The difference between hackney carriages and private hire vehicles, how to check if you're in a licensed taxi, assistance for disabled passengers and lost property in taxi advice.

Difference between hackney carriage and private hire vehicles

There are 2 types of taxis known as hackney carriages and private hire.

  • You can get a hackney carriage from a taxi rank, or flag one down in the street.
  • You must pre-book private hire vehicles and you cannot flag them down in the street. It's illegal for a private hire vehicle to take a journey that wasn't pre-booked, or to accept a fare by being hailed.

How to check you're in a licensed taxi

Check the ID badge

Anyone driving a licensed vehicle must also be licensed as a driver by the council. Licensed drivers are issued with 2 identification badges by the council which display a photo of the driver, an identification number and an expiry date. Drivers must wear a badge and display another badge in the vehicle.

Hackney carriage vehicles

  • They're painted Bristol Blue.
  • They have an illuminated taxi sign on the roof.
  • They display white and red licence plates with black text on the front and back of the vehicle. The text has details of the vehicle and the expiry date.
  • Some are traditional London cabs and others are people carriers.
  • For journeys starting and ending inside the city boundary passengers should insist that the taxi meter is used and not a fixed price fare. This should avoid over charging.
  • For journeys starting inside the city boundary and ending outside, the fare can be negotiated between the passenger and driver or can be done on the taxi meter.

 Hackney Carriage Vehicle Plates

HCV white background

Private hire vehicles

  • They come in various colours (except Bristol Blue).
  • They display yellow and red licence plates with black text on the front and back of the vehicle. Licence plates have details of the vehicle and the expiry date.
  • They can only be booked through a licensed operator before you start the journey.
  • You should agree the fare for the journey when you book the vehicle to avoid over charging.
  • Private hire vehicles are not allowed to pick up passengers from ranks or be hailed in the street.

Private Hire Vehicle Plates

PHV white background

Taxi safety tips

Incidents involving taxis are extremely rare. If you're concerned about using taxis follow our tips.

  • Always use a licensed vehicle and driver.
  • Check the driver's badge. Make sure that the photograph is of the driver of the vehicle and the licence is current by checking the expiry date.
  • Check that the vehicle plates (inside and outside) are displayed and that they haven't expired.
  • When booking a taxi with a private hire operator ask for the vehicle make and registration and the driver's name. When the vehicle arrives, check these on the vehicle plates and the driver's badge.
  • Record the plate number or registration number of the vehicle, or use a camera phone to take a picture of the vehicle before you get in. Text the details or send the photo to a friend or family member.
  • If you don't feel safe ask to be let out in a well-lit area with people nearby.
  • Sit in the back of the taxi.

If you have any doubts do not get into the vehicle.

Disabled passengers

Hackney carriages with wheelchair access can be found at taxi ranks throughout Bristol.

If you want to travel door to door, or need a particular vehicle type for your journey, go to the list of owners/operators.

There's no extra fee for assistance dogs for the disabled or for carrying aids like wheelchairs.


If you want to complain about any licenced vehicle or driver, fill in the online complaints form.

Try to make a note of the driver's badge number and vehicle licence number. The driver should wear the badge and dispaly it in the vehicle. The vehicle licence number is on the licence plate on the front and back of the vehicle.

If you suspect that you're being overcharged and don't want to confront the driver, ask for a receipt at the end of the journey and report the matter to us. Drivers must give you a receipt if you ask for one.

Lost property

Private hire vehicle

If you've lost something in a private hire vehicle, contact the operator that you originally booked your journey with.

Hackney carriages

There is no central place for hackney carriage drivers to hand in lost property.

If you lost your property in a hackney carriage, check the following websites.

Taxi websites

Facebook: taxi lost and found: drivers regularly post to this group to try and find owners of lost property. 

General lost property websites

The police don't accept lost property under the value of £500, but might accept: 

  • phones
  • laptops
  • passports
  • driving licences
  • money over the value of £500