Uber, the ride sharing company, has been all over the news. While it was mostly good news in the beginning how it was changing public transportation, reducing the need for cars and making it easier, safer and cheaper to get a ride, more recently there has been a lot of bad news about their business practices, safety issues and complaints from drivers. I have been a fan of uber ever since they started, will tell you in today’s post why you should have the uber app on your phone and how to use it when you travel! In a later post I will talk about the pros and cons and what I think of some of the issues in the news!
Why uber: Let’s begin with why I’m a fan of uber: Uber got its start in San Francisco and if you lived in San Francisco, you know why: Taxis were about as popular as the IRS or the cable company: The cars were old and unsafe, often with worn out springs, not working seat belts and smells that you certainly didn’t want to know the origin of! I’ve encountered plenty of drivers that were unfriendly, drugged up to make it through a long day or plain unsafe. And if you thought the drivers were unfriendly, you sure didn’t enjoy the dispatch, who was worse and unreliable to boot. I’d use taxis every week to go to the airport on business trips for years and the taxis would be on time about 20% of the time, late 40% of the time and not show up at all 40% of the time, leaving me to call again or drive my own car to the airport and pay horrendous parking fees to still make my flight!
Enter uber and now you got friendly drivers in new cars, easy and reliable booking right from my phone, direct payment via credit card with an online receipt showing the route (discouraging “sight seeing tours” so popular with SF taxi drivers) and no hassle whether to tip (I often tipped taxis just because I was glad to be alive and out of the taxi!). On top of the better service, it’s cheaper than a taxi, if you can believe it! It’s no surprise to anybody in San Francisco (or any other city with equally dysfunctional taxi service) that taxi business is down drastically and most people with a smartphone have the uber app on it instead!
uber worldwide: And the same reasons for success have made uber a success around the world: the more dysfunctional/unsafe/unpleasant/expensive local taxi service was the more likely uber’s success would be. And trust me, taxi services around the world are one of the most unpleasant experiences you have, especially when you travel a lot. There are so many taxi scams that I regularly visit the site www.ihatetaxis.com (a recommended resource!) in preparation to visiting a new city and to avoid taxi scams at airports around the world!
Manila, the gateway to paradise and my new chosen home, is an equally good example: the local taxis are old, usually without seatbelts and often hardly roadworthy, drivers may refuse to drive you, if they don’t like your destination or will demand exorbitant fixed fees during rush hour (or rain or holidays or, you know, whatever reason they can come up with). Scams and even violence occur on a regular basis and the local administration has long lost control of the situation. Uber is a much safer, more comfortable and again cheaper alternative – so much so that I haven’t taken a taxi in months!
One of the best features of uber for me is that I don’t have to pay in cash, especially when I just arrived in a foreign city. Taxis often don’t want to accept credit cards because of the fees, even for high amounts, don’t even have credit card readers (like in the Philippines) or charge exorbitant fees (like in Singapore). Uber makes it easy, painless and safe by processing the payment for me!
So, if you feel the same about taxis in your home town or dread getting ripped off by a taxi in a foreign city, you should download the uber app and try it for yourself!
How uber works: Once you have downloaded the app for Android, iPhone, Windows Phone or others and signed up (here is the sign-up link, including a free ride) you’ll get an easy start screen, showing your location on a map, (simulated) uber cars nearby and the estimated time till one is able to pick you up. You can change the pick up location by moving around the map or (easier) by just typing the address into the “Pickup Location” field at the top. You can also change the type of car, for example a basic uberX or a more luxurious uberBlack.
Once you got that right, just tap “Set Pickup Location” and you’ll get to the confirmation screen. You can enter your destination, ask for a fare estimate, change the credit card for payment (for example for personal or business travel) and enter pickup details (ie “waiting in Hyatt Hotel Lobby”).
Once you confirm, a car and driver will be assigned and you get the name, type of car to look for and license plate, allowing you to spot the approaching car, and the estimated arrival time. You’ll see the car on the map, so you’ll know exactly where it is and when it arrives. You can also contact the driver, if there are any issues.
Once you are on your trip, you’ll have a chance to send an update to friends and family, so they know when you arrive at your destination! After you arrive, you’ll get a summary of your trip with the fare amount. You are encouraged to rate the driver – that’s an important feedback channel, as uber dismisses drivers that repeatedly get bad feedback. It’s a key feature to ensure the pleasant service – I’ve typically had very courteous drivers and even been offered candy, water or magazines for my ride, something I certainly have never had in a regular taxi! You’ll also get an email with a receipt and a map of your route to ensure that you were not “taken for a ride”, literally, and for your expense report or financial records.
So, as you can see it’s easy to use, well documented and I recommend it to have on your phone before your next trip. It’s one of the easiest way to take some of the anxiety out of that trip from the unfamiliar airport to the city and save some money in the process!
If you sign up via my referral link, you get a free ride (up to $15, depending on country) – and I get one, too. Thanks for your support and, no, I’m not hurt if you sign up without the link…. just have a safe and pleasant ride next time you take a trip from an unfamiliar airport and always travel safely!
Oh, you have heard about the problems with uber, their questionable business practices or complaints from drivers? I have, too, and will let you know my take on it in a future post, so come back to check on it later or sign-up for my news letter to stay updated!