You can judge many a city by the public and private transport. London has its iconic red double decker buses and black cabs, Amsterdam has its trams. Practically all cities rely on a mass transit network (composed of buses, trams, trains, underground etc.) to transport the population across zones. When mapping in environments like Tandale transport of equipment is also key.
Because of the bulkiness of carrying laptops, projectors and briefcases of GPS’ and cameras taxis represent the best form of transport. At this juncture I would like to point out that I have nothing against buses or public transport and my love for public transport has been professed already.
State of the driver
First thing to look for is the appearance and demeanour of the driver. I’ve been stupid a few times and gone with the first available, trust me that being in a plush car where the driver is high on khat is not a fun experience.
State of the taxi
This leads onto the start of the taxi. Because of necessity I’ve travelled in taxis that seemed to be held together by the bodywork, in spite of the chassis. However just because a car looks old on the outside doesn’t mean that the driver isn’t taking care of it inside. This relates back to the state of the driver, if the driver takes pride in himself, he’s likely to take pride in the care.
At this point you’re now in the haggling process with the driver. You’ll find it hard to get the locals price, but is possible at times. Finding an honest driver is one of trial and error. I’ve had drivers that try and increase the fare at the end of the trip (you have much luggage) without mentioning this at the start, to others that will drive a longer route (which you already know is false and point this out to them) and say that the fare is increased. Deal with these guys the best you can. However most are genuinely honest and will treat you fairly.
At this stage you’re now got your taxi driver and car sorted and he/she is picking you up on daily basis. Remember that petrol spikes in less developed countries are common due to supply and demand. In countries that rely on imports (most of them) petrol shortages are common, as such garages hold the advantage and increase prices if demand is high. Keep an eye on the petrol queues and the prices, when your driver tries to renegotiate you’ll already know what is going on.
Lastly and least important is the punctuality of the taxi. This may sound strange, however the transport infrastructure can lead to random jams, queuing for petrol and other reasons why the taxi driver is late in picking you. If he is on time, the chance of you sitting in the jam is likely. If you’re clock watching remember most countries in Africa run on African time ± 2 hours! For your driver if he’s content to sit in the jam while others use paths and verges like additional lanes, keep him, you’ll arrive alive!
To summarise that’s the criteria I use for choosing taxi drivers. If anyone can share how to choose a TukTuk I would like to know. Seemingly half the ones I travel in are a whisker from accidents.
Written and submitted from the City Style Hotel, Sinza, Dar Es Salaam (-6.47319,39.13199)