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The Knowledge in London

Drivers of London’s famous black cabs have a solid reputation for getting their customers to the correct location by the shortest route. This is no bluff: to become a black cab driver, the required badge(s) must be earned by passing a test known as The Knowledge.

This spectacularly elaborate course, taken entirely at the potential driver’s expense, normally takes between 3-5 years to complete.

Applicants have to be 21 and apply to the Public Carriage Office (PCO) to see if they are eligible. If they want to be licensed to drive in all of London, they study for a Green Badge; a Yellow Badge covers the outer suburbs.

Candidates for the Green Badge must study a blue book of 320 different routes through central London. While visiting London, chances are that at some point you’ll see chaps cruising around on scooters, a clipboard and paper attached to their handlebars; these are potential cabbies trying to learn the streets.

Once they’ve learned the first 80 routes, they have a written test at the PCO. The remaining 240 are tested by way of interview with an examiner. In addition to street names and directions, they must memorize the locations of related hotels, transport stations, major offices and tourist attractions.

Once they’ve gotten through the central London routes, they will either start learning the suburban ones, or proceed straight to a taxi driving test in the city. If they pass this, they must take yet another comprehensive written and map test.

Black cab drivers in London can make a very decent living, but the work requires amazing dedication and untold hours of study. If you’re looking fro a mobile concierge who quite possibly knows more about on-the-ground travel in London than any other human beings alive, treat yourself to at least one black cab ride while in the city.