London cabs win hands down

London Black CabI was in London last week and often ended up taking a black cab. The cabs are expensive – more expensive than the Tube (London’s subway, which in itself is �3!), and about 30-40% more expensive than a NYC cab, but that’s about the only downside.

Compared to New York City taxi cabs, these black cabs are better in every single way.

  • The cab drivers actually know where they are going. You tell them once what the address is and that’s it. In New York, if your address is not on the grid (x street, between y and z avenue), there is a huge possibility your driver won’t know where it is. Isn’t knowing the city part of the job??
  • You never need to repeat yourself. Ever. They didn’t once say “Er, did you say 37th street and Broadway?”. I told them once what the address was and the next time I spoke to them was when I got off. Amazing. NYC cab drivers apparently can’t remember an address for longer than 3 minutes.
  • They never talk on the phone and if they do, it is very quiet and very quick. Off all the cab drives only one driver got on his cell phone. And I could barely hear him over the engine noise and he was off the phone in about 20 seconds. They take their jobs seriously – like jobs. Not like vacations where they are doing you a favor by driving you while they talk. In NYC, almost 90% of my cab rides involve the driver being on his cell phone. And loudly. I’ve been privy to everything from lunch menus to home repairs. Ridiculous. And rude.
  • They are polite. They say please and thank you and have a good evening. Considering London cabs are so expensive, apparently it is the norm to just round up. So, after the first couple of days of tipping 20%, I adjusted to London norms and for a cab ride that was �7.60, I gave the guy �8 and felt cheap doing so. He was still gracious and polite.
  • The taxis are clean. They are comfortable and spotless. No grime, no left over tissues, nothing. In NYC, you feel like taking a shower after riding in some cabs. Some of them stink. Of course this could be a reflection on the taxi riding public in both cities too!
  • The taxi configuration is so much better. London cabs are spacious on the inside. And they seat 6! In New York, if your driver is tall and has pushed his seat back, forget it, you are going to be scrunched in with no leg room. And the maximum NYC passenger limit is 4.
  • Finally, London cabs have evolved from boring black and come in multiple colors including hot pink. NYC cabs are only yellow.

Apparently, the London cab drivers need to attend a two year plus training course called The Knowledge to learn the streets of London perfectly and in order to be allowed to become a cab driver. With another fare increase coming to NYC cabs, maybe passengers need to get something for the extra money. The list above seems like a good starting point!


19 thoughts on “London cabs win hands down”

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  2. neha says:

    The interesting thing is that most cabbies are open to having a conversation. If one just sets the ball rolling – one can have a conversation about anything – weather, food, Goa, India or the Tories. I remember once – I was so harried about missing a flight but the cabbie was calm – and asked me questions as we were pulling out of the street – “Love, do you have your passport, ticket and money?”

    Here’s a gift 🙂

  3. neha says:

    Yikes – for some reason the photo wouldn’t show up in the image – so here’s the link.

  4. Shripriya says:

    Thanks for the picture, Neha! Yeah, you’re right – I asked one guy about xmas shopping and we had a very informed conversation about prices in London versus New York.

    I think the key difference is that in London, being a cab driver is a job people really want and they have to work very hard to get it. In NYC it is the backup job – the job you don’t really want, but the only job you can get. Therein lies the difference.

  5. Udit says:

    According to

    http://news.bbc.co.uk/2/hi/science/nature/677202.stm

    and

    http://www.pslgroup.com/dg/38d66.htm

    “Taxi drivers given brain scans by scientists at University College London had a larger hippocampus – a part of the brain associated with navigation – compared with other people. ”

    Maybe the Hippocampus also houses the traits of verbal comprehension, hygiene and civility?

  6. Surya says:

    Nice post!
    Having fought with cab drivers in many other cities, I couldn’t agree more. If you tell them you are not familiar with the city, they even play the tour guide and point out landmarks etc. And my cabbie once even led me to believe that he was breaking all traffic rules just to get me to the airport in time for a flight that I was ridiculously late for – I am pretty sure he was just bluffing, but he definitely kept me from panicking thanks to his non stop ramble and even got me to the airport on time.

  7. MumbaiGirl says:

    As a Londoner I fume about public transport costs all the time and how expensive cabs are, but I agree with everything you say.

  8. sundeep says:

    love the bulleted list 🙂 Wish i could make it to London and NYC to see for myself. never been in an LA taxi, so can’t speak for ’em….

  9. indianoguy says:

    I agree, I haven’t used them much in London, but lot of times in Glasgow and Edinburgh. Apparently the cabs in Edinburgh are much better. One cab driver told me that it costs 50000 pounds and he earns close to 2000 pounds a month by just working 7-8 hours per day. One more thing I observed is lot of them are well travelled. Most of them have been to India at least once in their lifetime. Without exception every driver I have met has a great sense of humour.

    I certainly miss them, you would feel like royalty once you get inside.

  10. Smitha says:

    Nice post Shri!

    I agree with indianoguy! The cabs in Edi are much better. And man they sure know hwere they are headed to!

  11. Worrymon says:

    Just to let you know, as a resident of NYC and frequent user of taxis, it is illegal for taxi drivers to use their cell phones while they are working, hands-free device or not. They aren’t allowed to do it It’s also listed on your bill of rights (which is bolted to the back of the driver’s seat in any metered cab).

    In addition, please remember that tipping may be customary, but it is in no way required. You are the customer. If, in your mind, he doesn’t drive safely, is rude, talks on the phone, smells or in any way doesn’t live up to your expectations of a ride, then by all means, withhold the tip and let the cabbie know why! (also, let them know when they do a good job). Get out of the car, ask for your money back and say “I’m not tipping because you used your cell phone” or something like that.

  12. Shripriya says:

    @ Worrymom – Thanks for the advice. Yes, I’ve read the bill of rights, I just feel rude asking them to stop talking – after all, they shouldn’t be doing it in the first place, as you mention. But, I think the time has come to start demanding some service!

    Also, I have had a couple of great cab rides since my post – both in the newer SUV-type cabs that are more spacious and updated. The drivers were also courteous – greeted me and thanked me! I even took a picture of one because the driver had it set up with a GPS and his iPod dock. Very cool indeed.

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