South African taxi travel combines the services of regular, metered taxis with the somewhat unconventional minibus system, which has a language and code of its own. Metered taxis are recommended, although a ride on a minibus can provide interesting insights into the lives and cultures of ordinary South Africans.
South African taxi travel is unlike that of most other countries in the world. Here, you will not find South African taxis simply driving the streets, waiting to be hailed at the next street corner. Rather, taxis in South Africa must be specifically telephoned for service, which can become tricky if you plan to visit several sites or destinations in a day.
South African taxi travel can be broadly categorised according to two sectors: metered taxis and what’s commonly referred to as minibus taxis.
Metered taxis are definitely the international visitor’s best bet. They can be called from the hotel where you’re staying, with hotel staff recommending the best local services to use. Metered taxis are private, offer door-to-door service and generally efficient, with experienced drivers behind the wheel.
However, compared to hiring your own car, using a shuttle service or booking a tour that includes transport, metered taxis can be quite costly.
Minibus taxis serve the general population, as public transport that is able to pick up and drop off passengers in areas not serviced by the country’s bus and rail networks. It’s a somewhat unconventional service, in that routes are determined by the drivers and there are no specific scheduled stops – taxis simply stop wherever a passenger needs to alight.
Hailing these taxis is also a matter of knowing your sign language, for each route and destination has its own specific sign which passengers use to flag down drivers.
While a ride on a minibus taxi will certainly provide you with an authentic South African travel experience, this service must be used with caution. The vehicles are often not maintained properly and therefore unroadworthy, and drivers have the tendency to drive recklessly.
If you’re interested in a minibus ride while in South Africa, take a short trip accompanied by an experienced guide or a local who understands the system well.