Tap tap – meaning “quick quick” in Creole – is the name given to privately owned vehicles that have been converted into public transport caravans. The buses run along set routes throughout the day, and though it is not necessary to pay, riders generally fork over five to ten gourdes for their services. Since most Haitians do not own a car Tap taps are the most frequent form of transportation for the population when one is travelling further than walking distance. They increase in physical size according to the length of their route to be more efficient and lucrative. Smaller editions are generally pickup tucks fitted with a cabin over the external bed, and the bigger, longer travelling vehicles are either school buses or oversized U-haul types.
What makes the buses special is their intricate and psychedelic deco. The paintings adorning each blend religious symbolism with personal interest and result in spectacles that make one think there is a parade each time a few pass in quick succession.
Take a look at this PBS/NPR vid for an understanding of how tap taps function, the importance of their artistry and the which & why of remaining successful in the tap tap industry.