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South Africa - Driving and Public Transport

Public transport is, at present, largely insufficient. The mini-bus taxi industry, while not subsidized by the government, accounts for about 60% of the commuters who rely on informal public transport in the country. However, these taxis have a reputation for being unreliable and unsafe. Unlike taxis found in most other major cities, these have pre-planned routes and will not take you directly to any given destination.

The country's railway system, too, could be improved upon (at least as far as the transport of people is concerned). Trains are poorly maintained, stations in need of upgrades and the entire system far from efficient. Moreover, despite clampdowns by security and police, crime remains a problem on most trains. The bus service is on the decline, faced with stiff competition from the mini-bus taxi industry.

Car rental agencies (AVIS, Budget, Imperial, and Hertz among others) have a presence in many of the regional centers, at the airports and in the cities themselves. International driving permits can be used in South Africa, but take note that in South Africa, cars drive on the left-hand side of the road.

Added March 2007 by Wayne:
You mention minibus taxis having scheduled routes, have you ever taken a minbus taxis in South Africa? There are also numerous private taxi's which will take you to whatever destination you choose, like any other country. Yes, the mainstream railways may not be up to scratch like those that exist in some other countries, but for the business traveller or tourist there are intercity luxury train services available. Yes, there is crime on the railways but the crime rate in SA is significantly lower than that of many other countries in the "west" like Russia and Greece, statistically speaking.

Added March 2007 by Deanna:
Thought that I would let you know that you CAN learn to drive in South Africa, no matter what kind of visa you hold. I've been living here for 2 years and was on a 3 month holiday visa, and I was told by a lady at the licensing department that I was not allowed to learn to drive in SA on the type of visa I was on. A year down the line, after doing a lot of investigating I was finally told that this is not true and you can learn to drive here and hold an SA licence no matter what visa you hold. I now have my learners and will be booking my drivers soon. No South African website will give you this information so I thought I'd let you know - it's a nightmare to get around if you can't drive and no public transport is about!

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