Thursday, October 30, 2014

Taxis - The Gabon Edition

It’s that time again - time to describe how taxis work in our newest home.  If you hadn't noticed yet, I’m pretty sure I’ve posted about taxis in each of the countries we’ve lived in so far.  The reason - they are different everywhere!  Different colours & styles, different routes of operation and different ways to hail them, various ways to pay, when to pay, how to pay…I always make a point of asking a local how to hail and take a taxi before doing it (if possible) because if you assume you know how things are done and just do it whatever way you’re accustomed to, you could be very wrong.  
Here in Gabon as far as I can tell, there are taxi cars and taxi buses.  I’ll describe the cars since they are what I have experience with.  Stopping one works the way you probably expect - stick out your hand/arm, but here’s where things get a bit different than our previous homes.  When the taxi stops (or slows down and rolls slowly by) this is your time to negotiate price.  Apparently there’s no set taxi fare here in Libreville, so when the taxi stops you tell him what you want to pay and where you want to go.  

Example:  Taxi stops.  You say, “Trois cent, Mbolo” (price: 300 francs, destination: “Mbolo” - the big supermarket across from the French Institute where we have classes)

VERY IMPORTANT:  it’s price first, then destination.  I made the mistake of saying the destination first thinking that if a driver knew where I wanted to go and was going that direction, then I could tell him my price.  But this just resulted in 5 taxis driving away before I had the chance to tell my price, and me getting very very wet in the rain before finally just deciding to walk home, since I was already drenched.  Price first!  

If the driver agrees to your price, he will, in my experience, do one of the following things:
  1. beep the horn
  2. say ok or give some other verbal or non-verbal signal to you
  3. not say or do anything really, but also not drive away
if one of these things happens, you know that the driver has accepted your price and will take you where you want to go for that price.  
If the driver does not agree to your price, he’ll just drive away, unless you quickly up your price and offer more, in which case he may reconsider.  

If you successfully snag a cab, enjoy your ride to your destination and pay upon arrival.  You should get out the door on the curb-side only and if you are on the wrong side of the car and other passengers are in the backseat with you, they will get out to let you out the curb-side.  What I learned today is that if the taxi driver gets pulled over by the police while you are en route, it won’t take too long.  Though this particular driver after a few minutes with the policeman did come back to the taxi, grab some cash, disappear back to the cop, and return with license in hand and we were off.  So this may have expedited things a bit…..or maybe I just lived in Angola and Russia too long....

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