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You have already trotted your way through half of this tutorial series – which means your trip to South Africa is getting closer and closer, and before you know it, you will be studying in this amazing country!This step will clarify a few things for you that evolve around transport. We start with how you get to South Africa in the first place, and then tell you all about how you will best navigate your way around here once you’ve safely arrived.
If you are coming to South Africa through a study abroad or exchange programme, you need to check with your International Office whether they cover your flight ticket and whether you need to book the flight yourself or not. If they don’t, you need to arrange your own flight. The same applies to international full-time students. You need to arrange your own flights and settle the payment yourself. Flights and transport.
FYI: If you need assistance and can’t find help with family and friends, there are many websites that compare flight prices and can help you find the cheapest fares. One example is Sky Scanner, and Travelstart is a local South African online agent, but there are many more. You can also use a travel agent.
If you are travelling here from another African country but choose not to fly, you will most likely arrive in a bus or car, unless someone happens to smuggle you into a cargo container and ships you to the South African shore…
Air or land… the process is still the same. See to what extent your journey is covered by your exchange programme, and if it isn’t, get on to organising and paying for your trip yourself.
On the Move – SA Modes of Transport
Getting around cities in South Africa can be a daunting task. But with a little bit of inside knowledge, navigating your way through the bustling suburbs that are home to South Africa’s universities can be cheap, efficient and safe — even if you don’t have a car. South Africa is not known for having an effective public transport system, and with large, sprawling cities, trying to get oneself around can seem almost impossible although this is improving every month. Fortunately, South Africa’s universities have attempted to come up with their own solutions to accommodate students commuting to and from campus.
One cannot think of public transport in Gauteng without the Gautrain immediately coming to mind. An 80 km long mass rapid transport system that was opened in 2012, the Gautrain is almost certainly the most pleasant way to commute between a few major hubs in Gauteng. The trains start running between 04:50 and 05:25 and close between 21:00 and 21:30. With a station a mere 1 km walk from the University of Pretoria’s (UP) main campus, the Gautrain is a very convenient way for any students to commute from other regions in Gauteng to UP. You need to buy a Gautrain card to use it.
The Gautrain is not, however, limited to the few stops on the train route. There is also a bus route that extends further into the other suburbs surrounding the stations, which is an easy way to get around suburbs in Gauteng, even if you never actually board a train.
The Gautrain may seem quite pricey for once-off travellers, however, when commuting regularly it is possible to take advantage of discounted fares with 7-day or 35-day passes.
Gautrain contact details:
Call Center: 0800 428 87246
University of Pretoria
Tuks makes getting around the areas in which its campuses are found easier still with its own private bus services. Buses run regularly between the various campuses at Tuks. With regular buses between the main campus in Hatfield and all other UP campuses, as well as a park-and-ride shuttle every 15 minutes between the Hatfield campus and LC de Villiers Sports campus, this service that is free to students studying at the University of Pretoria is definitely the cheapest and easiest way to commute between campuses.
For those looking to travel shorter and more specific distances, walking or cycling is the best option. Safety is, however, always a concern, particularly for students walking alone after dark. To address this issue, UP implemented the Green Route Project. This is an initiative designed by Tuks to make provision for students to be accompanied to their residences or cars from all of UPs campuses. With dedicated meeting points on most of the campuses and a call services on the others, between the hours of 18:00 and 06:00 each day, any student can be accompanied anywhere within walking distance of the UP campuses.
University of Witwatersrand
Getting around Johannesburg is slightly easier than it is in Pretoria. On top of the Gautrain services, Johannesburg also has the Metrorail, another train service that is a lot more affordable than the Gautrain, albeit a lot less comfortable. The Metrorail also has a limited network and can be used to explore some parts of Johannesburg.
Other than the Metrorail, there is also the Johannesburg Metrobus, which covers 80 scheduled routes each day, so people can take one to almost anywhere they wish to be in Johannesburg. Metro’s fares vary between zones, however, much like the Gautrain, tags can be purchased for regular use of the bus services at discounted rates.
Rea Vaya (https://www.reavaya.org.za/) is another city bus service in Johannesburg, with trunk routes within the city and feeder routes from outer suburbs that join trunk routes at key stations. Rea Vaya is a reliable and economical way to manoeuvre around Johannesburg, with fares starting at R5.80 and reaching a cap at R13.30 per trip. This is an easily accessible form of safe and reliable public transport for commuters in Johannesburg.
Apart from public transport for students to and from Wits, the university also has its own private shuttle services between its various campuses. These are free bus services available to students during the week, with buses that accommodate disabled students and have wheelchair access, this is an easy way for students to commute between Wits’s campuses. There is also a more limited weekend bus service to transport students living in the university residences to Rosebank, from where the students can take the Gautrain to other destinations in Gauteng.
Telephone: +27 (0)11 717-9034
Grahamstown is a small town with little public transport, and the easiest way to navigate it is to walk or by bicycle. There is, however, a little bit of infrastructure in place to help students get around.
If you choose to live as an ‘oppidan’ — a student living off campus — then there are several transport options available to you, the first being the FNB – SRC bus service. This is a free bus service that runs between 17:00 and 22:00 from Monday through Thursday and from 17:00 until 20:00 on Fridays during the semester, with extended hours during exam periods. This bus leaves from a specific point on campus every hour, on the hour, and transports each student to their place of residence.
There is also an emergency service that can be used as a last resort, called Get Home Safe. Get Home Safe operates on specific nights between the hours of 22:00 and 03:00, and should students require this service urgently, they can call the Get Home Safe number (084 869 9679) and a driver will come to where they are and drop them off at home. This is not, however, a shuttle service and should only be used when entirely necessary.
Their website has more detail.
The easiest way to get between the cities of the Western Cape is by making use of the Metrorail, with fares ranging from R9.50 to R22.50 per trip, this is an affordable and efficient way to travel within the Western Cape.
Cape Town is perhaps the easiest city in South Africa to navigate with only public transport. With extensive bus and train routes, you needn’t worry about how you’re going to get around.
The MyCiti bus service is a transport service that aims to deliver efficient, affordable and comfortable mobility throughout the City of Cape Town. The services open between 05:45 and 06:10 and close between 21:00 and 21:25. With fares starting at R4.80 and capping off at R26.70 per trip, the MyCiti buses are an exceptional way for students to travel around Cape Town.
Call Centre: 0800 65 64 63
The University of Stellenbosch also has a campus shuttle service. This service provides transport for students between peripheries and the central campus, between peripheries and residences and from outlying residences to the central campus. During exam periods, the shuttles are also available between parking areas, residences and academic buildings and transport between service divisions, such as Food Science, Sports Science, Welgevallen and Facilities Management, and central campus is also available.
These buses are available during the day from 07:00 and 17:30 and have no direct costs to the users of the service. There is also an evening service that runs from 18:00 until 03:00, the evening services have more limited routes, with a circular route between the residences and central campus and periphery route that is determined on each given evening.
University of Cape Town
UCT also has its own bus service known as the Jammie Shuttle Service. These shuttles are free to be used by members of the UCT student body and a portion of the fleet does cater to the disabled. The Jammie shuttles run between residences, all of the UCT campuses and some public bus, train and parking facilities in the vicinity of the university. The Jammie service has recently become more integrated with the MyCiti bus routes so that students can easily move from a MyCiti bus to the Jammie shuttle to be taken to any of the UCT campuses. This makes long distance commutes easier for students living in Cape Town.
UCT has also recently implemented the Jammie Bike initiative. This is an initiative to encourage students who do not own bicycles to rent them from the university for travel to and from campus. There are parking racks in groups around campus from whence a student can rent a bike or where a student can drop off a bike they have finished using. There are also designated cycle routes that have been designed to be as safe and as pleasant as possible.
Another initiative by UCT is the Ridelink Carpooling System that puts students with similar timetables and areas in contact with one another so that they can carpool together, splitting the cost of travelling to and from campus and also to encourage travelling in a more environmentally friendly way.
Website (Carpooling System): https://vula.uct.ac.za/portal/site/ridelink (note that only UCT staff and students have access to this system)
Website (Jammie Shuttle): https://www.staff.uct.ac.za/staff/services/transport-parking/jammie-shuttle/routes-timetables
Telephone (Jammie Shuttle): +27 (0)21 685 7135
University of Western Cape
Unlike many of South Africa’s universities, UWC does not offer dedicated shuttle service to its students and instead encourages use of public transport. The MyCiti buses are one of the ways that one can manoeuvre around UWC. Another bus service, Golden Arrow Bus Services can also be used to get to and from UWC. The Golden Arrow Buses run from 04:40 until 23:00 and the trips can cost between R5.00 and R35.35.
Cape Peninsula University of Technology
Similarly to UWC, the Cape Peninsula University of Technology does not have a specific shuttle available to its students. The campus is, however, easily accessible using the MyCiti or Golden Arrow bus services, the Metrorail or Dial-a-Ride. Dial-a-Ride is a service that offers transport to people with disabilities who are unable to make use of other forms of public transport because of this disability.
The Durban People Mover is a bus system that was initially designed to be tourist orientated. However, with its beachfront and inner city routes, the People Mover is a cheap and convenient way for students to get around Durban too. The buses start running at 06:30 and stop and 23:00. A single trip on one of these buses will cost R5.50, but a full day pass costs only R16.00.
University of KwaZulu-Natal
Like many of the other universities, UKZN has a shuttle service available to its students free of charge. This shuttle runs between the Howard College and Westville campuses and operates between the hours of 07:15 and 20:30 on weekdays during term. These buses follow a strict schedule and run less frequently when the semester is coming to an end.
Other Modes of Transport in and around SA
Minibus taxis, used by millions to get around every day are a quick and efficient way to get around any of South Africa’s cities. Using this taxi system can be chaotic and confusing, but once you understand the local system, can be easy to manage. See this guide to the meaning of taxi-language in Johannesburg.
Taxis can be in poor working condition and are often carrying more passengers than they should be. The drivers are known for their haphazard and somewhat reckless driving, wildly manoeuvring in and out of lanes in an effort to maximise their profits. With trips costing between R10.00 and R20.00, this is the easiest way to get to the more out-of-reach areas of South Africa’s cities, but perhaps not always they most secure. Try get into taxi’s that look more ship-shape, and avoid using them alone at night.
In South Africa’s larger cities there are also metered taxi services. These taxis often need to be called out and are relatively expensive. With callout fees of anywhere between R20 and R50 plus, the travelling fee of around R10 per kilometre, these are not the most viable form of everyday student transport. But they can be rather useful when you need to get home late at night and have limited options.
The taxi service that is growing in popularity everywhere in the world… By using the Uber app, you can request a driver to pick you up and take you to wherever you need to be and the driver will be there in minutes. Depending on demand, the fares for an Uber vary, a price is agreed upon when the driver is called and immediately billed to the customer’s credit card after drop off. Uber taxis are also not the best option for every day commuting, but Uber drivers make wonderful designated drivers after a good night out.
Living on or close to your university campus means that you do not need your own form of transport to get around. Make use of the public transport to explore your city like the locals do. Keep safe and have fun!
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