Transport in Cape Town
Home to Table Mountain and Robben Island Cape Town, the Mother City, as it is affectionately called by the locals, offers a myriad of culturally diverse tourist attractions. With so much to do you will want to make sure you plan your trip efficiently with the best modes of transport for getting around.
You have quite a few options when it comes to the Cape Town public transport system. Getting around Cape Town is simple once you know your MyCiTi Bus from your Minibus, and it can save you time and money on your trip. Let’s get started:
You have two options of metered cabs here. The traditional private taxi cab which displays a fare per kilometer and the more popular app-based Uber and Bolt (formerly Taxify) cabs which require you to an app on your mobile device in order to use the service.
Private Taxis in Cape Town:
Fares are displayed on the outside of the vehicle at a rate per kilometre. If you need to get to a place that is not a common public transport route this is a good option. Cab rates vary from company to company so it’s best to phone around in advance and compare rates. You can book a cab telephonically by calling the cab company or you can find a cab at a designated taxi rank.
Tips when travelling by Metered Taxi/Cab:
- Know your route and the kilometers in advance so you can calculate the cost and you don’t overpay.
- Have a cab company’s number saved on your phone so you can easily book a cab from wherever you may be.
Uber and Bolt in Cape Town:
Uber and Bolt have more or less taken over the cab scene in recent years with an advanced new way to book a cab – through a mobile app. Simply download the app to your phone, enter your trip details and book your cab. Drivers often arrive between 5-20 minutes of booking, depending on the area that you are in. The apps have fantastic features such as: tracking and sharing your trip status with someone for safety and information purposes, sharing the cost with another passenger, choosing payment options of cash or card, scheduling rides for a later time, adding multiple stops to your trip on-route and rating the service of your driver.
Tips for travelling with Uber or Bolt Taxis from Cape Town Airport:
- Always check your payment method before booking your trip, this cannot be changed on route and can cause you unnecessary delays.
- Tariffs fluctuate throughout the day so it’s best to preview your trip at different times on the app before booking.
- Always check the car before stepping out to see if you left behind any valuables.
- Always check the number plate of the vehicle matches the number plate on the app to avoid jumping into someone else’s cab and going to the wrong destination.
Car Hire in Cape Town
This is usually the more costly option but it sure is convenient. Having your own car rental allows you to plan a trip and stick to the time with minimal delays or extend any part of your exploration as you require it. If you need to step out and explore on foot you have a safe place to keep all of your valuables. You would need to research various car hire companies to find the best deal for your trip. Car hire companies also offer their services at the airport so you can pre-book a vehicle and drive off into the beautiful Cape Town sunset as soon as you land.
Tips for car hire from Cape Town Airport:
- You will need an international driver’s licence
- You would need to budget for petrol usage
- You may need to include a GPS tracker in your rental package to avoid getting lost
- Parking can sometimes be a problem during peak hours
- There are often car guards based in busy parking areas to watch your car so it’s good to keep some loose change to tip them when you return to your car.
Minibus or Taxi
Travel like a local! Cape Town minibus taxis are notorious for being loud, fast and a bit of a hazard on the roads. This being said, it’s an authentic local experience and if you are adventurous of heart, it’s quite an achievement to be able to hold your own in our local taxis.
You can board a taxi by standing at any taxi rank although taxis will usually hoot at you if you are standing anywhere along the pavement to check if you want to board. Before you board a taxi be sure to check the route which is usually displayed in the front of the taxi on the dashboard. You can also speak to the driver or the conductor before jumping on to ask if the taxi will take you to where you need to go. Fares are affordable and always cash but it’s best to carry lots of loose change as the driver and the conductor, although helpful, won’t feel shy to display their irritation if you present a R50 note for a R5 fare.
Once you are on the taxi you can expect loud local music. The conductor will call for fares and you pass your money forward if you seated in the back. Be aware of where you are going because the driver and conductor do not call the stops. You will have to make sure you ask the conductor to stop in advance. It’s best to have a landmark ready for this so there is no confusion and they don’t drive past your stop.
It’s certainly a fun way to travel and to get to speak to the locals although not for the faint hearted.
Tips when travelling by minibus taxi in Cape Town:
- Always carry cash and loose change if possible.
- Check with the conductor first if the taxi is headed where you need to jump off
- Call your stop ahead of time.
- Be prepared for overloading, taxi’s usually seat 16 comfortably but more often than not they take on around 20 passengers with makeshift seats.
- Be aware of your belongings, keep them close at hand and check around that you have not dropped or left anything behind before jumping off.
Buses in Cape Town
With a large number of private and commuter bus services you are spoilt for choice. Here is a quick roundup of your options:
Golden Arrow Bus Network:
Established in 1861 the Golden Arrow Buses are mostly tourist friendly and cost-effective. You can board a bus by standing at any of the designated bus stops along the city centre or at the major station located in Strand Street. To buy a ticket to board the bus you will have to purchase it from their ticket purchase points listed on their website.
Introduced in 2010 it offers a cheap way to get around the city and nearby landmarks such as HoutBay, Table View, Blouberg Coastline and Cape Town International Airport. You will need to purchase a MyConnect card at the station or selected retailers as listed on their website and load money onto the card in order to use the MyCiTi bus. The MyConnect card cost is once-off and you only need top up bus fare thereafter.
Go George Integrated Public Transport Network:
Go George is a non-metro public transport network with plans to expand to 700 bus stops in the George municipal area. With a similar setup to MyCiTi Bus, you will need to purchase a Smart Card with trips in order to make use of the bus. The great thing about this is that the trips never expire and are valid until used. If you don’t have a card you can pay for a single trip with cash although the cost is significantly higher.
City Sightseeing Bus:
Hop on for a scenic, historic mode of transport. The tours are scheduled and are conducted on a double-decker bus with audio commentary when going past major attractions. Your ticket allows you to hop on and off at any of the stops and is valid for the entire day.
Routes available for tourists include:
- The Blue Route through the Southern Peninsula and the Constantia Winelands
- The Red Route through the city, including a stop at the Table Mountain Cableway
Tips for travelling by bus:
- Always check to ensure you have not left behind any valuables before leaving the bus.
- Check the bus company’s website for deals on coupons
- Routes and fares are often listed on the site so be sure to make use of them
The Metrorail goes through basic commuter routes in the city and also reaches as far as Simon’s Town. While it is affordable it is the least recommended mode of transport for tourists. It is not always punctual and can sometimes be dangerous so caution is advised if you are going to make use of the trains.
Tips when travelling by train:
- Be vigilant of your surroundings and your belongings
- Plan for 20-30 minute delays in your travel
Cape Town is known for being a bike-friendly city. You will immediately notice the dedicated bike lanes and the ease of travel for cyclists. Cape Town also hosts the Cape Town Cycle Tour which is the largest typed cycle race in the world. Tourists can arrange for bicycle tours to get a different perspective of the city. Bicycle tours are quite common and a fun way to fit in your exercise with your vacation.
Good ol’ walking. The city centre itself offers many hidden treasures which are easy to find on foot. Take advantage of the adventurous Tunnel Tours which goes through various tunnels in the city and highlights some historic events. Or stroll through the St. George’s Mall, V&A Waterfront, Greenmarket Square or the famous Bo Kaap neighbourhood.
Tips when walking in Cape Town:
- Avoid dark, isolated areas
- Stay in groups
- Keep valuables hidden
Maybe you have an adventurous side that needs a fix, maybe you’ve done the whole train/taxi/bus thing, maybe you just want to do things differently. In any case, Cape Town by Helicopter is a breathtaking experience and offers you a unique view of the city. While Helicopter tours are a bit on the pricey side, you can’t help but be a little tempted to live on the wild side.