Car Rapide Dakar is the symbol of the city

The colorful mini busses, Car Rapide Dakar, is the most important transport for most people.

Yellow and blue minibuses full of colorful lettering, ornamentation and fluttering ribbons are running through Dakar’s streets packed with people. The back door is always open and this is the place for the whiper. He hangs out the open door and ensures that the bus gets full and that people pay. Not an easy job in the chaotic traffic situation that characterizes Dakar, the capital of Senegal.

The colorful minibuses are called Car Rapide and are the main mode of transport for most people in Dakar. The Car Rapide Dakar can seat around 10-15 people, but it is usually between 20 and 30 crowded together on the mini bus. Car Rapide Dakar is running within the city of Dakar and stops at almost every street corner to pick up passengers. We drove with Car Rapide Dakar for 3-4 kilometers towards the center of Dakar and paid 100 CFA apiece. This corresponds to about 20 Cents.

Car Rapide is not a quick mode of transport, although the name would suggest it. Nor is it a car, but a converted mini bus of older vintage with extremely poor maintenance. Therefore it is no wonder that you often see buses abandoned along the road with broken shaft or punctured tire. The advantage of Car Rapide Dakar is that there are a lot of them and they drive all the time. There is always a Car Rapide Dakar you can jump on.

The back door is always open, even at speed. One or two young men are hanging there and when the mini bus stops they jump off, often at speed and then shouts out in all directions. If there are several Car Rapides at the same corner it becomes a cacophony of sound and not easy to catch up where the individual Car Rapide is going. I believe you have to be a local to understand the system of the different routes.

Inside comfort is horrible with lousy seats. They are small and hard, if you at all get a seat and the front windshield is decorated with photos of famous imams and Koran verses. Oddly enough people get on and off, there must be some cultural codes of courtesy we do not understand! For ordinary people in Dakar this is the way they are going back and forth to work and they have to accept tribulation and all it entails of smells, bruising and a small quarrel now and then.

Since we arrived in Dakar a trip with Car Rapid Dakar was on top of my wish list. Wherever I am in the world I try to travel with local transport, if not traveling far, I will at least try a small stretch. In Dakar we lived near a large junction and an important hub for traffic north and south of Dakar. So one morning we decided to try to get on a Car Rapide Dakar. It was actually not that easy, no Car Rapide figured that we would want to get on the mini bus. But after a while, one stopped to pick up others on the sidewalk where we stood and we could get on the Car Rapide.

I even managed to do some filming, although several threw ugly eyes at me. Therefore, it was limited filming, but I still hope it gives a good impression of how it is to take Car Rapide Dakar in Senegal!

Dakars Car Rapide driving through the Medina of Dakar.
A Car Rapide Dakar has broken down, not unusual!
Car Rapide Dakar are lining up to transport people in to the center of Dakar on Saturday evening.
Two boys at the back of a Car Rapide in Dakar.
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  • The same informal service exists in Cairo, in lieu of official public transport. It’s very scary for regular tourists, I think, you really have to be adventurous and knowledgeable to be able to do it properly.

  • Wow, those buses are pretty colourful! I agree, it’s always great to try out public transport in different countries even if it is for a short time. It looks like this was an experience worth the journey though, even if the seats were uncomfortable!

  • Love how colourful they are. Coming from the Caribbean and having been to countries like India, I’m not surprised by the type of buses used. Very similar to many parts of the Caribbean here, some just as colourful. It’s nice to see this perspective in Dakar. You also learn how friendly and welcoming the people onboard are to help you out and not let you get lost.

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