Among the aspects of Cape Town that you’re unlikely to miss (Table Mountain, the wind) are the public minibus taxis. The yellow Golden Arrow buses may be bigger, the new “MiCiti” buses may be shinier, and the train may be tougher, but the collection of minibuses is certainly more omnipresent. Whether you are driving along and get cut off by taxis, walking along and hear their hooting and hollering, or biking along and feel their close presence, it’s hard to escape the taxis. For all the debate about their drivers, safety, and behaviour, the minibuses are a pretty useful mode of transport and one that can make your travels a bit more affordable and efficient. Here are a few tips on how to go about making use of this Cape Town institution.
Briefly, there isn’t any. That’s half the benefit (for the passengers) of the minibus system. As long as you are somewhere along a taxi route, the taxis will pull over to let you in. Wave one down, look remotely like you might want a lift, or simply respond to their hooting. In some places, you may see a queue of taxis, make sure to hop in the one that looks like it might leave first (or the one that looks the most roadworthy). You can ask people where the nearest road on a taxi route is but a general guide is the major roads.
Generally, the starting/ending point of a taxi’s route is written on a sign in its windscreen. As long as your destination is along the way, they will drop you there. Upon getting on a taxi, state your destination of choice (“Shoprite- Claremont”, “University of Cape Town”, “Cape Town station”) to the guy with the money bag (he is the one hollering out the window). He will give you a fare (note: it should be between R2 and R15 depending on your distance). Hand over money to the money collector or, if you are cramped well in the back of the taxi, just hand the money forward to a fellow passenger. There’s plenty of change available but try to have some reasonably small currency with you.
How to ride-
After you flag down your taxi (or it grabs you), the money collector/destination crier will indicate where to sit. In many cases, it won’t seem like there is much room. Squash yourself in where there is space and enjoy the ride and pumping bass.
The taxis run on the main commuter routes. For visitors, the likely destinations of choice are from Cape Town central through the Southern Suburbs and on to Muizenberg (this involves changing a few taxis), from Wynberg through to Hout Bay, and from Cape Town through to Hout Bay along the Atlantic Seaboard. Make sure to check that your taxi will take you in your general direction.
While the taxis stop anywhere they want, there are major “stations” in Wynberg (Southern Suburbs) and Cape Town central.
A few other tips on riding:
- Be prepared for the route to take longer than by private car- some taxis make frequent stops
- Try to think of the pumping bass, swearing, and video-game style driving as a cultural experience
- Ask locals what the approximate price of a trip should be, drivers have been known to scam tourists
- For destinations further down False Bay, the train is much easier and faster
- Do prepare yourself for a snug ride
- Do keep an eye on your bags and valuables
- Don’t get on an empty taxi (for safety and efficiency)
- Do acquaint yourself with the flipping seats in the “aisle” they hurt if they whack you
- Do have an idea or where you want to go and how much the fare should be
- Do give the taxis a try