In the age of the sharing economy, ride sharing apps like Uber and Lyft have taken off in cities with limited public transportation or expensive taxis. They can cost less than half the price of a traditional cab, and they’re even considered safer in some countries.
It’s a matter of trust on both sides, as they assume you won’t steal their car, and you assume they won’t kidnap you, similar to AirBnB and Couchsurfing. And the concept of not carrying cash and paying from your phone is ideal.
But there are some safety concerns that travelers face. So whether you’re using these apps at home or abroad, we’re sharing a few easy safety tips that can make your journey better. All of these are assuming you’re riding alone.
Before You Get in the Car
Confirm that the car and license plate match the one on the app.
I’ve heard from someone I know that a car would drive up outside a crowded bar or restaurant and claim to be an Uber driver, only to have someone get in their car and be robbed. You also might get into the wrong car on accident, as I did recently at the airport. The same goes for the driver’s photo. Does the picture not match the person? Cancel the trip.
Take a picture of the car/license plate before you get in.
In case something happens, you’ll have a record or an image to send to someone to call for help. Also, have the phone number of local law enforcement saved in your phone.
See the reviews.
You have the option of rating the ride after your journey. So if someone gets low ratings, you know something must be off. It might just be that they are a reckless driver or get lost easily, but it’s better to know up front.
Use the “pool” option.
A newer option is the carpooling rideshare. This takes longer to get to your destination, but allows others to ride in the same car in the same direction. It means that another person will be there in case something goes awry.
Most travelers won’t have a need for pepper spray or anything more serious, but simple objects can help you defend yourself if you ever need to. A high-powered whistle or personal alarm can signal others, and your keys can be helpful to poke an attacker in the eye. Be sure not to drink too much before catching a ride as it can be difficult to defend yourself while under the influence.
>>Read about safety perks that are worth the splurge.
During Your Ride
Follow the journey on map in Google Maps offline mode.
If you, like me, have no sense of direction, you can set your Google Maps app to offline mode and still track where the car is going without using data. This is especially helpful when traveling overseas. If you see the dot moving away from where you’re trying to go, get out immediately.
Call a friend on the journey.
If your data plan will allow it, call someone while you’re in the car. You can mention that you’re in an Uber or Lyft and the type of car you’re traveling in. It might sound like an odd conversation, but again it helps tell someone where you are.
Set your destination near your real destination.
If you’re going home, you might not want a stranger knowing where you live. So if possible, find a nearby location, whether a bar or restaurant or nearby hotel lobby, that you can enter until the driver has gone.
I should point out that I’ve never had any serious problems with ridesharing apps, apart from some crazy drivers and one driver who started driving off while I was getting out of the car. I still recommend these services, especially for travelers. Try Lyft or Uber for yourself to decide.
How do you feel about ridesharing?
- Is Ridesharing Safe?, The Cato Institute
- 5 Ridesharing Safety Tips to Follow, Angie’s List
- Reported List of Incidents Involving Uber and Lyft, Who’s Driving You?
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