Hailing a Cab – the British Way

New York cab driver and writer, Eugene Salomon, recently wrote an article formally recognising taxi hailing techniques and awarding points for style.  This is my basic introduction to British taxi hailing.

For effectiveness I’d suggest decisiveness and clarity: the driver has to see you, that’s the whole point.  Raise your hand with confidence when the driver can realistically see you, then reinforce your hail when the cab gets closer.  PLEASE stand somewhere sensible:  not at traffic lights, on zebras, zig zags, or in front of a bus in Oxford Street.  And don’t try to stop us on double red lines when you need to load freight (we only get two minutes before the Transport for London cameras swing in to action and we’re charged £130 for the resulting photo).   

Eugene suggests whistling, or standing in the road.  This might work in NYC, but I consider it un-British over here.  I wouldn’t normally respond to a whistle – unless it’s from a hotel official in a braided top hat – so keep that for the dog.  Standing in the road is not only dangerous, but it smacks of desperation.  I don’t want desperate “Euston Station in five minutes, Driver!”  I don’t like rushing, I don’t like stress.  

The arm-out hail is the accepted London hail, though foreign visitors make things interesting by bringing their own methods over.  The cute, underarm, hand-flex favoured by Asian tourists is my favourite, though on a dark, rainy night, the arm raise is more effective.  

Eugene describes a range of more sophisticated hails, including the Kissing Hail (see his Cabs are for Kissing blog for more). While the wrinkling of the nose hail might work under certain conditions, it’s frustrating when a business opportunity is missed by an ambiguous hail.  If we’re for hire and we see you clearly require our services, we’ll usually stop.

And don’t stop us in Tottenham Court Road (one way north) when you’re going south.  You spoil it for everyone.

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