Sunday, June 20, 2010

South African Taxi Cabs

In Johannesburg, the locals usually take taxi cabs that look like this:
On our first day, our travel company told us not to trust these taxis. We took that advice and have since been taking "metered" cabs. I put metered in quotes because I have yet to actually see a meter in a cab. Every taxi driver has offered us a different price to go from the same location to the same location. We have been told that some cabs are government registered cabs and need to charge a certain price based on distance traveled. It seems to me crazy that the World Cup organizers didn't do a better job of legitimizing the taxi industry here in J'burg (in Cape Town the taxis were perfectly legit).

To sum up how ridiculous the taxi situation is, let me tell you a little story. After the USA vs. Slovenia game we decided not to take the Ole Ole Group bus back (see tomorrow's blog). At the stadium were signs for "metered taxis". We followed the signs, asked the volunteers at the stadium, and still ended up on a street with no taxis. There were a few police working the street and we approached two of them. We asked one of the cops where we could find a taxi and he replied, "Where do you want to go?" We told him we wanted to go to Melrose Arch, one of the fan zones near where we're staying. He told us that he would take us. We all looked at each other wondering just how far this guy took his public service duties. He gave his fellow policewoman a nod and told us to follow him. We walked a few blocks with this cop and then go into his personal car. As soon as we sat down inside he said, "How much you gonna pay me?" Devin, Chris, Dave and I all looked at each other as if to say, "Here we go again." The cop wanted 450 Rand, almost $70. We all told him there was no chance. The cop was willing to go down to 350 which was still absurd. We all got out of his cab, and luckily found another cab who charged us just 120 Rand.

The beauty of this is that the cop left his duty to try and extort us. I'm not sure if this makes me question the police as a whole here or whether people just think as taxi drivers they need to rip off tourists.

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