Saturday, February 15, 2014


Curious about how I get around Soweto without a car? Here is a play-by-play of my typical taxi* ride to the local mall:

--Walk about four blocks to the main road where the taxis drive.

--Cross to the other side of the street, dodging cars as if I were in the game “Frogger.”

--When a taxi is in sight, hold out one hand and point one finger down towards the ground (that is the “signal” to get a local taxi heading towards the mall).

--Get in the taxi and find a place to sit. Sometimes this is harder than others – some taxis are empty, while others already have about 13 people inside.

--Dig in my pocket for my money. From my street to the mall, the fare is R7.50 (about $0.75).

--Look to the people next to me and make change with them before we all pass our money to the driver. It is an unwritten rule that the passengers make change amongst themselves before handing the money to the front.

--When passing money forward, say how many and how much is being paid. For example, if two people are paying R7.50 and one is paying R8 (because they are traveling a greater distance), pass all the money together and say, “Two seven-fifty, one eight rand.”

--If necessary, wait for my change to be passed back. If not, sit back and enjoy the approx. 2 km ride.

--About one block before the mall, yell “Garage!” loud enough for the driver to hear. This tells the driver that I want to get dropped off at the garage (gas station) outside of the mall.

--When stopped, squeeze through the other passengers in order to exit the taxi.

--Make sure the door is shut behind me and head to the mall.

--Do my shopping, eating, etc. at the mall.

--When it is time to leave, walk to the end of the parking lot where the taxis are parked.

--Find the correct taxi by saying I need to go to “Old age” (the Soweto Home for the Aged is very close to where I stay).

--Walk to the taxi that was pointed out.

--Find a place to sit and wait for the taxi to fill with people. Taxis never leave the rank until they are full (or overly full sometimes, in my opinion). Sometimes this takes two minutes, sometimes it takes 20.

--Once full, the taxi pulls out of the lot and heads for the road. Find my money (R7.50 again) and make change before passing it forward.

--About one block before my street, yell “Short left!” This tells the driver that I want to be dropped off at the next street on the left.

--Exit the taxi, close the door behind me, and walk the four blocks home.

*When I say “taxi,” I don’t mean a yellow car with one of your close friends sharing the back seat with you. I mean a “kombi,” a 15 passenger van used as shared transport. 

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