TRIP COACH

In London, what's the difference between a black cab and a minicab?

You ask, we respond.

Black cabs, which took over from the horse-powered hackney carriage, are the world's oldest taxi service. They are custom-built, diesel-powered cars with room for five passengers (and ample luggage). They can be hailed anywhere, any time they're available—just look for an illuminated amber "Taxi" light. You can also find them at stands outside Heathrow Airport (but not at Gatwick), railway stations, and the larger hotels. The computerized fare—displayed on a meter—depends on a variety of factors, including length of ride, time of day, and speed. So be warned: Prices can soar even for a round-the-block trip.

All fares start at £2.20 (about $3.50). There's a minimum airport-transfer fee of £45 ($69) and a £40 ($61) fine for throwing up (so take it easy on the pints at the pub). Cabs can be ordered over the phone or online for a roughly 10 percent surcharge. And only a handful accept credit cards (usually with a 10 percent to 15 percent fee tacked on to the meter total). A 10 percent tip is customary.

Minicabs are far cheaper, licensed sedans that have to be reserved; they can't be hailed in the street. But booking kiosks are everywhere—just look for tiny, wardrobe-like offices full of bored, chain-smoking men near the subway stations.

Minicab quality and price varies hugely: Not every outfit has drivers who know where they're going or is honest about how long it will take its drivers to arrive at the pickup point. But Addison Lee is a large, reliable company, and you can find additional listings at Taxi Number.

Most restaurants, pubs, and clubs can recommend a trustworthy local minicab company; a few will even call one for you. (Don't ever get into any of the freelance, unlicensed minicabs cruising the streets looking for business after the pubs close—those ones will either rip you off or end up getting lost.)

One final golden minicab rule: Always negotiate the fare price before getting into the car.

Note:This story was accurate when it was published. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.

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