Letter: Tourism in Kiev is neither easy nor cheap

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The Independent Online
Sir: I read your advertisement ('Independent/Lufthansa two- for-one offer', 27 September) about Kiev with growing amazement. Certainly your writer has not visited this beautiful city as an independent traveller.

He describes the airport as a short bus ride from the station. There is an airport in just such a location; but it is not the one where your hapless international traveller will arrive. That is at Borispol, about 30km from the city. The passenger will arrive to find that buses are not readily available. He will be directed to private taxis where market forces reign - the going rate announced by a KLM steward before landing in May 1994 was dollars 150 for the one-way trip. It may, of course, be negotiable, but for many British tourists, unused to bargaining, arguing with rapacious drivers is not likely to get their holiday off to a good start.

Hotel rates are no less frightening. A Western traveller will pay around pounds 140 per night for a double room without breakfast in a city centre hotel. And do not expect any hot water. As for travelling onwards to the Black Sea: exactly how is this to be achieved? There are virtually no internal flights because of fuel shortages and trains are so overbooked as to render buying a ticket impossible for anyone who does not know the system. Hire cars are not available; if they were there would be no fuel except on the black market at silly prices.

Please do not misunderstand my motives. Travel to the recently opened parts of Eastern Europe is a wonderful experience. Kiev is a fine city, Ukrainians are welcoming and great to know, and they are getting to grips with the huge economic and social changes their country is enduring. But don't tell potential visitors that it is an easy place to visit unless they are going to be met, escorted, guided and provided with pre-purchased tickets while there.

Yours faithfully,


Riseley, Bedfordshire

27 September