This Easter break I went on a little Eastern European adventure with my friend Little Miss Fun travelling to the western Ukrainian town Lviv and then into Poland and the Czech Republic.
Before heading off we had to sort out our trains. We brought our Kyiv – Lviv tickets via the national train site: http://www.uz.gov.ua/en/
With just one click our places were reserved. To collect the tickets we had to head down to Kyiv’s main train station Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi (Київ-Пасажирський) metro stop Vokzalna, where we also needed to buy Lviv -Krakow tickets which couldn’t be purchased on the site.
Seemed simple enough.
At the station our hearts sank.
Never-ending queues stretched out from booths like giant caterpillars. The Internet caterpillar was the longest; it’s many tired legs held up a drooping body swaying sullenly from side to side. My friend joined the end while I went to sort out our other tickets.
I couldn’t see any signs for the international counter so headed to what looked like the fastest queue and asked if this was the right place. Unfortunately it was the wrong one, which I only found out once at the front and after an hour’s wait.
For international tickets you have to turn left as you enter the station, we were in the right section which deals with domestic trains and internet tickets.
So I finally found the correct window. We were soon on our way! Well so I thought.
This caterpillar wasn’t long but its head was swelling in size and kept swelling. A crowd of people pressed up against the glass pane like squashed flies, and a line wriggled out from there. More and more people jumped into the mosh pit at the front.
Little Miss Fun joined me after collecting our Lviv tickets. We became increasingly frustrated with the chaos and devised a plan of action. She would cover one area and I the other, forming a solid wall to prevent more Pushers.
The cashier took Pushers orders over others waiting before them.
By now we had been at the station two hours! Like a pressure cooker our patience blew the lid.
We demanded the Pushers back to the end, and made such a fuss the Ukrainians finally retreated a little to let these two exasperated foreigners order their tickets.
As it turned out the train to Poland was fully booked.
Our front line fight had been a huge waste of time.
10 tips for buying train tickets in Ukraine:
1. Avoid buying around school holidays and rush hours.
2. Check office hours as they do like their breaks (see below).
3. Ask at front if you are in the right queue.
4. Don’t be polite, be stubborn.
5. Bring a picnic.
6. Bring an oxygen mask.
7. Bring backup and devise a Caterpillar Control Plan.
8. Act like a toddler and have a tantrum if Pushers overtake.
9. Tell people you have a highly contagious disease to get space.
10. If all else fails, put on a monster face and roar out demands like a wild beast.
Note: Kyiv-Pasazhyrskyi Ticket Office is open 24/7 but each window has 10min,20min,and 1hr breaks.
Internet ticket booth break times: 2:30-3:30,7:30-7:50,9:40-9:50,10:50-11:00,13:00-14:00,16:20-16:40,18:40-19:00,21:10-21:20,23:55-00:05.
International ticket booth break times: 1:30-2:30,2:30-4:30,7:30-8:00,9:10-9:20,10:40-10:50, 11:50-12:00, 14:00-15:00, 16:30-16:50, 18:10-18:20, 19:30-20:00, 23:55-00:05.