I have taken thousands of taxis during all my travels around the world, but the bandit of a taxi driver in Ukraine was my worst experience ever with a taxi.
I arrived Ukraine on a night bus from Chisinau (Moldova). The border crossing went very smoothly (without a visa). It was pitch dark in Chernivtsi, and hardly any people to see, so I decided to wait for the sunrise at the dilapidated bus terminal. Surprisingly I found a free Wi-fi in the waiting room, hence I never got bored there. I also got invaluable help from two young girls to interpret the wall boards (Cyrillic), which contained important information about bus schedules. Therefore, I had no significant problems to get a bus to Kamenets-Podilskyi when the ticket office finally opened.
I spent a day and night in Kamenets-Podilskyi, a wonderful medieval city with a "Disney-like" fortress in the old town. I also visited the nearby fortress in Khotyn. Then I went back to Chernivtsi for more sightseeing.
Almost kidnapped by a taxi driver in Chernivtsi
I was almost kidnapped, when I took a taxi from my hotel in Chernivtsi to the train station about 3 km away. The big driver, with a few teeth knocked out, did a long loop far outside the city, while the meter was running hot. I actually had a bad feeling from the second I stepped into this taxi. When I turned on my GPS, it confirmed that we were completely on the wrong track. When the taxi driver noticed that I had a GPS, he must have perceived that I revealed his scam and he changed his mood to the worse. I considered to stop the taxi (if possible), but I was afraid that I would not be able to get another taxi quickly enough to catch my train. The driver did not speak a single word of English and I did not speak Ukrainian/Russian. No doubt that he tried to exploit this handicap to the utmost.
When we finally arrived at the train station, the meter showed 140 UAH, considerably more than the 20 UAH I had expected for a short taxi ride to the train station. But the 3 km had fraudulently become 25 km, thus I was trapped. First I gave him 50 UAH, to see if he could accept a compromise, but instead he got very angry. I had neither the time nor the inclination to escalate the issue, so I emptied my wallet for the rest of what I had, another 70 UAH. It was still not enough, and the taxi driver hissed, pointing at his phone as if he wanted to call someone. Desperately I showed him the contents of my wallet so he could see that it was empty, except from some Romanian notes that I had not exchanged yet. He grabbed the 20 Romanian lei out of my wallet, and then he finally seemed happy. I was angry and frustrated, but there was really nothing I could do.
I rushed over to the train which was about to depart for Ivano-Frankivsk. I was now penniless, but luckily I had purchased the train ticket via internet, so I had no urgent need to find an ATM. Truth to be told, the taxi-driver just fleeced me for what I would call a fairly trivial amount, considering that the situation could have turned into a much worse case when you first are so unlucky to encounter a real mafia bandit of a taxi driver. He could have stopped at a deserted road outside of the city and stripped me of valuables, because this kind of guy was probably capable of anything. I decided to quickly put all these thoughts behind me, because what I had seen of Ukraine and its people so far, had only been pure friendliness. But it will surely take some time before I will consider to take a taxi in Ukraine again.
Continue to read my travel and hike to Hoverla, the highest mountain in Ukraine.
100 Ukrainian Hryvnia (UAH) was about 12 USD in Sep-2012