London’s Unique Tradition: Newly qualified taxi drivers gift first fare to passengers
Updated: Jul 3
For decades, newly qualified London taxi drivers have been participating in a one-of-a-kind tradition. They gift their first fare to unsuspecting passengers, hoping it will bring them good luck in their new profession. This longstanding tradition has endured the test of time, despite the evolution of the taxi industry with digital technology.
The Knowledge of London (KoL) test has been a vital component of the taxi driver’s licensing process since the 1860s. Widely known as one of the most difficult exams, completing the KoL test is an essential requirement for any aspiring London taxi driver. Candidates are required to memorise thousands of streets, landmarks, and routes encompassing a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. They must also have knowledge of obscure places of interest, road layouts and one-way systems in London. Achieving this level of proficiency can take up to three years of dedication.
The ‘first fare’ tradition showcases the profound connection and appreciation that taxi drivers have for their chosen profession. Memorising the roads and routes of London is just the beginning. Being a great cabbie requires people skills, awareness, and pride in work. The tradition is quaint and charming and sets the tone for a successful career as a taxi driver in one of the world’s greatest and densely populated cities.
The new cabbies often target unsuspecting passengers who are rightly amazed at the generous gesture. It is a heartwarming experience for everyone involved, providing a positive and memorable start to the career of the newly licensed drivers.