Soviet propaganda is alive and flourishing in the taxi rank at Kiev Borispol Airport, where the distance to the city is 50-55km, if you listen to insistent drivers, or 45.7km if you read the taxi companies’ bold-print rubber-stamped table of fares, contained in a serious-looking black file and thrust under your nose if you dare question the official version of geography.
All of which is utter cobblers, because I can assure you the actual distance is 34km and the vastly-inflated figures are simply a scam to justify the $40 fare. To put this in all its outrageous perspective, a single ticket anywhere on the Kiev metro costs 50 kopiyok – that’s about a dime – while the taxi journey from the airport takes 25 minutes, which means a driver can earn the average monthly wage in Kiev in just an hour and a half.
You could try the sneaky trick of asking the fare in slurred Russian in the deluded belief you’ll be taken for a paid-up party member and offered the real price. I can only claim a partial victory: the driver told me “sorok dollarov”, which was initially encouraging until I realised it meant “forty dollars”.
Since there’s no train link to Borispol and the alternative transport is a Ukrainian bus, this little post-communist exercise in monopoly economics isn’t likely to wind up any time soon. But if you’re heading for Kiev, and an unshaven, leather-jacketed guy called Bogdan sidles up to you three seconds after you clear customs, smoking and muttering a ‘Taxi? Taxi?’ mantra, you can indignantly inform him that you know exactly how far it is to the city and you won’t stand for any Pravda-esque claptrap. It’ll make no difference but at least when you’re sat in the back of Bogdan’s Volga with no seat belts you won’t have that nagging suspicion you’re being ripped off, because there’ll be no doubt about it, comrade.