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After Midnight, Be Aware....
If you are in the West End after midnight, you won't be able to catch a train because few trains leave after midnight. There is night bus service, but it is sketchy. You'll have to attempt to catch a taxi.
My daughter Jill and I were attending a theatre at the West End seeing Jekell & Hyde; afterwards, we had a snack and listened to music in a small place that catered to up-and-coming bands. Before we knew it, midnight had come and gone. We started walking and saw a bus. We tried to "flag it down"; the bus stopped but would not pick us up because the driver was going back to check out for the night. So, we kept on walking, trying to catch a taxi.
I tell you, we walked through some pretty frightening neighborhoods.
At last, a Taxi stopped. The driver said, "What are you doing in this area; it's like being in Harlem in New York." He was very kind and "fatherly". We were so relieved to make it back to our hotel safely.
You need to know that licensed cabs must carry a "For Hire" sign that is lit up. You can find them at "ranks" (stands); you can hail them as we did; you can phone for them.
The licensed cabs have meters Surcharges are added for luggage, extra passengers, and off-hours (such as when we hailed the cab much after midnight). Fares should always be on display.
I have nothing but admiration for the London Taxi Drivers.
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There are lots of unlicenced mini cabs around London. They are the ones who will bib their horns at you as you walk along the street or will stop if they see you are looking for a Black Cab.
You should not use these "taxis" at all, they are not registered which means that you don't know whose car you are getting in to and nor does anybody else. This also mens that they have no valid insurance if they crash and you are hurt. Additionally they will charge you too much and many of them don't really know where they are going. They are manily only about at night.
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Take only official "black" cabs!
When I first arrived in London and attended our first study abroad orientation, the first thing my school administration warned us about was against riding in just ANY taxi cab in London.
Apparently just the week before, a girl coming home late from a club took an unofficial minicab and ended up being raped and murdered.
Note: TAKE AN OFFICIAL "BLACK" TAXI CAB. They are not always black because of the crazy advertisements that are plaguing all aspects of London life. They are quite distinctive looking, though they are plastered with advertisements. Make sure there's a meter in the cab and a little yellow sign atop it saying "Taxi" or "Cab" or something like that. Don't take a mini cab...for your own safety!
If you're coming home late from a pub or a club somewhere and are just too drunk to walk home...call a cab. It's safer. There are numbers for accredited cabs everywhere. Contact a local police station for the number for an accredited cab company.
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We learned to stand on the sidewalks with our hands out to flag down the taxis-and only the black ones with the flag up that it was free-and-when getting out of the plays late at night-they have alot of illegal taxis waiting -so be very careful choosing one-after Les Miserables-we walked down a little and stood in front of a firestation-and was able to flag down one then back to our hotel-cause it's almost 11pm when the shows get out.
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If you need to get a taxi on your own, always get a black cab. They're more expensive but worth the price to ensure your safety. Otherwise, only get minicabs directly from a cab office that you know - if you do this, try to let someone know what firm you have used.
There have been lots of reported attacks from mini cab drivers in the capital and I've certainly felt edgy about some of the drivers in the past. If you're on a budget and need to travel home alone at night, the night-buses are a safer option (if you can put up with the likelihood of someone vomitting on you!!)
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Mini cab vs Black Cabs
If you are travelling under two miles, licensed black cabs are the cheapest and safest option. (charge by meter)
Long journeys are much cheaper by licenced (or unlicenced mini cabs).
Licensed cabs cannot be flagged down in the street, and work on fixed fare. All bars and restaurants will have local company.
Get them to ring (or give you a number) , this is a common request, and ask price. Give them your name and they'll collect you.
Unlicenced cabs (Touts) should only be used as last resort.
a) never if you're vulnerable,
b) if you're on the street at night and cannot get anything else, sometimes you have to.
Always agree price before you get in cab, but like anywhere unless you know what the fair price is , you'll get ripped off by unlicensed cabs.
Beware of the magic tree.
There are about 50,000 minicabs in London, apparantly. The government are beginning to bring in regulations, but it is likely to remain the preserve of some very dodgy characters for some time to come.
Fares are cheaper than Black cabs at about 6 quid for a couple of miles and a couple of quid a mile thereafter. If you know a reputable firm & ring for them then it will probably be fine. If you are in a restaurant or similar there may well be adverts or cards available - or just ask.
The real dodgy geysers are those who hang around outside nightclubs in the small hours touting for business. In these situations you have got to be either really careful or preferably part of the front row of a rugby scrum.
Main tips to look out for dodgy minicab drivers :
1) Car in disgusting colour like turd brown or vomit green.
2) Car is over 10 years old (L reg and earlier)
3) More than one magic tree on the central mirror hiding a mixture of kebabs, B.O, the great smell of Brut and wet dogs.
4) The fiction that is the fare - no meters so it's all down to negotiation.
5) Do not let him take short cut on the pretence that he is learning 'the knowledge' to become a black cab driver -it's merely a ruse to extend the route and thus the fare.
6) Feel if the rear suspension is very slack - if it is he will have driven it hard over speed bumps to induce vomiting in his passengers and thus triple the fare.
For an insight into a minicab drivers lot watch the film "All or nothing" with Timothy Spall.
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Don't take unlicenced taxis
This is a tip for the girlie. If you out at night and need to get home by taxi then wait around for a black cab or take a bus (busses are very safe and can be fun). Don't take unlicences cabs, cars will probably stop if they see you waiting around but only take them if they are licenced (the driver will have a badge in the car.) Never accept a lift from someone who just walks up to you and then leads you through some sides streets to their car.
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Only use licenced taxis. These are easily recognisable - they are usually (but not always) black (and are often referred to as black cabs and they have an orange 'Taxi' light just above the windshield when they are available for hire. Licenced taxi drivers are registered with the police, they carry full insurance and inside the passenger compartment on a little plaque will be the driver's identification number. If you want to complain about the guy, write that number down.
Don't use unlicenced taxis unless you really are desperate. Under NO circumstances should a lone female use one of these guys to get home.
It's tempting because when clubs kick you out at 3am, there are often no licenced cabs around. Today (Dec 19th, 2000) the news ran a story about a girl who was raped by an unlicenced driver on the way home. And assaults and theft are not unheard of either. Be warned.
Unlicenced drivers are also un-insured, and it's technically a criminal office for you, the passenger, to even get in their vehicle in the first place!
If you really do have no alternative, make sure you agree the fare to wherever you're going before you get in.
Illegal taxi's are a major concern in London at the moment, especially for women travelling alone. These are actually not taxi's at all, but people who turn up outside clubs or bars, and tout for business. They call themselves taxi's, but they are unlicensed and illegal. There have been many instances of these drivers taking people to their destinations, and then demanding more money than was originally agreed. There have also been reports of sexual crimes against women who take these taxi's alone. My advice is to only take black cabs at night, as they are safe.
When you took a Black Cab, remember to have some small pounds notes like a 2 pound note, a 5 pound note, etc or even a few 1 pound coin. Reason being that I got ripped off by a cab driver because the meter show 26 pounds but he charge me 30 pounds because he says he has no change. Well if he has no change, then may sure you do have the exact fare to pay him.
Another thing is that make sure your luggage do not have breakable items. This cab driver throw my luggage into the cab cabin as if nothing breakable is inside.
Another thing is to make sure you have the map location of where you are going to. Because if he did not know, he will set the meter going and then take out his map to check the location before driving, while the meter is running...
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Beware of this scam at Heathrow
Two men were recently jailed (Dec 2003) for the following scam - but others may try it on.
One man approached people in the arrivals hall (how he got in there was not fully explained by the newspaper report I read), whoever it seemed likely had had a taxi booked for them. His most likely prey were fresh new language students from the far east.
After enquiring of their name and if they confirmed a taxi had been pre-booked he would quietly disappear.
He then passed on the name to his accomplice who wrote out one of those welcoming signs with the victims name on. He would then approach the victim before the real taxi driver realised his fare had been nabbed.
The victim would then be duly delivered - but with an extortionate fare (up to about 1500 pounds)
Beware of unlicensed cabs...
In the evenings or late nights in the streets of London central, after a fun nite of drinking, there will be tons of ppl on the street asking whether you wan a cab...
You can tell them where you wan to go and remember to ask them for a price... It is quite risky as they will 'overcharge' you when they think are a unwary customer...
For most times, if you are in london Zone 1... the cost should be ard 10pounds for the journey...
So be careful.. n play your cards right....
always, ALWAYS, take a BLACK CAB at nights. Women should nevet take a mini cab. A mini cab is basically an illegal taxi driver although some mini cabs are licensed, in which case it is usually ok. If you have to take a mini cab, make sure you always agree the fare BEFORE the journey. This will avoid a nasty argument/fight.
There are a number of unlicensed, and therefore illegal, taxi drivers around London. There will not be anything on the outside of the car indicating that it is a taxi. The driver may stop and offer you a lift if he sees you waiting at a bus stop or at the side of the road looking as if you are waiting for a taxi.
I have to admit there have been times when I have used these. It has normally been late at night, after the tubes have stopped and when it has been almost impossible to get a proper cab.
If you decide to use one exercise caution and I would advise girls on their own against using these services.
Of course, there is no meter so a fare is agreed up front which is negotiable. The drivers have not been through 'The Knowledge' so may need to be directed in unfamiliar areas.
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