All of London’s Black Cabs are licensed by The Public Carriage Office and all drivers must apply to do “The Knowledge”. This means they must have an in depth knowledge of the topography of London, (no small task). For All London “Green Badge” holders, they must have detailed knowledge within a six mile radius of Charing Cross, the ancient center of London, based on 400 routes as defined by the Public Carriage Office “Guide to Learning the Knowledge of London” (the ‘Blue Book’). They also need to know the places of interest and important landmarks on the route and within a quarter mile radius of both start and finish points. Candidates are tested on the knowledge during one to one interviews (called appearances) where they are given start and finish points and required to detail the shortest routes between them. All this goes to the point that Black Cabs are safe to take anywhere in London and the drivers, if you can understand their accent, they can answer most of your questions.
The cost of any journey is by the meter, which counts time and mileage and are tested regularly. Black cabs can be hired for tours and day trips out of London to Canterbury and Dover Castle, Hampton Court, The Cotswolds, Stonehenge and the like. Just ask any driver for details.
Mini Cabs & Taxi Touts
Unlicensed mini-cabs are sometimes cheaper than black cabs but not always, as you would imagine, because anyone can be a mini cab driver; no test, no knowledge, no meters. For these reasons, mini-cabs are not allowed to stop and pick you up on on the street. You have to phone (ring) them and tell them where to pick you up, or “collect you”. Minicab touts abound in Soho, Theatre land and other busy tourist areas. They will try to get you into a cab that’s waiting round the corner. We recommend you avoid them at all costs.
Taxi touts hang about at railway stations and airports. They’ll offer to call you a cab or carry your bags. Just say NO. Taxi touts are totally illegal. Remember, unlicensed mini-cabs cannot pick you up on the street. In most cases, these touts will try to get you into a private car. Again, absolutely refuse. Just take your bags and walk away.
Always use a licensed London taxi, be safe be sure.