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TRADITION: Newly qualified London taxi drivers gift first fare to unsuspecting passengers

Updated: Jun 12, 2023


Image credit: LEVC

For decades newly qualified London taxi drivers have been taking part in a unique tradition where they gift their first fare to unsuspecting passengers, in the hope that it brings them good luck in their new profession.

The taxi industry may have evolved with more digital technology, but these traditions still remain.

The Knowledge of London (KoL) test has been an essential part of the taxi driver’s licensing process since the 1860s and is widely considered one of the most difficult examinations that an apprentice taxi driver must complete.


To be licensed by Transport for London (TfL), candidates must memorise thousands of streets, landmarks, and routes that exist within a six-mile radius of Charing Cross. In addition to spatial awareness, candidates must have knowledge of obscure places of interest, road layouts, one-way systems, and taxi ranks in London.

Across the industry, it is accepted that the process can take around three years to complete.


The ‘first fare’ tradition showcases the connection and appreciation that cabbies have towards their new chosen profession. Knowledge alone is not enough to make a great cabbie, qualities such as people skills, awareness, and pride in work all factor into the equation. While the tradition is seen as quaint and charming, it ultimately sets the tone for a successful career as a new cab driver in London, one of the greatest and most densely populated cities in the world.

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