What the heck is a car rapide?
The car rapide is Senegal's most popular form of transportation. They are extremely cheap (equivalent to about 40 cents round trip), run often and is a great way to immerse yourself in Senegalese culture! They usually play great Senegalese music and are filled with all different kinds of people! They are packed way beyond capacity and can be quite scary sometimes. Especially because there are hardly any street lights or road rules on the busy streets of Dakar and because they run as if they were 799 years old.
How they work:
Basically you wait on the side of the road of the car rapide route and haul one down, like a taxi. There are seats on both sides of the bus and a railing down the center of the ceiling for people that are standing to hold onto. The person collecting money rides on the swinging door down the road with his change bag and a cigarette hanging from his mouth. Yes, I said the swinging doors. The back doors do not close making my trip to and from school quite adventurous, especially when you are packed in there like sardines. While the bus is chugging through town, the boy collecting money shakes his palm at you and you give him your money. When you want to stop you bang the top of the roof or call out something in wolof to the driver, letting him know that this is where you want to get off.
How to survive them:
1. Be assertive and patient. There are no lines or times in Senegal. The car rapide will come when it wants to come and people will push in front of you to get on.
2. Try to ALWAYS carry exact change with you. I have been shortchanged a handful of times just because sometimes people want to rip of americans or they just dont have the change to give me.
3. Be prepared to get very close to people. In America, when someone gets on a bus, subway, train..etc, and someone else is already on, that person tends to sit the farthest away from them. In Senegal, when someone walks on and only one person is on, they will sit right next to them and start chatting.
4. Be careful. Though Senegalese people get off while it is still moving, I would not suggest it. My friends have hung off the backs of them, but I am not sure I have faith in the car rapide drivers to drive steady enough for me to stay on.
5. Hold on tight to your belongings. You are literally piled on top of eachother in these things and it would be very easy for someone to open your book bag and take something without you noticing.
6. Leave with ample time to spare. There can be many hold ups on the car rapides...these things have problems and have to switch to another car quite often. Once we even got a flat tire in the middle of a busy intersection....
7. Have fun. once you relax, they can be extremely enjoyable.