There are 3 main types of taxis in Cape Town: Minibus Taxis, Metered Cabs and Rikkis.
With such a huge proportion of South Africans living below the poverty barrier (indeed, an estimate quarter of all South Africans are unemployed), daily car use is a luxury restricted to the middle class and educated elite. As such, Cape Town’s public transport system faces heavy demands – demands not fully met by the bus and rail systems, which only run through the busier commercial areas.
This has led to the rise of the minibus taxi system, an element of South Africa’s public transport system that is not yet fully regulated, and thus can, at times, be dangerous. Although vehicle maintenance has vastly improved over the past few years (before which, vehicles that wouldn’t have passed roadworthiness tests were commonly loaded with as many as 20 passengers at a time), the dispositions of taxi drivers have not. Flagrant lack of consideration for the safety of their passengers (the minibuses lack seatbelts) or fellow wayfarers is something you’ll see on a daily basis. Most taxi drivers hoot constantly to get the attention of potential passengers, and often swerve around obstacles regardless of oncoming traffic, ignoring road markings and making frequent, unscheduled stops that endanger the cars behind them. Minibus taxis are involved in around 70 000 crashes a year, more than twice the number of crashes amongst all other vehicles combined.
In addition, due to the sheer number of people that use them on a daily basis, the interiors of taxis are often quite filthy, and, during peak times, you can expect to be packed tight as a sardine with the other passengers. Minibus taxis are known for overloading their vehicles, a fact that results in high casualty rates when they’re involved in accidents.
So, while it is easy, and cheap, to use the minibus taxi system, it is recommended to either have your own car or scooter (these are inexpensive to purchase and use very little fuel), or getting to know a few good, cheap metered taxi services. This you should do even if you use the bus or railway systems since walking Cape Town’s streets, especially at night, can be quite a dangerous proposition.
Minibus taxis cost 5 to 8 rand for a journey to any point along the taxi’s route, which can be determined by the taxi’s ultimate destination, which is yelled constantly out the window by a sort of herald called a geitjie (pronounced guy-chee, or guy-cheese in the plural), whose other responsibilities include opening and closing the door and collecting money from passengers.
Minibus taxis are usually Toyotas (the most recent model is the 15-seater Quantum), and can be identified by their registration stickers, which feature a front-on image of the outline of a taxi. They’re placed on all sides of any licensed Taxi.
Taxis gather at ranks much as buses do. The taxi ranks are always on or alongside the main road running through popular areas, and are often just outside train stations.
Most cab services in Cape Town have a minimum fee of between R20 and R30, and charge between R8 and R20 per kilometer thereafter. Cabnet is one of the few that doesn’t, and, at a charge of R8.50 per kilometer, is almost certainly your cheapest option, especially when it comes to getting around City Bowl. Call 021 510 2211
On the subject of getting around City Bowl, metered cabs have only a few gathering points in and around Cape Town central. You’ll find them parked at the top end of Long Street, on Castle Street, at the main entrance to the V&A Waterfront, outside the Garden Centre Mall, outside the Checkers supermarket on the corner of Union and Kloof Street, and outside a few popular clubs at night (Mercury in Riebeeck Street attracts several dozen on Mondays).
The following are a few local services that came highly recommended on http://www.infotaxi.org:
- Excite Taxis, 021 448 4444, http://www.excitetaxis.co.za
- Marine Taxis, 021 434 0 434 or email: firstname.lastname@example.org, http://www.marinetaxis.co.za
- Oxfordcabs, 021 425 0 425 or email email@example.com
- KwikCabs, 424 2222 / 072 964 4565 or email firstname.lastname@example.org
This multi-party cab service was once the staple of cheap travel in Cape Town (operating primarily in the Central City and Atlantic Seaboard areas), but has since become relatively expensive as Rikkis upgraded their fleet. They now cost between R20 and R40 per person, which usually works out significantly more expensive than Cabnet (which doesn’t charge per person), and can be inconvenient, as Rikkis often collect several separate parties at once, requiring multiple drop-offs. This can lead passengers on huge detours if their destination happens to be the furthest out.
Perhaps the only reason Rikkis is worth mentioning is for their branded phone booths, which call only to their number. These are located in numerous bars and clubs around the city, and can be convenient if your cell phone’s run out of juice. Their bicycle rickshaws also make for a novel way to take in the sights of the city.
To order a Rikki, call 0861 745 547. For the locations of Rikkis Phones, visit http://www.rikkis.co.za.