It’s rare to walk more than a few metres in Accra without hearing a toot of the horn, followed by the questioning upturned hand from the window and the familiar call: “Where are you going?”
Taxis are everywhere in the city, and obronis are their preferred (i.e. inflated) fare. Drivers can spot you a mile off, and it’s not uncommon for one whizzing past to slam on the brakes and reverse – at full speed, dodging potholes and pedestrians – back towards you.
If you don’t want a taxi, the next bit is a test of nerve; like James Bond bidding for a Faberge egg, even the slightest eyebrow movement or flick of a hand is treated as interest. A clear shake of the head usually works, but it needs to be definite, as these guys are persistent; even when you are stepping out of a taxi at your destination, another driver going past will still give it a try, just in case you are spending the day in different taxis, just for the fun of it.
If you do need one, then next comes the negotiation. As a general rule, taxi drivers don’t know where anything is, but always know how much it costs to get there. To haggle, knock off around 40% of the quoted price; they will usually then agree to split the difference. And then off you go into the traffic jams of Accra.
It all sounds like a bit of a hassle, but in a country where customer service is mostly a vacant stare in response any request for assistance, the idea that someone wants to help you is quite welcome. They may drive too fast, ignore traffic signals, and happily fleece white people, but when it comes to providing a friendly service, Accra’s taxi drivers stand out.