Etiquette & Every Day Use of a London Taxi (Do's & Don'ts, Good Manners & Bad)
When to hail a Cab
Do hail when the hire light is on (light, glowing, bright, yellow - the cab is available).
Don't hail when the hire light is off (unlit, dull, dark, not yellow - the driver is either not working or the cab is already occupied).
How to hail a Cab
Literally, hail with a visible wave of the hand. One can also wave an umbrella, as long as it's not open, or a hat, as long as it's not on your head.
Prior to boarding, approach the nearest front window, which the driver will have already opened. Announce your destination then open the rear passenger door and step in.
If embarking at a Taxi Rank and there is more than one cab, please go to the first one (the one at the front). The British have a reputation for forming orderly queues. To not honour this tradition perishes the very fabric of the nation.
Those in the know also talk to the driver through the intercom. Kneeling in front of the partition and aligning one's head and lips with the partition gap is not required to be heard.
One final big Don't. Unless you have luggage, you shouldn't open the front nearside door. It's regarded as bit of a territorial infringement. This section of the taxi is empty, formerly where oats and hay was kept for the horse in ye olden days, but now reserved for the taxi drivers own packed lunch. So please be careful as you chuck those suitcases into this area, as you may squash his sandwiches.
What do you call your driver? What exactly is the appropriate term of address in order to maintain form and dignity? You can address the cabbie as 'cabbie' or 'driver'. Only if you're American is 'sir' appropriate, likewise 'monsieur' if you're French.
But let caution be your watchword. To call your driver 'sir' or 'guv' sounds a tad ridiculous and 'mate' a bit over familiar, although 'love' is permissible, but from women only.
Discourse should be pleasant, inoffensive and unimportant to life. Personally, I would prefer us to stay clear of politics, religion and health. Apart from the weather, ideas for conversation with your driver could include, say, lives of the romantic poets, logical positivism or, my particular favourite, abstract algebra.
Disputes are very rare. Taxi drivers do sometimes make mistakes. If it's a regular journey, let the driver know if you have a preferred route. Often 'disputes' occur because a passenger has left too little time to get to their meeting/train/plane and believes that the cabbie should drive to their destination backwards in time. What can I say? We do our best. But please note, more cabbies get insulted, robbed and assaulted by passengers than the other way around.
We're talking 'tips' or 'gratuities' here and it is a sensitive subject. Tips are left at the passengers' discretion; they are not obligatory but they are a tradition. If you do decide to tip then perhaps round up to the nearest pound or add about 10%...or both, and then round up to the nearest pound again, you know, just to keep things nice and tidy.
So far, we have looked at you, the passenger (or 'punter' or 'fare'). Let's turn to the driver and ask how he should behave. Some never say a word and some never shut up; some smile, some don't. What you're looking for quite simply is civility and a helping hand if required (with luggage, pushchair, wheelchair etc) and the most direct and/or quickest route to your destination.
If crossing the road and a taxi is reversing into the kerb towards you - I'll repeat that - towards you, then don't carry on crossing the road.
If crossing the road at traffic lights or a traffic island and it seems like a good idea to cross in front of a taxi coming towards you - I'll repeat that - towards you, then don't carry on crossing the road.
Finally, I am pleased to say that there are an increasing number of women taxi drivers. They don't stand for any nonsense.
London Cab Tours Clocks Quiz
Can you identify these six London clocks? Answers on FAQs page