A Unique Cultural Experience in Cape Town
By Steven Levy
Cape Town has easily become home to me. I’ve made good friends, found a great church, and learned how to get around affordably. The first time my friend and I went to church, we took a cab and had to pay R100 one way. We loved the church, but the cost of transportation seemed above our means; we had to find a cheaper way to get there. The train schedule didn’t coincide with our church program, so our only other option was taking a taxi. Taxis are basically privately owned vans that provide public transportation. They’re not recommended to visitors for safety reasons, especially because visitors are not familiar with the routes. But taxis are insanely cheap compared to cabs: they charged us just R8 each for the same distance!
However, the cheap option proved to have its own price when our taxi ran out of gas after about a third of the way. That wasn’t surprising though – the van had a soda crate for a seat! But in the process of waiting for a different van, I got the chance to make friends with local ladies who also attended my new church. They encouraged me to get comfortable using taxis because they were affordable and had extensive routes. They also gave me interesting tips like not sitting at the front next to the driver because I would have the designated duty of collecting fare and handing out change. From experience, I learned not to sit by the door as I would have to open and close it every time someone had to alight or board. As a safety precaution, the ladies emphasized that I should never get into an empty taxi alone.
The next time I took a taxi, I felt like a pro. I didn’t panic when the driver decided to change is destination halfway and asked everyone who was going to the original destination to move to a different van. I just went with the flow and blended in with the obedient grumbling! This was the true cultural experience after all: what an average South African experienced on a daily basis. I couldn’t help but feel as though I had only just got my feet wet. I’m excited to experience more!