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Tip: How to use public transport

My Magazine 2023/08
8 min
Using public transport for first-time comers to The Gambia can sometimes be confusing, especially because no marked bus stops or routes are available on customer-friendly maps. However, using public transport can be an exciting experience, especially if you decide to go shopping at Serekunda market or are commuting daily from your place of stay to, e.g. your favourite beach. We have prepared some tips on recognising public transport vehicles, where to stand and what to say when you want to use public transport.

Various types of vehicles are considered public transport vehicles. Normally, transport providers that are registered as such have yellow number plates. The vehicles in public transport can be regular taxi vehicles, easily recognised by their yellow colour, or green taxi cars, which should typically only make town trips (we will get to the explanation further in the article). Some regular 5-seater vehicles (not painted yellow or green) offer public transportation. Still, we recommend checking the colour of the plates and sticking to yellow or green taxi vehicles.

Lately, many 7-seater vehicles also provide shared or public transport as the fuel is getting more expensive, and this way, it is easier to maintain the reasonable price of D12 (most common but not the rule) fare per route. Those vehicles usually are not yellow or green but should have yellow registration plates. Apart from the colour, you can recognise them by observing them in the traffic. If the vehicle made some stops on the way to where you stand or is almost full of passengers, it is undoubtedly offering shared public transport.

What can cause confusion is the different services provided by the same type of vehicles. Yellow and green taxis can provide shared public transport and a so-called "town trip" service, a private ride to a specific location. If you are a visitor to the country, many drivers will automatically assume you would like to have a private ride, a regular taxi service.

There are two things you need to know when using public transport. First is the direction of the route that will take you to your destination, and second, the correct street side where you should stand to catch a ride. The public transport routes are set, and residents will be able to help you with this, as there is no online schedule or map available. Some routes around the Senegambia area are Senegambia – Traffic Light, Senegambia – Serekunda, Senegambia – Turntable. The routes are named by the starting and ending points, meaning you would pay one fare on this route. If the driver continues on the same route, e.g. from Traffic Light to Westfield, you won't have to change the vehicle but will pay double the fare. But you always have to check with the driver if he is continuing onwards or turning back.

Once you know in which direction you are travelling, on which side of the road you should stand and what types of vehicles to stop, you are good to go. Usually, when a taxi stops to pick you up, you can easily confirm if it's a public transport vehicle by saying the end stop of the route you want to take. So, for example, if you are travelling from Senegambia to Traffic Light, you would say: "Traffic Light?" and the driver would confirm if this is the route he is taking. In that case, you can be almost certain it is a shared taxi. To confirm, you can also say "12 dalasis?" just to confirm the fare. If the driver wants to offer you a town trip, he would respond with "taxi/town trip" or drive away.

Hand gestures are also used when catching public transport, representing the direction you are going, but it depends on your boarding location and the route you are taking. Hand motion for destination Turn Table is, for example, a circular motion with your index finger pointing down.

Another type of public vehicle is a van, which is modified to carry up to 20 passengers, whereas the original car would have carried a maximum of 12 passengers. Those are called Gelleh-Gelleh or sometimes bush-taxis. They are only purposed as public transport so you won't struggle to know which type of transport they provide. Each gelleh-gelleh typically has an apprentice sitting next to the side door and announcing its route (end destination or so-called garage). The apprentice is also responsible for collecting the fare and assisting the driver in making stops. Stops can be random as preferred by the passengers – ordinarily close to crossroads (or junctions - an expression commonly used in The Gambia).

Garage is an expression generally used for some end destinations of the route—for example, Senegambia Garage, Tanji Garage, Tippa Garage and so on. You would notice more public transport vehicles parked there, trying to fill their cars with passengers before they take the route.

We recommend always keeping change if taking public transport, especially when choosing taxi vehicles, as drivers don't always have much change and might not take you if you only keep large bills like D100 with you.

If public transport is too stressful, you can always choose a taxi. Green taxis are considered tourist taxis, which means they can pick you up from specific tourism-concentrated areas (Poco Loco Street, Senegambia Strip, Palma Rima Strip) and take you to your desired location. The price for green taxis is usually higher and is considered fixed, but it must also be negotiated in advance. Calling a taxi to pick you up at a particular place and time is also possible.

We hope these tips come in handy when you explore the country outside the tourist areas. However, you can always contact My Gambia if you need assistance in booking transport. We will be happy to assist you in finding the best transport option.

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