Etiquette using the London Black Cab
Following Boris Johnson’s verbal outburst against a taxi driver, we thought it would be useful to create an etiquette guide for using London’s black cabs.
How and when to hail a cab
Generally, when a black cab’s light is illuminated it means that the taxi is available for hire. When the light is off it means that either the cab is already carrying passengers or the driver is off-duty. If you see that the light is on (you’ll know if it is, it’s a bright yellow light), then to hail the cab simply stand on the side of the pavement and extend your arm outward. There’s no need to shout “taxi” and indeed, it’s actually illegal to shout “taxi” whilst trying to hail a cab.
Before commencing your journey
The etiquette in Britain is to form an orderly queue by the taxi rank, and then when it is your turn, approach the first taxi in the rank. It’s custom to approach the front window on the passenger side, and tell the driver your destination. Also let the cabbie know if you have a route in mind that you’d prefer the driver to take, as this will ensure that you avoid any disputes later on.
In most black cabs the two front seats are usually partitioned off by a screen and it’s common for customers to sit in the back rather than in the front. Cabbies may consider it a personal space infringement for customers to sit in the seat next to them.
Whilst in the cab
You may want to start up a conversation with the taxi driver when you get into the back of the cab. As a rule of thumb, you should stick to light-hearted topics and avoid discussing potentially contentious issues, such as religion and politics. After all, London is a multicultural city, home to people with a huge range of beliefs. The topics of conversation should be those which you would normally discuss with someone you’re meeting for the first time.
If you run into a dispute with the taxi driver over the fare or route taken, ensure that you have the correct information to hand. You should also ensure that you are not arguing with the cabbie over something which was actually your own oversight, such as arriving late to your destination because you did not allow enough time for your journey.
The option to leave a tip is at the customer’s discretion and although it is not compulsory, it is tradition. Usually customers leave a gratuity that amounts to 10% of the total fare or round up to the nearest pound.
Safety whilst taking a cab
The only cab that you can hail directly from the street is a black cab. Minicabs can only be booked in advance from a licensed minicab company as otherwise there is no record of your journey and the driver cannot be traced. Minicab drivers who accept a fare directly off the street are acting illegally and most importantly, you are putting your safety at risk as you cannot be sure whether the minicab is licensed or not. For more information, please see TfL’s Cabwise initiative to find out more about the safety apps they have developed and travelling in cabs safely.
Tradex has long worked with the taxi industry and provided taxi insurance to cabbies. We like to know that workers in this long-standing profession are treated with respect and that the public are aware of the correct etiquette when travelling in a black cab.