Taxis

Londontaxi driving down Charles Street, Mayfair

When you see a taxi with its light on, i.e. available for hire, simply lift your arm and lean out from the pavement slightly to get the taxi driver's attention. Refrain from shouting 'Taxi' or waving frantically.

Tell the driver your destination through the front window before getting in the back. In London-style taxis men should allow women to get in first and take the banquette seat while they should take the fold-down seats if necessary. At your destination get out and pay the driver through the front window. The going rate for tipping is 10 per cent.

A gentleman should always ensure his date gets home safely. Hail a taxi for her or, if sharing a taxi, try and arrange for the lady to be dropped off at her destination first.

Black London taxis are a famous British institution. Since 1851 London taxi drivers have been required to know, intricately, the 25,000 or so streets and 1,400 landmarks of London and they should be able to tell you the shortest, fastest and cheapest way between two points.

The test that grills them on this is famously known as The Knowledge, and they must pass it before being granted a licence to drive a cab.

The Knowledge takes between two and four years to complete - normally by mastering the 320 routes prescribed in the Public Carriage Office's infamous Blue Book. Once these city runs have been learned, there are further suburban runs to study.

Although the British aren't generally keen on speaking to strangers, taxis are one place where you may find that conversations flow. In fact, the opinionated London taxi driver who bends your ear on every conceivable topic while you're pinned, captive like, in the back seat, is a national stereotype.

If this happens to you, you can always confine yourself to contributing the odd assenting murmur, and just let the monologue wash over you. Ostentatiously reading your paper or making calls on your mobile will stop the diatribe mid-flow but may cause offence.

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