Car Guards in South Africa


R2 – R5 is the standard car guard tip in South Africa. But it’s more complicated than that.

Drivers follow two schools of philosophy when it comes to their relationship with the fellows who show up to help guide their cars into bays, and promise to look after them while the drivers are away.

The schools are as follows:

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  • SCHOOL ONE: DETERMINED AVOIDANCE
    Adherents to this school ignore car guards while parking, and will them into invisibility when leaving or returning to the parking spot. If they’re forced to acknowledge the car guard, they try to dismiss him with quizzical or exasperated mumbling. The don’t tip, and they speed off. This school enjoys a large following, and it’s certainly the case that you’re not obliged to pay the car guard a cent.
  • SCHOOL TWO: ALIGNMENT WITH COSMIC ORDER
    Adherents to this school treat car guards like friends, return their waves, and worry about pocket change when heading back to their cars. They tip the standard R2 – R5, and ease into traffic with normal blood pressure.

Your Correspondent has long followed the second school. Make no mistake: in most places, car guarding is an organized racket, and a healthy portion of your tip goes toward “rent”. But the car guards themselves are a generally friendly lot, and my car has never suffered a break-in on their watch. At night especially, I find it reassuring to see them around.

Note: car guards are different from municipal parking officers, who operate in many city centers around the country during business hours, and who will give you a ticket if you don’t feed the meter.

  • How to spot the difference: officers wear uniforms and badges, guards just wear bibs.