Sunday, September 9, 2012

London private cab services comparison - the good and the bad

London black cab services
Photo by fabbricuise

Both Londoners and visitors have long rely on the trusty London Underground to get around central London quickly. But unless you are familiar with the area, finding the nearest Tube station itself can prove tricky. At times, traveling by Tube is just not the most convenient - those with huge luggages or buggies with screaming children would agree.

Luckily, there is no shortage of private transport in London if you don't mind forking out a bit more. Here're are the three of them, each with their own little apps all available free of charge.

1. Uber

Uber app London Bluxury cab BservicesI wrote about Uber luxury cab (read for £15 off promotion code) service earlier. Offering the likes of Mercedes and BMWs, you are able request for a pickup within minutes if you are in central London.

It doesn't offer prior booking or cash payment - everything is done on a free phone app with your credit card details input upon registration. The app, which allows you to pinpoint exactly where you'd be waiting on a map has been very reliable, allowing you to track the driver in real time. The drivers have been turning up at the exact spots the couple of times I used it.

However, Uber is what you would use to impress your date, not something that you'd use on a daily basis. While its charges is comparable to a London black cab, it has a minimum fare of £14.

2. Addison Lee

Addison Lee London cab servicesAddison Lee, with its trademark black Ford Galaxy, currently dominates London private cab service and for good reason too. It's relatively reliable, offers a flat fare with cars operated by courteous drivers.

The downsides? Like Uber, there is a minimum fare (£11.80), making it more suited for mid to long distance journeys across London. Also like Uber, its drivers navigate through London using a sat-nav, which doesn't show up roadworks or offer alternate routes in traffic jams. I've been stuck in jams with Addison Lee but at least the fare were flat.

Besides, there is a larger wait time for Addison Lee cabs - generally between 20-30min, not something that you can rely on in an emergency. The biggest thorn, in my opinion, is that annoyance requires the precise address (postcodes) of the pickup spot and destination (its app while allowing for both cash and credit card booking, doesn't come with a map), rendering the service almost useless if you are trying to get picked up along a street.

3. Hailo

Hailo app London black cab servicesThis is the app that I'm keeping on the front page of my phone. Through this app, you can request for a London black cab. Armed with the Knowledge, London black cab drivers had to sit through a four year course for their license making sure they know the streets and shortcuts in London at the back of their hand and many with interesting stories to tell (read The London Cabbie: A Life's Knowledge). I was on a cab from Hackney to Angel (booked through Hailo) last weekend. The driver took a look at the traffic along Old Street and swerved into Hoxton's side streets and cut through all the jam within minutes.

When booked through Hailo, the London black cabs usually arriving within a couple of minutes (three is current record for me), you'd be pleased to hear that there's absolutely no hidden charges or credit card charges (you can use cash too) - you pay what is shown on the meter. Like Uber's app, it allows you to pinpoint exactly where you are and show you the license plate as well as the driver's photo for verification. Also, the minimum fare is £2.40, which is the flag down fare.

The only two downsides that I can think of is that the fare isn't capped. Also, once a cab has been booked, you can't cancel it after the first minute, else a charge of £5 will be levied on your credit card. But I guess that's only fair, isn't it?

Generally, the Tube and buses can get you around London pretty efficiently on a daily basis. But there are always times when you're in a rush and the last thing you need is to be packed in with the rest. What you want is something reliable, safe and affordable. The above three fit the bill rather well, I would say. Give them a go and tell me what you think, will you?

Have you used any of the above services? Which one is your favourite? Besides these three London private cab services, how else do you get around London when you're in a hurry?

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