Over the years, I’ve taken only one or two taxi rides, but I’ve taken several rides with Uber and Lyft. These ride-sharing services have gained in popularity over taxis in recent years.
If you are not familiar with Uber and Lyft, this post will help you understand and learn how to use them.
How Ride-Sharing Works
Local drivers sign up to drive for Uber or Lyft – or often both. For many drivers it’s a way to make a little extra cash on a part time basis. Moms drive when their children are in school. Other people drive after they get off work from their regular job.
Drivers use their own vehicles. Passengers can rate the drivers, so if the car is dirty or the driver does a poor job, he or she will get a low rating. Pay attention to the ratings when booking a ride.
Using the Apps
In order to use Uber or Lyft, you need an email address and phone number. Although you can use either service through their mobile websites, I’d recommend installing the apps.
For either platform, once the account is set up and the app installed, calling a ride is easy. When you open the app, you are prompted to enter where you’d like to go. Uber asks, “Where to?” while Lyft says, “Enter destination.”
When the destination has been entered, you will be prompted to confirm your present location. The app then looks for a nearby driver, and when one is found, shows the cost of the ride. The ride needs to be paid for through the app before the driver will be sent to pick you up.
Uber or Lyft?
Which ride-sharing service should you use – Uber or Lyft? There are a couple factors that help decide which service to use. First of all, while Uber is available in many cities in Europe, at this time, Lyft is only available in the States.
If you plan to use a ride-sharing service in the States, it is wise to check prices for your ride on both services. I’ve often found that Lyft is cheaper, but that is not always the case.
Rural areas do not usually offer ride-sharing services on a consistent basis. However, rides can sometimes be scheduled in advance. (Urban area rides can also be scheduled ahead of time).
In addition, some cities do not allow ride-sharing services, or put restrictions on their use. Uber and Lyft temporarily pulled their drivers out of Austin, Texas, last year when the city instituted more regulations. When the new laws were retracted, the services returned.
Pros – Good Experiences
The majority of the rides I’ve taken with both Uber and Lyft have been great. The drivers have been friendly and helpful with directions. The cars have been clean. Most importantly, the drivers have been good drivers.
The price of an Uber or Lyft ride is usually less than that of a taxi and the price is known up front. Since the ride is prepaid, there are no worries about getting to your destination and the driver trying to charge more than you’ve expected. There is no problem with trying to understand how much money a foreign driver is asking for or trying to figure out how munch the amount is equivalent to in US dollars.
Calling a ride-sharing service is often easier than calling a taxi. To call a taxi, you need to ask a restaurant or hotel concierge, find a taxi stand, or wave one down while standing on the edge of the street. With Uber or Lyft, you just use the app.
Uber and Lyft drive 24 hours-a-day in large cities. This has been very helpful when I needed a ride after the public transportation had closed for the day. After a late dinner in Alexandria, Virginia, my family and I watched as the last Metro train back to Washington, DC, left the station – we just missed it. Lyft to the rescue!
If you enjoy alcohol with your meals, an Uber or Lyft driver can be your designated driver. That way, everyone is safe.
Cons – Poor Experiences
There have been only a few times when we have had trouble with the drivers. In a couple of cases, when calling an Uber in a foreign country, the drivers may not speak English. (This can also happen in American cities where there is a large immigrant population). Even though they don’t speak much English, the drivers can read maps, so they will get you to your destination.
On our recent visit to Miami, my daughter and I had our first bad driver. The driver spent most of his time talking on the phone. He was speeding up and slowing down and yelling at other drivers. The worst part was when he illegally drove for about a quarter mile along the shoulder of the road and then squeezed back into traffic. We were glad to get out of his car.
Even though we had a real problem with this driver, I’d still recommend using a ride-sharing service. Taxis, buses, and even friends or relatives can also be poor drivers at times.
If you have a problem with a driver, the app includes a method for reporting your experience. When another driver couldn’t find us, we tried to call to talk to him. He hung up the phone and reported us as no-shows. We incurred a $5.00 fee. We immediately reported the situation and were refunded the fee. (We later realized we were looking for him in the wrong area, but instead of him trying to help, he just hung up).
With our bad driver (above) we were also given a credit, although not for the entire ride. It was also noted in the app, not to pair us with the driver again. The company promised to look into his bad driving habits.
Using Uber and Lyft
Although my family and I have had a couple less than stellar experiences, overall the use of the ride-sharing services has been very good.
Several times, we were able to use a ride sharing service to rescue us from a difficult situation. On our late night Paris adventure, we were able to take an Uber when the trains were all shut down.
My airport shuttle experience in Las Vegas last year was slow and inconvenient. For just a couple dollars more, I can take an Uber or Lyft, so that is my plan when I go there for business this year.
Have you used Uber or Lyft? If not give it a try on your next trip.