1 Feb 2024

Taxi Etiquette

They’re super-convenient, an expensive indulgence for some, and a necessity late at night when alcohol consumption makes driving dangerous. We all take taxis at one time or another and we’re all aware that taking a taxi means interacting with the driver. Whether you choose a chatty interaction on your ride home or opt to tune out and commune silently with your phone, you will need to observe the social niceties at the beginning and end of the journey.

Whether you request a nearby taxi via an app or book a minicar in advance of your journey, try not to keep your driver waiting once he or she arrives.

If you are hailing a taxi from the street, wait until you see one with its light on, ie available for hire, then lift your arm and lean out from the pavement to get the driver’s attention. Tell the driver your destination before getting in – the driver might not be willing to take you there. At your destination, get out and pay the driver through the front window. The going rate for tipping is at least ten per cent.

We all know that London black cabdrivers pride themselves on “the knowledge”, a topographical test of their London know-how, which involves an impressive input of time and commitment. They know the streets of London like the back of their hand and are masters of their routes, so you can relax and let them take charge. In other cabs you cannot rely on the drivers to have a similar level of expertise, but you should still resist the urge to micro-manage the route: most taxi services now use GPS to determine the quickest way to your destination.

Keep the taxi tidy and leave no litter behind. Thank him or her when they drop you off at your destination and don’t slam the door when you get out. 

Many taxi apps now include the option to tip your driver, and will usually suggest an amount. It is fair to add a tip to your fare if you have had a positive experience. Similarly, leave your driver a good review if appropriate.

In-Taxi Etiquette

You should always be polite when you first get into a cab you should offer a polite greeting and a smile – no piling into the cab without any preliminary greetings and no brusque commands. Similarly at the end of the ride, wish the driver a good day/night and smile agreeably.

If you are in a cab where you’re sitting at the front next to the driver, it is probably advisable to indulge in some small talk. You are sitting close to each other, and it is strained and unnatural to conduct the whole journey in silence. Most cab drivers will initiate conversation in these circumstances; if they don’t, you can offer a remark (eg “Have you had a busy night?”) and see if they pick it up.

If you’re sitting in the back of a cab – and especially if there is a partition between you and the driver, you do not need to initiate conversation and you should follow the driver’s lead. Most taxi drivers will observe if you immediately get out your phone or appear to be self-contained and won’t start a conversation. But, if they pick up on the fact that your friendly and amenable, they might want to talk, and it is only polite to do so.

If they get it wrong and start speaking to you when you really don’t want to talk, try to convey that fact by answering politely, but in a way that closes the conversation down. If, for example the driver asks “Did you have a good night?” you can reply “Yes, thank you” (which doesn’t lead to further chat) or, for example, “Yes thanks – we’ve just been to the new Chinese restaurant in the High Street and it was absolutely delicious” (you are handing back new information, which is an invitation to continue the conversation).

If you are having a conversation, it is probably safest to stick to safe small talk topics: the weather, the traffic, general observations about the city you are passing through and so on. It is best to steer clear of politics, or to – for example – comment on news items that you hear on the driver’s radio. You really have no idea about your driver’s political beliefs, and you might encounter a point of view that you regard as indefensible – the last thing you want is an impassioned row on the cab ride home.

If you do encounter a driver who freely gives voice to views that you find intolerable, the best option is not to get into an argument, but simply to shut him down. So, say something repressive like: “I’m afraid I really don’t agree with you there, so let’s leave that topic well alone.”  This should effectively silence the driver, and you can reinforce your message by looking intently at your phone.

If you get into the back of cab with friends, the general assumption is that – unless you initiate contact or enlist the driver’s opinion – you will not engage with the driver. Most drivers will tend to stay discreetly silent when they have more than one passenger in the back of the cab.

DO

•Greet the driver politely at the beginning and end of the journey and say thank you when you get out.

•Follow the drivers’ lead and answer politely if the driver initiates contact.

•Keep conversation light-hearted and bland, avoiding contentious topics.

DON'T

•If you’re sitting next to the driver, don’t ignore him/her; accept that conversation is expected.

•If the conversation gets heated, don’t rise to the bait. Try and shut the conversation down.

• Never ignore the driver; if you don’t want to talk, give him/her closed answers, which don’t lead to further conversation.

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