Getting around Joburg without your own car is a challenge. For more on this see http://www.lizatlancaster.co.za/info/transport.html. However, various initiatives and infrastructural developments have been introduced with varying degrees of success. The Gautrain running between the airport, Pretoria and Joburg Central, with stops on the way, is very fast, clean, safe and effective but unfortunately quite expensive for daily commuters (although still way quicker and cheaper than using a car daily for the same trip). There is excellent parking at Gautrain stations and a bus service which covers selected routes from the Gautrain stations to surrrounds (sadly this bus service is still hopelessly under-utilized – empty buses travelling the routes is a very common site).
Liz at Lancaster website talks about the local mini-bus taxis and the local grass -roots knowledge needed to understand how to catch the right taxi and how to communicate where you want to go. So complex is the signage system (all hand signs) that the City of Joburg has created a guide of the taxi signals. Have a look and see why it requires lots of hands-on experience (forgive the pun) to know which finger to raise in order to get to your destination!! http://www.joburg-archive.co.za/2005/pdfs/taxis1.pdf
Kelly Kidson has written a great article about public transport in Joburg: http://www.jhblive.com/live/kultcha_view.jsp?kultcha_id=46843 . I have taken the liberty of quoting what she writes about using local mini-bus taxis.
Probably the most intimidating form of transport for a newbie traveller is the taxi. However, Yongi, a Soweto Tour guide with Past Experiences tours says taxis shouldn’t be seen like this at all. “They are the best way to travel,” he says. He explains that there are three major taxi ranks in Johannesburg: Park Central (Noord Street), Metro Mall Taxi Rank (Corner Bree and West) and Park City (opposite Park station). These and other ranks feed taxis to the different sectors of Johannesburg and across our borders into neighbouring provinces and countries. Yongi says you need to be sure of which area you want to get to before you start your taxi search. He suggests asking the commuters waiting for taxis at the ranks. They will help you and send you in the right direction. He says, “For precautionary measures, ask the people inside the taxi too so you are sure you are on the right one.” In terms of payment, the passenger who sits in the middle front of the taxi deals with payments. “He becomes the accountant,” says Yongi. This passenger helps the driver by dealing with the money.
Fares are set per route. For a breakdown of these fares follow this link: http://www.joburg-archive.co.za/2005/pdfs/taxis2.pdf. To give you an idea of pricing, a trip from town to Northcliff will cost R7,50. [NB This fares date to 2005 so will be outdated].
Yongi promotes taxis further by saying, “An advantage to using a taxi is that you will never get lost because there are always people to ask. This is not the case on a train. People and drivers on the taxi are mostly friendly so you can just ask.” Another advantage to taxi travel is that you can hail a taxi from anywhere on a street and it will pick you up. The driver will also drop you off wherever you ask him to stop. It’s convenient.