I’ve relied on Uber heavily since I’ve been abroad (“how would we survive here without Uber?” has been a constant refrain among my friends and I), and have noticed its absence in the places where it doesn’t exist, like Cambodia and Myanmar. It’s the easiest way to get from point A to point B, not only because of the fact that it’s on-demand, but also because completely removes the difficulty of trying to explain to a driver who doesn’t speak your language where you want to go, which can be damn near impossible. It’s also a lot safer than getting into a random cab, and you know for sure that you won’t get scammed by the fare… Which has happened to me more times than I’d like to admit.
But on a recent trip to Bali, my boyfriend and I had a straight-up terrifying ride share situation. an Uber to pick us up from Finn beach club after a pretty casual night out. We were headed back to our AirBnB around
When we were out one night in Canngu, we called (or texted? whatever you call it.) an Uber to pick us up from Finn beach club after a pretty casual night out. We were headed back to our AirBnB around midnight, when less than two minutes into the ride a group of men surrounded the car and started screaming and banging on the windows.
“GET THE FUCK OUT OF THE CAR” they yelled, along with some other stuff that I didn’t understand.
I had no idea what was going on, and was straight up terrified. The cab driver started pleading with them in Balinese, and I started cying. I was completely frozen, and legitimately thought they were going to rip us out of the car and try to kill us. My boyfriend, who speaks a little bit of Indonesian, sort of understood what was happening and remained completely calm while he tried to explain it to me. Finally, he convinced me to get out of the car (I really, really thought we were going to get shot), and once we were safely on the street corner and I had calmed down, one of the yelling men came over to explain what had happened.
Apparently, they were a group of cab drivers and the Uber had picked us up in a ‘No Uber’ zone, aka their turf. They told us that they were basically in an all-out war with the Uber drivers in the area, who were stealing their rides and making it impossible to make a living. What had happened was horrifying, but after hearing their side of the story I started to understand what the big deal was.
I’ve learned my fair share in the last few months about the benefits of taking Ubers versus cabs in cities outside of the US, and can say with 100% certainty that as a tourist and traveler Ubers are unequivocally the better choice. Nevertheless, here are a few super-important things you should know about taking ubers while traveling.
If You’re Taking An Uber
1. Make Sure You Know the City’s Uber Rules
When it’s an option, Uber is pretty much always the better choice. It’s safer, cheaper, and less likely to get you lost. But beware of situations like the one I found myself in in Bali, and make sure you aren’t doing anything against the rules.
2. If You’re Going To The Airport, Opt For An XL
The cars overseas are generally a lot smaller than what we’re used to in the US, and most of their trunks are pretty much non-existent. If you have anything larger than a backpack, splurge for the larger car.
3. Always, Always, Always Ask The Driver For Your Name
This should be a given in any city, but before you get into a stranger’s car, ask them who they’re picking up. If they don’t have your name, RUN.
If You’re Taking A Cab…
1. Quote The Fare Ahead Of Time
It’s a sad reality, but tourists are a really, really easy target for taxi scams. In Ho Chi Minh City last month, I was quoted a fare that was TEN TIMES (!!!) what it should have been, which I only knew because I had taken the same route earlier in the day (my mom was fully ready to fork over the $30)
2. Pull Up Your Destination On Google Maps
It’s a lot easier than trying to explain it to the driver, especially if there’s a language barrier. Show them the directions, and then follow along on the map while they’re driving so you can make sure you aren’t being taken in a weird direction for an inflated fare.
3. Check For Some Sort Of Official Markings
Cabs in foreign countries can be sketchy enough as it is. Don’t get into any sort of an unmarked car, and be wary of any cabs in big cities who don’t take credit cards. If you’re super paranoid, which I now am, it doesn’t hurt to take a picture of the license plate before you get in a cab and sending it to your mom/friend/boyfriend. This could be helpful if anything dangerous happens… Or if you accidentally leave your phone wedged between the back seat.