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Kevin Dispatch

After All, Fare is Fair!

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Well here we are in Bamako in search for the rest of our team. Monica and I arrived from Burkina Faso. Our first step was to find a taxi and go to the hotel to meet Abeja, Kavitha, and Jasmine. We were told that they had left the hotel the day before, but we later learned that Jasmine was staying just outside of Bamako. We waited for the others at the hotel but they never came. We then took a cab into town to a dessert place and ended up finding Kavitha, Abeja and Jasmine. Bamako is a big city that's spread out, but taxis can get you just about anywhere and even help you meet the people you're looking for.

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The road to Mali
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Many of the taxis in Bamako are bright yellow, which makes them easy to spot. Bargaining for taxis in Bamako can be quite an experience. We've been told that a taxi should cost no more than 1,500CFA, which is less than three dollars. The distance is long since you must cross the bridge spanning the Niger River as well as drive several miles to get to the hotel. But Mali is one of the 5 poorest countries and $3US goes a long way, if you receive the normal rate for anyone living in Mali.

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Bargaining for a fair fare
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However, we're never offered the usual rates for taxis at first. Drivers usually offer to take us for much more than the normal rate. More honest locals have told us these are prices les blancs ("white folks price"). We're offered the "white folks price" even though between the five of us, only Abeja would ever be considered "white" back home in the US. We stand out as tourists and are assumed to have a lot of money.

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No, we're not in Beverly Hills, We're in Mali
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So how do we manage to survive without spending all of our money on taxis alone? Well the team usually sends in "Kevin the Negotiator" to lower the price. First I begin by saying, "Bonjour, ca va?" the expected, polite greeting. Then I state our destination and describe its exact location and the usual route in getting there. I tell them "Ne me donnez pas le prix blanc!" (Don't give me the "white" price!). I then tell him how every other taxi driver offers us the same and that we always win because we know better than to accept it. That may not convince the cab driver but it does make the other locals standing around laugh.

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This ain't no Yellow Cab Company
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The taxi drivers usually try to tell me the distance is too far for the price we're looking for or that they have to charge us more since we're 5 people. They say they're afraid that the police will stop them for having too many people in the taxi. I don't know if this is true but I do know that every other vehicle has double the occupancy anybody could consider being safe. The fears of the driver are easily forgotten if we pay a little more money.

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The roads of Bamako
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Sometimes the most stubborn drivers refuse us until the very end. If that happens, we all begin to walk away from the cab to find another. BINGO! This almost always works and the driver tells us to come back and get in the cab. They never actually say that they accept our offer but all five of us immediately make the driver say out loud and with witnesses listening that he will take us where we want to go for a Malian fare.

Kevin
 

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