Call me a taxi

Someone mentioned to me the other day that getting a taxi in London was a problematic things. So, here are some tips. Most would apply to any big city in the world, I suppose. No-one can deny that a taxi is a great way to travel. Door to door, of course. Usually they are clean.

Not all black cabs in London are black. There are some with different colours, and some with advertising on. You can recognise them all by the yellow hire light in the top part of the roof.

Do not try to hail a taxi if the yellow light is not on. They won’t stop. Also, don’t try to hail a taxi at a bus stop, road junction, pedestrian crossing or anywhere that is unsafe, or narrow. Or get out ditto.

Before you get in, tell the driver where you want to go. If you have a written address, this often helps. If the driver has stopped, and your destination is within a reasonable distance, they have to take you. If the driver had his yellow light on but says “I’m not going that way”, get his or her number (on the back) and report them. Very long distances can be refused.

All cabs take plastic cards, but double check with the driver before you enter. It has become a ‘thing’ to get a taxi and then say to the driver “I need to call at a bank machine before I can pay you”. I’m surprised this is not illegal. I know some drivers will accept this, but tell them first.

There are a lot of taxis in central London, but sometimes they are all busy. Theatre coming out time, for example, can be tricky.

Taxis are metered. You pay extra for bags etc and there is a minimum fare. In rush hours, you still pay if you are stuck in a traffic jam. You can ask the driver what it will cost to get to yor destination, roughly, before you start. There are companies, such as ComCab, which allow you to book taxis in advance but they are still metered.

Taxi drivers like a tip. Once upon a time, they expected it, but now they are just grateful. If they help you above and beyond the call of duty, a nice tip is essential. There is no set rule. 10% to 15% of the fare is OK, more is nicer. Rounding up is a good idea, if it makes sense. so, a fare of £17.50 might become £20 and “keep the change”.

If you can plan ahead, a minicab service, such as Addison Lee, may be a better choice. You can book in advance on-line or using an app (or telephone of course), pay by card and it would be a fixed fare (ie you know what it will cost before you set off).

The TfL site is very helpful: