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London Black Taxi Cab Etiquette – How To Ride in a London Taxi

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As a native Chicagoan I have taken plenty of cab rides. I know how to hail a cab and the etiquette to use when interacting with the driver, which to be perfectly honest is very little. However, when taking a taxi ride in London, the procedure is sharply different.

Here is a list of the steps to properly hail a cab in London.

  • Like in most cities, the taxi’s light on top of the cab must be on. The light signals that the taxicab can be hired.
  • When tailing a cab in London generally I wave – I don’t yell out Taxi
  • If you are at a busy train station or airport there is a chances that there is queue (line) for a taxi. This system is very orderly, and you must wait in the line unless you would like your life to end at the moment of jumping the queue.
  • When the taxi has pulled over after you’ve hailed it, or it’s your turn in the taxi rank, politely go to the front window and ask the driver if he or she will take you to your destination. Unlike the U.S. destination is discussed before entering the cab.
  • To talk to the cab driver there is an intercom system, usually located near the seats. Be polite and it is polite to say hello. Generally conversation should be on lighter matters. Most London cab drivers are friendly and be happy to chat.
  • When you have reached your destination you may leave a tip. Usually round up to the nearest pound or 10% of the fare is acceptable. If you feel your cabbie has gone over and above service you are welcome to tip more.
  • Generally avoid Mini-cabs – they aren’t licensed Black Cab drivers and you may not be able to trust them.

By using this tips to hail a taxi in London, you are assured not to make a cultural snafu. It is also important to know that London taxi cab drivers must study and take a test in order to drive a cab in London. I would argue that they are the most reliable cab service in the world. They will not drive you around the same block three times to run up the meter. Trust your London, cabbie, he or she is extremely qualified.

Do You Have Your Own London Taxi Tip?

Author: jackie

Jackie is the co-creator of Anglotopia and Londontopia. She became an Anglophile after meeting her husband Jonathan. They travel to London as often as possible, despite Jonathan's continued promise to take Jackie on a tropical island vacation.

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14 COMMENTS

  1. I had great experiences taking taxis in London and Edinburgh. Black cabs all the way! One trip in London, I had newly arrived friends with me. I met them at Victoria station and took a cab back to my flat. There was an accident in our route, and the driver took an alternate, which was great. They know their roads. HOWEVER as we got close to the flat he missed the turn! He had to drive “around” the block”. Once at the flat he reduced the fare! Now that was FAIR!

    I miss the UK and long to go back very soon.

    • Black cabs are part of everyday life to Londoners. They have great and very patient drivers, so asking them about their day always sets a nice tone. They are always interesting and interested. They show great kindness, too. I was stuck in Westminster at 1am, my clutch bag having been rifled for money, phone and cards. Witnessing my dismay, the cabbie drove me 12 miles south of the river to my home and safety. He would take nothing for it, simply said, ‘A good deed in a bad world!’. Now that is true class. I have never forgotten his gallantry.

  2. I’m glad you have highlighted that black cab (London taxi) drivers are probably the best there is – they have to do the knowledge, and must take you the most direct route (they really don’t know who the mystery shoppers are who may well lose them their licence if they take the pi**)

    But – as Americans, I would always recommend talking politics with a cabbie – it makes the journey so much more enjoyable, and, if you know anything about football (soccer) give that a go as well – especially if you have an opinion on how badly Tottenham Hotspur (Spurs) are doing. A copy of the Sun newspaper is usually good grounding for all taxi conversations – it doesn’t take long to read, and is actually quite cheap, although dont take pictures for ‘the folks back home’ whilst waving it in front of the camera. Another good tip is to hail a black cab after midnight and ask the driver to take you to an address ‘South of the river.’ You will, without doubt find them obliging on every occasion!

    I will however seriously underline the comment about minicabs – only ever use them if they are pre-booked from a reputable firm. NEVER hail one in the street – the driver probably wont be insured, the car may well be an MOT failure (there are much stricter MOT rules for minicabs than private cars) and the driver may well be unlicenced and/or an illegal immigrant. BEWARE – stick to black cabs, and enjoy your trip in London.

    • Personally I would never recommend talking politics or religion with anyone without knowing their thoughts, attitudes, feelings in advance. Especially if you are a host or a guest, and a traveler should always think and behave like a guest, even if just as a practical matter…

  3. One thing that I have experienced in the UK vs. the US is that the black cab drivers don’t seem to help with luggage while in the US, they do. Anyone else experience this? Is this customary? I found it surprising at the rail station…

    • That’s fairly normal for London cabbies. If you’ve booked one in advance, they’ll often help. But most of the time when you hail one on the street, they won’t help. They’re not working for tips, so why would they?

  4. great site. hint from female friends: even if the taxi light is off, and if you can see it is empty stick your arm out anyway (strictly only for black cabs) they will sometimes stop. If you are on their route home, they will take the job.

  5. I love London Black Cabs and their drivers. True, they don’t get out and load your luggage but one took me all the way to Heathrow last February and did help me with my suitcase. Not sure if he was supposed to take me to Heathrow but there was big trouble at Paddington due to flooding all over SE England and I did not say no. They have THE KNOWLEDGE and I have never, in 16 trips to London, had one try anything unethical such as driving around the block. I always have a chat and have had some hilarious political conversations especially when Tony Blair became a Dad after he was in 10 Downing Street (I was in a cab when Cherie Blair was taken to the maternity hospital so the cabbies were sending each other funny and probably irreverent updates) and again, when our darling Prez William Jefferson Clinton was in such hot water. Come to think of it I was in Paris at that time also and the French cabbies were in stitches over the Monica affair.I always tip them a full 10%. I t’s worth it and Yes, do not take a mini cab ever!.

  6. I just got back from a 2-week trip to England (Cornwall and London). My home station was Paddington and I had just gotten off a 5 hour train ride from Cornwall. My hotel was literally 5 minutes away from the station and I should have known better but I queued for a taxi.
    The driver helped me with my bag and, but as others have mentioned, didn’t ask where I was going before I got in.
    He made such a stink over the fact that he waited in line for an hour to get a fare and it was literally only a skip away from the station. I told him that I had a long trip and that I realized it was close and I apologised. In the end he did bring me to the hotel (bi&^&ng and moaning the whole time, muttering to himself but I could still hear him) He made me feel so bad and so embarrassed.
    He didn’t charge me for the ride but I did give him a £20 and I said that i was sorry many times. He seemed to appreciate it.

    I guess the thing to take from this is that they are there to make money, it’s their occupation. If it’s within walking distance, walk.

  7. My last trip to London, I had overshopped myself and was exhausted and faint and couldn’t walk any further, so I hailed a cab at Paddington to take me to my hotel, literally around the corner and down the block. The cabbie not only took me there but he refused to accept any payment whatsoever for a two-minute ride. We argued about it for five minutes and I finally won, giving him not only the fare but an outrageous tip! Another time, I was there doing a book tour and had been on the radio that morning discussing it. I got a cab outside Harrods a couple of hours later, and in the course of conversation told the cabbie excitedly that I was in London promoting my book on radio and TV, though I gave no details of where and when. He turned around and addressed me by name and said he’d heard my interview that morning! I was so proud.

  8. A few years ago on New Bond Street, I tripped and, literally, fell on my face. Three Londoners helped me get up, made sure I could move, hailed a taxi. The taxi took me to my hotel and refused to let me pay. I could not have made it on foot after that fall. I thank that taxi driver and the three people who helped me.

  9. The last comment left at the end of the article is untrue and misleading.

    I am a retired police officer (Metropolitan police. London UK) Transport for London TfL has now made all Private hire drivers become regulated and majority are trust worthy in the same way as a Black cab driver, all take criminal records checks and health checks, vehicles are also examined and tested twice a year.

    I driver with Uber to supplement my Police pension and with Uber the fares are far cheaper and vehicles maybe newer than the black cab, they are also tracked and monitored you know who the driver is and the vehicle as well as his or her star rating.

    Please do not state they are untrustworthy.

    Thank you.

    JL

    • You’re commenting on an article that was written years before Uber even existed. Things have changed quite a bit so it’s probably time for an updated article.

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