Getting from central Odesa to Arcadia Beach takes about 15 minutes by taxi – a ride that can cost anywhere from 35 to 200 hryvnias, depending on your negotiating prowess. Like most third-world countries, taxis in Ukraine do not run on meters – so your best bet is to find out the “real price” beforehand from someone trustworthy. Then just make your quote to the driver – before getting in – and you’ll be paying the local rates in no time.
Although our first night in Odesa had started on a sour note, by the time we pulled up at the entrance to the Arcadia walking promenade, we’d managed to drive our energy back up to full. We popped on our bling, hopped out, and with two huge smiles, started off towards the clubs.
Less than a minute later a pair of cops called out to us, “Hey! Show us your documents.”
Lesson for the day: You’re not allowed to be foreign in Ukraine.
Real lesson for the day: Avoid the Ukrainian cops. Whether you’re causing trouble or not is irrelevant; if you want to keep your money, just steer clear, and whatever you do, do not let them know you’re a tourist.
Surprisingly, this officer spoke just as fluent English as the first. We showed him our passports and everything seemed to be in order. No violations here, no sir.
“Hey, you know today’s my birthday? Perhaps you should give me a little present!”
These guys are seriously unbelievable.
We relayed that it’d been less than an hour since we’d been forced to pay 200 hryvnias to another pair of officers just outside our hotel, which was already our third forced payout of the day. We now had barely enough cash for a cab ride home.
This seemed to satisfy him, and he let us go without any more trouble.
“OK, it’s time to get smart,” we decided. “Obviously as soon as they realize you’re a cash-wielding tourist, they come after you – so we have to stay alert, shut our mouths, avert our eyes, and make sure never to cross paths with an officer. We need a codeword, a ‘proximity alert.'”
“How about 警察,” I suggested, “the Japanese word for police.”
“Or how about ‘kei’? It’s short enough that they wouldn’t notice it’s another language.”
So for the rest of our stay in Ukraine, kei was the code. “Kei,” I would say – and we’d instantly fall silent.
This seemed to work well enough, and for the rest of the night we didn’t get hassled again.