Lost in Cape Town: Tourists try our transport

Allen Jiang and Audrey Leasure
Empty seats on the bus to Kirstenbosch. Photo by Allen Jiang.
Allen Jiang and Audrey Leasure

For GroundUp’s focus on transport, we asked two tourists to visit three of Cape Town’s biggest tourist attractions, using nothing but public transport.

The Kirstenbosch ghost bus

“Kirstenbosch? We’ve only got one bus that leaves for there, and it leaves pretty soon, so you’d better catch it, hey?” a MyCiTi employee at the Civic Centre explains.

He points us in the direction of the Golden Arrow Bus Station, and we set off for it. We weave our way confusedly through the fleet of minibuses and local shops, looking all too painfully foreign. Once we get there, we realise why it’s off the books for your average tourist: the station is chaotic and dirty, a far cry from the clean and well-run MyCiTi bus stations.

After asking around multiple times (the directory doesn’t show Kirstenbosch because the destination is uncommon for locals) and getting on the wrong bus once, we finally found ourselves on the fabled 12:35 to Kirstenbosch, paying only R6.30 for the thirteen kilometer trip; cheap, considering what a metered cab would have cost. We board to find the bus completely and utterly deserted, with nothing but rows and rows of blue benches stretching to the back.

The driver departs as soon as we get on. Two, apparently, is more than the daily average. He winds his way around the mountain to Kirstenbosch, taking his time and even stopping briefly at the Mowbray Station. After an hour-long trip, he finally dropped us off at the front gates of the botanical gardens, before settling into a nap at the wheel.

While not tourist-friendly, the Golden Arrow Bus is definitely a great deal for tourists looking for a cheap alternative to the tour buses and cabs that are usually preferred. The only real issue is the time -12:30 can be hard to fit into a schedule, considering there are no other times, and the hour-long ride is not the fastest or most efficient way of getting to Kirsternbosch. The bus seems to stop there for the day. As far as we could tell, there is not a return bus, so after enjoying the gardens, we took a metered cab back.

Travelling the Impossible: Rondebosch to Cape Point for Tourists

Cape Point is one of the most famous and popular tourist destinations, but getting there using public transport is quite a challenge.

We set out to see what the best options are for people willing to make the journey.

Most tourists will end up taking one of the various guided tours to Cape Point. These packages, including transportation and tours, can be pricey, and take up either full or half days. However, the packages are really the only options for those wanting to get to Cape Point without renting a car. For those looking for a more local and affordable route, the public train will get people as close as Simonstown, which is about a thirty-five-minute drive from the Cape Point lighthouse.

We boarded the 05:33 train at the Rosebank station. This is the first train of the day, and because it was so early, we didn’t have to buy tickets. I guess it is true the early bird gets the worm! On the return trip, we found the ticket costs a mere R7.50 in the Metro (3rd class) carriages. The early morning train was deserted, and the only other signs of life were a few local passengers who were already fast asleep. At exactly 06:37, just over an hour later, we arrived in Simonstown.

Once in Simonstown, we found out the hard way there are no public transportation routes to Cape Point. Not even the minibus taxis would take us all the way there. The only options left were booking a tour bus, or hiring a metered cab, both of which would have cost a fortune.

We boarded the return train at 15:25, and at this point, there were still no other passengers in our car. This train was much dirtier than the morning one, a clear sign traffic picked up throughout the day. We sprawled out across the benches, hoping to nap for the hour-long ride, but after about five minutes and two stops later, the carriage flooded with hundreds of bustling people. We were quickly crammed among a mass of people, with barely any room to move. The return trip took a prompt hour, arriving back in Rosebank at 16:24. The train was cheap, and the stops are conveniently located, so I would take it again. However, be warned that you get what you pay for, and the train may not always be clean or comfortable.

A successful tourist excursion: Cape Town to Big Bay

Big Bay is almost the last stop on the MyCiTi bus, and a popular destination in the summer.

We took the MyCiTi bus from Tableview, expecting a modest turnout, because it is winter. The bus was indeed virtually empty. The two other people hopped off within two stops, leaving just a somber old man in the back, and us. For the rest of the trip, only a pair of residents boarded at the Big Bay stop; no one else got on or off.

From a tourist’s perspective, having the entire bus to yourself riding along an incredibly scenic route up the coastline is delightfully rare. The ride was smooth, and halfway through, the sun broke out from behind the clouds, and began to warm the sleepy bus. Like all MyCiTi buses I’ve taken, the Big Bay bus was spotlessly clean and safe, complete with handicap seats and well-drawn bus maps in English. We took the bus all the way up to the end stop, where we waited for ten minutes beside a quiet, tree-lined road before coming back to Tableview along the same, scenic road.

The MyCiTi transportation is highly recommended for tourists heading up to this area, not only for the quality of its services, but also because it’s incredibly cheap. Our Big Bay venture cost only R5 from Tableview. One has to buy a MyCiTi travelcard for R20 to load the money, however, this is still cheap compared to the cab and tour bus alternatives. We came away from the ride wishing such a bus was offered everywhere throughout Cape Town, and vowing to come back during the summer season when it is sure to be jam-packed.

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TOPICS:  Transport

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