London has two types of taxis: the famous black cab, and so-called minicabs. Black cabs are the only ones licensed to ‘ply for hire’ (i.e. Pick people up off the street), while minicabs are more accurately described as ‘private hire vehicles’ and need to be pre-booked.
The famous black cab of London can be hailed from the curb, or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street. Their amber TAXI light will be on if they are available. In order to be licensed to drive a black cab, drivers must pass a rigorous exam of central London’s streets, known as ‘The Knowledge.’ This means they can supposedly navigate you to almost any London street without reference to a map. This is a cheap transport option if there are five passengers as they will not charge extras. Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute. Tipping is not mandatory in either taxis or minicabs, despite some drivers’ expectations. Anyhow, if you like their service you may tip otherwise don’t. Londoners will often just round up to the nearest pound.
The Taxi driver is required by law to take you wherever you choose (within Greater London) if the TAXI light is on when you hail them. However some, especially older drivers, doesn’t like leaving the center of town, or going south of the River Thames. A good way to combat being left at the side of the curb is to open the back door, or even get into the cab, before stating your destination.
Minicabs are normal cars which are licensed hire vehicles that you need to book by phone, or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessary, in case for short journeys. Licensed minicabs display a Transport for London (TFL) License Plate – usually in the front window. One of the features of the license plate is a blue version of the famous London Underground “roundel”.
- Cab wise, Liverpool Station, ☎ 60835 a free service provided by TFL which texts you local licensed minicab numbers. Text CAB to 60835.Costs the price of a text message