South Africa is the home of rooibos, biltong, good wine and inyati minibus taxis. Fellow Nigerians, thank you for joining me for this lesson on how to ride a taxi like a pro in South Africa. These 5 tips should get you to where you are going cheap and sound.
1. Get all the facts about your trip e.g. taxi fare, drop off location
First things first, make sure you know where you are supposed to get your taxi. Not sure whether you are standing in the right taxi queue? Ask the queue marshals. Most queue marshals are male, so try this greeting – Sure Boss, where can I get the taxi to location X?
Once you have located the right taxi, make sure that you know your exact drop off location. If you don’t know your exact drop off location, speak to the driver for advice and remember the greeting above.
2. Locate a comfortable sit and prioritise your safety first
Now that you know where you are going, get a comfortable seat. If you are lucky enough to choose your own seat, try not to sit to far back if you will be getting off before other passengers. Oh and DON’T SIT IN THE FRONT PASSENGER SEAT NEXT TO THE DRIVER! I’ll tell you why later in point number 3.
Quick safety tips:
- Tell someone where you are going and update them as often as possible
- Don’t try to be the centre of attention
- Do not get off in unfamiliar places or in the middle of nowhere
- No arguing with the driver or fellow passengers in the taxi
- Last but most importantly, don’t do ‘big boy things’ like announcing yourself as the Igwe or Oba of the taxi. Leave your flashy jewelry, stacks of cash and American accent at home. Lay low, mind your own business and face your front.
3. Don’t sit in front (unless you are a maths guru and can speak all 11 official languages)
Those of you who have made the mistake of sitting in the front passenger seat in a South African taxi are probably laughing right now. If you haven’t made the mistake yet, then here’s how to keep your ‘front-seat-taxiginity’.
Being a Nigerian and sitting in the front seat of a taxi in South Africa are like oil and water. They don’t mix! First of all there are some unwritten commandments. One of these commandment is: Thou shall not sit in front, if thou lack mad maths skills.
When you sit in front, there’s an expectation that you will collect all the taxi fare, give all the passengers their change and give the driver all his money (including your taxi fare). In other words, you are expected to be the conductor.
In the ideal world, this shouldn’t be hard. The biggest issue in this context is the language barrier. In South Africa, most taxi passengers are black and prefer to speak their local language. If I had a rand for every time a South African spoke to me in their local language, I’d have thousands of rands.
4. Keep it low
“In the beginning, God created the universe. Then, he created the moon, the stars and the wild beasts of the forests. On the sixth day, he created the Nigerian. But on the seventh day, while God rested, the Nigerian invented noise” – Anthony Enahoro, From “How To Be A Nigerian”.
Anthony Enahoro sabi us Nigerians well well o. That is why I feel the need to repeat the last thing I said in point 2 – lay low. This applies more if you are travelling with a friend. Be considerate of other passengers by speaking at a lower volume. Whether on the phone or in conversation with a travel partner, remember to keep it low.
Attention seeking tendencies are a common mistake made by several Nigerians in South Africa. We are naturally colourful and loud and there’s nothing wrong with that. We just need to be aware of cultural differences when abroad. Most South Africans equate our loudness to rudeness.
5. Pass the cash
If you have never taken a taxi in South Africa, listen carefully o. At some point during your taxi ride someone might tap you on the shoulder to give you cash.
If this happens to you, carefully collect the cash – ensuring that you don’t drop a cent. Then simply pass it on to the person in front of you.
This cash is the taxi fare and it will be passed on to the brave person sitting in the front seat next to the driver.
That’s it for now folks.
Remember: Being Nigerian inside a South African taxi can both be funny and sunny. But when you wear your sunglasses, native clothes and slippers, you become the stereotype.
See you next time when we discuss the second part of this topic – Taxi Rides in South Africa – A Guide for Nigerians [1 of 2].