Black cabs are considered an iconic attraction in London. A must-do touristic activity, I would say. Black cab drivers know London as the palm of their hands – the training is very intense and it’s quite hard to get a licence. Ages ago, I saw a documentary about becoming a black cab driver and it involved something like two years going around the street of London on a bike, to learn all shortcuts, hidden streets, touristic spots, etc.
Update 12 Mar 2013 – A few things I learned today, when I got a black cab home: The Knowledge, a licensed taxi qualification, was introduced in 1851. It takes 2 to 4 years to qualify as a licensed cabbie. There are currently 22,000 licensed cabs in London. There are loads of other interesting facts but I couldn’t memorise them all (well, who needs memorising when you have Google…)
All good if you are a tourist and only get the black cab once in a lifetime, but if you live in London and have to catch a cab often, either for work or in the evening, after a party, when the trains are cancelled, etc, black cabs can cost you a little fortune.
The alternative for it is the minicab. Minicabs are like private cars, run by registered companies and more affordable than the black cabs. One thing to remember, though (very important): you need to find a registered minicab company and call to arrange pick up. Never ever get a minicab on the street without checking it first. It can be very dangerous to just get a car at random; these fake cab drivers target especially girls after parties, when they are more vulnerable.
Mr. C and I have our preferred minicab company that serves our area. We normally go to airports by minicab (perfectly fine to go by train, tube, buses, but not when you have big luggages and a toddler, and have an early train to catch). We just arrived from Barbados and our driver was waiting for us at the airport – as with all drivers of this company, he was chatty and very nice. Every time we use them, we get a different driver and all of them have different backgrounds but are all equally interesting. Our driver was a very intelligent gentleman, retired, who, together with his wife, bought a house north of Acapulco, in Mexico, to spend 20 weeks in winter every year. He worked for NHS and has an interesting view on the institution. He also is undergoing chemotherapy and has an incredible positive attitude towards it.
My suggestion is to always have a number handy, especially if you live outside central London area, where night buses are rare.
P.S.: We don’t use the largest minicab in the UK because they are not cheap and I had bad experience with them at work, but most of the companies use their services.
Disclaimer: This is not a paid post.