Review: A London Cab experience - in Cairo

Sunday 18 Sep 2011

Read a detailed rating of a London Cab experience in Cairo, Egypt (19670) after using their service for an airport pick-up

London Cab
London Cabs, Photo: Reuters

So, everyone has seen the ad for London cabs on the 6th of October Bridge as you’re getting into downtown. And everyone wonders about it, right? Of course, a small luxury, like taking a TX4 Black London cab in Cairo, is going to be costly; so don't be surprised and just enjoy.

In a very short sum: they are very punctual, somewhat organised, the car is unique, but the interior is a huge disappointment.

My natural expectation - considering I’m paying so much for a “British” experience - was that they must meet me on time. Checkmark!

I wanted to surprise my friend at the airport with a va-va-voom welcome. I arranged for the London cab to meet me directly at the airport and the driver was there 10 minutes ahead of schedule. His punctuality and upbeat attitude, even when he realised twice he had to go around the block because he missed the turns, earns him an almost perfect 9. Without having to do much consultation he seemed to know where we wanted to go, although the exact street escaped him.

And no, the driver does not sit on the right, like in England; the driver’s seat is on the left.

My basic organisational expectations were met: their hotline has a professional-sounding system and their customer service speaks basic English, but don’t ask them anything complicated because they seem to have a difficult time understanding much more than where to pick you up, at what time and where to drop you off.

The administration could have been slightly better: they didn’t give me the driver’s phone number until 15 minutes before arrival time, but in all fairness, when I contacted someone at the office they responded immediately with an SMS with the driver’s name and mobile number. London cab admin get a 7.5 there.

My wildest hope was that the interior would be even swankier than the exterior. The first impression when you see it is “wow.” It’s just so unique. From far away, each step you take is in happy anticipation to check out the interior. You feel like you’re going to step into something luxurious and fun.

Maybe it even has mini-bar with a complimentary brandy, you dream.

Keep dreaming.

The grey interior leaves much to be desired. Both the seats and the entire interior are bland and uninspiring. You step into a big, grey vacuum.  Two seats are at the back of the car, of a material that you would expect to find in the lowest-grade Chinese car. Their placement, far away from the chauffeur, makes it hard to communicate with him through the window that separates us. We did find a speakerphone button, which the driver failed to tell us existed.

Other fun buttons include a control for the air conditioning and speakers. This suggestion may be a tiny bit cheesy, but it would add to the experience to hear something more “English” (why not the Beatles?), instead of the usual Arabic pop music.

Although the seats are reasonably comfortable, they are not at all “cooshy.” Two more people fit in the car (a total of four), but the extra two have to sit on push-down seats, like at the cinema - only infinitely less comfortable. Firstly, the other two guests ride backwards; meaning they don’t face traffic. Secondly, the backs of the chairs are hard plastic. Although it might be more cost effective to fit as many people in the car, the fact is that two people will sit rather comfortably and the other two will be highly uncomfortable. And watch those bumps. The shock absorbers were very bad, forcing the chauffeur to drive consciously slow to avoid the jostle.

Again, though, the exterior was swank, no doubt, because often people on the street or in other cars would stare (more than usual). Twice it happened that for a split second I wondered what was wrong: why was everyone staring so hard inside our car? One second later I would suddenly remember that although the interior was dull and ordinary, the car’s exterior was definitely eye-catching.

Unfortunately, for a regular passenger, the score for the interior is a regular 4. The company simply completely failed in details where they could have excelled and really impressed the customer. Maybe they were trying to stay as true to a simple cab experience in London, but they don’t even match that experience. They could have gone all-out, then, if they weren’t going to match the true London cab experience 100 per cent.

A qualification to their harsh score of 4, though, is if I was a different client I would give them a big fat 8 for their interior. Why?

The big space between the backseat and the driver doesn’t simply make way for the two badly-planned extra chairs.

The car is wheelchair-friendly, equipped with a ramp and the space fits a passenger in their wheelchair. You simply lower the ramp, the client scoots in and doesn’t need to be carried out from their chair or anything of the sort. With the complete lack of wheelchair-accessible transport in Cairo, the London cab is one of the few options and it was a really dignified touch to make this a central part of the design of the cab in general. So, if I was in a wheelchair, I would definitely appreciate a London cab coming to pick me up.

To give an idea of the cost: The hotline tells you in advance how much the ride will cost and mine was a whopping 180 LE. But at least it’s all known up-front; there’s even a polite sign behind the driver’s seat that reads that the chauffeurs do NOT accept tips, so no one surprises you with hidden costs.

When I tried to pin down the customer service operator to tell me a general fare so I could calculate it in my own head in advance, she put up a fight. I asked her point-blank: “You mean to tell me you have no calculation that a client can make to even consider using your service before calling you? A client has to call every single time?” According to my memory she replied: “Korrect, mein frauhlein,” and gave an evil laugh.

A London Cab fare guesstimate = white cab ride x 3.

Every hour they wait around for you, stationary is an extra LE30.

A quick look at their Facebook page's newly uploaded pictures reveals a listing of their fares, however; making the customer service phone war for a calculator unnecessary.

Is it worth it? When I asked my guest what he thought of the experience after I verbally bashed the disappointing interior, he raised his eyebrows and his eyes looked off to the sky and to the side. It was obvious that he was replaying his steps in his mind as he got out of the airport and I led him to the black, shiny early 20th-century car that awaited him as if he were a movie star. His impression? “It was a really nice surprise: a very nice touch,” he said with a nod and sweet appreciation.

To make a reservation, call 19670

Note: I’ve read about people calling the service and being interrogated about their nationality because, reportedly, London Cabs only take Egyptians to and from the airport only and otherwise refuse to drive Egyptians around town, supposedly because the tourism ministry prohibited it. Personally, I went directly to the English language option, they didn’t ask me about my citizenship and, in any case, I met the qualification by doing a pick-up at the airport.


Short link: