public transport

The South African minibus-taxi. Image by Wikimedia Commons

Public transport in SA: Taxis rule the road

Of the different public transport options available in South Africa, the most commonly used is the minibus-taxi.

public transport

The South African minibus-taxi. Image by Wikimedia Commons

In South Africa, the three main modes of public transport are taxis, trains, and buses. The most commonly used of these is the minibus taxi.

The proudly South African minibus-taxi

Data from March 2024 by Statista revealed that the most commonly used mode of public transport overall in South Africa is taxis. Interestingly, 68% of participants in the research said that they use their own or their household’s car for commuting. As for public transport, 27% of participants specified taxis as their preferred mode of public transport.

South African minibus-taxis, generally Toyota Quantums, are the most used form of public transportation in the country. Fares are charged according to the distance travelled. Passengers have to pay cash. An advantage of taxis is route diversity. Cape Town alone has over 600 routes. Although they operate unscheduled services, they are fairly available, meaning you generally will not have to wait very long before finding one.

Taking a taxi does come with safety concerns, as many taxi drivers are quite reckless and often tend to speed. Additionally, taxis are often overcrowded.

Commuting by train

Trains are generally a cheap form of public transport for commuting but not always safe and reliable. The particular operator sets the fares for train journeys.

In Gauteng, the Gautrain is a popular mode of transport. It offers pay-as-you-go rates that depend on the time of day (peak times and off-peak times) you travel. The most expensive peak pay-as-you-go tickets are from Hatfield, Pretoria or Centurion to OR Tambo International Airport at R248. For those who use the Gautrain more often, the 10-trip weekly train ticket costs between R333 and R981. The monthly train ticket, which comes with 44 trips, costs between R1 347 and R3 965.

In the Western Cape, Metrorail is the main train service provider. It has six train lines in Cape Town with 124 train stations. Costs and prices of different ticket types vary based on several factors. For fare information, click here.

Public transport: Buses

Depending on the traffic and the route, buses could generally be slower than taxis and trains.

There are various bus services in South Africa, for example, the Durban People Mover in Durban. In Cape Town, the most popular buses are the MyCiti and Golden Arrow, while commuters in Johannesburg often use Metrobus.

A one-way trip on a Golden Arrow bus between Cape Town and Khayelitsha costs R40 during peak hour and R22 off-peak. A weekly ticket works out at R22.35 a trip, and a monthly ticket works out at R20.48 per trip, according to Golden Arrow spokesperson Bronwen Dyke-Beyer.

The MyCiti bus company has an online fare calculator. Commuters must purchase a card and load points onto the card. You pay for the distance you travel. Distances are grouped into distance bands. These buses are generally safe and reliable with more than 90% of them being on time.