The Accra trotro has come a way. Trotro derives from the Ga [a local dialect in Ghana] word meaning three pence, the fare for the city buses in the colonial era [1902-1951]. Then, like today, Accra city public transport charged real low fares per trip. So today trotro means a bus with low fares.
Trotros have custard license plates. The buses are adorned with flamboyant inscriptions, adverts, slogans-mostly religious, bluffs, and union identification. Several are painted in gradient or layered colors.
Some of the drivers are professionals. They may have been driving for over 30 years They know the routes well and are abreast of the condition st every section. From experience, they know where traffic is sparse and choose those routes.
Others could be carpenters or masons by trade but driving for a quick living. Some may be mechanics who just managed to obtain licenses. This class of trotros alternate between their primary occupation and driving.
TRAVELLING ON A TROTRO
The buses can be rickety. Watch your clothes and luggage against seldom oil slicks, pointed objects or grease. You may be delayed on the trip when the bus runs out of fuel or becomes faulty.
Trotro buses are cheap means of travel but not convenient. They have several justified stops on the way. Plan your route with a lot of time redundancy.
You can arrive at your destination several minutes late. A driver may alight to pick his lunch about 20 meters away or stop to refuel. A conductor may get down to search for change or passengers. A passenger may buy food.
The bus can be very noisy with blasts from the stereo or insensitive passengers. Its common occurrence for two friends to review a three hour video they watched loudly. Delay, inconvenience, inaccuracy noise are acceptable in Ghanaian culture. Its considered rude to complain about them. So be your own advisor. If someone gives a location for a building, add about 30 metres in distance for many will reference the closest landmark in giving directions.
Trotros are the best means to see the city because they travel the alleys, streets, neighborhoods, and places taxis or private cars would not go.
The mini buses are actually converted vans. Mostly Nisan Urvan, Hyundai Grace, KIA Besta and Pregio, Mercedes Sprinter, Toyota Hiace, Mazda Bongo, Willowbrook SpaceCar and Tata. They are typically 15 to 25 capacity with three or five rows of seat. Each row seats three to 4 passengers.
Packaged Cargo [dry] and passengers share the same compartment. Dont be surprised to see a conductor try to help a passenger carry a table on his or her lap. After five minutes of effort, they realize it wont work, then the passenger disembarks. Remember delay is widely acceptable in Ghanaian culture.
Trotros are not air-conditioned, They can be very warm especially between September to June. During the rainy season of July to August, the roof can leak. The buses have no seat belts.
At terminals, Trotro buses leave when they are full. Cruising ones will pick and move.
No tickets are handed for payment and you cant buy advance tickets.
No luggage tags so be sure to protect your luggage.
Cargo and passengers share the same cabin.
At start of day, drivers may wait till they receive payments from passengers before they buy fuel mid journey.
Its difficult to have trotro on Sundays and Fridays because most of the drivers are Muslims and Christians. For Sundays, many commuters do not got to work, meaning fewer passengers on the roads so many drivers decide to rest cos it takes long to fill up.
Also its the day many drivers service their buses. On Sundays, there is laxity in No Parking rules so you can stand at places otherwise prohibited and pick a bus. [ Editor notes – There is laxity in the enforcement of NO PARKING rules on Sunday because there is less traffic on Sundays.]