I had an uncanny feeling that it was rude of me to talk on a mobile phone for the whole journey, while travelling alone in a London black taxi. Is it the etiquette to have a conversation with the indeed highly qualified driver when travelling alone in a London black taxi? What should I do if I am on a business meeting on my mobile phone for the whole journey?

  • 7
    Yes, it is considered rude, though not egregiously so. However, as Ankur noted in his answer, it would not be considered rude at all if after getting in and stating your destination you stated apologetically that you need to be on your phone.
    – Hugh
    Feb 8, 2015 at 2:43
  • 24
    Imagine you are a black-cab driver. Day in and day out you do the same thing, over time you've driven hundreds of passengers of all sorts to many places and you likely remember none of them. You're not going to think twice about a random person who talked on their phone the whole time, you've seen it all. Remember you're paying the driver for a service, one of those services is him letting you do whatever it is you need to do uninterrupted as he takes you to your destination. It would be different if it was one of your friends politely offering you a favor, but it's not. It's a one-person bus.
    – Jason C
    Feb 8, 2015 at 22:09
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    @JasonC: personally I'd still tell the cabbie upfront.
    – smci
    May 24, 2015 at 7:35
  • 3
    You're paying for the service. Don't worry about it and do what you want in the car.
    – user428517
    Jan 24, 2017 at 22:44

4 Answers 4


I've been in a similar situation many times when travelling during business hours to/from meetings - or, often, when going to the airport - where I've had to jump in on conference calls where I knew it would be for the duration of the ride.

I usually excuse myself before the call, letting them know that I'm going to be on a call (even if I'm not talking). That's usually okay with most black cab drivers: it helps them turn down the radio, etc for instance. Black cabs are usually partitioned anyway to separate the driver and the passenger(s) so it's not that uncomfortable.

(If you're taking a ride from Uber on the other hand I'm usually more conscious of it since drivers rate passengers as well. I do the same thing by letting the driver know that I'll be on a call.)

  • 16
    Although I agree with much of this, you don't actually answer the question. For what it's worth, I doubt the cabbie cares. You're paying for transport, not a friend.
    – Jon Story
    Feb 7, 2015 at 23:52
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    @JonStory It's true that you're paying for transport but it doesn't mean conversation or friendliness isn't appreciated. In the west of England a lot of people still thank bus drivers when getting off the bus even though they've paid for the ride and it's the bus driver's job to drive people around. As the idiom goes, 'courtesy costs nothing'.
    – Pharap
    Feb 8, 2015 at 1:40
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    @Pharap as a Cumbrian, I'm very familiar with that :p I'm just saying that while the cab driver will often appreciate a friendly chat, they're very unlikely to care enough to consider it rude if you're busy with a call. Friendliness is appreciated if you have time, but not required
    – Jon Story
    Feb 8, 2015 at 1:43
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    @Pharap would it then also be considered rude to sit in silence? Or having a chat with someone sharing the cab instead of talking to the driver?
    – JonathanReez
    Feb 8, 2015 at 11:58
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    @JonStory Ankur reports that his behaviour is "usually okay with most black cab drivers" which answers the question. If it was considered rude, the drivers wouldn't be OK with it. Feb 8, 2015 at 13:15

No it is not rude. I've lived in London most of my life and travelled in hundreds of black cabs and can assure you that cabbies really do not care what you get up to in the back of the cab -- as long as you pay the fare, give them a decent tip and don't spill food/drink/bodily fluid.

  • 2
    Digressing, I always thought of the cost of the service being so high that normally no tip was needed. Source: travel.stackexchange.com/a/40108/9563
    – sks
    Feb 9, 2015 at 11:07
  • @SumanKrishnaSaha I'm still not satisfied with any of the answers I got for that question. None of the answerers really seemed to have any more authority on the subject than I, the asker, do - and two out of the three were exclusively London-focused :/ Feb 9, 2015 at 12:59
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    @SumanKrishnaSaha, 10% tip is normal. In London it's conventional to tip cabbies and waiters/waitresses.
    – A E
    Feb 9, 2015 at 13:17
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    Eh, really? First I've heard of that. London is expensive enough as it is. Cabs certainly are. They ain't getting more than the meter fare from me. Feb 9, 2015 at 23:11
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    @LightnessRacesinOrbit, it's true that 10% is conventional (e.g. lonelyplanet.com/england/london/practical-information/… "You can tip taxi drivers up to 10% but most people round up to the nearest pound") but, in the words of Mr Pink, you don't have to tip "just because society says you have to" (movie dialogue NSFW).
    – A E
    Feb 10, 2015 at 11:09

My intuition as a Londoner was that this was absolutely fine, but then I had a moment of self-doubt and worried that maybe I'd been being rude in not talking much to cabbies all these years.

So I sought out this ethnographic study of cab drivers:
Inside the Mind of a Cabbie (RSA)
and that has confirmed my impression that the time and space are basically yours to do what you like (within reason), and you don't have much in the way of conversational obligations towards the cabbie:


Cabbies describe their experience of being in the cab as ‘working from home’ (see below), and in this context passengers are their ‘paying guests’.

Each passenger is a ‘gamble’, because they may be low or high paying and have good or bad behaviour. However, each passenger is accepted from the ‘taxi god’, and it’s part of drivers’ etiquette to accept the luck of the draw, although they reported on ‘other’ drivers who became upset by low-paying passengers/fares or local ‘bell jobs’ (low paying fares).

Overall, cabbies worry about the reputation of the trade, and they maintain or improve the reputation of taxi driving through their passenger interactions. This service side of the job includes intuiting whether the passenger wants to converse, treating them with politeness and respect e.g. keeping their cab clean, carrying luggage, not talking until they’re sure the passenger wants to converse, maintaining suitable boundaries (not discussing ‘deep’ topics relating to religion or emotions) and dealing with problem passengers in a responsible way.

Problem passengers may question the fare/route taken, escape without paying, be drunk (becoming aggressive or comatose in the back), or sometimes abusive for no reason.

Drivers intuit whether passengers want to chat by asking specific questions and gauging the response, or by responding to the passengers’ initiative:

“Most of them are nice, they’re like ‘how are you?’, most of them talk… but some of them have had a bad day and they don’t want to talk… if I see they don’t want to talk I leave them alone.”


So it seems like the best way to be nice to cabbies - the thing which they'll appreciate most - is to use their cabs for long, expensive journeys, and give them big tips. Chattiness appears to be fairly far down the list of what makes for a good passenger.

  • 1
    "Drivers intuit whether passengers want to chat .. not talking until they’re sure the passenger wants to converse". Often true, sometimes very untrue.
    – e100
    Mar 27, 2015 at 19:14
  • @e100: London cabbie, specifically? At least in my experience they're excellent compared to other cities and countries. Hackney drivers is entirely a different story...
    – smci
    May 24, 2015 at 7:41

Once a cab driver told me if you sit behind him that means you don't want to talk. If you sit diagonaly in the back, you want some chating, and if you sit in front with him, you want to talk.

  • 20
    It's not actually possible to sit in the front of a London black cab. They don't have a front passenger seat.
    – rojomoke
    Feb 8, 2015 at 21:36
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    I think sitting in front with him means you want to mug him.
    – Jason C
    Feb 8, 2015 at 22:12
  • @JasonC : Rule 43
    – smci
    May 24, 2015 at 7:42

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