London Black Cab Tours
Famous the world over, London black cabs are iconic symbols of our city, right alongside red telephone boxes and Big Ben. It is estimated that today there are over 22,000 black cabs operating in London and, despite the name, they don’t necessarily need to be painted black and you will see cabs of different colours throughout the city – even baby pink! But did you know that your taxi driver may also double as a tour guide? There are actually many London black tours available and we list a few of the top choices below.
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Black Cab Tours
Not only are these cabs an iconic part of London, they are also a great way to explore London as many drivers operate as tour guides as well. Many cab drivers offer guided tours of London from the luxury of the backseat of their taxi cabs. While the idea of your cab driving giving you a tour may sound a bit strange, you’ll find that the amount these men and women know about London is staggering, all thanks to their training process, known as The Knowledge.
The Knowledge is the in depth study of London streets, routes, and places that black cab drivers must have memorised before they are allowed to obtain a license. Initiated in 1865, the idea is that black cab drivers should be able to act immediately in deciding which routes to take, where to go in case of obstruction, and to be able to accommodate any request or question posed by their passengers. This involves becoming intimately involved with over 25,000 roads and 50,000 points of interest.
It’s widely regarded as the most demanding training course for cab drivers anywhere in the world and, on average, it takes around 34 months for a driver to learn all that is needed to pass the final exam. Part of the final exam involves sitting in an empty room and detailing a journey from a randomly selected point to another. The would-be driver needs to list the names of all roads used, junctions crossed, notable roundabouts, when to make turns, and to list which notable buildings are on either side of the road they are taking in their potential route.
This means that these cabbies know more than most (aside from our guides, of course!) about our capital city and a surprising amount of the history that comes with it. Some drivers have been exploring London from behind their wheels for decades and are more than happy to share their facts, tips and stories with you.
Which London Black Cab Tour is Best?
There are actually quite a few companies/guides to choose from when it comes to Black Cab Tours, and most of them have very similar names, so here is a guide that highlights the the cream of the crop!
Run by Michael Churchill, a native Londoner, London Black Taxi Tours is one of the highest rated black cab tours in town – as their TripAdvisor reviews will prove! A taxi driver for over 28 years, Michael is not only a licensed driver, but he is a licensed guide and member of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers (a fancy name for the official black cab guide organisation). Guests can choose from a full 4 hour in-depth tour or a whistle-stop 2 hour tour which both showcase all the highlights of London, with Michael behind the wheel and sharing his boundless knowledge!
Graham Greenglass, a licensed taxi driver as well as certified City of Westminster Tour Guide operates his own company: London Cab Tours. Tours start as short as 2 hours and can extend into full 6 hour all-day adventures! Standard London sight-seeing tours, or ghost stories and ‘Jack the Ripper’ Graham runs a wide range of authentic London tours. And, with a door-to-door service, guests can be collected and dropped off at any chosen destination, making it flexible and convenient no matter where you are staying.
Black Taxi Tours of London tout themselves as the best way to see our city, as tours are led by those who know it best: black cab drivers! The company offers guests the chance to choose their own itinerary from broad-range London highlights to specific niche tours showcasing things like films, Christmas lights, the Thames and – of course – Harry Potter! A proud recipient of the Trip Advisor Certificate of excellence from 2015, Black Taxi Tours of London is a superb company for seeing the London you want to.
Top Class Black Cab Tours separates itself from the back by offering black cab tours outside of London as well as within! With a wide list of specialty tours like the Beatles Tours, Rock n’ Roll Tour, and even a Murer Mystery Myth Tour, the company has a lot for guests to choose from! And in addition, tours to Windsor Castle, Oxford, Rochester, Stonehenge..etc. etc. are also on offer. All tours are led by qualified black cab taxi guides and visitors can also arrange round-trip airport drop offs through the company website.
Aside from Black Cab Tours – How Do Black Cabs Work?
How to Hail a Black Cab
Firstly, see that the orange ‘taxi’ sign is illuminated on top of the cab. This means that the cab is free for hire.
Although shouting ‘taxi’ is an acceptable way to hail a cab in other cities, it is actually against the law in the U.K! Here, you must stick your arm out when the taxi is approaching to let the driver know you wish to use their cab.
When the cab pulls up to the curb, go to the front window and tell the driver where you want to go. After the cabbie (colloquial term for the driver) has acknowledged what you’ve said, take your seat in the back.
Talk…or not! Black cab drivers are occasionally up for a good bit of chat and a conversation, but are also happy to let you sit in silence if you’d prefer.
Once you arrive at your destination your driver will tell you the total your journey’s cost. You can actually keep an eye on how much your journey is adding up to because the fare meters are displayed in the centre of the windshield where both driver and passenger can see.
Pay! Cash is best but some cabs are able to accept card now-a-days. Tipping is suggested/expected if you feel in the mood, but is not mandatory. Read our post on tips for tipping in London.
- Legally, London black cabs must be tall enough to accommodate a passenger wearing a bowler hat.
- Women taxi drivers account for only 1% of London taxi cab drivers.
- Most cabs have a turning circle of 25ft. This ensures they can navigate tight corners – as well as manage the tiny roundabout in front of the Savoy Hotel, which originally was the reason why this standard was set.
- Since most cabs are owned by the driver, you are technically entering a shop every time you get into a black cab. The cabs are run as independent businesses – worth remembering when it comes time to decide whether or not to tip!