A recent article in The Times humorously examined the subject of black cab etiquette in London and my friend and fellow blogger on the Gold Coast Jenni Baxter challenged me to pen a few words on hailing taxis in the capital for visiting Saffas. Well here goes:
If you can afford a black cab, take one. They are like no other cabs in the world, and believe me I’ve been in cabs from Copenhagen to Cairo and had my fair share of being ‘taken for a ride’ (if you’ll excuse the pun) in clapped out old bangers. London cabs are – for me – the height of luxury. Roomy, spacious, comfortable and – if you’re lucky you’ll get a chatty, interesting driver who knows where he’s going and doesn’t mind the odd bit of gossip. I had a driver once who told me about a certain much-loved British comedian who turned out to be the most miserable sod he’d ever met. Another spilled the beans about a world-renowned model who ponged up his car so badly with her BO he had to get some air freshener to get rid of the smell. In both cases neither of them left a tip so the cabbies thought it only fair to bad mouth them.
Important rule number 1 – always tip even if it’s only a quid.
If you frequent an area chances are you’ll get the same cabbie again. They have memories like elephants which is why they’re so good at finding their way around the city. But of course, like taxi drivers the world over, there are some that are surly and downright rude and couldn’t find their way round a monopoly board let alone a metropolis like London. I caught one once that had no idea of the address I wanted to go (I was new in town!), so he just took me somewhere nearby and dropped me off. I ended up paying £20 and walking about 3 miles!
Worst of all though are those that – for some unfathomable reason – won’t go south of the Thames late at night. Many a time I’ve come out of a bar or restaurant after midnight, the Underground has closed up for the night and I’ve waited on the side of the road for a black cab with a winking yelow “Vacant” light. It pulls up, the driver winds the window down and says “Where you heading, mate?” “Richmond,” I reply. And with that he screeches off yelling out the window, “I don’t go south of the river at this time of night!”
Other rules to remember when taking black cabs: Try not to throw up in the back of one. Drivers get really angry and have very little sympathy.
Don’t light up a cigarette in the back of one. Chances are you’ll be chucked out in the middle of nowhere.
And never, ever do a runner. They drive faster than you can run.