Step into the bustling streets of Cape Town, and you’re stepping into a world where the taxi culture isn’t just transportation; it’s the city’s lifeblood, an ode to the spirit of its people. For those setting foot in the Mother City for the first time, be prepared for an immersive experience, a dive into the deep end of local life where the taxis are more than just transportation—they’re a way of life.

Amid the hum of engines and the rush of the streets, you’ll hear the iconic shouts of taxi drivers and marshalls, a language of hoots, calls, and hand signals that could only belong to Cape Town. “Town! Town!” they’ll shout, or a playful “Sea Point, not disappoint!” echoing through the air, a call to those in the know. It’s a performance, a daily ritual that brings laughter and a shake of the head as you navigate your way through the city’s veins.

Come with me as I take you on a taxi ride in Cape Town style.

I stood on the corner of the road in the Northern Suburbs, waiting for a taxi to take me to the mall. I looked left for a second, turned right and before I could even lift my index finger to signal for the Quantum to stop, which is standard practice, I heard the gaatjie (taxi marshal) shouting, “Mall! Are you coming with us today?” to which I nodded. As the taxi stopped, he swung the door open and signalled for me to hop in.

The taxi was almost full, so he did not have to show me where to sit. The next available spot was the laptop next to him (literally a small leather plank that gets placed between two seats). The Quantum can only accommodate 14 passengers, but best believe 14 passengers is not full enough, hence the laptops. The taxi continued driving with an amapiano version of Neyo – so sick playing on full blast. All you need to do is just relax while the taxi vibrates for what seems an eternity and enjoy the fast ride.

I knew the gaatjie by Chachas; he had been marshalling since I was in high school. In between him sticking his head in and out the window, we spoke, “I started when I was 15 years old. As chaotic as things are, these taxis provide jobs, you see, and I can help out at home as a man”, he said. “People mustn’t be afraid to ask us anything when they get in the taxi; we’re not just fare collectors” – this is your guy.”

He took an old, tattered money bag from the seat between the driver and the front passenger, and I knew it was time to pay! I knew the fair was R12, so I already had the cash available – I always have money ready! Preferably not 100s; there will be a struggle for change!

He cautioned that most of them are the liveliest people, but not all taxi drivers are nice; you have to know your business, and the biggest thing for them is to make money. Often, he sees how people forget to pay because they are having fat chats or eating, which is an inconvenience to everyone, causing disputes.

“Just now, the other day, a couple of students came in, and I had to tell them that they must tap my shoulder to give the money and not only wait for me to stick out my hand tjo”.

We drove a little longer until the driver finally put the volume down after realising he could not hear people shouting their stops. This is my final tip: try to figure out where you must get out beforehand, or if you do know, a young “short left driver” or “after robot driver” should suffice. We neared the mall, and I shouted, “The last robot driver, ” signalling I was getting off soon.

“Another frustrating thing is people not shouting soon enough. Jy moet wakker wees”, which essentially means stay alert! Chachas made me laugh because he brought it down to four things, “Stick out your hand, get in, pass your money and shout when you want to get out” Haha!

What are your tips for people who move to Cape Town and don’t know how our taxis operate?