When I visit a new city one of the first things I’m inclined to do is find a local pub where you can a glimpse into the local culture and vibe. It can help you to get an understanding of how people interact, friendliness of the locals and you’ll often get some great tips from the bartenders. Another, equally informative technique, depending on the city, is to hop in a cab and chat up your driver.
I’ve found that taxi drivers’ attitudes tend to be very indicative of the local culture and vibe. They are also typically extremely knowledgeable about the area; not just how to get from one to place to another but also what’s worthwhile and what the hotspots are in a new city. This kind of information is up-to-date and you’re not going to find it in a guidebook you picked up at the airport gift shop.
In London taxi drivers are required to complete ‘The Knowledge’ which about a year long process of testing to ensure that they know how to get around the city. Because of this level of training it is not proper etiquette to tell a London taxi driver which route to take to get to your destination. This attitude and politeness of London taxi drivers is fairly accurate in terms of a London resident, who tends to be a bit brusque but efficient. One peculiar aspect of taxis in London is that they will ask you for your destination before you get into the car and, if they don’t want to go to your destination, will sometimes tell you no and move on.
This training is required of licensed black cabs. London also has a large number of mini-cabs and gypsy cabs, which are effectively just random people trying to make some cash by picking up fares illegally. These are very common in the touristy and downtown areas, particularly in Picadilly Circus. Although cabs can be difficult to find late at night in these areas, if you’re a tourist or just visiting London it is not advisable to hop into one of these off-license cars.
Many people have, what I’d consider an accurate portrayal, an image of Bostonians as being fairly unhelpful while in a constant rush. The taxi drivers do, generally, also tend to fall into this stereotype. It is not uncommon to hop into a cab, tell the driver your destination and have them ask you how to get there. There is seemingly very little qualification in terms of knowledge of the city in order to be a driver in Boston.
Similar to the random structure of the city’s streets, taxi drivers are a bit all over the place and, like Bostonians, tend to be one of two extremes. They are extremely friendly and helpful or they are easily irritated by tourists and non-Bostonians. My favorite (or worst, depending on the view) experience was when a Boston taxi driver, who I had to provide directions to, stopped to refill the car’s tank with gas mid-route and proceeded to pick up a couple extra passengers while I waited in the back of the cab.
Las Vegas taxis
The taxi drivers in Las Vegas certainly have to deal with an eclectic, often extremely inebriated, clientele; this is exacerbated by the fact that it’s legal to bring alcoholic beverages into taxis in Las Vegas. However, in a city chock full of tourists the cab drivers tend to be extremely patient. They’ve already seen it all and you’re unlikely to surprise them. Because of the small space that most people are traveling between on the strip and downtown, many of them are very knowledgeable about what’s happening in the city.
Insider tip: When in Vegas be sure to be friendly to your taxi driver and pump them for information. This is your easiest way to get free passes to clubs (gentleman’s clubs and proper dance clubs). Often, if I’m interested in heading to a particular club it’s easiest to just hop into a cab at some point during the day to try to score passes, the cab fare is worth it just to get free passes and, in some cases, the option to skip entrance lines. Your best bet is to try late morning before they given away the majority of their passes for the day.
San Francisco taxis
A taxi can be a pain to find in San Francisco, depending on where you are. However, the recent introduction of private car services in the city has also made the competition much more fierce. If you’re only visiting the city it can be worth while to download the Apps to your phone and use one of these services rather than wasting time trying to hail a cab.
Uber has been around a for a bit and allows professional drivers the ability to make extra cash as an on-call driver service. They tend to have very nice vehicles, but are quite pricey. Lyft, while a newer service, allows a random group of people looking for some extra cash to operate as taxis at a much cheaper rate than Uber.