How to Get About Cheaply - The Tro-Tro
Tro-tros are privately owned and operated and are as common on Ghanaian roads as potholes. These minivans provide a vital public service by transporting up to twenty passengers around the city and countryside. It looks like a minibus and is usually packed with people and decorated with stickers, cultural symbols or religious artwork. It is the cheapest way to travel around town.
A tro-tro, pronounced traw-traw (like draw), is a general term for any public transportation vehicle other than a bus or taxi that is designed to carry many people.
Businessmen sit beside school children, wedged between students and smartly attired women. With an average annual income around $400, many Ghanaians can't afford to use taxis or buy a car.
Tro-tros reflect the religiosity of Ghanaians. Many of them carry spiritual messages: "Come to Jesus," "Have you prayed today?"
The tro-tro system also works around a tenet central to Ghanaian society: waiting. There's no schedule, no map outlining routes. You just have to wait at the side of the road for the right one to come along.
The first challenge is identifying the right bus: few tro-tros display their destinations with signboards at the dashboard window. More commonly, the tro-tro mate (the driver's assistant) leans out from the right side of the bus as it approaches a stop and announces the bus's destination/ route both verbally and using hand signals
Even if you're at a bus station, and lucky enough to find a tro-tro going in your direction, you must still wait. The driver wants to make as much money as possible, so the bus doesn't take off until it's full.
Once seated in the tro-tro and en route, the mate may continue calling out the destination between stops, in an attempt to fill any open spots on the minibus. The mate is also in charge of collecting fares, informing the driver of passengers‚ upcoming stops and opening the door at each one.
It was always an accomplishment for a visitor to get on the right bus since the only signs on the bus would have religious phrases like "Trust in God Always" or "Pray." The signs are appropriate since many of the buses are very old and in much need of repair.
All tro-tros are privately owned and operated: run by the people for the people. They are typically imported secondhand minibuses, and some vehicles have apparently been used for years before arriving in Ghana.
Despite their age and dilapidated state, many of these vehicles are still certified, licensed and registered as roadworthy. The insides of such vehicles are often stripped, to economize space and maximize seating, rather than promote passenger comfort.
Traveling by bus in Ghana is generally the most comfortable and quickest way to get around. State Transportation Corporation (STC) is the main bus company and routes include all the major towns: Accra, Kumasi, Takoradi, Tamale, Cape Coast and others. You can catch express, air-conditioned buses in between the main towns of Kumasi, Tamale, Bolgatanga and Accra.
Book your ticket at least a day in advance along major routes and expect to pay extra for your luggage.
Passenger trains used to run between Accra and Kumasi and Kumasi and Takoradi, but as of October 2010, all passenger trains to Kumasi have been suspended.
However, there are plans to redevelop Ghana's railway network following the signing of a US$6 billion contract with a Chinese company for the construction and expansion of railway infrastructure, and as part of Ghana's "Better Ghana Agenda" which aims to improve living standards for all Ghanaians.