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The way you travel can change your life

Updated on December 1, 2015



The way you travel can change your life

Life Changes

My life changed when I had a car accident and I could not afford to buy another car. I was looking at the option of using our public transport system in South Africa. It is quite a challenge when you are a white female and the public transport system of taxis on the roads are mainly used by African people of different cultures.

I wanted to move forward in my life and gain more stability and freedom. The taxis in South Africa have their own set of rules and a system which can be difficult to understand by people from the outside, but it is affordable and works if you just follow their rules.

Strength doesn’t come from what you can do

It comes from overcoming the things you once thought you couldn’t

4 Steps in How to Catch a Taxi in South Africa

Step 1

  • Decide on the place where you want to go and which direction you want to take
  • Ask around in your local shops or petrol stations how the routes of the taxis work and what the hand signals of each area are
  • Find the place where you need to stand to wait for the right taxi to come past and remember to show your hand sign when any taxi passes by This is, so that the taxi driver can see where you are going and can decide if he can stop for you or carry on driving.

Step 2

  • When the taxi stops for you, open the sliding door of the mini bus and first ask if the driver is going to the same area as you
  • If he says yes then you can get in and look if there is a space inside to sit. If he says no, he is going to another area then you just close the door and stand back to wait for another taxi to come past.

Step 3

  • If you got on the taxi at a shopping mall or when the taxi was empty, try to think where you are going to get off. If you will be getting off sooner than the others, it may be better to sit more on the outside towards the door. It will help everybody if you don’t have to climb over too many people to get off at your stop.
  • You can only use space for one person and if you have a bag then you must keep it on your lap or any other bags that you bring from the shops. Mothers with children keep them on their laps or they pay for an extra space if the child is too big.
  • Paying is quite fascinating and the trust is amazing. It is a cash only system. The person that sits in front with the driver must handle the money and that could be anyone that gets on for a ride. The money gets passed on from the back and everyone pays what they need to pay and they work out the change even before it gets to the front. The person in front makes sure everyone has paid and everyone gets their change and tells the driver how much money there is. The people in the taxi will not cheat on each other or forget to pay and the driver will know how many people are in the taxi. The taxi driver must give the money to the taxi owner at the end of the day
  • There is no smoking or drinking in the taxi and usually everyone is very respectful towards each other. The mothers with babies sit in front because there is more space for them.


  • To get off from a taxi at your stop there are 5 ways to shout!

- “Short” left !”

Taxis always drive on the left side of the road and look out for people to pick up. They will also stop only on the left side of the road at any place at any time no matter how many cars are behind them, without any warning. The car drivers will get furious, but the taxi drivers have the best customer service to stop for anyone that needs a ride.

- “ Short” right!”

I am still wondering about this one and the logic of taxi drivers. They will still stop on the left side of the road, but you must say short right if you want to go to the other side of the road

- “Bus stop!”

There are cones that make spaces for a bus stop and the taxis can pick up and drop people there as well.

- “After robot!”

Shouting this lets the driver know to stop after the traffic light for you to get off.

- “Garage!”

The taxi driver will know to stop at the next petrol station for you to get off

Road signs-Flikr- Photo Sharing

What I Gained by Travelling with Taxis in South Africa

In the beginning I felt embarrassed to stand next to the road to wait for a taxi to drive past. I was concerned what the people would say and if someone would recognize me. Now, I am not bothered anymore because the taxis gave me the courage to step out into the unknown; into a different world. Every time I take a taxi I feel a sense of adventure as if I am going to different country

1) They took me in when I needed help

One day I was late for work. It was a cold rainy day and there was lots of traffic. I walked up the road to see if I could stand at another place to make it easier for the taxis to see me. The taxi was also stuck in between cars and was full, but the driver hooted at me to get in. I was so grateful because I was getting wet that I didn’t mind to sitting on a small ledge in front of the seats.

2) I was treated with kindness and respect

When I asked about a place or a direction the people that I travelled with treated me like one of their own, although I was the only white female on the taxis most of the time. There were times when one or two taxi drivers drove just for me to my area and I would sit alone in the taxi. I always showed my appreciation with a big smile and “Thank you so much” before I got off

3) The music in the taxis is something else

African music has taught me a thing or two; it gets played over and over with lots of rhythm. Then I was blessed with songs that really touched my heart and before I got off I would say to the driver” Thank you for the music” I could see that I just made his day.

4) Children gave me hope

The small children keep looking at me with their big eyes and then I smiled at them. I tried to talk to the older ones that went to school and which I saw every morning on my way to work and they just smiled at me and said a few words. A whole community was on a taxi with different generations all mixed together. I had nothing to be afraid of

5) Taxis helped me to get to work and to other places

If it was not for the availability and affordability of the taxis, I would not have been able to work or to get around on my own. Taxis give transport to so many people and it is not just for African people but for everyone. There must be a mind set change that it is only for the lower class people.

I am not a victim. No matter what I have been through. I’m still here. I have a history of victory. Steve Maraboll

Funny things when traveling in a taxi

- Know beforehand that you will be squashed in like sardines in a can, always space for another one

- You will never be stuck in traffic because the taxis know how to drive on yellow lines, specially” reserved” for them

- They know the shortcuts in between buildings or houses to get you faster to your destination

- Their hooters work like a Morse code, calling people to come to their taxis and are their way of communicating with one another

- When they are short of change, it is no problem for the driver to jump out of his taxi in the traffic to another taxi to get change.

- Taxi drivers teach you to pray when they drive fast and patience when they wait for someone to walk slowly over the road to get into the taxi.

- Their customers come first because they will stop for you at any place at any time

Our destination is never a place, but a new

Way of seeing things.

Henry Miller

The way we travel has an effect on our lives

We can’t always choose who we travel with or how we want to travel, but travel is a part of life. The journey is sometimes more important than the destination because we can’t do it on our own. They say that it takes a community to raise a child, but we need a community to travel with us on our journey of life. Independence and self- sufficiency where everybody is doing their thing, has become the norm. I can’t do everything by myself and will need you to help me where I fall short.

When I waited for taxis, I was part of the people that walked and lived on the streets and it gave me a different perspective on life. I could stand still and observe people, how they operated with their small businesses, how they lived and how they cared about each other with the little they had. If I was driving in a car I would have missed it all, because by walking slows things down and we are then closer to each other. There would be some eye contact as well and physical contact with people

Using taxis as my transport has taught me to laugh again because I can share my travel experience with people that do not mind my status or race



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