Travelling by taxi
A taxi makes for a very good alternative to taking the bus. It is sometimes the way to get to a destination when there is no bus service to that place. Travelling by taxi is much faster and more comfortable than taking the bus. It will also step you back several hundred rupees.
Taxi meters are not used. So before you move off, make sure you agree to a price to your destination. Depending on the distance, it will cost you a few hundred rupees, unless you are driving for just a few minutes. In that case, you might as well walk. At night, fees will be much higher and you might well pay a few hundred rupees at night for what you would pay less than Rs100 during the day. But all in all, a taxi is much faster than the bus and sometimes the only viable alternative.
A popular way to make use of taxis for tourists is to get one for the day. The taxi driver will be able to take you to several places of attraction and wait for you. They will be happy to chat to you in English or French and with their local knowledge, taxi drivers make a good guide.
This is a taxi that operates more or less along the same route as a bus from residential areas to the bus station. Why take a taxi-train instead of a bus? The bus service is very seldom while the taxi will wait for only 4 passengers before driving off. In rush hour, the taxi fills immediately. Midday, you might have to wait 10 minutes or so to be driven off. The driver will also let you off at any point along the road. The fare that you pay him will of course be split among the 4 passengers but will also depend how far you go along his route. The fare is usually the same as that of the bus. If you get off early, he may pick up another passenger if he is lucky.
If you are in a hurry and don’t want to wait for the taxi to fill up before driving off, you can just tell the driver you are OK to pay the fare of 4 passengers and he will be happy to drive off with just you. As with taxis and unlike buses, you pay the fare at the end of your journey.
Finding the right taxi-train that goes to your area is tricky as this is not advertised at all. More than with buses, you will have to ask around, even to find out where they operate from. Heading in the opposite direction, towards a town centre, these taxi-trains advertise themselves by beeping their horn to every pedestrian going in the same direction as them. They will also stop at bus-stops to pick up passengers. As the fare is the same as that of the bus, people are usually happy to hop in instead of waiting for the bus. Taxi-trains can also be recognised as they are either distinct, very old makes of cars or simply a taxi vehicle. So just stop one going in the same direction as you and get in. Do ask if it is going to the town centre.
Taxi-trains are often simply taxi drivers who don’t want to sit around and wait for an expensive fare to come their way. People prefer to pay less by spliting the cost of the taxi fare among 4 passengers. There is also demand for transport along routes where people wait a long time for irregular buses.
Be warned that officially, operating a taxi-train is against the law. However, taxi-trains fulfil an essential service in residential areas not served frequently or at all by buses. They are crucial in helping people get to their main bus station to get to and from work everyday.
Bus companies complain that taxi-trains are stealing passengers from them, are uninsured and unregulated. It is easy to see how buses cannot compete. A taxi needs only 4 passengers to fill up while a bus running on 4 passengers only will quickly be making a loss. The taxi-train also is more flexible and can stop anywhere along the road whereas the bus is restricted to stopping at bus stops.
During your stay, you will most probably not need to take a taxi-train if you are staying in a villa or bungalow along the coast, away from residential areas where people commute to go to work to town centres. However, there are taxi-trains in Grand-Bay so you might very well get the opportunity to use one.
Despite the term taxi-train, it has nothing to do with trains and there are no trains on the island. There was in the past, mainly to carry cargo but as the road network developed and lorries were used, trains used to run empty midday when people were at work. As such they became unprofitable to run and were stopped in the 60s. The tracks have long been removed and sold for scrap but you can still see the path trains used to take at what is now Rose-Hill Bus station. The path has been converted into a green space used as a promenade.