Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana

8 February 2011 at 14:00 16 comments

By Mei-ing Cheok, KF14, Ghana

With CRAN volunteer, Jonanthan, in tow, AB signals that he needs a ride for two

When I first arrived in Accra, Ghana about a week ago for my Kiva Fellowship, I had to find my way to Cape Coast, where my microfinance institute, Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN), is located.  These were the instructions I got from Jacqueline, another Kiva Fellow, whom I was replacing at CRAN:

  1. Take a taxi across the road from the airport, not the ones right at the exit because they are more expensive
  2. Go to the STC bus station and get on a bus headed towards Cape Coast
  3. Alight at the Goil petrol station in Cape Coast.

I confess that once I got off the plane, I had no idea what I was doing; I was just winging it. In fact, I got all the above steps wrong. I took the expensive taxi and the cabbie convinced me to go to the “Ford” bus station* instead of STC and I got dropped off at the market instead of Goil.

*The bus station is really just a series of mini-buses parked in line next to a market. I was hit with a sensory overload by the throngs of people selling, shouting and jostling. The change in plans worked out well because the Ford buses left more frequently and travelled faster, so I arrived in Cape Coast earlier!

Navigating the public transport system here is an art. It’s very different from my home country, Singapore. For someone new to Ghana, it’d seem like you need a special code to make sense of what appears to be chaos, to get from Point A to Point B. It does help tremendously that Ghanaians speak English and they’re extremely friendly and helpful.

There are bus companies that provide scheduled trips and fixed fares. But the two main modes of transport that most people use for intra-city travel are informal services: share-taxis and tro tros.


You can charter a cab, but it is costly: around GHC3-5 (US$1.90-$3.15). Share-taxis usually ply certain routes around town and pick up and drop off passengers at any point along the way. The fare, around 40 pesewas (US$0.25), is a fraction of what it’d cost to charter a cab. If the driver has a high turnover of passengers, he could potentially earn as much as, if not more than, if he were to have just one full-paying passenger.

But how would you know which cab or tro tro to flag down? HOW do you flag one down? Well, here’s the secret code: if you’re headed for the market in Kotokoraba (the main town and heart of Cape Coast) and you’re on a road that doesn’t lead directly to it, you point with your thumb in the direction of Kotokoraba. Also, if you’re with a friend, you indicate with two fingers that there are two passengers. If the taxi driver is headed in that direction and he has space, he would stop for you. If not, he’ll zip on by and you wait for the next taxi! (see pictures below)

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Tro tros

Now tros tros are vans that can accommodate more people – and are therefore, even cheaper – and they also ply longer routes, between towns.  They also serve as a delivery service! If someone in Kotoboraba wanted to send her mother a sack of oranges in Takoradi, which is about 2 hours away, she can pay the tro tro driver to deliver it for her. Also, letters delivered by tro tros arrive faster than those delivered by the postal service, which usually takes three days.

In spite of the complete and utter confusion I felt when I first arrived, not to mention a strong measure of fear, I somehow managed to find my way to Cape Coast thanks to some helpful Ghanaians.  The other volunteers and foreigners I have met here seem to be travelling around on their own quite comfortably. I haven’t reached that stage yet, but I’ll get there soon. I just have to jump right in… and hopefully get to the right destination!

Mei-ing has just arrived in Ghana, narrowly missing a massive Chinese New Year feast with the family back home in Singapore, but she is exploring the cuisine of Ghana with gusto. She is working with Kiva Field Partner, Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN).

Entry filed under: Africa, blogsherpa, Christian Rural Aid Network (CRAN), Ghana, KF14 (Kiva Fellows 14th Class), Kiva Field Partners. Tags: , , , , , .

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  • 1. Here comes Trouble | Into Africa  |  2 July 2011 at 19:49

    […] first things she did was terrorise some of the locals. Yesterday, we jumped into a share-taxi (see Have Tro-Tro, Will Travel in Ghana for more info on the super cool transport system here) – I was in the front seat and she was […]

  • 2. tadhg  |  8 May 2011 at 14:04

    just wondering why there are no more Ghana loans on the Kiva site…they seemed to have disappeared altogether from the site?

  • 3. tadhg  |  8 May 2011 at 14:03

    just wondering if you know why are there no more loan requests from Ghana on the Kiva website…they seem to have disappeared?

  • 4. Chopsticks | Into Africa  |  10 April 2011 at 14:59

    […] next day, I left work at just after noon and made my way to Pedu Junction to catch a tro-tro. Now, every time I walk past Pedu Junction, there are a few tro-tros there waiting to fill up with […]

  • […] the original post: Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana « Kiva Stories from the Field This entry was posted in przeprowadzki, taxi and tagged aquarium, are-bus, beluga-whales, […]

  • 6. Owe Money, Pay Money « Kiva Stories from the Field  |  29 March 2011 at 15:02

    […] Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana […]

  • […] be expensive, particularly when petrol hovers around $5/gallon. But while I miss the adventure of crowded taxis and mini-buses, I can go to the field on very short notice and have enough energy at the end of the day to update […]

  • […] Have Tro Tro, Will Travel in Ghana […]

  • 9. Ghana: A Sensory Overload | Into Africa  |  24 February 2011 at 07:54

    […] Anyway, back to the story. Catching the shuttle or “Ford” buses was another adventure. I have to admit I had no idea what I was doing or what was going on.  There were people yelling and jostling. I paid my fare and clambered on. To me, the van looked full. Then one lady helpfully said to me, “Move to the back!!!” Okaaay. I squeezed my way through and squashed my ass down next to two other passengers in the backseat. I thought we were really full now and ready to go, but noooo, another guy climbed aboard and joined our merry little band on the back seat. It had gotten really cosy. Also, the windows were shut and the aircon didn’t reach us until half an hour into the journey so it also smelled funky back there. The good news is that I am now used to this intimate mode of travel. I have to be. (update: read more about getting around in Ghana in Have Tro Tro will Travel In Ghana) […]

  • 10. Small change is good | Into Africa  |  21 February 2011 at 08:32

    […] more efficient way of carrying your baby around. And it takes up less space when you jump onto a tro tro. I met this lady last week in the field, where she was part of a solidarity group meeting. At one […]

  • 11. Jai  |  11 February 2011 at 00:59

    This is great. A whole new world. i am sure you will have a lot of interesting tales to tell. Be safe.


  • 12. Helen Wilsion  |  10 February 2011 at 18:10

    Mei-ing – it’s so good to hear about your daily life and you appear to be picking everythig up so quickly. Keep up the good work and the blogs 🙂

  • 13. Helen  |  10 February 2011 at 06:07

    Bravo! Mei-Ing.
    Looking forward to your blog on Ghanaian food.

  • 14. kivasteph  |  9 February 2011 at 18:50

    Great post, Mei-ing! Hope all these new travel laws don’t stop you from exploring Ghana. You’re so lucky Jacqueline’s around to give you some good tips! 🙂

  • 15. Jacqueline Gunn  |  9 February 2011 at 17:01

    Ahhh fabulous! I am very proud that you have got the hang of this already… I think I only learned last week 😉

  • 16. Cheok  |  9 February 2011 at 09:34

    How very interesting!

    I cannot wait to visit in April!!

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