I have tried to resist taxi-talk until now because it is just too easy a target. The basic facts are well known: all ukrainian taxi drivers drive fast because their accelerator pedals have been modified to be on / off switches; Asking for a destination will always mean them repeating it back to you in a more fluent and elaborate way – sometimes you can perfect your “Kharkivskaya schosse” to be exactly as a native Ukrainian would say it (complete with rasping throat and phlegm) – only to be talking to a Russian driver who says it completely different (as in Pitrivka-Pitrovka in my earlier blog); Fares are dependent on traffic – light traffic and your fare is 30 grivnas, medium traffic 40 and if at a standstill 50. All of this is terrific value and you can basically apply a ready-reckoning of 10% of the UK cost which introduces an interesting dilemma….
If you were in the UK you would not offer a tip on a 20 GBP fare of 5 GBP. Similarly if you were haggling in the UK over a fare of that amount 5GBP would be a substantial discount – enough for a pack of cigarettes. So, when in Kiev and you haggle over 30 or 35 grivnas do I really care that much? It is ,after all, only 5 grivnas but…. it is the equivalent of a pack of cigarettes here (yes, they are that cheap). Haggle 10 grivnas off a fare and you have the price of a very good bottle of vodka (not industrial thinners but one with a label and drinkable).
In the end I have concluded that it is not about my spending power but about keeping it all in perspective. If I was in an expensive city I would be expected to pay the going rate – here the going rate is cheaper and why should I not pay it without it affecting my conscience? It should not but I still beat myself up for taking five 1 grivna notes back in change – especially as you end up like a walking fire hazard – or when I pay a single grivna for 5 bunches of garlic from a woman at the roadside who has obviously grown it, brought it in on the bus and is happy for it to be sold at that price.
I assuage these thoughts by dropping change in the hats of beggars who are obviously not doing it as an occupation but look truly desperate. No doubt this is wrong as well.
As I have drifted into economics I will get back to taxis another day.