No, minicabs aren’t tiny clown cars zipping through the streets of London bringing comic relief to the people. They’re private hire cars with drivers only available on a pre-booked basis.
In fact, only licensed taxis – you know, those iconic, boxy “black cabs” like you see in the movies – are legally allowed to pick up passengers on the street without a booking.
A minicab driver who picks up a customer without a booking is breaking the law. This includes minicabs lined up outside pubsand clubs.
Another major difference between minicabs and black cabs is that minicab drivers don’t have to complete “The Knowledge.”
The Knowledge is an in-depth study of pre-set street routes and places of interest in London that all black cab drivers are required to learn. The Knowledge is considered to be the world’s most demanding training course for cab drivers with many applicants requiring twelve or more attempts to pass its final examination.
Bearing all this in mind, if you know how to book minicabs and realize their limitations, they can provide convenience and economic relief for getting around London and take the hassles out of trips to and from rail stations and airports.
Because they’re often cheaper than a hailed black cab off the street, when you can plan ahead and know where you’re going, it pays to book a minicab. Or, if you’re out one the town and unsure of how to get to your next destination, having the contact details of a reliable car service can seem like a godsend.
Perhaps the greatest relief minicabs provide is easy access to the airports from Central London. Depending on where exactly you’re traveling from, to which airport you’re going to, and how many of you are riding together, it’s often cheaper or marginally more expensive to book a door-to-door minicab service than it is to take another mode of transportation. And if you’re traveling with more than one carry-on bag, it spares you a lot of trouble too.
There are lots and lots of minicab companies in and around London. The largest fleet by far is Addison Lee with more than 3000 “premium” Ford Galaxy people carriers zipping around town. And yes, “premium” means you’ll pay more for the service than you would with other local companies.
Don’t have a minicab number on you? Don’t panic. Most locals usually have the numbers for one or two trusted services (or even specific drivers) on their phone and are more than pleased to share when such an opportunity is presented. Many bars, restaurants, and other establishments have suggested services too – though they may be likely to book you with a more expensive service.
The Transport for London website has a “Findaride” search to help you find licensed minicab offices and other private hire operators by location, street or postcode. Using Findaride, Googling a bit or getting in touch with locals about minicabs before may save time and money for those arriving on flights to London.