Traveling in Eastern Europe is efficient and cost-effective when you go by train. Unlike in America, where an Amtrak ticket will leave you behind on time and budget, rail travel throughout most of the rest of the world is highly accessible and widely used.
If you’ll be traveling in or through Ukraine, chances are you’ll be stopping in the Kiev central train station, Kyiv-Pasazhyrs’kyi, with a layover of some sort.
Both of the times that we’ve visited Ukraine we’ve taken an overnight train from Kherson – my hometown – to Kiev, where we would catch a flight out of the country. Both times we had many hours to kill waiting for the next leg of our trip. Never ones to choose waiting and wandering around an airport over an opportunity to explore, we took those few hours to experience the sights and sounds of Ukraine’s capital city.
The only downside to this would be having to carry your larger pieces of luggage with you during your venture into the city. There’s a better way!
You can securely store your baggage at the Kiev train station while you explore.
The Kiev train station has two options for baggage storage, a paid attendant station for larger baggage like suitcases and the like, and a self serve system of lockers for smaller bags.
Both are located underground near the main entrance of the train station (marked by two sets of enormous ornate doors), and accessible by stairs resembling an underground subway entrance to either side of the old entrance. If you don’t see stairs going underground there is a good chance you are at the back entrance (it’s a lot shinier, with a modern, glass-paneled front), and you can easily walk straight through to the other side of the station.
Down the stairs you can either go straight into the main hallway to go to the paid attendant station, or go through a door to the side marked “Automatic luggage lockers.”
The stairs leading into the baggage area will have a symbol for baggage above them as a guidepost in case you are unsure. When you head down the stairs, you’ll see the attendant station in the hallway first. To drop your luggage off here, purchase a ticket from the cashier window directly across the hall.
I believe you can prepay to store your baggage here for a few days, but I would only recommend using it if your luggage too big for the lockers. Naturally it’s more expensive than using a storage locker.
If you follow this sign you’ll head to the locker room, where you can store your baggage in a storage locker for at least a few hours, and maybe for days…? (There didn’t seem to be a time limit, but maybe they monitor the thousands of lockers in this area? We didn’t think to ask, but if you find out, let us know!). Like many things in the former USSR, the lockers are not necessarily intuitive.
Begin your storage journey by finding the cashier desk at the entrance and purchasing a token for every locker that you would like to use. I suggest first finding an empty locker to see how much of your stuff will fit and how many lockers you’ll need to rent. We were able to store a couple of smaller bags as well as a full hiking backpack. If you’re backpacking with a partner there is a good chance you’ll be able to fit two full packs in one locker.
Tokens each cost 20 hryvnia (about $1.50) as of October 2014, but don’t be surprised if the price increases due to currency depreciation that continues to affect the country.
Once you purchase a token find an empty locker. The first thing you’ll need to do is set a new combination on the back of the locker, which will be a combination of one cyrillic letter and three numbers. Chances are remembering a combination with a cyrillic letter won’t come easy to you, so write it down so you won’t forget.
When you create your new combination go ahead and insert a token into the locker and close the door. It will now be locked and you will only be able to open it with the combination that you just set for yourself. Also, write down the locker number, or even better, take a picture of it! All hope will be lost if you lose either the locker number or the combination.