Mali — Transportation
Mali Taxis and Car Rental
Bamako is the most likely place in Mali to find Western-style taxis from companies like Taxi Ibrahima (+223 66 742 197) or Station de Taxi (+223 20 222 525). Passengers should tell drivers if they are unsure of their destination and watch out for overcharging. Bush taxis known as taxi-brousse are the most common way to get between communities without bus service. These vehicles travel slowly, often stopping to repair other broken taxi brousse, don’t have fixed schedules, and are prone to frequent breakdowns themselves.
The quality of Malian roads is moderate at best and downright treacherous at worst, especially after floods in the rainy season. All major roads have police checkpoints and are poorly lit after dark. A carnet de passage and insurance are mandatory for anyone wishing to rent vehicles in Mali, but most of the country’s cars come with their own drive as roads are considered too dangerous for foreign motorists. Four-wheel drives are strongly recommended for excursions to Timbuktu and other destinations away from the two main highways.
Mali Water Taxis
Pirogue and pinasse crossings via the Senegal River to Guinea and trips across the Niger River to Niger are the two main water routes in Mali. Barges to Timbuktu are only available during the wet season, while public pinasses between Bamako and Gao are accessible until water levels drop too low in the dry season.
Mali Trains and Buses
Buses connect Mali to Senegal, Burkina Faso, Ivory Coast, Ghana, and Niger. Bittar, Bani and Banimonotie provide the most reliable service between major Malian cities. The country’s two bus lines link cities along the main paved loop in the north and south. All companies charge roughly the same fares, but journey lengths vary dramatically and are highly unpredictable as the buses travel at different speeds, break down or stop to assist other vehicles in need of repair.
Bright green minibuses called sotramas are Bamako’s main inner-city buses and the preferred means of transportation among locals as they cost a fraction of taxi prices. Although sotramas can be loud and chaotic, they are usually reliable.
Mali’s only passenger train, a 761-mile journey between Bamako and Dakar and Senegal ceased operation in 2009 due to bankruptcy. It is unclear whether this service will be restored in the future.