How the London Taxi System Works and How to Avoid Being Exploited

black cabComing to London can be quite daunting as well as exciting. There are many things that are very unique about the capital city – one of which is the London Taxi.

As well as the well known black licensed Taxis, there are two other forms of cabs that operate in London. They are both known as ‘private hire’ and are usually cheaper than a black cab. However, be aware that each type will offer a very different service.

Mini Cab – These have been around since the early sixties and offer a very basic service using standard four door vehicles. These vehicles are sometimes driven by inexperienced drivers with only basic knowledge of London streets. They are required by law to be licensed by the public carriage office having had the proper police checks on any criminal history.
To check the validity of these cabs, try and find the badge which should be on display and shows their credentials. If you are in any doubt as to whether they are bona fide, don’t be afraid to ask to see their photo identification.
These drivers work for licensed mini cab operators and so all bookings should be made with the office to guarantee security. When you are at an airport you may be approached by a mini cab driver. Be aware that this is not legal and if you choose to take this option it can end up being very costly for you. The driver will make an offer of a cheap fare then find a reason to increase the price mid journey, asking for the fare whilst in transit. If you refuse to pay the new amount they will not hesitate in stopping the car and leaving you stuck somewhere on the outskirts of London. Another bad habit of these drivers is to simply not arrive, particularly if your plane is late. If they do arrive, they might even try and charge you waiting time for the delay.

Black Cab – There are approximately 22,000 in London all of which are meter priced and seat a maximum of 5 passengers. They are not very comfortable and you are forced to bring luggage into the cab with you so you end up with limited space. For fun and novelty you can’t beat it, but like most taxi drivers who work in a capital city they are not always the most polite or courteous. Black cabs are the most costly method of London transport, except for when taking local trips around central London.

Chauffeured Executive Service – Also licensed by the public carriage office (PCO) and also have to be pre-booked through a licensed private hire office. The main differences between this and other methods of travel are the quality of service, vehicle and driver. Usually the companies offering this type of service are much more reliable than mini cabs and have top class, new vehicles (normally BMW, Mercedes, Jaguar, Lexus, etc). The vehicles are all-leather interior, air-conditioned and usually have satellite navigation. They will almost always have complimentary bottles of drinking water and daily newspapers.
The drivers are all suited, well groomed, and are from the local area, so speak English well and know where they are going at all times. All the drivers have to be checked and licensed by the PCO and will have been fully trained by the company they work for on how to give immaculate service to the client and therefore will always be courteous and helpful. It is usually these drivers that you will see at the airport, smartly dressed with their meet and greet signs – they are considered the elite and are often seen at film premiers and special occasions such as weddings and birthdays. This is the highest quality cab service available, but surprisingly will often work out cheaper than a traditional black cab.
As a price guide, a trip from Heathrow to central London using this method should be around the £50 – £55 mark. If you see it a lot cheaper – be suspicious. The chances are that this is a mini cab and not a chauffeur service. As with everything – you only get what you pay for.

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