Wednesday, January 1, 2014

Those Darn Cab Drivers

By Grace Hermanns

Personally, I have never been in a city like New York or Chicago where I needed to take taxis to get around. In coming to Africa, transportation was not the issue at the forefront of my mind. Even getting lost in Ghana was not something I was worried about. But already, I have been ripped off more times than I can count, lost because of cab drivers, and harassed by those same cab drivers.

Just today, the group decided to relax by a beach only a few miles away from our hotel. The beach in and of itself was an experience, with wild pigs waltzing by and trash lining the edge of the water. But when Katherine and I decided we were ready to go back to the hotel, we hailed a taxi. We asked, re-asked, and then asked again, "Are you sure you know where Central Hotel is? In Osu, near the British High Commission?" The driver said yes and we bargained and settled on 7 Cedi, the currency here in Ghana.

Not only did he not know where he was going, but he had to stop three times to ask for directions, took us to the wrong hotel, and then made us pay 10 Cedi because he went farther than he expected. And then had the audacity to make fun of us for "being scared to ride with him." No, we weren't scared, we were frustrated that, once again, we were lied to and ripped off.

I understand completely that travelers in different countries are going to be haggled and bamboozled every now and again. It is when the citizens of that country don't take us seriously that I get frustrated. We are not children that can be fooled into something wrong. 

I also understand that cab drivers need to make a living, and I won't try to weasel my way out of paying full price for something. But bargaining is the name of the game here. I expect a person to keep their word, whether that's being truthful about knowing where you are going or sticking to the price we already set. 

And it isn't only the taxi drivers. A few of us went shopping last week on Oxford Street on one of our days off. And poor Joe, the softy of the group, gets duped into paying 5 Cedi for a bookmark that the guy said was free. 

But, of course, I wouldn't change this experience if I could. There are so many good things about Ghana, I could not even begin to list them all. The taxi drivers are dedicated, and I appreciate that. I have had just as many good taxi drivers as bad ones. They love to talk and they will take back streets to avoid traffic for you. The taxis here also do not have running meters, so you can bargain prices even before getting in the cab. You just have to hope that when he pulls up to your destination, he doesn't waver from the original price. 

I love Ghana and I love it's people, but I'm tired of being taken for a fool time and time again when I try my hardest to prove that I know how to handle things. I suppose that is part of being a world traveler though. You have to get ripped off and lost to understand the way things work. At the end of the day, it is about the good experiences, not the bad ones. And so far, the good experiences I have had in Africa far outweigh the bad ones.

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