Driving, Uber, Taxis: Getting Around in South Africa

SA-TaxiWe visited Johannesburg, Cape Town Durban we weren’t sure what the best way to get around was. People kept telling us that driving in SA was a nightmare and quite dangerous. They said that taking the taxis that 80% of the population take every day was also dangerous.

Johannesburg

We started out using Uber to take us from Santon (where we were staying at a guest house) to the Apartheid Museum. It was $20 (R273) and the driver was quite professional. It was an easy drive and took about 15 minutes. The whole drive I kept wondering where the horrible traffic and terrible drivers were. After the museum, we wanted to go to Newtown to the science museum and a cab quoted me $15 (R205). I knew there had to be a cheaper way to get around in a country where the average Black person earns about $5,000 per year and sure enough … there are taxis.

We walked out of the museum and stopped at the “garage” as they call them. I was told that I could catch the taxi for R9 each and the baby was free. We took the taxi and it dropped us off one block from the World of Beer … which is one block over from the science museum. Everyone was really nice and helpful. We moved around the city with no problems.

Cape Town

Since things had gone so well in Johannesburg, we decided to drive in Cape Town. The airport has tons of rental car options. We used the car rental company we use at home. I provided my US driver’s license and my credit card and we were on our way. They drive on the left side of the road so that had me worried. Common advice also says to get an automatic rather than a manual car, but manuals are SO MUCH cheaper that I decided to get one of those. My logic was that, I drive a manual at home so I should be okay.

We drove from the airport down to Muizengerg with no problems. Traffic was fine adjusting to the left hand side wasn’t that bad. Even shifting with my left hand wasn’t too bad. The biggest problem I had was that we rented a VW Polo and we could not find reverse. Eventually, we realized that you have to push the dear shift IN (towards the ground) and then up.  *shrugs*

We went all over the peninsula: Simon’s Town, the Cape of Good Hope, Khayletsha and the waterfront. People drive a lot faster other there, but I just moved over to let the faster care pass. We did scratch the bumper (there are a LOT of speed bumps) and the guy at returns noticed it, but the insurance covered it.

Durban

Since driving went so well in Cape Town we thought we’d not only drive in Johannesburg (we flew from CP to Jozi and spent the night), but we thought we’ll also take the N3 tollway and drive on over to Durban. It’s a six hour drive on the tollway and once again, we had no problems. We stayed in La Lucia and drove downtown to the museum section, over to the beaches and out to Pinetown. We were lost often with no gps. We’d stop and ask for directions and carry on.

I wish we’d driven on the first leg in Johannesburg. We missed so much by being fearful and not renting a car. Uber is awesome, but at $20 each direction it makes moving around the city a bit pricey. The rental car in Cape Town for a week was around $114. The rental in Johannesburg for about 5 days was about $80. The taxis were fine, but with two adults and a baby having a car was nice. We could carry the baby’s snacks and diapers and crap for the beach, or whatever, without much fuss.

I’d definitely recommend driving if you’re #1 comfortable driving a 5-speed #2 okay with being lost #3 willing to drive slowly and not get competitive with the other drivers.

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