Using the Transportation System in Gaborone
Post by Alexandra Gary from the University of Texas at Austin
When I first arrived in Gaborone, I was overwhelmed by the complex array of combis (white vans) and taxis that shared various routes around the city. The station was the worst. It consists of hundreds of white vans that gather by route in different lots around Rail Park Mall. The route is indicated on the right hand corner of each combi. Taxis are located in one lot in front of the entrance to the mall, and you must ask the person in charge to direct you to the taxi that you should take.The Station is filled with people walking in every direction. Seeing that there is no map that shows all of the combi and taxi routes around Gaborone, it seemed hopeless to try to navigate the system. However, this was not an option since I am staying with a host family and needed to find my way to the University of Botswana. My host sister took me the first day. We walked to the taxi stop by my house and waited for a shared taxi to pick us up.
My main issue with the taxis in my neighborhood is that they seem to fill up quickly. You never know if it is a busy morning, so I try to leave my house by at least 6:30 am to make sure I am not waiting for an hour. The shared taxi then takes us to the Station where I switch to either another taxi or a combi. My host sister showed me the routes I could take to campus. For instance, I take the combi, Tlokweng 4, to get to campus and then I walk from the stop to my classroom.
After the first day, I was on my own. At first, I was anxious about my commute, but I have become accustomed to it. I give myself about an hour to get to campus, so I am not rushed. Since I have to commute to and from school every day, I feel so much better about using the system. I have become much more confident and even proud to show off my ability to navigate the city. I still have days where I get lost or get off at the wrong stop, but those are just minor setbacks now. CIEE also put on a combi safari last weekend to show us how to get to various places around Gaborone such as the different malls. This helped me tremendously in finding the confidence to go to places other than the university.
I have since been using the transportation system to find the clinics and other places that I need to go to. I feel like mastering the transportation system is part of the experience here. While I am not there yet, I feel much better about finding my way around the city, and I am starting to feel more and more like a local every day.