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.

What is the difference between hackney carriage or private hire vehicles?

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

  • Hackney carriage vehicles can pick up from taxi ranks and can be flagged down in the street.
  • Private hire vehicles have to be pre-booked and cannot be flagged down in the street. It is illegal for a private hire vehicle to take a journey which has not been pre-booked or to accept a fare by being hailed.

How to check you are 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 two identification badges by the council which display a photo of the driver, an identification number and an expiry date. Drivers are required to wear a badge and display another badge in the vehicle.

Hackney carriage vehicles

  • Are painted Bristol Blue.
  • Have an illuminated taxi sign on the roof.
  • Display white and red licence plates with black printing on the front and back of the vehicle which display details of the vehicle and the expiry date.
  • Some are traditional London cabs and others are people carriers.
  • For journeys commencing and ending inside the city boundary passengers should insist that the taxi meter is used and not done by a fixed price fare, this should avoid over charging.
  • For journeys commencing 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

  • Come in various colours (except Bristol Blue)
  • Display yellow and red licence plates with black printing on the front and back of the vehicle. Licence plates give details of the vehicle and the expiry date.
  • Can only be booked through a licensed operator prior to the commencement of the journey.
  • The fare for the journey should be agreed at the time of booking 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. However if you are concerned about using taxis follow our tips to check everything is okay.

  • Always use a licensed vehicle and driver.
  • Check the drivers badge and make sure that the photograph is of the driver of the vehicle and the licence is current by looking at the expiry date.
  • Check that the vehicle plates inside and outside - are displayed and that they have not expired.
  • When booking a taxi with a private hire operator ask for the vehicle make, 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 take a picture of the vehicle before you get in. Then text the details or send the photo to a friend or family member.
  • If you do not 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.

However if you wish to travel door to door, or require a particular vehicle type for your journey a list of owners/operators is available.

There is no charge for assistance dogs for the disabled or for carrying aids like wheelchairs.


If you wish to complain about any licenced vehicle or driver please complete the  online complaints form.

Please try to make a note of the drivers badge number which should be worn by the driver and displayed in the vehicle and vehicle licence number which is displayed on a licence plate on the front and rear of the vehicle.

If you suspect that you are being overcharged and do not 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 requested.

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, you should check these 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