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While they’re not always the cheapest way to get around, taxi cabs in some places are still the only way to get around. And they’re a great means of getting to know a destination—a good chat with the driver, the choice of car, its technology or a cab’s unexpected exterior or interior can tell you a lot about a culture. But some of the world’s most interesting taxi cabs have their heydays well behind them and with the advent of ride sharing are being phased out at a rapid rate. Here are 8 of our favorite taxis from around the world, and reasons why you should hail one sooner rather than later.

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London Hackney Cabs

London Hackney Cabs

1. London’s Black Cabs

London’s famous black cabs, or hackney carriages, are as much a symbol of London as the ornate red phone booth. But much like the phone booth, these cabs are disappearing fast, thanks in part to the success of Uber. The design of the famous boxy Fairway cars—first introduced by car company Austin in 1958—hasn’t changed much over the years, so despite modernized mechanics (a new fleet of electric TX5’s is in the works) you’ll still get that authentic London experience. The true value here, though, is the extremely knowledgeable drivers who must undergo The Knowledge, the most rigorous licensing exam in the world: Applicants are tested on the city’s 25,000 streets and more than 20,000 landmarks, which can take up to four years to learn. You won’t get that with Uber.


Photo courtesy of nuTonomy

2. Singapore’s Driverless Taxis

Rude cab drivers and taxis emanating strange deli smells could become a thing of the past. By now, we’ve all heard about Google’s very futuristic–sounding driverless cars. Well, the same concept is being explored in Singapore, as a taxi service, where cabs are hailed via a smartphone app. The nuTonomy driverless taxi cab is currently undergoing a limited public trial, with hopes of launching a 100-strong fleet of the Mitsubishi i-MiEv electric vehicles by 2018. Unfortunately, one vehicle has already been involved in a minor crash, so let’s hope the rest of the test goes well so these cool cars don’t disappear before they’ve been given a chance at a full run.

Inside a Bombay premier Padmini

Inside a Bombay Premier Padmini | Flickr CC: Reuben Strayer

3. Mumbai’s Premier Padminis

These Indian taxis are often as adorable inside as they are outside, thanks to cabbies’ sharp decorating skills that often incorporate bright fabrics, flower garlands or strings of beads. But they’re fading from Mumbai‘s streets fast. The classic black-and-yellow sedan known as the Premier Padmini (meaning “she who sits on the lotus”) was made in India from 1973 to 1998 under license from Fiat. But new environmental regulations enacted in 2013 bar any vehicle more than 20 years old, which means the last of Premier Padminis could get parked soon.

Munich Mercedes taxi

A Munich Mercedes taxi | Flickr CC: Karlis Dambrans

4. Munich’s Mercedes Taxis

Stateside, people tend to think of Mercedes as a luxury brand, but the company’s home country of Germany puts the cars to work in the form of dump trucks, buses, work vans and, yes, even taxis. The iconic ivory-colored Mercedes sedans—most of them E-class—make up about 60% of cabs in Germany, but since 2000 the portion of Mercedes making up new taxi sales has dropped from 70% to 50%.  And this time, Uber is not to blame (the rideshare service has struggled in Germany). Instead, cab drivers have started to shun the Mercedes vehicles, citing declining quality that has required frequent, expensive repairs.

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Mexico City Volkswagen beetle

Mexico City Volkswagen Beetle | Flickr CC: cerulean5000

5. Mexico City’s Volkswagen Beetle

You may have already missed the boat on this one. In 2012, officials announced that the last old-school, Volkswagen Beetle taxis would have their licenses expire by the end of that year. While the iconic green-and-white cars were notorious for being cramped and uncomfortable, they were no doubt a major part of Mexico City‘s cultural fabric. The Slug Bug, known South of the Border as the Vocho, made up almost half of all taxis in Mexico City back in 2006, but now they’re just novel relics you might occasionally spot under the care of a collector. With a fleet once 50,000 strong, the last of the vochos was manufactured in 2003 in the world’s very last Beetle assembly plant in Puebla, Mexico. So it’s adios to the vocho.

Vintage American cars serving as taxis in Havana

Vintage American cars serving as taxis in Havana

6. Havana’s 1950s American Cars

Nothing—not even Castro himself—is more symbolic of Cuba than the nation’s beautiful vintage cars. In various states of preservation—from jalopy to mint—these pre-Revolution relics make up a good portion of Havana‘s privately-operated taxis, which means you can easily ride in one. But what puts these beloved cars in danger is the recent loosening of the five-decade-old US trade embargo, which historically prohibited the sale and import of American cars and other goods. If trade opens up further and new cars become more accessible, the constant repairs and search for rare parts these old cars require might not seem quite as worthwhile anymore.

Japanese taxi driver

Japanese taxi driver | Flickr CC: karendesuyo

7. Japan’s Polite Taxis

Sometimes it’s not so much the car as it is the driver that makes your taxi ride one to remember. In Japan, taxi drivers take service and courtesy very seriously—and they dress accordingly: It’s not uncommon to see your driver wearing a suit, tie, cap and white gloves. They may even be sporting a surgical mask, which is considered a “polite” gesture in Japan, to keep germs from spreading. But the cars they drive are no less service-oriented: Most feature self opening doors (we dare you not to accidentally say thank you).

An old Checker Taxi New York

An old Checker Taxi in New York

8. New York’s Checker Marathon

No other cab is quite as emblematic of a city as the Checker Marathon is of New York. You know the car: Those bright yellow, bulbous taxi cabs that always vaguely resembled ’57 Chevys because Checker Motors, which manufactured the cars in Kalamazoo, Michigan from 1961 until 1982, hardly changed its design over the years. And though these famed beauties haven’t cruised the streets of New York as taxis since 1999, you can still ride on one. The Checker Marathon is part of the shuttle fleet at both the Henry Norman Hotel and The Box Hotel, both in Greenpoint, Brooklyn. Of course, you can also revisit them in old New York-set TV shows and movies like De Niro’s Taxi Driver, A Bronx Tale, The Jazz Singer or Mission Impossible, to name a few.

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Martina Sheehan

Martina Sheehan

Martina is a Chicago-based travel writer and editor who has written for the New York Times, Conde Nast Traveler, Budget Travel, Forbes Travel Guides, and Time Out Chicago, among other publications. You can find her at

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