London is not only famous for its underground, but also for its taxis or “cabs”. London taxi operations are extremely strictly controlled and regulated. Regulation includes stringent demands on drivers’ skills as well as the vehicle itself. In practice, all of London’s cabs are custom-built. That is great news for travellers, as they can easily spot the cab in the middle of other traffic.
Getting a taxi license in London is not an easy task. The driver candidate has to be fully familiar with the downtown streets, boroughs and sights, and even the surrounding areas in general level. These drivers are known as “Green badge drivers” and they have to know London with a radius of 10 kilometers from the city center. And that is not a small area. The driver also needs to be able to tell the route between two points on that very same area, as well as know a huge number of public places and sights. Those are called “points” and there are literally thousands of points within the city center. Points include hotels, schools, offices, sports arenas, theaters, museums etc. The above details, along with many other issues, are examined both orally and in writing. Learning all those details usually requires two to three years. Only then is our candidate allowed to drive.
Being the client is somewhat easier. After all, your driver is sure to know the shortest route to your destination at that specific hour of the day. London cabs are naturally not the cheapest taxis around. Minimum fare is £2.20. Mileage charge depends on the hour, car speed and distance covered. The average charge during the day time is just over 2 pounds per kilometer. To be specific, the charge is 20p for every 140 meters or 30 seconds. When you reach £16, 1/5 pound will only buy you 100 more meters or 21 seconds. The evening, nights and weekend tariffs are slightly higher.
In addition to the official cabs, you may get a different ride when ordering a taxi, say, from your hotel. Especially airport transfers are taken care of with immigrant drivers. In that case, the fare is agreed in advance and the driver finds your destination with a navigator. You can board an unofficial taxi fairly safely, if you have ordered it through your hotel or a call center. This service is usually called minicab or private hired vehicle, and has to be booked in advance. Otherwise, you should avoid unofficial taxis. Recognizing an official cab is easy as it is a custom-made vehicle, generally known as the London Taxi (the TX4 model shown in the photo). Official taxis never plead or attract customers to board. It’s best to avoid unofficial taxis, as the drivers, by definition, may be on a criminal path.