Accra: Bargaining and Taxis

When you are coming to Ghana, one piece of advice is consistent (with exceptions)…you have to be prepared to bargain.  Some say that if someone asks for 20 cedis you should counter with half of that, or about 10 cedis.  I’m not sure if that is true, however I believe that as obruni you will be asked a special price and it will be high.  Of course, there are exceptions – if you buy from the sellers at red lights, the price is the price so you want to have some exact change, and for heaven’s sake decide early before the traffic starts moving again.  The site of watching these sellers pick a product out from the container atop their head as they jog along with a car that has started to continue on its journey is almost frightening.

My friend Robert from Pamoja Ghana accompanied me to work on my second day at the office so that I could learn the public transportation system.  With heavy traffic and all of the passing Tro Tros full, Robert suggested we take a taxi to the next junction and catch a Tro Tro from there.   And so he hailed a taxi and after some tough negotiating on his part, we took a taxi to the Zongo Junction at Medina for 3 cedis before catching the Adenta Tro Tro for 40 pesawas each.  We did the same thing returning at the end of the day when it seemed like there would never be a Haatso Tro Tro at Zongo Junction.  And, so, I understood what the best negotiated price range was.

Interestingly, the next day as I travelled to work on my own for the first time, I encountered similar difficulty with traffic and full Tro Tros passing by.  A cab tooted and so I signalled for him to come over and asked cab how much to take me to Zongo Junction Medina to catch the Adenta Tro Tro.

“8 cedis.”

“8 cedis!  Yesterday, I went for 3 cedis.”

“No” and he drove off without further negotiation.  No discussion.  Oh well. 

As someone else joined me waiting for the Tro Tro I shared the taxi story and he  told me, “it is because you are a white woman”. 

To which I replied, “he thinks I am a stupid white woman” and this made my new friend laugh and I was happy my story made him smile.

Sometimes the taxi cabs will ask more of Obruni.  That can be frustrating at times since I am not used to negotiating in Canada – I rarely take a taxi and in Canada taxis are metered so negotiating is rarely an option. 

So, to bargain or not to bargain?

While the travel guide, and perhaps friends will say, bargain, it is really a personal choice.  Now that I know the approximate value of cab rides, the negotiating has come easier, for cab rides at least…or perhaps it is more appropriate to say that the decision making has become easier.  I can decide, I like his price or I do not like his price.  There lots of other cabs.  I come back with what I think is a reasonable price and a bit high and usually they will accept.  For me, it is more important to build relationships than save one or two cedi.  If I was staying for a year, I may have a different outlook although at the end of the day I know that the cabbies, like all of us, are just trying to support their family.