So you’re off to London? Good move – as you know we rate it one of the greatest cities on the planet to visit and as an exile of the parish I still love every minute I spend there.
Well, nearly every minute. I’m not going to pretend I enjoy waiting in line to get a taxi if there is no convenient public transport option, nor do I relish using the Tube during the rush hour.
Getting around London is generally a pleasure if you avoid peak travel times and know what you are doing. That’s easy for me to say, I know – having grown up with double-decker buses and Tube trains using them effectively is second nature.
It’s not as easy for a new arrival, and one situation I highly recommend that you avoid is coming into the city from one of its airports loaded with luggage and intending to use the bus or the Tube to reach your hotel. You’ll hate it and other passengers won’t appreciate your blocking the way with your Samsonite, either.
So what are the alternatives? The first that may spring to mind is the traditional “Black Cab” service. These taxis can be hailed on the street or taken from one of the many stops – such as outside stations. Everyone should take a black cab at least once as is a unique experience, but keep the distance short or you will end up paying a lot for the privilege. The meters charge for both distance and time taken, so being stuck in traffic will bump up the bill. Stick to short journeys between sightseeing spots and you’ll be fine.
Then there are mini-cabs. Almost as much of a London institution as the black taxi, the mini-cab is a cheaper way to travel but can only be ordered in advance, not hailed on the street. These are generally private cars and these days are far safer and more reliable than they were in the past, since they are also licensed. On the other hand, mini-cab drivers do not have to pass a gruelling test and know the streets like the back of their hand, their cars are often a little shabby and service is not always the top priority.
Uber is another option, but here too there are many of the same issues as with mini-cabs and with no licensing requirements or background checks on drivers safety can be a concern.
Step forward Blacklane – a limousine service offering the best of all the above.
Rides can be booked in advance at a fixed rate, so there are no nasty surprises. The cars are in tip-top condition and drivers take pride in their work, wearing a uniform and keeping their limos shiny and clean.
You don’t have to stand in line – you arrange a meeting point. A generous amount of waiting time is included; 15 minutes for regular pick-ups and an entire hour for those at the airport. Cancellation is free up to an hour before your scheduled departure time. Need more freedom? Hire the car by the hour! You will need to give at least 24 hours if cancelling an hourly hire, but that’s fair enough.
Blacklane has an app, too – so just like Uber you can book via your mobile phone.
Best of all, the fixed price shields you from the predatory ‘surge pricing’ employed by Uber whereby the cost of a journey can triple if demand is heavy – like during a rainstorm or directly after a major concert or sporting event. Having experienced this first hand after fog caused massive delays at Heathrow, I will not be using Uber again in such a situation…
The service works like this: customers can book via the website, iOS or Android app and select either the “Hourly” or “One Way” option. Next, they will need to enter a pickup and dropoff location. If the hourly option has been chosen the number of hours needs to be entered.
Then it’s time to choose the preferred vehicle class. Blacklane offers Business Class, Business Van/SUV and First Class. Any extra information for the driver can then be input: whether child seats are required, if extra luggage or a small pet is to be transported, whether additional stops are necessary etc.
If you specify a flight number Blacklane will use flight tracking to monitor whether the arrival is on time and inform the driver accordingly.
The customer then provides their contact details. Blacklane keeps all of this data private and credit card information is safely stored with a secure third-party.
Finally, after reviewing that all details are correct, the customer can enter a Voucher Code if they have one and the booking is thus finalized.
On the day of their journey, customers receive both a text message and an email with the driver’s details.
You can provide feedback by rating both your driver and your ride after your ride is over.
All of which explains why I choose Blacklane when visiting London and recommend that you do the same…