If some day you happen to be in South Africa and decided to try their public transport that is equivalent (by equivalent here I mean in terms of fare and frequency only) to buses in most parts of the world, then you would have to go loco and take their version of buses, better known as taxis to them. This is how the taxis look and yes, it is what we in Singapore, call the mini bus or combo.
There are regular size buses here and these regular buses also takes you to places you want to go but what you need to know is that you’d probably have to change from bus to train and maybe another bus, to get from say Pretoria to Johannesburg (Joburg) and at a much higher fare. For you and I, we would probably be more comfortable taking the clean and state-of-the-art Gautrain (pronounced as Khautrain and was built specially for the FIFA World Cup tourist in 2010) buses, alight at their Gautrain train station and catch a train to Joburg instead. Just have your bus/train cards topped-up and readily available. However, to most local folks who are struggling very, very hard to make it to next pay-day, the taxis are what moves them from point A to point B.
The downsides of these taxis are that you have to rub thighs and bums while sitting, endure the stuffiness of closed windows (which is perfect when its winter), as the ladies don’t like it when their hair gets blown around by wind, endure extremely loud music the driver chooses to play at the time of your journey, as well as being squashed in between fellow passengers if you happen to sit next to big people.
Here’s how it works:
- You queue at the correct taxi bay you need, to take you to your destination.
- You take your seat but remember to leave the front row seats (just behind the driver) for folks with baggage or babies (and believe me, these folks are always there in all taxi trips) as the leg rooms in those seats are wider.
- Then you wait until the entire vehicle is filled up with passengers (yes, no matter how long it takes, you wait till it fills up) and this includes the seat right next to the driver too.
- Once it is completely filled, the driver would appear out of nowhere (don’t worry, for some reason he knows when to appear), closes the passenger’s door, takes his position and puts the vehicle in motion.
- Only when the vehicle starts moving, you get your fare out (try to have exact change to avoid headaches) and look to the people in your row of seats to put your fare together with theirs. They would then pass that collection to the people in front of their row for those people to pass to the ones in their front, until that collection gets to the “fortunate” passenger who sits next to the driver in front.
- That front passenger would be the one collecting, counting, giving change to other passengers when its due and hand the exact fare for the entire taxi passengers of that trip, to the driver, who usually starts counting his money while driving. This part of the journey is usually not a smooth one as folks can be shouting to one another about who is still waiting for change or who paid short or well, you get the picture.
Stopping At Your Destination
Ok… so now that the fare payments and change distributions are done, you’d probably be thinking that you can sit back, relax and enjoy the ride and you would too, but only for some time. Once you are near to the area where that taxi is approaching its rank, there will be folks who have to alight along the way. Be ready to make yourself “small” so that those folks could squeeze pass you and make their way to the door, all the time having to bend their heads while they ensure that they don’t fall or hit their bags or their bums on you, on their way to the door. I’ve had my face accidentally bashed by their handbags n foot stomped by passengers previously, all because I was gatal (cheeky) enough to try out this mode of transport. 🙂
Some stopping commands you need to know are:
- Shot (Short) left = Driver should stop anytime safe on the nearest Left
- Shot right = (yea, you got it) stop soon but on the Right
- After robot or before robot = After or before the traffic light. That’s right, robots are traffic lights here (this is a whole different story I’ll share another time with you)
By now, if you’ve not figured out that there are no bus I mean… taxi stops, you must have dozed off somewhere along the way to this point. “Best” part is that when you need to catch your taxis YOU have to go the taxi ranks yourself and to do this, you may have to walk a long distance to get to a taxi rank sometimes. In some fortunate and bigger townships, there are smaller taxis (actually the size of a pick-up truck but with seats and doors) to take you to the taxi ranks and spare you the long walks. This serves just like the feeder bus services in Singapore.
There are places you could get taxis while walking along the road but that’s only when those taxis have empty seats available and provided you know the finger signing to the destination you are heading. For example, from Soweto to Joburg you have to raise your right hand and your forefinger should be pointing upwards (like when you’re showing the number 1 sign) for the drivers to know you’re heading to Joburg.
So now that you know a little about taxi rides here, maybe you are excited to try? 😀
Anyway, this entry is to share with you what local folks here go through to get around each day and I feel for them as I know its not easy. I know all these because I decided to try riding these taxis on some occasion, just for the experience. To my friends and family in Singapore, please be thankful for your buses, trains and taxis as you don’t know what you’re enjoying there. Your trains or bus delays are nothing compared to what people here are enduring. What we call taxis in Singapore, they call meter taxis here and you never pay anything less than R50 per journey.
Below are pictures of a local café or diner that can be found in most taxi ranks. I assume the drivers or maybe even passengers stop by to eat when they get hungry. Food served are usually pap (maize meal), meat/chicken and vegetables.
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