One of the things that both frustrates and humours travellers is the sometimes unbelievable methods of transport available in other countries. Love them or hate them, the dala-dala, autorickshaw, tro-tro and overcrowded bus (with a whole family and a chicken to one seat!) are part and parcel of life in a developing country. Take a deep breath of those fumes and have a read about some of our students' opinions on the local transport options....
The students in Ghana say that although transport is readily available compared to North American or UK public transport system, you shouldn't expect anything like the subway or metro/lines - even in the cities. Over there your options are tro-tros, taxis and coaches for the long distance journeys. Tro-tros are mini buses or vans which are mostly in poor repair and without seat belts. You catch these at tro-tro stations, which Joe tells us are "somewhat chaotic places, but always an adventure!". Tro-tro's are very cheap but can be very uncomfortable. “Imagine been crammed into this van with ten people without air-condition - it's hell! And don’t expect to be on time because there are no scheduled times. You get there when you get there!!” Lauren jokingly told us , “and the drivers are not scared to make stops along the way as long as there are passengers to be picked up!”.
May told us that the chaos extends to coaches as well “drivers can be very rude trying to get you onto their buses- pulling you or taking your bags and loading them on without your permission. This can be scary if you didn’t know of this situation before, particularly at Cape coast and Hohoe”. Joe's advice is to be firm with the drivers and keep hold of your bags. That said, for long distance, students have found the STC buses their trusted friend.”They have comfortable seats and air-conditioning, which is brilliant for escaping the blistering Ghanaian heat. Don't rely on them for time though - the times they schedule for departure and the actual time they leave rarely match! ". Taxi's are easy to get in Ghana. Tania tells us they "are always available and never hard to find. They cost close to nothing but it's still best to bargain. Being in Ghana has taught me how to bargain well!”. Joe confirmed that drivers will occasionally deny the initial price and try to charge more (probably because you are white) but will drop down if you are persistent. You should also be aware that in Takoradi, taxi drivers know everywhere by name. According to May, taxis in Accra are very expensive yet drivers expect you to direct them- even to big hotels and travel attractions.
Over in Nepal there are the same transport issues. "Everybody finds it challenging at first but if you brave yourself and use it regularly, it's just a piece of cake. As they say when in Rome, do as the Romans do! There might come instances when somebody will land in your lap or your nose might brush into somebody's underarms (whee! believe me it has happened to me),.... there's a world of it's own and sometimes it's good getting out of your comfort zone". Sunil breaks it down further - "what's difficult with the public transport in Pokhara is that there are no number for different routes, so you're likely to get confused! Stopping a public transport is easy, just fling your hand and sort of wave ......the conductor (money collector) who's usually seen hanging outside the van / bus will be shouting with different name of places that falls on its route. The problem is that you will end up stopping every other private vehicle or school bus thinking this might be the one! When they have stopped all you need to do is ask if it goes to your direction. If it does, get in. If not, nod your head and they'll drive off. Be aware though - the vans/buses usually pack people like sardines in a can. Even with 4 or 5 people hanging outside the bus, the conductor will still be calling more people. At first, you'll think where is he going to fit in all of them... and to you amazement he will get all of them in!". Luckily, for our students doing their placement at Western Regional, there is a van that goes straight to WRH from the main junction of the house. For those further afield - like Sally who is working at a specialist leprosy clinic - you might need to change buses. Despite the complications, she still thinks it's better to get public transport than a taxi and she has managed to get her buses right everyday. "The second day of her placement, while she was going by herself, she got confused with which side the buses would come from and the name of the junction she had to get off to catch another bus, but asked a few people who were helpful and voila! she reached her destination on time.". All this is too much hassle for Adrian, who has opted to hire a mountain bike and cycle to work everyday - "it's much easier to be on your own and just go where you want to. When the tyres break-down then I use the micro-van! "
In Tanzania, the laid back vibe doesn't always mirror the transport. Freddy in Arusha told us " the daladala are always fun if you don’t mind trying to squeeze as many people as possible into a small space. They are pretty easy to catch early in the day but in the evening they are usually pretty full so allow extra time for that. Most of the places in town are within walking distance from the house so that’s usually an option as well. So far, the public transportation has been a nice alternative to walking and taxis which can be a bit expensive”.
In Dar the feedback is positive. Majenda chatted to Dianne, who said "I love public transport and take the dala dala as it makes me feel like part of the local community, rather than being a foreigner. Most tourists use 4 by 4 expensive cars and taxis around Dar so travelling from WTW house to the hospital is an amazing experience". Felicity agrees but warns that whilst "the daladala are very cheap ( 12.5p) they can get very crowded and get hot and sweaty. Be careful with your bag too and if you are doing evening or early shift (i.e you have to travel when it is dark) then get a taxi rather than a dala dala".
Majenda also asked the students about travelling to Zanzibar as that is what most student's want to find out about for the weekend. " The ferry to Zanzibar is good, but it doesn't always leave on time. Its cost is 40,000 shillings ( 20 pounds) return with the residents permit and the seats are comfy. It can be choppy, so take anti sickness medication if needed - I didn't need it for either crossings it was fairly calm.".
This week we shall be asking the student's "Where is your favourite hangout?" . We'll see you back here for the results next Tuesday.