The counterpart to the bush taxis or Taxibrousse in Madagascar are the so-called taxi be. In German this simply means “big taxi”. They run exclusively in the city traffic of larger cities or between suburbs and do not undertake cross-country trips. You can easily recognize them by the colorful stripes around the minibus and the large numbers behind the windscreen. The different colors stand for different driving routes: So everyone can recognize the destination of the Taxi Be, even without being able to read.
The vehicles used are mostly Mercedes minibuses imported from Europe and converted in Madagascar. Instead of the originally installed seats or the loading area, up to seven uncomfortable rows of seats are installed. In the middle there is a corridor through which the seats can be reached. When a row is full, a board is placed over the aisle to create another seat. This way it quickly becomes crowded on the bus, and every entry or exit becomes an adventure. More than 20 people per bus are normal in Madagascar. The rear door is open and fastened to the roof with a small rope. An assistant is always standing on the rear edge to open and close the door for passengers using the rope. With him, you pay for the ride as soon as you get in. However, there is no really well-functioning timetable – typical Madagascar also applies here “mora mora“, so “take it easy”. The Taxi Be drives, if it just drives, usually only very roughly according to the official timetable, and there are several buses on each route. In addition to the regular stops, Taxi Be can also accommodate passengers on the way or let people out. Luggage is packed on the roof and fastened more loosely than with the Taxibrousse, whereby a box or a pot likes to find its way onto the road by itself. Taxi Be do not drive at night, but are only in the period between five o’clock in the morning and at the latest 20 o’clock in the evening on the way.
Since the minibuses are usually in a bad, rusty condition, a trip with the Taxi Be is only recommended to a limited extent for travellers. Although the shorter distances within the city mean fewer fatal accidents than with the Taxibrousse, pickpockets and punctures are the order of the day. However, a trip usually costs less than 500 Ariary (15-20 cents), making the Taxi Be one of Madagascar’s cheapest means of transport. Currently taxi be are offered by various companies in Antananarivo, Antsirabe, Toamasina (Tamatave), Mahajanga (Majunga), Fianarantsoa and Toliara (Tuéar). For the capital Antananarivo there is now even a smartphone app with the existing Taxi Be lines.