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Walking is undoubtedly the most natural and healthy means of moving ourselves from one place to another. Whilst it may be perfectly adequate for short distances, especially for those of us who are mobile and able to walk without problems, it becomes a problem when travelling to areas which are simply too far for us to walk, or when we are transporting heavy loads. Since we do not all own our own vehicles, we have to rely on the services of taxis and shuttle service providers on those occasions when walking is simply not an option.
Taxis and shuttle service providers are extremely popular in large towns and cities, as they provide a convenient and quick method of getting around, and have the added advantage of not having to worry about finding parking near to our destination, or worse still, coming back to find you have received a parking ticket in your absence. Shuttle services are often used by hotel chains, offering guests the often complimentary facility of getting from and to the airport, train station or other collection or drop-off point without having to resort to personally organizing a more expensive taxi service. Shuttle services are advantageous in that they generally run on set schedules, allowing you to plan your time accordingly.
Taxi services, on the other hand, are extremely useful as they run on an “on-call” basis, freeing you from set pick-up times which might prove inconvenient and time-wasting. Shuttle services generally use larger vehicles such as mini-vans which carry a higher number of passengers, enabling them to reduce the number of vehicles required and to carry more luggage per person. Taxi companies in the UK and other European countries have a range of vehicles available for different numbers of passengers per trip, plus their luggage and other equipment. Of course, if you wish to hire a large luxury saloon from a taxi company for just one passenger, this is perfectly acceptable, but the cost of the hire will accordingly be more expensive.
Mini-bus taxis are a common site on South Africa’s roads, but private saloon car taxis are still fairly scarce. In May 2019, it was estimated that 69% of South African households make use of mini-bus taxis, and the demand is still growing. Approximately 75% of all transport to and from work, schools and universities is provided by mini-bus taxis, carrying in the region of 15 million passengers every day throughout the country. Mini-bus taxis are more expensive than train tickets on short comparable routes, but strangely enough, marginally cheaper than buses on the shorter routes.
Most traditional taxi fares were calculated per mile (or kilometre), including an initial base charge and a time-dependent component for standing and waiting periods, which is still the method used by many taxi companies in South Africa. With the advent of private taxi hire and the increasingly popular Uber services, it is common for a fare to be quoted beforehand once the exact pick-up and drop-off points have been specified, so there are no unexpected extras to be paid at the end of the journey. Uber has been available in South Africa for some time, and is now facing competition from a new taxi service called Taxify.
These services are presently only available in the major centres of the country, but are expected to grow steadily with increasing consumer demand. These services work with registered and approved private vehicle owners rather than having their own fleet of vehicles. Both these services charge their drivers a commission of between 15% and 25% on fares earned. The vehicles have to comply with standard safety regulations, be licensed to transport passengers, be of good cosmetic appearance and be mechanically sound. Drivers are registered with a base which acts as liaison between the drivers and passengers.
The passenger is provided with the name of the driver, vehicle registration and make and colour of the vehicle before being collected, which provides a measure of security and assurance to the passenger that the driver and vehicle are authenticated. This is particularly important for women travelling alone or passengers requiring transport at night. Reputable private taxi services will offer you the same level of security since you are in touch with them directly, and will also provide you with the make, colour and registration number of the vehicle which will be arriving to collect you. Taxis which offer pre-payment by credit or debit card prior to collection also offer an additional level of safety since you will not have to carry extra cash on you to pay the driver, which is a definite plus factor.
Taxi and shuttle services offer a wide range of services, ranging from once-off collections and drop-offs, collections and returns where the driver will wait for you, a scheduled daily collection of children from school - either by taxi or shuttle bus, depending on the numbers involved – or transportation for groups of people attending parties or celebratory events where alcohol consumption would otherwise be a safety concern for private vehicle drivers. A taxi or shuttle service will take you anywhere you need to go, and may be asked to return at a specified time to collect you, or wait for you. You must be aware, though, that the time factor involved and the fact that the driver will effectively be prevented from picking up other fares whilst waiting for you, will naturally add an additional cost to the normal fare.
It would be fair to say that it is certainly not difficult to find a mini-bus taxi, as they are everywhere on our roads, and there are plenty of taxi ranks. They can be stopped by simply indicating to them - at any point on the road - that you are looking for a lift, and they will almost always immediately pull over or stop where they find you. Not a safe practice, but widely used. If you are looking for a shuttle or private taxi, you will easily find them through the Yellow Pages, newspaper advertisements, flyers, or you may even remember the name displayed on the side of the taxi you have seen on the road. Although they are not particularly well represented at this point on the internet, sites like Uptasker will definitely assist in locating one in your general area. Uptasker provides vital information on its listings such as online ratings and customer reviews, where possible, together with their contact details and quick links to websites where available. If you can, use the services of a recommended taxi or shuttle service provider, especially those who have had good recommendations from colleagues, friends and acquaintances.
Always be careful when arranging for a taxi service, especially one which you are using for the first time. At the very least, you will need them to arrive when requested, particularly if you are on a tight schedule. Never take short-cuts by choosing one in a hurry or from a source which is dubious. There could be more at stake than just possibly being over-charged or delivered late to your destination. For more tips, see our taxi and shuttle service provider articles.
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