On Saturday, I went with some friends to the Plage de N’Gor, a beautiful beach near the northwest tip of Dakar. We were planning on hailing a taxi, but instead found ourselves ushered onto a car rapide (a colorful form of public transport) by a very eager driver who promised us the car would get us to our destination. After being on the car for a few minutes, he came around to collect the money of all the passengers: as there were 3 of us, we paid 1350 CFA ($1 = 450 CFA) total, thinking he said the price was 450 CFA each. However, we soon became aware that the price was in fact 450 CFA total, or 150 each. When the other passengers realized that the driver had swindled us silly toubabs, they were outraged! In broken English, we were told, “he will give you your money back!” When the young man hesitated, he was met by yelling and anger: the entire car was defending us, making enough of a scene that the driver reluctantly returned the money we had given him.
But the story doesn’t end there! Twenty minutes after traveling in what we thought was the right direction (the peninsula of Dakar is large), a woman on the car asked us where we were going. When we responded Plage de N’Gor, the car was shocked and in outrage once again! It turned out that although the car was headed north, it was also headed due east: opposite the direction we wanted to go. I responded that the driver had told us this car would take us where we wanted to go, but in reality he had swindled us once again. As after the last incident, our newfound protectors were again up in arms, and quick to give out advice: “get off here, and take a taxi to N’Gor!” This time, we were quick to follow; we descended from the car and hailed the next taxi.
Taxi rides in Dakar are not fixed. They are yet another thing you must bargain for. Seeing white people, the taxi drivers always propose a price that is exceedingly too high, a common trend among all vendors. After trying to bargain with one taxi driver, one of our guardian angels from the car descended upon us and offered to help us hail a taxi, getting us a reasonable price. Soon enough, we were on our way to the beach.
Once in the taxi, we all talked about what we had just experienced. We soon came to the conclusion that while there are people that will inevitably try to rip us off, there are many more people that will help and support us when we need it. That is the ultimate of hospitality, strangers on public transport coming to the defense of helpless American students.