Friday, July 31, 2009

Getting around Kigali

Kigali is a pretty large city, spread across many hills, the path between two points is rarely a straight line but rather a winding path down then back up the primary boulevards running through the city. As we often travel in a group, we usually hire private taxis to get from one place to another. These are licensed, but unmarked and in private vehicles of varying degrees of upkeep. The drivers generally speak some French or English so it makes getting around a bit easier for us muzungus. There are some drawbacks though, they are far harder to wave down on the road, being unmarked and fairly rare it can take a while to find one and it generally involves making a fool of yourself as you wave at solo drivers who aren't taxis at all. Not surprisingly, they are also rather expensive. Never less than 3,000 francs (~$6) and up to 5,000 (~$10) for a ten minute ride it adds up pretty quickly, of course the price depends largely on how much you want to haggle with the driver who insists that the rate is twice what you paid this morning.

The far more common option, and what seems to be the locals choice in most cases is riding a moto-taxi. These are small 250cc motorcycles always running about looking for fares, their green helmets making it clear they are for hire and licensed. The odds of finding a driver who speaks English is far less than with the taxis but for the trouble you are rewarded with an exciting ride and a far cheaper fare. Most rides come in under 500 francs (~$1) and the trip is usually quicker than a car as the motos liberally lane split, pass and pay only passing attention to traffic laws.

They are an amazingly efficient mode of getting around, perfect really, as you are often alone and just trying to travel a few miles. It can seem a bit chaotic but it does work, thousands of motos spreading about delivering their passengers to their destinations quickly and without fuss.

Of course Kigali also sports the ubiquitous mini-buses, but as in Peru I've yet to really figure out the routes or be brave enough to hop on one just to see where it goes. The language barrier (and cultural barrier, though less so) is still extremely high and I don't want to be responsible for holding anyone up, but I'm sure the fares there are far cheaper still than the moto taxis.

Some of us might go explore one of the national parks this weekend and this brings up one of the other oddities of Africa, that car rentals are really non-existent. Perhaps because credit cards are completely useless here, or perhaps just because there isn't enough need, it doesn't seem that one can reasonably rent a vehicle for a few days at a time. The only real options are either taking a long distance bus, at a low cost but considerable time penalty, or the common option for tourists, to hire a private cab for the day (or two) to take you. We'll see which we end up with.


  1. I can't stop laughing at that picture.

  2. I do look a bit gay in it don't I? (not that there's anything wrong with that)

    PS. I can't stop laughing at your mom.

  3. Matt from Larva now has the fodder for his revenge.

  4. I added another on the board for you.