When traveling in Ghana it is very much an exercise in patients sometimes. State owned transport is often late to leave or not even show up and tro-tros are often full or take forever to fill up before leaving. Trying to connect all of these pieces together while traveling can take a lot of time, each wait can add up to take most of the day if you need to trade tro-tros or transportation methods.
Most travelers to Ghana will use Taxi cabs more than tro-tros to get around in the urban areas. This is mainly for convenience and in terms of what we are used to in our countries, Cabs in Ghana are very cheap. There are a couple of different types of cabs in Ghana, there are what is called dropping cabs and shared cabs. Dropping cab is what you would be more used to where the cab takes you to the specific destination that you indicate for a negotiated rate and they are all painted with yellow fenders in and have license stickers on the windows. A shared cab runs a similar route each time and the car is filled with people going the same direction, many of them are still very old white Peugeots with a third row seat. A shared cab is often cheaper because of sharing it with others.
Because cabs in Ghana do not have meters the rate is always negotiated with the driver unless it is a shared cab and then they have some standardized rates depending on how far along the route you will be traveling. There are no set rules for negotiating a cab fare and it is one of those things that is constantly changing with the time of day, price of petrol, price of other commodities in the country, the current exchange rates, and even the mood that the driver is in at the particular time. The time of the day is important especially in Accra and Kumasi where traffic can really dictate how long any given trip will take. I wish I could provide you with some standard rates but this is just not possible because of all of these variables.
There are a couple of things that you can do to try to make the whole process easier, safer and make it so there is very little conflict, confusion or issues when it is time to pay and get dropped off.
- Always negotiate the fare before getting in the cab and pay when it is time to get out. This will ensure that the price is agreed upon while you still have some negotiating power and can say that you will just wait for the next one if the price is too high.
- If you arrive at the airport there will be some cab drivers who have been allowed the special privilege of being allowed in the arrival terminal and will ask you if you need a cab before you even go outside. This will end up being more expensive. You best bet is to exit the terminal and go across the street to the cab park where you can negotiate a better price. If it is at night though this may not be as safe.
- If you are at a shop or the market and going somewhere else, or even on the side of any street where there are others around, politely ask a local what a good price to pay for a cab would be to the place you are going. Then offer to pay the cab driver a price a little lower than the one suggested and you and the driver will hopefully settle on the price that was recommended.
- If you will be in one area for a while and will continued to need transportation, sometimes it is best to find a driver that you have worked with and are comfortable with their driving and knowledge of the town. This will involve some trial and error unless you know a Ghanaian who can recommend one, but if you find one you like feel free to ask for their phone number and call them when needing a ride. You can also work out an agreement with them to use them for a whole day or multiple days.
- Some cab drivers can drive very crazy or their car may not be in safe operating condition. If you find yourself in this position you can always be asked to be let out in a safe place and it would be better to pay the fare and get another cab than to deal with a potentially unsafe driver.
- Learn a little bit of Twi, this can be helpful in avoiding over paying because of the perception that you are a tourist. Plus the driver will usually get a kick out of this, Ghanaians love when you learn some of their language and will often give you a break because of it.
- Remember that negotiation is the polite thing to do in Ghana. Even if the driver acts a little offended or pouty about a price this is all part of the game and many of them love the art of negotiation, don’t feel bad haggling a bit, but try to be fair.
If you are traveling outside of the rural areas for an extended amount of time and need the freedom of having your own transportation it is possible to hire a cab and driver to take you on the whole trip. This is more expensive than using public transportation and Tro-Tros, but less expensive than a typical car and driver hire. This can be a difficult negotiation to make though without knowing a Ghanaian that can recommend a driver. You want a driver that you can trust and that you feel drives safely and that their car is in good mechanical condition. If this is something that you would like to do it would be advisable to spend some time in Accra, and meet some drivers or locals that can introduce you to one. You will need to negotiate a daily fee, and if that includes petrol or not. You will also need to negotiate a stipend for the driver because they will need a place to sleep and food along the journey. You should probably pay half the fee in the beginning of the trip and agree to pay the other half at the end and pay the stipend weekly as you go. This will help to ensure that there are no problems and you have a bargaining position.