The best way to get from Bamako to Dakar (saving money and time)

The best way to get from Bamako to Dakar (saving money and time) is not taking the whole train route but getting to the border by the 12 hour train trip for CFA12,000 then going through customs in Kadira and taking a taxi for CFA10,000 to Dakar. If you decide to buy a train ticket go there early in the morning, otherwise some guys buy all the tickets to re-sell them. The journey on the train is a mystical experience in itself. There are frequent stops with passengers walking into the local markets and running behind the train when it leaves again with a thick cloud of dust everywhere. The taxi driver was supposed to drive much faster but he just stopped every time he felt like it, using the strangest excuses. All the guys in the taxi forced him to stop at a police roadblock and he was rebuked by a policeman. In the end I needed another 12 hours to get Dakar.

Bamako to Dakar: When we went to buy our tickets for the Wednesday train (which by the way is NOT air-conditioned) on the Tuesday, we were told they were all sold out. This turned out to be untrue and just another scam to get you to purchase black market tickets. When we went to the station on the Wednesday morning on the off chance there were plenty of tickets. However, the only sure-fire way of getting a ticket is to get a man to buy them for you – don’t worry, they’ll find you! However, we were very wary and only handed the money over at the last minute once he reached the ticket window. It’s a huge crush, but would appear to be the only way to get through. We allowed them to keep the change (7,500 CFA between 5 of us, but they actually wanted us to make it up to 10,000 CFA). We refused, as they hadn’t agreed it with us beforehand, they got quite aggressive and followed us onto the train.

The journey actually took 44 hours due to breakdowns and having to travel very slowly due to poor track conditions. Highly recommend taking a water barrel on board so that it is possible to wash – everyone else but us did.