Cape Town Bus, Rail, Minibus, and Taxis
Two Bus Services, Rail, Minibus, and Cabs
As a tourist visiting Cape Town, the public transport is difficult to understand. Once understood, it is both easy and inexpensive to navigate around the city. There are two bus services – Golden Arrow and Myciti, one metro (rail) service, Uber and other cab services, plus a minibus taxi service which runs precise routes for about R7 ($0.50).
Please be aware that it is not safe walking on your own after dark. While traveling on your own on either of the bus services would be safe, this cannot be said after you have deboarded and walk to your destination. In addition, taxi travel travel can be compromised. It's best to travel in groups.
Golden Arrow Bus Service
Golden Arrow is the largest and oldest bus service in Cape Town. It runs 1100 buses on 3000 different routes to and from outlying areas to the city center. The buses are clean and comfortable – relatively new. It also goes to outlying cities like Somerset West. All areas within the metropolis are covered.
There is no information regarding fares so you will need to approach a company official at a terminus or ask the driver what is due. Generally, you can expect to pay from R7.70 up (about $0.50). While bus officials say it is possible to purchase a transfer from one bus to another, there is no information about this on the website.
The Golden Arrow bus service is not incorporated into Google Maps, and as the company website does not provide maps of routes, stops, kiosks or terminuses, you will either need to ask an official at a bus terminus or a driver once you board the bus.
You can also call 0800 656463 or email the service department at firstname.lastname@example.org for information about fares, routes, transfers, and other data you require.
Golden Arrow Bus
MyCiti Bus Service
The bus routes cover the west coast through to Hout bay. As such the scenery is generally spectacular and something can be said just for spending the day on the buses. There is a free service running to the cable car for Table Mountain.
You need to purchase a card at a terminus for R30 (about $2) and then upload money. There are two choices. The one choice permits you to use the card to purchase at various stores so it acts as a debit card while the second choice (named Mover) gives you a 33% discount and is only usable for fares.
Fares during peak periods are higher so make sure you travel after 8 am and omit the busy period between 4.15 pm and 5.30 pm.
There is an app which is excellent to use. It is called Cape Town Buses and Trains and it uses a GPS to determine where you are and give you the next bus or train to where you want to go.
Myciti is also integrated with Google Maps so that if you use the public transport option on Google Maps, it will give you the information you need. It is the only public transport option available on Google Maps. Unhappily, this bus service only covers a small area in Cape Town – albeit most of the scenic ones – and their tourist routes are the best! Extensive information, useful to the consumer, can be found on the website which is well organized.
It is easy to transfer from one bus to another and there is no extra charge for doing so.
Myciti Bus Service photos
Myciti Bus Tutorial
Cape Town Minibuses
The minibus tax service developed during apartheid years when there was insufficient public transport for those living in the townships. They have now been regulated and I find them fast, inexpensive, and convenient. Depending on the area, they are safe.
Each mini-bus has a driver and a fare collector/passenger finder (FCPF). As the bus is traveling on its route, the FCPF yells out the window stating where the taxi is going. If you are going on the same route, you indicate that you would like it to stop. The cab stops and you pay the FCPF, take your seat, and when you reach your destination, you tell the driver to stop. It’s that easy. There are no set stops.
The cabs run particular routes and cost R7 (about $0.50) per ride. When you see one, you hail it, it stops, and when you need to get off, you tell the driver, and he stops. They generally carry about a dozen people each. They run frequently, and compared to the bus and metro (train) services, are more convenient with fewer problems.
Seats are a bit squashed, but otherwise comfortable.
Unfortunately, there are no formal bus timetables available, but you can call the Transport Information Centre for information.
Sometimes Uber Drivers will stop along side the road and offer you a ride. You may negotiate and get down to the R7 ($0.50) if you tell the driver that you prefer to wait for a mini-bus.
The window man yells out the destination of the mini-bus
Cape Town Airport Bus
Cape Town Rail. Metro. Train Service
The story goes that it was felt that the trains needed to be replaced as they were well over half a century old. So the city fathers ordered amazing new trains, but when they arrived, they found that they required different tracks. So the old trains are still in use, and they are a horror to look at. The windows are opaque from long years of use, and you cannot see out of them. The seats of often slit from vandalism and graffiti abounds.
That said, there are new trains on the way...
That said, if you need to get someplace, this is often the only option. It’s particularly useful if you want to go to Muizenberg, Kalk Bay, or Simon’s Town, or other quaint and wonderful little villages in that particular area.
Stations are not clearly marked, so it’s a guessing game (and asking other passengers) the name of the stop. This is because the name of the station cannot be seen out of the window because a) the window is opaque or b) the station name is placed in a place where you cannot see it from the train.
There several websites that give details about the metro service, but only one is the official Cape Town metrorail site. Click on Western Cape Timetables and you fill find five different routes. You then download the PDF documents. A route map is available.
The Cape Town Buses and Trains app available on Google Play does a good job of giving you times and stops.
Off peak fares - between 9 am and 2 pm on week days - fares are less expensive.
Graffiti on Cape Town Trains Is the Norm
Graffiti on Trains Appear as if by Magic
Conventional Taxis and Uber
Perhaps one of the few cities in the world where a conventional taxi may well be less expensive than Uber. It’s best to check on the web. Also be aware that during peak hours when there are fewer Uber drivers available, the fares go up, and this might make the service more expensive than a conventional taxi.
Different taxi services can be found on the web. Intercab charges R8.80 (about $0.60) per kilometre. You can also book a ride on the web. However, several taxi companies claim to have the largest number of cabs and the lowest fares.
Are you a resident or a visitor to Cape Town
Cape Town: The Most Fabulous City in the World
When I relocated back to Cape Town a year ago, I was gobsmacked! The city I left 30 years ago had morphed into the most fabulous city in the world.
I have to say that while I have lived and worked in many countries on three continents, plus traveled extensively, I was never able to name a favourite city. Now I can!
Cape Town rocks
Put it on your bucket list. Now.
Questions & Answers
© 2016 Tessa Schlesinger