Monday, March 5, 2012

Public Transportation

So, despite having 2 cars on site, we still have situations where public transportation is best.  Unless you are going long distances, need to transport stuff, or are finicky about driving yourself, it is often more economical to take public transportation.  The only thing's a little different here than it is in the states.  Let's go through the options:

Taxis are available pretty much anywhere.  You can identify them by their yellow quarter panels.  Unlike some taxis in the states, every taxi here is owned by the person who drives it.  You won't see any "Washington Flyer"-like taxis coming to and from the airport.  Who you get is who you get.  The other "interesting" thing about taxis is that you negotiate the price of where you are going before you even get in.  That's right, no automated ticker on the dash telling you how much time, how far, how many people, or how much luggage you have in the car.  Flag one down, barter on the amount, and off you go.  For comparison's sake though, to go across the city of Accra (which is a little larger than Atlanta sprawl wise), it's gonna cost you about 10-15 Ghana cedis to make the trip (a little less than 10 bucks).  Not bad.

Tro Tro
These are basically mini buses that hold anywhere between 10-20 folks (sometimes you can pack more in if it's a long trip - they even let you ride on top sometimes!).  Unlike taxis, these vehicles will follow (more or less) a route to a certain destination that's predetermined.  The tro tro operates with a two-man team including a driver and a "mate".  The mate will open and close the door (usually when the vehicle is still moving), yell out the window what the destination is, and handle the payments.  A tro tro from one part of the city to another is normally 1-3 cedis ($1-$2).  Tro tro's can also be used as transportation to the suburbs of the city or (for a price) used to haul wood or other materials if you don't have an appropriate vehicle.  My favorite was the 1 hour tro tro ride when we had to basically sit on half frozen fish (mmm...not).

Regional Buses
These are the least interesting of the options because it is most like what we have in the US.  Pack in 50 folks,  and get taken from one city to the next at a predetermined rate and route.  While these may seem like they're the most comfortable, they often break down on the rough roads.  I try to avoid these guys if I have a car.

One thing that I thought was really interesting about basically any mode of transportation here is the type of stickers people put on their cars (especially the taxis and tro tros).  As you can see in the pictures above, pretty much 75% of all the pub trans vehicles contain some type of phrase or reference to God, safety, or common sense quote.  You can see "thy will be done" or "Psalm: 27" in the pictures but other examples are "don't rush", "don't drive tired", or "honor your wife".  Some of them are quite comical.

Stay tuned for more bloggage here and on the Medicine on the Move blog site!



  1. It's interesting that there are a number of options. Negotiating a fee must be interesting. Do you pay after the ride or at the beginning? All in all, it is nice to have options… take care Ben…. Love Dad

  2. The signs you captured got me thinking, is the majority there quite religious? Do the actions = the words... you're doing good Ben... love Dad

  3. You actually negotiate the price before you get in the taxi. Tro tro and regional buses have predefined rates. As for the religious comment, a lot of people are religious here.

    And, your second question is a loaded one. I'd say that most go to church, but I would guess that their "devoutness" is similar to the US. It all depends on who you are.

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