“I don’t need a driver’s license, and my Uber driver needs a driver’s license.
Jaboukie Young-White

Uber Travel Tips

This blog was written before the COVID Pandemic. The COVID epidemics played havoc on the travel business. In 2022, Fifty Plus Nomad decided to focus on traveling and living in Mexico and language learning posts. We will only update these long-term travel-related posts on a time-permitting basis. We would appreciate your comments and updates on these posts.

Uber is a welcome transportation provider for many Fifty Plus Nomads; however, it is not perfect.

Fifty-Plus Nomads should take both Ubers and taxis. I take taxis from taxi stands if they are available. However, I do not take taxis from the street in an unknown city since I was express kidnapped in Puebla, Mexico.

Travel consumers will be better served in the long run if both options are available. Generally, Ubers are more efficient, safer, and cheaper than taxis. However, there are some times, particularly In the US, when so many people rely on Uber that I miss traditional taxi stands. In addition, I suspect that as Uber swallows up regular taxi competitors, Uber will get more expensive and provide increasingly worse service.

After a concert or a busy airport time in the US, finding a taxi relatively quickly at a stand was easy. Most taxi drivers knew they could find business after a concert or a flight, and they would show up a few minutes before the flight landed or a concert ended to pick up potential clients.

Today, everyone calls an Uber. Since Uber cars are unmarked, finding the vehicle and driver can be challenging because many Ubers arrive at the same place. In addition, if Uber’s algorithms decide to connect you with a driver who is far away from the airport or concert venue, you can wait for a long time. In addition, when Uber has a surge in demand at a particular time, the prices go up accordingly.

In contrast, when I was in Montreal in 2019, cab stands flourished at the airport and concert venues. As a result, finding a taxi was usually not too difficult, and the cost was less than an Uber.

I also like to use taxis at a stand whenever I go shopping, particularly for groceries. Uber drivers generally don’t help with groceries even if I offer a tip. At least in Merida, if I pay taxis more than the going rate, they go out of their way to pick me up and help take the groceries to and from the cab.

That said, I use Uber for about 80% of my trips in the US, Canada, and Mexico, and I suggest you do likewise if you don’t have a car.,

I also encourage you to check the Uber travel tips below to help you get the most out of your Uber experience.

In addition, I have put together a brief explanation of how Uber work just in case Uber is new to you.

What is Uber?

Uber is an alternative to taxis. After installing an app on your telephone, you can call a car to pick you up and take you to your destination. The vehicle and driver are freelancers. 

It is easy for anyone with a car and a clean driving record to become a driver. Generally, because the drivers are private contractors, the cost of Uber trips is 10-30% below a comparable taxi trip. 

Uber uses GPS (Global Positioning Systems) to: 

  • Tell the drivers where the customer is automatically (using GPS technology) and let them know (and, if necessary, change) where the driver will pick them up. 
  • Show the customer the name (and sometimes a photo) of the driver, the license number, and what type of car will pick them up (sometimes with a picture). 
  • Display the driver’s location in relation to the pick-up point in real-time. 
  • Provide an estimate of how long it will be before the driver arrives and how much the trip will cost. 
  • Allow the customer to enter the name or address of their destination. (Most businesses and landmarks are already in the Uber app, so you don’t need to enter their addresses). 
  • Show the customer the route the driver should take (considering the road and traffic conditions) to get the customer to their destination. 
  • Display where the driver is in relationship to the GPS recommended route once on the road. 
  • Let the customer know the trip’s costs and allow them to add a tip for the driver.  
  • Keep a record of the customer’s trips. Once the customer has done the same route a couple of times, they can program the same trip easily in the future. 

To use Uber, you should have a new (no more than five years old) cell phone (the app takes up a lot of space on older phones) and an unlimited data plan.

There are several similar apps available. However, I will limit this discussion only to Uber because I have never used their competitors. 

Since I do not have a car, I have used Uber over 300 times in the past two and a half to over 20 destinations in the US, Canada, and Mexico. I still use regular taxis for about 20% of all trips (for reasons you will see below). Here are some of the things that I have learned during this time: 

Advantages of Uber versus Traditional Taxis 

  • Since a computer algorithm determines the pricing, Uber is less likely to overcharge you than a taxi driver. 
  • Since the driver is supposed to follow the GPS-recommended route, it is unlikely that you will get lost. You won’t have to pay additional costs if the driver gets lost. 
  • You do not need cash. You can often use credit cards in traditional taxis as well. However, sometimes it can take time for the taxi driver to run the credit card charge, and not all taxis have the necessary equipment to process credit card payments. In Uber, the cost is automatically applied to your credit card. 
  • You have a lot more information at your fingertips than with traditional taxis. You know the driver’s name, car license number, type of car, etc. You also have a history of past trips taken. 

Disadvantages of Uber versus Traditional Taxis 

  • Uber will not always pick you up/drop you off where you are or want to go. Sometimes, the driver will call you to help arrange the pick-up point. Often, the driver will pick you up on the other side of the street from where you are standing. 
  • You may pay a fee if you or the driver cancels the trip. (Uber will charge you if the driver comes to the destination, waits for you, and then leaves if they cannot find you). Uber charged this fee several times because the driver could not see me. (Unlike taxis, Ubers are not marked). Sometimes it isn’t easy to know where the driver is supposed to meet you, especially if the driver is on the other side of a road with a lot of traffic. 
  • Ubers do not go everywhere and are not available in many small towns. I could not get them to pick me up at a friend’s house in a small suburb near Boston, called Nahant, on a peninsula because the drivers couldn’t easily find the address in the town.
  • Uber may not save money during peak hours, particularly in developed countries. Unlike taxis, Ubers have something called surge pricing. With surge pricing, the route’s cost increases whenever there is more demand than usual, particularly after a special event.
  • Uber has engendered a lot of problems with taxicab drivers. Traditional taxi drivers have a lot of investment in the business, including the cost of the license and the fees they must pay to the taxi companies. Taxi drivers often protest whenever Uber comes to town. These protests can be heated. The demonstrations were so heated in Cancun that Uber no longer operates in tourist areas.

Uber Travel Tips

  • One of the best benefits of Uber is that regular cabs have improved significantly. As a result, taxis are still often a viable alternative. I use Uber whenever there is no taxi stand at my pick-up point. I usually take taxis whenever there is a taxi stand nearby. (I also suspect that Uber will worsen if there is no competition from local cab companies). 
  • Uber may be great if you do not know where you are going. You can enter either the destination’s address or the name of your destination (make sure that it is the right hotel if the hotel is part of a chain), and the driver will take you there. I have had many problems finding the right place if a traditional taxi driver has not been to an address before and does not have a good GPS. 
  • If you know the route between your pick-up and destination well, the way may be different than expected. Uber chooses the route the driver follows based on the GPS’s information about road and traffic conditions. Once in a rare while, in Montreal, I noticed that the GPS course was not the best available. (Probably because the information in the GPS was out-of-date). 
  • Always double-check to make sure that you are going to the right destination. It is easy to select the wrong destination if you are not careful, especially if a business has several locations within the same city. It is also possible to accidentally select the wrong place. 
  • Be prepared to get into the car quickly after you call. While most Ubers arrive five to seven minutes after you place the order, occasionally, they come within a minute after the call. (On the other hand, if your pick-up point is in a rural, out-of-the-way place or during peak travel times, it can take up to twenty minutes).

Want Additional Advice About Using Uber Effectively?

Check out these useful tips from Business Insider.

Additional Long-Term Travel Tips from Fifty Plus Nomad

Paul Heller has been a lifelong avid traveler and language learner and teacher, Even as a child, he told Santa Claus that he wanted to visit all the children worldwide. At seven years old, Paul wanted to retire to Mexico. At eight, he memorized the name, capital, location, and some facts about every country worldwide. At twelve, he found a book "Lonely Planet: Southeast Asia on a Shoestring" and started developing his own itinerary for a future round-the-world trip. He remained obsessed with travel; after getting a Master’s Degree in Public Administration from the University of Southern California and working as an administrator, He spent his vacations going to different countries around the globe studying language, touring, and volunteering. In 1994, he quit his job and lived in Russia as a volunteer English instructor. He discovered that he loved teaching languages. In 2004, he decided to make a living out of his travels and founded a community of people who love to travel just like him. He developed 5 three-hour classes about living and traveling long-term worldwide which he taught in over 50 adult education programs throughout the US. After his parents passed, he realized his dream of traveling around the world; cruising and touring some of the most remote places like the North Atlantic, Patagonia, and Oceania; and learning new languages (he knows Spanish, Italian, French, and Russian). Paul encourages everyone to learn foreign languages. He knows that it can be frustrating and slow but that anyone can learn a language if they put in the work and, most importantly, learning a language is well worth the time and effort because it opens up a whole new set of people, ideas, and cultures. He is currently spending the next chapter of his life in Mérida, México. He is excited about using this blog and his classes and workshops to inspire and equip fellow Fifty Plus Nomads with the language, cultural, and psychological skills necessary to be successful and happy long-term travelers and expats over 50.

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