Every day, thousands of Capetonian commuters use public transport to get where they need to be. Squeezing into minibus taxis and train carriages, it’s a long haul to and from work for many of the Mother City’s citizens. Public transport offers a cost-effective way of travelling in our fair city and also allows one to immerse oneself in its day-to-day culture.
The bedrock of transport on Cape Town’s roads is the minibus taxi. From dawn until well past midnight, these rugged little 12- to 15-seaters shuttle back and forth along the city’s main roads and highways. Although the driver often takes a creative approach to traffic regulations, weaving through traffic and slipping into by-roads in their bid to get all passengers where they’re going as quickly as possible, the taxi can be an interesting, if somewhat exhilarating experience.
For a fare of as little as R4, you can hop onboard and become part of the community. The conductor or “kaartjie”, as he is colloquially known, normally acts as something of a maitre d’ to the whole experience, welcoming you onboard, finding a seat for you, collecting your fare and inducting you into the communal conversation.
Though these taxis operate on a set route, the conductor or driver can give you a run-down of the criss-crossing routes of all the taxi ranks. If you know how the system works, they can take you right into the heart of the city, or into the distant suburbs.
Another option is the Metro train system. At very reasonable rates (R5.50 for a deluxe “Metro Plus” ticket) the trains offer the scenic route between the city centre and the peninsular coast. The Southern Line runs through the suburbs, from Cape Town to Simonstown, and is a great way to take a day exploring the coastal towns and the many restaurants, bars and ice cream parlours therein.
The trains are also a good opportunity to come face to face with different cross-sections of the vibrant Cape Town community (although for a “Metro Plus” ticket you can still have space to stretch your legs), and sometimes offer informal live theatre, music or soap-box sermons right there in the carriage.
There are also the Golden Arrow bus services which provide bus transport throughout the Cape Metropolitan area. This includes outlying areas such Mitchell’s Plain, Phillipi and Simonstown and hence are essential for people who need to get to places away from the Cape Town city centre. These ubiquitous vehicles can be recognised by their distinctive green orange and white branding and are a very useful resource to keep in mind when wanting to travel.
Finally, Cape Town’s tourist scenes and night spots always have plenty of meter taxis on offer. Though these cost quite a bit more (always ask the driver his rate before getting in) they will take you direct to wherever you want to go at any time of day and night. The drivers always have a story to tell or a sympathetic ear, if you’ve got a story of your own.