a two or three minute underground walk too. So, for example, the stop Maidan Nezalezhnosti is on the blue line. There is also a red line stop at that station: Kreshchatyk. Different lines, different names, same station. It actually makes it easy when you've arranged to meet someone at the station, as the margin for error is considerably more narrow (I'll meet you at Kreshchatyk is much more definitive than I'll meet you on the third platform from the entrance, fifty furloughs from the northbound tunnel).

Now, let me have a rant about the Tube in London. It's small, it's dingy, and, even if you're at a major travel hub station, they DON'T have lifts. So, for example, I forked out 15 pounds to ride into Paddington Station from Heathrow at 6:30am, because I was at the end of a 27 hour transit from Australia. This is a lot of money, but I was exhausted and wanted to get to my brother's house ASAP. And my suitcase weighed 27kgs.

When I arrived at Paddington, I had to then catch the Tube six stops to get to my brother's place. So I followed the signs to the Tube. First, down some escalators. Then, down some stairs (bang, bang, BANG went my suitcase). Then, through a tunnel and UP some stairs! The effort of pulling of my up the stairs almost pulled my arm off.

Then back down some more stairs, and onto the Tube. Then repeated the same pully-uppy shitehouse routine when I got off the other end.

Where the London Tube is warren-like, the Kyiv Metro is cavernous. Where the London Tube has stairs, the Kyiv metro has escalators. Where the London Tube trains are tiny and slow, the Kyiv Metro trains are a normal size and go rather quick.

I could go on and on, but I won't. I'll leave it right there.

I hope you've enjoyed this lesson on the Kyiv Metro.

*I just made up these numbers.


Sabrina said...

Very interesting, chica. I actually WAS curious about your transportation options. The metro at least sounds very nice, clean, and useful!

Luciluna said...

Hmmm. My brief stay in London left me with a favorable impression of the tube. If you have ever ridden the NY subway system, the Tube is heaven. My advice: If you get to New York, stay off the subway!!!

Beccy said...

In reply to Luciluna, my hubby was very good at getting us about on the NY subway even when it would terminate halfway through it's run for no reason, he got us wherever we wanted to go and saved us a packet on taxis.

Whenever I've travelled in London I've taken a rucksack so haven't encountered the problems you did LMM but it sounds harrendous after 27 hours on a plane. The metro in Kyiv sounds good, is it modern?

Wes said...

An interesting lesson on not one, but two underground train systems. Well done. Is it still down in the bowels now the sun has come out, or is it still chilly like the snow pictures?!

sarahemily said...

Thanks for the info on the different platform situation - I never realised that. I am still at the stage of matching the word 'patterns' on the signs with those on the map. Did you notice the massive steel doors at the bottom of the escalators? Someone told me these could be closed to make the metro a bomb shelter - is this true?

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear sabrina. Perhaps I picked up your questioning vibes by psychic-ness then. The metro is very useful - the bad fashion one is exposed to is more than made up for by the price!

Dear luciluna. I travelled in London in 1994 and the Tube was very easy to get around. But I swear they are using the same trains as they were then, with little maintenance, and how you need to visit a chiropractor when you get off! I'll keep clear of the NY subway though...

Dear beccy. The metro in Kyiv is fine. It's modern to about the 1970s - so everything is clean but think fake wood panelling and brown seats! Very smooth trip though, and tellies inside the cars.

Dear wes. Yep, you can travel on the metro and have no idea what the weather is like outside. Many of the stations on my side of town are about 100m+ underground.

Dear sarahemily. Yes, many of the older stations were built into old bomb shelters from WWII. I would assume that they Soviets always planned for this eventuality happening again in the future. Whereabouts do you live - I'm not sure I realised you were in Kyiv!

Claudia said...

I remember having to take the Tube in London once up a long ago. It was the most confusing thing-I went in circles for a while until finally asking for help!!

swampwitch said...

Interesting info about "The Metro"...a broom is much easier and cheaper.

pumpernickel said...


And there is one other form of transport - gypsy cabs. Have you tried?


ChrisB said...

I can't believe how cheap the Kyiv metro is; London is very expensive and the tube stations are old but I thought they had to modernise but clearly from your experience it hasn't happened yet. As I was with Beccy and Joules in NY it was no problem, not sure I would have been brave enough alone although after a few journeys I was beginning to get the hang of it.

theotherbear said...

Your metro certainly sounds more reliable than Sydney's Shittyrail oops I mean Cityrail system.

willowtree said...

I didn't mind the Tube, but I agree about all the stairs.

Town Hall has 6 platforms on 2 levels with 7 lines, although the lines use multiple platforms. (don't worry about not knowing exactly, I caught the train to and from there for 10 years and I had to look it up myself!

"My experience on the metro here is that it's fast, reliable, clean and a great spot to see some bad fashion". This sounds just like the Sydney train system, except for the part about being fast, clean reliable and cheap.

Anonymous said...

Posts like these are so interesting and make a strong argument as to why I should be forcibly seperated from my computer. One click on a wikipedia link and eventually I'm trying to figure out how the transbay tube on the transit system here (BART) would hold up in an earthquake. Which then leads me to fault lines, and geography, and...what time is it?

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear claudia. I get especially confused on the Tube when you have to choose the 'eastbound' or 'westbound' line, when in reality you want to go north!

Dear swampy. Of course a broom is much cheaper - I didn't think of that. Might try it tomorrow!

Dear pumpernickel. Sure have. Gypsy cabs will be included in my 'Taxi' lesson.

Dear chrisb. I think I totally forget to mention that in the post. If you catch the Tube, you're looking at about a 3 pound fare - one way! If you use the Oyster card, then usually it will only charge about 1.20 for the return trip or something, but these are distances you can walk in about 20 minutes. I agree, it's VERY expensive!

Dear theotherbear. I totally used to call it shittyrail too! I used to catch the 7:40 express from West Ryde into Wynyard. Was supposed to arrive at 8:17 or something. NEver usually arrived before 8:30, and I always had to stand up. In the end, I actually couldn't catch it because I couldn't fit through the door (after the new timetable). Here, if I can't fit through the door, I know there will be another train in about 2 minutes, and it only cost me 10c anyway, not $32 per week!

Dear willowtree. Thanks for looking up something I couldn't be arsed doing! Oh and did you know about the ghost platforms at Wynyard? Well, that's what I call them. Almost as interesting as the Tank Stream.

Dear melissa. The same reaction to another blog's wikipedia links saw me in bed last night, dog tired, laying on my side reading about the Eurasian Pole of Inaccessibility.

Pamela said...

my life is so simple. The only tubes around here are full of lipstick and vaseline.

Jenny said...

I'm so confused.

I'm never leaving Texas.

JoeinVegas said...

Gee, I could compare the metro with the one we have in Las Vegas, or back in San Diego:
You have one, we don't.
Guess in the western US the car is king.

Karmyn R said...

Well - its nice to know that the Ukraine has something figured out!!!!

I was on the London Tube Once - but I was 16 and thought it was all very exciting (except for the part when the train came and all the people pushed forward and I thought I was going to get shoved onto the track)

enidd said...

one good thing about the london underground - the map.

no, two good things - sometimes the driver can be very funny

elena jane said...

interesting read....i've used the london tube quite a bit in my travels and there wee time when a taxi between stations was just easier when i'd have a couple of heavy cases.
is the kyiv train all shiny like in the russian movies??

EmBee said...

Luckily there is no tube of any kind from North Bristol to bath and my office is 400m higher than the surface rail station and I am approching seventy at a frightening pace so it is a car drive for me.
The description was a fascinating insight and I look forward to the next lesson. One tiny picky little thing - aren't the characters arabic???? Best wishes

Little Miss Moi said...

Dear pamela. You make me laugh! I don't even have lipstick tubes, but I have a pot of aloe vera vaseline which found in London. MMmMMm.

Dear jenny. Ah! It's simple when you're on these contraptions. Just follow the crowd, and you'll end up.. somewhere.

Dear joeinvegas. Yes, that's the same in Australia. Well, most cities have a suburban rail system, with a couple of underground stops, but you wouldn't catch a metro two blocks away, for example. Car is also king in Sydney.

Dear karmyn. Actually, many of the former Soviet 'flagship' cities, so to speak, have wonderful metro systems - Moscow, St Petersburg, Kyiv, I believe Kharkiv and probably a whole bunch in Russia. The Soviets were dedicated to showing the world their grand achievements in engineering and many of the stations, especially in Russia, are apparently jaw-droppingly beautiful.

Dear enid. Heheh that's funny - is it really true?

Dear elena jane. Yes, I should have been more willing to spend a bit of dosh on a cab. But, they do cost a bit of money for a poor lass who's unemployed. Shiny? Not sure, probably considering that now it's spring, everything, and I mean everything is getting painted.

Dear embee. Welcome! Yes, driving is definitely my favourite way to get to work. When I had to catch the train I hated it. Characters in Ukraine? They use the cyrillic script, which can be best describes as a cross between... latin and greek letters. BUT the Wikipedia link I posted in the article has all the names transliterated into latin letters for us :o) much easier to read.