Drivers of the classic Black Cab spend most of their daily lives trundling through the streets of London. They are a rare breed and the cars they drive are just as full of character and personality as the cabbies who drive them.
Taking the sage advice of a Cabbie is the perfect way to locate any destination. A Cab driver's suggestions can unforgettable off-beat routes and help you get the feel for a city. Remember, they are the folks who hear and see everything!
Traveling in a traditional taxi is a unique, convenient and easy method of getting from place to place through the convoluted maze of London.
So why are Black Cab Drivers the best travel guides to London? The Reason; Cabbies are famed for possessing a detailed understanding of the city, known simply as "The Knowledge".
All of the official London cab drivers are required to pass a test called "The Knowledge". What the Knowledge is, can sometimes hard to define. Taking from between 2-4 years to acquire, some say it comes from having an extra memory. London taxi drivers are said to have a part of the brain governing spatial and visual information that is double the size of an average persons.
The fact is, London taxi drivers have a detailed knowledge of at least 25,000 streets, coupled with a general knowledge of all the major arterial routes running through London.
The Knowledge also stems from a constant interaction with London's people which means that they are highly connected with what is happening in the life of the city.
If it's out there, the Cabbie knows!
A Cabbie can find any Street!
The Cabbie's thorough knowledge of London includes the location of streets, squares, clubs, hospitals, hotels, theaters, government and public buildings, railway stations, police stations, courts, diplomatic buildings, important places of worship, cemeteries, crematoria, parks and open spaces, sports and leisure centers, places of learning, restaurants and historic buildings; in fact everything you need a driver to know in order to get you to your destination by the most direct route possible.
Men and Women of Impeccable Character
It is no coincidence that black cab drivers have a reputation for providing the best taxi service in the world. The credentials of each driver are a spotless reflection of their character and each applicable is the subject of a criminal record check before being issued with a cab driver's license.
Beware of Fraudsters and Hustlers
Beware those who claim to have passed the 'Knowledge of London' examinations, yet who's cars are not marked with the official marks.
There are many drivers who illegally solicit business around prominent tourist attractions. They operate without insurance, fare meters and often in vehicles that are not roadworthy.
The difference between an official Black Cab and a private taxi is that private hire journeys must be pre-booked through a licensed operator. Private hire vehicles are not by law able to ply the streets without these operators.
Take a Black Cab Journey through London:
Traditionally, the first place a Black Cab driver will take you to see is Buckingham Palace for the changing of the guards. The Cabbie always knows the best times to visit and all the cunning ways of avoiding London's tedious traffic.
Go to see a musical, play or comedy in London's Theatreland by Black Cab. Again, you'll avoid the traffic, enjoy the company of a driver who knows all about the theater and you will arrive at the venue in the unique style only the Black Cab can afford.
Looking at a map of London you will notice that several museums and places of interest are to be found scattered around the London area.
Westminster Abbey, The Royal Academy of the Arts and Big Ben are separated by a large expanse of city, which would be difficult to navigate if it where not for "The Knowledge" of the London cab driver.
How to arrange a cab:
If the orange "for hire" light is lit up the cab can be hailed from the street.
Black Cabs can be located on designated ranks, located at prominent places, including many mainline rail, underground and bus stations.
Most taxis carry five people plus luggage
Tipping at about 10% is expected.
Remember, when requesting a cab from your hotel; insist on a licensed London cab with a fare meter. Hotel staff at a few of London's hotels will attempt to persuade you to use a "car service" that they recommend. The staff often receives bribes from unlicensed minicab drivers.
Cab Driver's Tip
Travel safe – It is a very good idea to arrange a password with the dispatcher, which the driver should provide you with when he she arrives. In addition to this, the driver should already know your name and destination. London's Public Carriage Office recommends: "Always sit in the rear of the cab, and always carry a mobile phone".