I’m always excited about sharing helpful tools for travel. I’ve written about using the sharing economy for family travel before, and the benefits it can have to travel. One of the tools we use often is Uber. We just love using Uber overseas whenever we travel.
Uber is not new, of course. It’s been around the United States for years. But as the company has grown, its reach has expanded. Uber is now in over 488 cities around the world. What this means for the traveler is that it’s now easier than ever to get around a new city.
Your transport options have widened, and as long as you have an internet connection and the app, you can essentially get to where ever you want to go. And for women especially, using Uber abroad can be a much safer option for local transportation.
This post was updated on November 30, 2019.
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Ethical considerations of using Uber overseas and at home
Before discussing ways to use Uber overseas, I do have to address the ethical issues of using Uber. Among the ride sharing apps out there, Uber certainly carries the most controversy.
Concerns about passenger safety AND driver safety abound. Additionally, the treatment of Uber drivers by the company itself is a big concern. A Lyft driver who used to work with Uber told me that the company would occasionally not pay him for his work, and then blame it on glitches in the system.
When traveling in the United States, I actually favor Lyft over Uber, mainly because of the aforementioned ethical concerns. And in Southeast Asian cities like Jakarta or Hanoi, we’ve used Grab, which is a Southeast Asian-based ride sharing app. However, in countries where there is no Lyft or other ride sharing apps besides Uber, then we’ll resort to using Uber.
As we’ve learned while trying to travel more ethically, sometimes you have to weigh the costs and benefits of using a tool.
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A convenient way to get around town
The benefits of using Uber, especially using Uber overseas, is the convenience. I’ve used it in Johannesburg, in South Africa, and when my family and I were in Delhi and Mumbai last summer.
While it’s certainly not the cheapest option, it’s certainly a convenient way to get around town, especially in places where public transportation may not be that great.
Of course, using Uber abroad is not without its drawbacks. There are still some challenges to using Uber overseas, particularly in another country. For those planning on using Uber on their international travels, here are my tips for using Uber overseas.
1. Have a good phone plan
The most important requirement to using Uber overseas is having internet connection. When you’re in your own country, this is a non-issue since most phone plans or SIM cards have data included. But in another country, that all goes out the window.
Before your trip, make sure your phone plan has the ability to access data overseas. We love using Google Fi international data SIM, which lets us tap into the local cellular networks wherever we travel. Depending on where we are, we’ll get either 3G or LTE, which works perfect for using the Uber app. If your phone takes SIM card, get a local one with data, so you can use the Uber app without paying for data roaming.
2. Use exact locations
When entering your pick-up or drop off points, make sure you use exact locations. This means waiting exactly where the pin is located, and entering the exact address of your destination. In an unfamiliar city, this will help ensure that you’re not waiting around for an extended length of time as your driver is trying to find you. It also ensures you and your driver are not driving around the neighborhood trying to find your destination because you didn’t put an exact location.
In Delhi, we made the mistake of not waiting at the exact location of the pin, and our driver spent an extra ten minutes trying to find us. And on a different occasion during that trip, we had put in the wrong address, and our driver refused to take us around to look for the place. Uber drivers rely on the GPS on their apps, and may sometimes be reprimanded for deviating from that route. So they’re often reluctant to drive around unnecessarily when they’re on the clock.
3. Don’t be afraid to call the driver
As a way to prevent unnecessary driving around when you’re using Uber overseas, don’t be afraid to call the driver. This can be especially helpful during pickups.
In countries where you may not speak the language, calling the driver may be a bit challenging. However, it’s still worth a try. Also, if you don’t have a local number, this is a more courteous gesture as that saves your driver the effort and money to call you.
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4. Bring along a car charger
This may seem like an out of the blue tip, but it makes perfect sense when you think about it. Using data to run the Uber app can be draining on your phone battery, and it’s even more so if you’re putting in a full day’s worth of sight-seeing.
Most drivers won’t mind if you ask them if you can charge your phone during the ride, especially if you have your own cord and charger. This also ensures that you’re not stranded somewhere in the city, trying to pull up the Uber app with 5% battery life left. In Johannesburg, I carried a car charger with me throughout the trip, and used it on many of the long cross-town Uber rides.
5. Take safety precautions
While I did say that using Uber abroad can be a safer transportation option, especially for women, it’s still wise to take some safety precautions during your ride. Before getting in the car, check that the license plate matches with what is listed. You should also check that the driver’s name matches what’s listed in your app.
If you’re riding alone, get in the back seat, preferably behind the driver. This makes it harder for the driver to reach you, and you can jump out if things feel unsafe. I’ve never actually had an instance where I felt unsafe during an Uber ride, but it’s good to be prepared.
6. Give yourself time
While Uber can certainly be more convenient than a taxi, it may not always be that much faster. Sometimes wait times can be 10 to 15 minutes long. Be sure to account for that in your daily activity planning.
It is possible to cancel a trip and rebook using a different driver who is much closer, but you need to make sure that you do this within the first five minutes of making your initial booking. Otherwise, you’ll get charged a fee.
7. Have a back-up plan when using Uber overseas
As in all travel, sometimes things don’t happen as planned. Several times in Johannesburg, I found myself in a place with no cellphone service. I had to walk a few blocks until I could get service back on my phone and use the Uber app. On another occasion, I foolishly took an Uber out to the Cradle of Humankind museum, only to realize it is over 30km OUTSIDE of Johannesburg!
This is all to say that it helps to always have a Plan B. In the case of my Cradle of Humankind museum visit, I offered my driver a couple of hundred Rands to wait for me (I know that this was way too much, but I felt so bad!), and he did.
And when we were in Delhi, after being dropped off in the wrong location, we took an auto to take us where we needed to go. It helps to bring along enough cash to cover a taxi that can take you back to your hotel or accommodation, in case you are absolutely unable to find an Uber.
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Using Uber overseas makes travel so much easier!
As I mentioned before, using Uber overseas is making it easier and more convenient for travelers around the world to get around new cities. While there are still certainly plenty of challenges to using Uber abroad, these tips will help you navigate those challenges with ease.
Like all other things in the sharing economy, Uber is slowly but surely changing the way we travel. It’s making the world smaller and more accessible for travelers.
Have you had experience using Uber on your travels? Share your tips in the comments below!
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Thanks for sharing! I have never considered using Uber when traveling internationally but it’s good to know it works in so many places and you’ve had good experiences!
Hi Elizabeth, thanks! I think as Uber gains popularity in different countries, it will be easier to use it internationally. The biggest thing is being able to access data while you’re traveling.