A lot of things have changed since I lived in Dakar. Things like… me.

I took these photos from the office window over the course of about five minutes.

This afternoon we got in a taxi that was probably one of the top three worst I’ve ever been in. And that’s really saying something. My roommate and I used to have a scoring system for taxis:

– 1 point for every decorative flower bouquet, ornate Kleenex box, or other bling
– 2 points for a cracked windshield
– 2 points for each missing door handle or window crank
– 3 points if you can see the ground through the floorboards

Bonus point for the fetish tied on to the bumper

The taxi we were in today was a real winner – assuming high score wins. It really felt as if it might break into pieces at any minute. At the first chance we had to hop out and catch another one, I made sure we did.

Lots of variety, as you can see.

I informed Cheikh as we were waiting to flag down another taxi that I’m now a lot pickier than I was at the age of 23. Apparently I’ve developed higher standards for transportation and will not be settling for the first thing on wheels that comes along.

Not too shabby...

Our ride home was much better. The taxi was an early 2000s Toyota Corolla in pretty good shape. (It would not have done well in my taxi scoring game.) As I got in, I told the driver, “Sa auto dafa rafet,” which means, “You have a nice looking taxi.” His response? “Not as good looking as you, Madame.”

Hear that? I’m better looking than a Corolla.

Beep beep!

Tips for taking taxis in Dakar
Based on our experiences. Feel free to disagree or add more in the comments.

– In general, empty taxis will honk as they drive past you as a way of suggesting their services.

– If you want to attract a taxi driver’s attention, you can wave your hand (basically a two-fingers tapping on the table motion). But the better option is to let out a loud hissing sound. It’s more polite than whistling and you’d be amazed by how well the hissing sound travels.

– Before you get in, tell the driver where you want to go then agree on a price. Distance, time of day, traffic congestion and your point of departure/arrival all play a part in the price. If you’re leaving from or arriving at a touristy spot or a very nice neighborhood, you can expect to be quoted a higher price.

These buses are new since we left. The horsecarts are not.

– Bargain… in Wolof, if you can. You’ll hear people give a wide range of prices as ‘normal’ or acceptable. It depends on the person, their knowledge of the city and their bargaining skills. In general we pay about 1000 cfa to 2500 cfa ($2 to $5) to get around in Dakar.

– Ladies, if you’re taking a taxi alone, get in the back seat. When Cheikh and I take taxis together, he rides up front (easier to chat with the driver) and I sit in the back.

– Tipping is not expected, but we generally round up if the driver is particularly nice or gives us impromptu lessons in language, culture or getting around new parts of the city.

This one is for Chris: a 'tricycle' we keep seeing around town.

What do you think? Are you ready to take a taxi around Dakar?