What is a "black cab"?

What is a "black cab"?

The famous black cab - also called cab or London taxi - is a model of taxi known worldwide and become one of the main symbols of the city of London, but also of England and more broadly of the United Kingdom.

Its retro style and its black color make it a real collector's item.

It is the pride of the English - like the double-decker bus (London bus), the red telephone box, Big Ben or The London Eye.

Traveling aboard a black cab is an experience not to be missed!

The first taxi licenses (carriage at the time) were granted in 1662 in London. Today, around 23,000 black cabs are in circulation in London, or 11 taxis per 1,000 inhabitants - compared to 4 taxis per 1,000 inhabitants in Paris.

History of the black cab

The history of the black cab - or London taxi - goes back to the hackney carriage (horse-drawn carriage).

At the beginning of the 17th century (1621), coaches (faster and more comfortable than boats or sedan chairs), then cabs were put into circulation between London and Westminster.

When they were created, the cabs were called Hack, Hackney or Hackney carriage: an anglicized version of "Haquenée", a breed of French horses, known for their endurance.

The cab became a carriage in the 18th century.

In 1822, the cabriolet ("cab") made its appearance: it could only carry one or two passengers, but it was fast and had no only need one horse.

In the middle of the 19th century, two types of coupling dominated the London passenger transport market:

  • The 2-wheel Hansom: a fast and elegant convertible, driven by a coachman.
  • The 4-wheel Growler: a horse-drawn carriage with a large luggage carrying capacity.

Some cabs continued to operate until the 1930s. The last one returned his license on April 3, 1947.

In London, the first electric motor taxi - the Bersey, nicknamed "the hummingbird" because of its noise - appeared in 1897, followed by the first motor taxi gasoline - the Prunel (French manufacture) - in 1903.

Finally, in 1906, the Compagnie Française des Automobiles de Place created in London the General Motor Cab Company with 500 Renault vehicles in red color and equipped with taximeters.

The nickname "black cab" appeared at the end of WWII, due to the color of the paint used for taxis at that time.

The main manufacturers of black cab are LTI Geely and now LVEC for new electric models (hybrid powertrain) - quieter and less pollutants, they should have completely replaced the older generations of black cabs within a few years.

A black cab travels around 40,000 km per year - compared to 80,000 km for a Parisian taxi - and remains in service for an average of 15 years.

Book a black cab

You can book a black cab - or London taxi:

  • by phone: the central central Taxi Booking Code (on the official London Transport website) lists all the numbers of black cabs
  • companies
  • on the internet
  • with the Gett mobile app: get ¬£15 off your 3 first races with the promo code ALLTRIPPERS

You will also find stations reserved for black cabs around airports, train stations, metro stations and other busy areas.

You can also just hail a black cab in the street, by raising your hand.

Illuminated yellow "TAXI" sign of a black cab

To find out if the taxi is free and in service, make sure that the yellow illuminated "TAXI‚ÄĚ sign is on.

Black cabs have a legal obligation to accept all journeys over 9 km (30 km for taxis parked at Heathrow airport), or more than an hour.

Price of a black cab race

The price of the race is calculated with the odometer according to the distance to be traveled and the duration of the trip:

  • Rate 1: Monday to Friday (5 a.m. to 8 p.m.)
    • 1 mile (~ 1.6 km): ¬£6.20 - ¬£9.60
      • 6 to 13 min journey
    • 2 miles (~ 3.2 km): ¬£9.40 - ¬£15
      • 10 to 20 min journey
    • 4 miles (~ 6.4 km): ¬£16 - ¬£24
      • 16 to 30 min journey
    • 6 miles (~ 9.7 km): ¬£25 - ¬£31
      • 28 to 40 min journey
    • From / to Heathrow Airport: ¬£49 - ¬£92
      • 30 to 60 min journey
  • Rate 2: Monday to Friday (8 p.m. to 10 p.m.) and weekends (5 a.m. to 10 p.m.)
    • 1 mile (~ 1.6 km): ¬£6.20 - ¬£9.60
      • 6 to 13 min journey
    • 2 miles (~ 3.2 km): ¬£9.80 - ¬£15
      • 10 to 20 min journey
    • 4 miles (~ 6.4 km): ¬£18 - ¬£24
      • 16 to 30 min journey
    • 6 miles (~ 9.7 km): ¬£31 - ¬£34
      • 28 to 40 min journey
    • From / to Heathrow Airport: ¬£49 - ¬£92
      • 30 to 60 min journey
  • Tariff 3: Monday to Friday (10 p.m. to 5 a.m.)
    • 1 mile (~ 1.6 km): ¬£7 - ¬£9.60
      • 6 to 13 min journey
    • 2 miles (~ 3.2 km): ¬£10.60 - ¬£15
      • 10 to 20 min journey
    • 4 miles (~ 6.4 km): ¬£18 - ¬£28
      • 16 to 30 min journey
    • 6 miles (~ 9.7 km): ¬£31 - ¬£34
      • 28 to 40 min journey
    • From / to Heathrow Airport: ¬£49 - ¬£92
      • 30 to 60 min journey

The handling charge is £3.20. There is no supplement for luggage.

Additional costs may be added depending on the booking method but also the place, time and day of the race:

Additional costs Rate
From Heathrow Airport £2.80
Christmas period (from 12/24 at 8 p.m. to 12/27 at 6 a.m.) £4
New Year period (from 12/31 at 8 p.m. to 01/02 at 6 a.m.) £4
Reservation by phone or on the internet £2

Black cabs - or London taxis - accept payments :

  • in species
  • by bank cards (no additional cost): Mastercard, Visa, American Express
  • in contactless payment

The tip is not compulsory, but it is customary to round up to the next pound (£).

Difference with mini cab

The mini cab is a more economical alternative to the black cab - or London taxi.

These unmarked taxis - run by private agencies and bearing the "Licensed operator" sticker - generally offer better rates and increasingly compete with London taxis traditional.

Unlike black cabs, they must be reserved in advance (on the internet, via mobile applications or by phone) and pricing is not done at counter, the price of the trip is estimated at the time of booking:

  • by phone
  • on the internet
  • via mobile applications Uber, Addison Lee, Ola, Bolt, etc.
  • on site, directly from the agencies

For the sake of economy, prefer booking a minicab to a black cab for scheduled trips such as shopping to and from an airport, train station, or for a visit outside London (Harry Potter Studio, castle Windsor, etc.) - the ride will be much cheaper!

For safety reasons, do not get into a mini cab (VTC) that accepts a ride without prior reservation.

Today, around 78,000 mini cabs (VTC) are in circulation in London.

Black cab design

The black cab - or London taxi - is easily recognizable by its iconic design: usually black in color and with retro curves, it sports the "Transport for London‚ÄĚ sticker and an illuminated yellow "TAXI‚ÄĚ sign on its roof.

It is spacious and comfortable, and has 5 seats: a three-seater bench and two folding seats facing each other - to accommodate up to 5 passengers (separated from the driver by a Plexiglass window).

It also features an impressive headroom * and a panoramic roof on the most recent models.

The black cabs are also known for their turning radius: legend has it that the most seasoned drivers are able to turn around a coin!

* Back then, a black cab had to be big enough to accommodate a passenger with a bowler hat: Hackney's must-have fashion accessory.

Black color of the black cab

At the end of WWII, life was expensive and London taxis therefore opted for the most affordable paint color for their vehicle: black - which has since become the brand of the famous London taxi.

Contrary to what the name "black cab" might suggest, the black cabs - or London taxis - are not required to display the color black, some are white, green, gray, burgundy - or fully or partially covered with stickers from an advertising partner.

Accessibility of the black cab

The black cab - or London taxi - has been designed to be accessible to people with reduced mobility.

Indeed, an intermediate step, large yellow support bars present on the inner edges of the doors and a seat that swivels from the inside to the outside of the taxi facilitates their installation.

Wide rear doors (opening 90¬į) and a PRM ramp also allows you to get in or out of a wheelchair in the greatest comfort and in all security.

An intercom allows easy communication with the taxi driver.

Assistance dogs are accepted there - at no extra charge.

It is also possible to get into a black cab with a stroller - without having to fold it!

Obtain the license to drive a black cab

The knowledge is the certification allowing to obtain the license to drive a black cab - or London taxi.

Candidates for certification must imperatively have a clean criminal record and know:

  • the various points of interest and tourist attractions in London.
  • the city map (more than 25,000 streets to memorize) - in particular being able to find the shortest route between 2 addresses in the English capital, within a perimeter of nearly 10 km around Charing Cross, without GPS!

This certification takes a relatively long time to obtain (allow 3 to 4 years of training) and only 50% of apprentice drivers pass the exam.

London taxis have been voted - for several years in a row - the best taxis in the world!