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I'm traveling to London and would like to use taxis several times while I'm there. What are my options? Should I pre-book? Use an app like Uber? Hail a taxi on the street?

Do the taxi options depend on the time of the day? And would I have issues calling a cab early in the morning/late at night? What about heavy afternoon traffic?

Finally, are there specific issues with getting a taxi to/from London's airports?

NB: This question is a replacement for the Kings Cross-specific question, so that we have a canonical on London taxis.

closed as too broad by user568458, Gayot Fow, Ulkoma, JonathanReez, Karlson Jul 11 '16 at 18:51

Please edit the question to limit it to a specific problem with enough detail to identify an adequate answer. Avoid asking multiple distinct questions at once. See the How to Ask page for help clarifying this question. If this question can be reworded to fit the rules in the help center, please edit the question.

  • Uber is the cheapest. – Ulkoma Jul 11 '16 at 15:26
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    Er, why are we making a canonical question to replace a perfectly valid Kings Cross question? It's not like we're getting a bunch of 'how do I get taxi to Putney' questions as well, or Camberwell/Wimbledon/Hackney? – Mark Mayo Jul 11 '16 at 15:42
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    @MarkMayo I can count around 10 questions on London taxis right now. I think it's better to have 1 canonical Q than 10 Qs on different situations. Feel free to close if you disagree. – JonathanReez Jul 11 '16 at 15:44
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    Fair enough. I've voted to close this question as well – JonathanReez Jul 11 '16 at 16:24
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    I actually like this question. London taxis are confusing, with black cabs, minicabs, Uber, etc... General info about the options, costs, and how to use them is helpful. – Zach Lipton Jul 11 '16 at 17:05
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Your options are:

1) Taxi

  • can be hailed on the street: 'TAXI' light on roof illuminated = available for hire, hail it by waving at the driver and shouting "Taxi!"
  • can be pre-booked by phone or app.
  • taxi ranks located at airports and major railway stations.
  • driver has passed extremely difficult test of London geography and has all central London streets memorised (the test is called 'the knowledge').
  • sometimes known as a 'black cab' although not all of them are painted black.
  • driver is criminal-record checked, must be over 21 and insured to carry passengers.
  • taxi-meter inside vehicle charges by time/distance (fixed fare also available using Hailo app).
  • fares are regulated.
  • must be a specific purpose-built vehicle type, must be kept clean and well-maintained (or the driver risks losing their taxi licence).
  • wheelchair accessible.

2) Minicab

  • cannot legally be hailed on the street.
  • can be pre-booked by phone or app (except Uber, which is booked by app but only at the time it's needed, not ahead of time).
  • driver is not tested on London geography (most have satnav though).
  • driver is criminal-record checked, must be over 21 and insured to carry passengers.
  • fixed fare, confirm it with the driver before you set off (except Uber where driver's mobile phone tracks time/distance and charges on that basis, like a taxi-meter).
  • fares are unregulated.
  • usually cheaper than a black cab.
  • can legally be any type of car (Ad-Lee: Ford Galaxy people carrier, Uber: list of approved cars, type according to price category X/Exec/Lux).
  • mostly not wheelchair accessible.

The usual tip is 10%.

There is no surcharge for airports. Taxi is usually slower than train into central London from any of the airports, so long as the trains are running normally. Traffic from Heathrow into central London can be particularly bad.

All taxi options are available at all times of day; black cabs charge more for unsocial hours; Uber charges more when demand outstrips supply.

Heavy traffic occurs in the 'rush hour', which is approx 7:30-9am and 5-7pm Monday to Friday (times vary depending on how close to central London you are). Some areas of central London have heavy traffic all day. West End (entertainment district) traffic can be very heavy in the late evening.

Pedal-rickshaws are available in tourist areas but are more of a gimmick than a serious transport option.

Motorbike-taxis are available (pre-book only) but are expensive.

A water-taxi is available but is expensive at £435/hour, and strict speed limits apply to river traffic in central London.

Sedan chairs are no longer available but can be seen pictured at the Two Chairmen pub.

More info: https://tfl.gov.uk/modes/taxis-and-minicabs/

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The best way to get a feel for a whole aspect of a city like this is with a good guidebook. There are also free online wikis - for a big city like London, they're usually quite up to date.

Lonely Planet's page on London taxis is a good place to start, and has lots of detail, but isn't very clear on the difference between minicabs and Uber/Kabbee, so I've quoted from Wikivoyage's section on London taxis (note - their jump link functionality is a bit skewy at the moment and their link to By_taxi goes to the wrong place, ctrl-f to "By taxi" to find the appropriate section). It'd be pointless to duplicate the article here, since this is a Q&A not an encyclopedia, but here are some quotes outlining the main three types:

The famous black cab of London (not always black!) can be hailed from the kerb or found at one of the many designated taxi ranks. It is possible to book black cabs by phone, for a fee, but if you are in central London it will usually be quicker to hail one from the street. ...Black cabs charge by distance and by the minute, are non-smoking, and have a minimum charge of £2.20

...

Minicabs are normal cars which are licensed hire vehicles that you need to book by phone or at a minicab office. They generally charge a fixed fare for a journey, best agreed before you get in the car. Minicabs are usually cheaper than black cabs, although this is not necessarily the case for short journeys.

...

Uber is available in London and generally charge cheaper fares than black cabs, although higher "surge" prices are charged at times of high demand. Vehicles can only be booked via the smartphone app.

...

Always remember: if it's not licensed and it's not pre-booked, it's just a stranger's car. Never get into an un-booked minicab.


If you want more specific advice from people who know London about what is best for a particular situation, please ask a more focused question outlining what you're trying to do. Answers may vary depending on where you are, time of day, whether you've got kids with you, how much you prioritise price over reliability, etc.

We've got around 10 questions on London taxis right now and (so long as it's not a duplicate of an existing one!) there's always room for more.

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