Thursday, 12 July 2012


Here I often get around in taxis. I've used the bus a couple of times, but generally I'm lazy and I can't be bothered, and the taxis aren't expensive, and usually I can split the cost with someone, so taxis it is.

There are a few peculiarities of taxis though. The first one, is that you agree the price before you go. In some cases it's easy - I know it costs 1500 CFA to get into town - but you still have to go through the ritual where the driver says '3000, it's good' and you say 'no, 1500'. He says 'we say 2000'. And you say 'no, 1500'. He shakes his head, and you say, 'OK, we don't go' and stand back, and then they change their minds and agree to your price. It's kind of annoying - you know the price, it's really obvious you know the prices, but you still have to go through the process.

Where it gets annoying is when you don't know exactly where you're going, and you just have to guess how much their initial price is ripping you off by. My usual tactic is to go low and assume they won't take you for less than is fair, but this sometimes fails when they don't know where you're going either. In that case they (hopefully) start stopping and asking people, while steadily getting grumpier and grumpier, until eventually you get there. At that point they grumpily ask for another ludicrous price, and you give them whatever you think is fair based on how long you were driving for, usually about 500F more than you agreed. If you got it right, usually they accept it and you don't have to bargain again.

But the bargaining also serves a purpose. It signals the taxi is vaguely safe. I've learned the hard way that if they don't bargain, they're way too desperate for a fare. This has happened twice. The first time we were going from a restaurant to the house. We got in the taxi, only to find that it had to be bump started. When it started, it turned out the lights weren't that great, and the brakes didn't really work - he was engine braking the whole way and swinging around the cars in front when that didn't work. It was fairly terrifying, but luckily he was driving fairly slowly and we arrived in one piece. The second time was even funnier. I was coming back from a clinic in town and it started raining. Turned out the taxi driver had no windscreen wipers, so we had to sit until it stopped raining - which can take hours. Then it turned out the taxi leaked. After about ten minutes we were so damp that I got out in the storm and found a new taxi.

There's something else valuable - if you can have some banter with them ("3000F? That's the price for going, coming back, and going again, right?" "but have you seen the price of petrol" "the price of petrol hasn't changed since this morning though"), then you know they speak French. Which is super useful when you don't know where you're going and you know that they probably don't either.

Lesson: how long the taxi bargaining process takes is directly proportional to the desirability of the taxi.


  1. So you are the one who is driving the prices up! You should be able to get it for 1200 no? ;-)

  2. a) Paying 1200 would require having change and is thus unrealistic

    b) I have not (yet) grown so non-empathetic that I have the capacity to fight a taxi driver over 40p