Minibus taxis in South Africa are owned and operated by taxi operators, who hire taxi drivers or drive themselves. Taxi operators must obtain a license from the relevant transport authority and also join or form a taxi association with permission to operate along certain registered routes. Taxi associations collectively manage traffic flows along their own routes with rank marshals.
In general, taxis tend to operate in two ways:
- They fill up and go from one rank to the next
- They "crawl" on their route collecting passengers, and/or dropping off passengers
During peak traffic, commuters queue in a line at the taxi rank and as a taxi going to their destination pulls up, they are allowed to fill the taxi. Once full, the taxi departs. Commuters can request to jump off the taxi along the route or at the final destination rank.
During off-peak traffic, taxis can "crawl" on their route, going slowly, stopping every so often looking for passengers. These taxis are slow moving and tend to only get going when the taxi is full of passengers.
If you are waiting on route and want to indicate to a taxi to pick you up, you can put your hand up in the air as the taxi approaches. There are certain hand signals for some routes, but generally, you must stand on the side of the road (in the direction which the taxi is driving to your destination) and put your hand up when you can see the taxi coming to you. If the taxi is full, the may drive straight passed you. If they are not allowed to pick up people on this route (another taxi has the licence to do so), the taxi may drive straight passed you.
They may signal to you that you must go to the local rank to get on a taxi, they are out of order, dropping people off locally, or going to a destination with a known signal. (See the known signal guide here). If you're standing in a good spot, the taxi should stop for you and you only need to confirm where you want to go to. They will tell you to get in or if you must go somewhere else, or wait for another taxi.
Don't be nervous, for the most part, taxi drivers want your business and want to help you. But also be cautious. If you are unfamiliar in an area, don't flaunt your belongings and stay in public spaces where people will notice if you are lost.
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