The very first time I used Uber I was on my way to Venice Beach, squished between two random people in the back seat of a 4 door Mazda.
I had been staying at a Hostel in Hollywood where they did free shuttle trips to the beach in the morning, unfortunately for myself and 3 others, we signed up for the shuttle too late and missed the opportunity for a free ride. Instead, someone suggested getting an Uber to the beach!
I’d never used Uber before so I just chipped in for that ride, but eventually I ordered my own when I had to get to a Hotel in LA the next day.
On my ride, I had a lovely girl called Daisy who drove me and we chatted the whole way about life in LA compared to New Zealand. The overall ride only cost US$10 too!!
What is Uber?
It’s an app you download on your phone where you can request a ride!
It’s like a taxi service, but soo much cheaper and you’re riding in people’s cars instead of Taxi’s.
How did Uber start?
Back in 2008, two friends Travis Kalanick and Garrett Camp (founder of stumbleupon.com) were attending a LeWeb conference in Paris and started complaining to each other about how annoying it was trying to find a cab when they had so much luggage and no cab’s driving by or available to give them a ride!
This is when they started brainstorming about ways to try and find a car at the right place and the right time. An app was made by them where people could request premium black cars in a few selected metropolitan areas to take you where you wanted to go. This turned out to be a hit with everyone starting to use the app.
Now fast forward to 2010 where San Francisco joined in to host Uber and eventually become the headquarters for this multi billion dollar company.
How does it work?
Once you’ve downloaded the Uber app on to your Android, Windows or Apple smartphone, just signup with your credit card and name then you’re good to go!
A map will come up with your current area (make sure your phone’s GPS is on) and it will show lots of grey cars around your area.
These grey cars are Uber Drivers just waiting for someone to request them.
Drag the pin to set your ‘Pick Up Location’ (the place you want to be picked up from) then click ‘Request Pick Up’
This will send out a message to the nearest available Uber Driver to come and get you!
Once you’ve requested a ride, the driver’s name and number plate will come up on your phone so you know what car you’ll be looking out for.
What’s super handy is as the Uber Driver has their GPS on, you can track exactly where they are so you know how far away they’ll be.
Why do I have to put in my Credit Card/Debit Card details?
You have to do this because Uber doesn’t deal with cash or cards. There is no money exchanged between you and the driver. Once your ride is over, the price will be automatically deducted from your Credit Card and paid to the driver through Uber.
This is great for both parties as Uber drivers don’t have to deal with dickheads running from the car without paying and Riders don’t have to fumble over cash or wait in the car for longer than they have to.
Bonus – You won’t be charged pesky card fees either!
How do I know how much it will cost?
Before you ‘Request Pick Up’ click on ‘Fare Estimate’ on the app and it’ll give you an estimated price on how much your ride will be once you’ve typed in your destination.
Sometimes the fare will be a few $$ more than what is estimated depending on traffic.
As Uber works on a Supply & Demand type system, if there is not enough Uber drivers around and lots of people wanting a ride then the price will go up for rides and a ‘Surge Pricing’ notification will appear on your phone. You can either accept the higher fare or get the app to notify you when the Surge has ended.
So do I have to tip the driver?
Drivers keep 80% of the fare and the rest goes towards the Uber Company so you’re not obliged to tip.
However, if you thoroughly enjoyed your ride and thought your driver was BLOODY FANTASTIC and a great laugh then feel free to tip them, I’m sure they wouldn’t mind!
Is Uber safe to use?
Uber wants you to feel safe and use them over and over again so they’ve cleverly made a system where you Rate your overall experience with your driver. Drivers are highly reliant on good ratings – otherwise Uber gets rid of them. Likewise, drivers will rate the passenger after each ride as well; so other drivers can get a heads up about the type of people they’re driving around.
What’s the difference between all the Uber Car options at the bottom of the screen?
uberX – This sends an everyday car to your pick up point with seating for up to four people. This is Uber’s budget option.
uberXL – Seats at least 6 passengers. An UberXL car will be an SUV or a Minivan. Higher fare price than UberX
Taxi – This requests a taxi that has an agreement with Uber. These taxis are basically your normal local taxi, except that you can pay through the app.
Black Car – Oh la la this is Uber’s original service. Choosing Black Car will send a high-end sedan to your location, with seating for up to 4 people.
SUV – This will send an SUV to your location with seating for up to 6 people. This is significantly more expensive than the Black Car service.
Note that smaller countries like New Zealand don’t have all the above options as we don’t have many Black Cars or SUV’s available so we’ll generally just get the uberX, uberXL or Taxi options.
Do Uber drivers rock up in a 1993 Toyota Corolla with broken windows or do they have some regulations?
Uber have strict regulations for anyone that’s an uber driver.
In most cities, the car has to be a Year 2001 or newer. They have to have car insurance, legit number plates, current registration and pass the Uber Vehicle Inspection at selected Uber Inspection Stations. This is where they check your lights, brakes, windows, seats, doors and things like your horn, speedometer, bumpers, tires etc.
What are the drivers like?
My first driver was a girl who was on her way home from work and did ubering for a bit of extra cash. I’ve had a guy in Florida who was an actor (part-time) and just did a bit of Uber driving to make ends meet. You can meet some of the coolest people while taking an Uber.
However, not anyone can be an Uber driver. You have to be at least 21 years old, have a full license, a clean driving record, complete a criminal background check and have at least 3 years driving experience.
Regulations for becoming a Driver:
Where I live in New Zealand, Uber drivers have to go through quiteee the process to become a registered driver compared to other countries.
- Must have a Full NZ Drivers License
- Carry a P Endorsement License – This is a license to carry passengers for hire or reward (for example driving a Private Hire Vehicle / Shuttle). To get one of these you must have:
– held a current New Zealand Driver’s License for at least two years
– completed an approved P endorsement course (Costs $500)
– a Medical Certificate ($70)
– completed a Fit and Proper Persons Check (this is a Police Background check)
- Get a Passenger Service License which allows you to operate a commercial passenger service. You will either need one of these to operate your own service, or be employed by someone who holds one of these Licenses. To get one of these licenses, you must fill out a form and then complete a Certificate of Knowledge of law and practice exam.
Passenger Service License
Cost $470 for the license (including police vetting), $150 for the Certificate of knowledge of law and practice book and exam
Forms and testing time 3 hour test
Processing time 6-8 weeks. This is to complete the fit and proper persons check
- 21 years of age or older
- A valid California driver’s license
- At least three years of driving experience for partners 21 to 23 years of age
- At least one year of driving experience for partners 25 years of age or older
- A clean driving record and criminal history
- No DUI or Drug-related offenses
- No Criminal Record
- No history of reckless driving or fatal accidents
- Have held a full and current driver licence in an Australian state or territory or in New Zealand for a minimum period of 6 months
- Vehicle must be less than 9 years old (2007 model upwards)
- Criminal History Check
- Driving History Check
- No licence suspensions or extended demerit point periods’ (formerly called ‘conditional bonds’) in the past 3 years
Now that I’ve explained what Uber is all about and how it works, hopefully you’re tempted to try it out while you’re travelling!
I’m not saying there’s anything wrong with taking Taxis, just sometimes when you’re on a budget, watching that Taxi meter tick up and up while you’re waiting in traffic puts stress on your wallet. Plus like I said above, you can estimate on your phone how much your fare will be before you’ve even requested it.
It’s good to remember however that not all countries have Uber. It’s still a relatively new thing (New Zealand only got it a couple of years ago) and some countries don’t allow it because of legal restrictions. Uber often foregoes taxi licenses for many of its drivers so it causes some legal problems around the world; hence why in NZ you have to get a P Endorsement License before you can become a driver. It also threatens existing job-markets like Taxi companies and Car-Hire places.
Tips for using Uber:
- Make sure you’ve got a SIM card for the country you’re in, or are connected to Wi-Fi as you need the internet when ordering an Uber. (However you don’t need to be connected once you’ve requested a ride as the driver will still know where to go. It may just be difficult knowing when your Uber is arriving)
- Be specific about your pickup location. Getting picked up from somewhere like an airport can be difficult for a driver, luckily the Uber app provides specific instructions and allows you to choose where you’ll want to meet your driver.
- Call you driver if you’re in a busy spot. You can either call or text message your driver anonymously through the Uber Partner app so they can find you.
- Always make sure your driver gets out to help you with your luggage before you do. There’s nothing worse than a driver driving away with your stuff!
- Read your drivers mood. They’re all generally nice people and some are up for a great yarn. However, some prefer that you just keep quiet while they drive you to your destination.
- Confirm you driver is the right one. When you’re matched with a driver, you’ll see their name, license plate number, photo, and rating—so you know who’s picking you up ahead of time.
- To stay safe, wait inside your house or restaurant until your Uber arrives. Don’t hang out on the corner for anyone to come and pick you up.
- Take note of the drivers rating on the app. If they have 2 Stars, decline them and try and request a different one.
- If the driver is on route to pick you up and you cancel. You can be charged a cancellation fee. (Usually around $5)
- If your driver has arrived and has waited for you for several minutes, than they can cancel the ride and you’re changed a fee
- If you’re charged for something that you don’t believe is right. (Say you were in the correct location and you driver couldn’t find you and you believe it’s their fault) just contact Uber and they’re usually pretty happy to refund you the money.
What is UberEATS?
It’s another Uber app you download, enter your delivery address and get food delivered to you! This cool new Uber service is currently only available in America, Paris, Singapore and Sydney but I’m hoping it’ll come to New Zealand soon.
Let me know in the comments below about your experiences with Uber!
Credit: to http://www.uber.com for using pictures from their site on my page.