Advantages Safest from of travel
Disadvantages they are often very busy
Black Taxis or Hackney Carriages as they are known within the trade, are the safest form of transport around London. When one has the "For Hire" sign lit up, flag it down and wait for it to stop. If it is an older vehicle, check that it has a licence plate from the Metropolitan Police on the back, as the old ones are often sold off, and the lights cannot be removed. If it looks ok, hop in. Feel free to check the identity card of the driver, they won't mind. Tell them your destination and enjoy your trip, feel free to ask the driver to point out places of interest as you go. At the other end, be sure to thank the driver, pay the fare without complaining (after all the meter is on plain view) and tips never go amiss.
The driver is allowed to refuse the fare if they have a good reason (eg drunkeness, abuse by passengers, too many people for the vehicle), but if you flag them down they MUST stop. If a journey is over 6 miles the driver is entitled to refuse the fare, but it is unlikely. You are allowed to haggle over a fare, but this is up to the driver. If a lower fare is agreed, the meter should still be running. Law also still allows the driver to use the back wheels as a public toilet, but again, this is highly unlikely.
London Black Taxi drivers are proud of their profession, it is not something that is done lightly. They even have their own Guild: The Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers.
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