How to stay safe while using public transport in Namibia
With increased incidences of violent crimes perpetrated by some taxi drivers and against taxi drivers one does not feel safe taking taxis in Windhoek after sunset. Anytime you enter a taxi driven by someone you are not familiar with, you surrender a little control to another person.
If you are a foreign tourist in Namibia, chances are higher that you will use a taxi to get you around. Many taxi drivers are terrific sources of information about local customs, current events, best restaurants and entertainment. Taxi drivers are also often experts on safe and unsafe neighborhoods and the threats that may lurk. Most Namibian taxi drivers are very friendly and tell lots of interesting stories which makes the distance traveled seem very short.
There are two types of taxis in Namibia, the public taxis owned by various individuals and private radio taxis owned by airport shuttle companies. Although a bit costlier the privately-owned taxis like the ones owned by companies like Quest Transfer and Tours as well as Sunday Airport Transfer and Shuttle Services are very safe and have not been linked to crimes of any nature. People with valuables, females and disabled people should be extra cautious. When that person is completely unknown to you it is important to think carefully about the steps required to ensure you safety.
Here a few tips to ensure your safety.
- Familiarize yourself with the local currency. You don’t want to get useless bills or fake money as change.
- First know where you are going and don’t change your mind halfway unless you are willing to pay extra or face the wrath of the taxi driver. Communication is key.
- Always ask the price whether booking a radio taxi or after hailing a cab. If you are foreign always ask the other locals or hotel staff about the prices before proceeding to get a cab.
- Download and use the new Scan Ride App to check if your taxi is safe to board. This app was designed to evaluate the safety of taxis and gives excellent results. All you do is register and enter the identification numbers on the taxis. If the taxi is safe it will indicate that the driver is faithful with a little green icon. This is an excellent initiative to reward the good taxi drivers with more clients while weeding out the bad ones.
- Never take a taxi alone if you are under the influence of any mentally altering substances like alcohol or drugs.
- Don’t look for meters. Most Namibian taxis are not fitted with meters and the prices are fixed.
- Keep your valuable things out of view and ride with the windows closed. The Central Business District area is very safe but take extra precautions in the neighborhoods.
- Know who to call in emergency situations. Put the police on speed dial If you are in Windhoek put the City Police on speed dial.
- Do not engage in arguments: It is also advisable for anyone using a taxi not to engage in any arguments with the taxi drivers as this has been the reason for some insults or worse, injuries. These guys do not want to be argued with and especially when there is a communication barrier resulting from the language use as there are still many of them who are rather only comfortable in their native languages. Presently, the public taxi fare stands at N$12.00 to a destination that has a taxi rank however, be prepared pay double this price if you wish to be dropped at the doorstep of your final destination or if you are dropped at a place without a taxi rank. Areas like Rocky Crest, Ausspannplatz, Klein Windhoek, Kleine Kuppe, Auasblick, Olympia, The Grove and Maerua Malls in Windhoek for example are usually charged a double regardless of where you are dropped.
A side note to foreign travelers. When riding in public taxis (the ones with the big identification numbers) you will have to share the taxi with random passengers and there is no guarantee that you will be taken straight to your destination without getting a tour of the city first and this is the reason why public taxis are cheaper. Usually the taxi driver will inform you if others are getting dropped off before you.