For those of you who are not too familiar on living in Bamako, this post will be useful to you and explain how people get around. There are four (4) main ways people get to their respective destinations in Bamako:
- Public transportation (minibus)
The cheapest option is obviously the first option, public transport. You will see these green minibuses all around the city carrying about 10-15 people, with each ride costing about 100 - 300 fcfa. However, if you are reading this blog, chances are you will not be taking this type of transportation. So we will focus on the others.
Most people who do not have a car in Mali take the car taxis. This is different from the recently popular moto taxis, where you get get a ride with someone on a motorcycle. The regular car taxis is the safest option and is the most recommended. Most taxis are very old vehicles, mostly Mercedes from the early 90s, and are painted yellow so you can't miss them. Most do not have AC, but if you don't mind rolling the window down then you should be fine. Taxis are relatively cheap in Mali. There is no ride anywhere within Bamako that should cost you more than 8.000 fcfa in our eyes. And the average ride should be around 1.500 to 4.000 depending on where you are going. You will have to negotiate a bit. And do not be surprised if while you are in the car and the taxi stops to pick someone else up, that is very common in Bamako :)
You cannot be in traffic in Bamako for more than a minute without noticing the hundreds, if not thousands, of motorcycles on the road. I don't know what the exact statistics are, but I would guess that there are as many motorcycles as cars circulating in the streets, if not more. It is much easier and quicker to ride through the city with motorcycles, as you can weave through cars and not get stuck in traffic. With that said, driving in Bamako can be real difficult because you have to pay attention to all the motorcycles weaving around you from all directions. As of the time of writing this article, most of the riders do not wear helmets, which also poses another safety concern.
And finally we have cars. This is obviously our favorite and most recommended mode of transportation in Bamako. It is the safest and most comfortable option, and almost a must if you don't live in an area that doesn't have easy access to taxis. The most common and recommended brands are Toyota, Mercedes and increasingly Hyundai. The first two are obviously the best for Mali, because they are known for being resistant and more importantly, because the Malian car mechanics are familiar with these vehicles. There's nothing worse than bringing a BMW or some other unpopular car in Mali and having a technical issue with it, because car parts are going to be extremely expensive and rare and also the mechanics may not be very suitable to work on the vehicle. So we recommend Toyotas and Mercedes, with Toyotas being the best brand for Mali. The cars are solid, there are a wide array of options and all mechanics are familiar with cars and their parts.
If you choose to roam around in Bamako with a car, which we highly suggest, you have the option of purchasing a car or renting one. Either option is fine and we would be happy to guide you with that information. There are few large dealers, such CFAO and others, but their prices are usually very high compared to smaller dealers around the city. However, buying and renting from smaller dealers can be a bit opaque, with no fixed prices to compare and you will also need a mechanic to check any used cars before purchasing. Another option is to import a car from another country and go through the custom process in Mali, which could be about the same price depending on where you buy it from.
Regardless of whatever your choice is, you should discuss this with multiple sources within the city so you get better understanding for yourself. Bamako is a great city to live in, and most of the things you learn about the city and transportation within the city will have to be learned with first hand experience!
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