I woke up this morning in Odessa, Ukraine. I’ve been wanting to come here for a long time and my first impression is so good a part of me wishes I hadn’t waited so long. However, I’ve lived in a lot of nice places this year and met some great people, so I have no regrets. I got here in the end.
Yesterday was a long day. I flew from Bucharest to Istanbul then, after a seven-hour layover, I flew to Odessa. Yesterday was an eventful day as well. I used Uber for the first time and became an instant fan. I also had my passport stamped three times. It was stamped once when I arrived in Istanbul and had to leave the arrivals area to pick up my backpack, it was stamped again when returned to the departures area, and once more when I arrived in Odessa.
Having my passport stamped was a momentous occasion for me. I renewed my passport in 2015 and then left the UK. I’ve never been back and, although I’ve travelled all over Europe in the last three years until yesterday my passport had never been stamped.
Making It Through Customs Was Easy
Getting Past the Ukranian Taxi Drivers Was Not
I don’t normally use taxis. I distrust them. So before I left Romania I checked the route from Odessa airport to the room I am renting in the city centre. Getting there was not going to be a problem. I would need to take a short walk (1 minute) to a bus stop near a school and then spend around 53 minutes in a bus. The trip would cost me ₴ 7 (€ 0.22), Twenty-two cents for the entire journey! That’s so cheap I’d originally decided to travel by bus. The thought of using a taxi never crossed my mind.
However, I made the journey to Bucharest airport via Uber and it was such a positive experience I changed my mind about the bus and decided to use Uber when I arrived in Odessa. Of course, before I could make my second Uber journey of the day, I would need to get past Ukranian customs and I’d read some articles that suggested there could be a few stumbling blocks. I had no problems at all.
Then I encountered a couple of members of the Ukranian Taxi Driver welcoming committee. That was a different story.
The first taxi driver appeared while I was exchanging my Romanian currency for Ukranian hryvnia. He asked if I needed a taxi. I said I did not. He assured me it was a “safe taxi”, I told him I never said it wasn’t, but I would be travelling with Uber.
“Uber!” the guy said. “Uber is very dangerous in Ukraine. All the Uber drivers in Ukraine work with the Russian mafia.” How gullible did he think I am. I hate liars. I told him I would be travelling by Uber anyway.
When I went to get a coffee, the guy followed me. I’ve never encountered such a pushy taxi driver. Ignoring the constant spiel of bullshit, I sat down and ordered an Uber cab. My phone provided me with the Uber driver’s details and informed me the car would be with me in 14 minutes. The pushy Ukranian Taxi driver took a hike.
A few minutes later, another taxi driver approached me and asked if I needed a ride. I told him I’d ordered an Uber cab. His face adopted a look of disgust and he told me Uber was very dangerous in Ukraine. I shrugged and he went away.
By the time I’d finished my coffee, my phone told me the Uber taxi was outside the airport. I picked up my bags and headed for the door. The first taxi driver returned and tried to block my way. He wasn’t big enough to intimidate me. I pushed past him.
“Where are you going?”, he said. I told him he didn’t need to know that. “You don’t know where you are going?”, he asked. I told him I knew exactly where I was going and so did the Uber driver. I also told him I never use taxis and said, if it was not for Uber, I would be travelling by bus. “What bus?”, he said. “There are no busses!” This guy deserved to have a nose like Pinocchio.
I left the angry taxi driver talking to one of his associates, put my bag in the back of the Uber, and left. The Uber driver was a really nice guy. He laughed when I told him what the Ukranian taxi driver had said. He also told me the guy would have overcharged me because they prey on tourists who have just arrived and are not familiar with the currency.
Needless to say, the Uber got me to my destination, okay and it was a lot quicker and easier than taking the bus. Carrying a backpack on a crowded bus is an experience that gets old real quick. The journey by Uber cost more than it would if I’d travelled by bus. I paid ₴ 122.12, but that’s still amazingly cheap for a taxi ride. It converts to just € 3.79.
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