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Uber (and other ride-sharing companies, like Lyft), have changed the way we travel. I find that I am renting a car less and avoiding taxis when I have the opportunity to use Uber. In fact, we used it a lot on our recent trip to Europe. While most of us have used it in our home country, I wanted to share how to use Uber when traveling abroad, as well as some tips and tricks.
As many of you know, Uber has been aggressively expanding their services around the world. So much so that some places have seen protests from taxi operators and unions who feel threatened by their presence. While Uber counters that they are creating new jobs, many feel that the money is being extracted rather than invested back in their country.
While the politics of the service is complicated and controversial, I have to admit that it’s extremely useful when traveling abroad. In fact, when given the choice between using a local taxi or Uber, and I usually prefer to use Uber. The service is usually cheaper and I prefer not having to negotiate or exchange physical money with the driver.
That being said, using ride-sharing services in a foreign country can sometimes be a confusing, especially when getting a ride from the airport. Below are some tips to help you use the service when abroad.
Tips and Tricks
1. Research the airport pick-up information before your trip:
You will usually see specific airport information when you open the Uber app that should tell you where to get your pick-up. However, it doesn’t hurt to get information online in advance. I remember arriving at Bangkok Airport a few years ago and having a spotty network connection. I was struggling to find the pick-up spot and level, and couldn’t get any information online. Luckily, I was able to ask around and figure it out. Though in retrospect, I wish I had just checked out the Uber page for Bangkok ahead of time so I knew what to expect.
2. Send a photo of your location:
When your driver arrives, there can sometimes be confusion on the exact location of pick-up. This is especially the case if there are multiple levels at the airport. What I have done in the past is send a photo of my location to my driver. This is an easy way to share my location when I don’t speak the local language. The messaging feature in the Uber app allows you to send photos to your driver. If you’re struggling the communicate your location, don’t hesitate to use visual information to help guide your driver.
3. Review your pick-up location:
Speaking of pick-up locations, don’t assume that your current location is the exact pick-up location. In some places, Uber will request that you walk to a better location in order to meet your driver. We noticed this is Lisbon, where the Uber app usually requested that we meet our driver away from the busy roads.
4. Know your options:
Just because you’ve used Uber in your home country doesn’t mean that you’ve seen all of Uber’s service offerings. For example, in Bangkok, you can request UberMOTO, which is essentially an UberX-style motorcycle ride. It’s not the best choice when you’re carrying luggage from the airport. Though it’s definitely a unique option when getting around town.
5. Add a credit card to your profile:
While I usually use Apple Pay when using Uber and Lyft in the US, I noticed that the app required a credit card when using it in Europe, specifically in Portugal. As always, I recommend using a card that not only avoids any foreign transaction fees, but also one that rewards you with bonus points for using ride-sharing services, like the Chase Sapphire Reserve and Preferred card.
6. If you have a bag in the trunk, don’t exit the vehicle before your driver:
This tip applies to both ride-sharing and taxi rides. I’ve not personally had a driver steal my luggage, but I always suggest remaining vigilant of your security and belongings. If you have a bag in the trunk of the vehicle, I would suggest waiting for the driver to get out of the car before you do. I might be overly paranoid, but I think it’s good practice. It minimizes that chance of a driver leaving with your bags, whether it’s on purpose or by accident.
7. Be cautious of Lyft:
While Lyft is expanding internationally, they do have partnerships in some countries. I used the Lyft app when I was traveling in Thailand, and it basically matched me with a driver from a local ride-sharing service. Everything seemed to be working fine and I ended up getting a ride from my hotel. The trouble occurred when I got to my destination. The driver wanted me to pay, and explained that the payment was made through the app. I ended up sitting in the car for another 15 minutes while the driver made calls to the ride-sharing partner company to confirm the payment.
It looks like Lyft is trying to expand natively in countries now, so this might not be an issue anymore. However, be wary of any situations where you might be using another partner service from within the app.
8. Have a plan B:
While Uber and Lyft are awesome services, they are still new services and are not always allowed or accepted. For example, when we were in Barcelona, we noticed that Uber was shut down. We had to rely on taxis and the metro to get around. While it seems impossible to stop the ride-sharing trend from spreading, know that the service has been known to get shut down overnight, despite its impact on tourists and the local economy.
Do you have any tips for using ride-sharing services when traveling abroad? If so, please share them in the comment section below.
- “My Ride With UberMoto: Never Thought Bike Taxis Can be Fun & Safe” (The Quint)
- “Lyft is expanding beyond the U.S. as it battles Uber” (Los Angeles Times)