28
Sep
15

Service Review: Uber

Uber is one of the latest methods of transportation that became available in Metro Manila and I recently became one of its newest patrons.  I was able to try this service both in Metro Manila (Philippines) and Los Angeles, California (USA), and here’s my review.

IMG_0217

I was reluctant at first to try services like Uber because I thought they were expensive.  Then BPI gave a promo code (first two rides free up to ₱500 each) for new users so I gave it a try.  Unfortunately, the code didn’t work so I got some random user’s code and got a ₱200 discount on my first ride.  For those who want to try Uber in the Philippines, use code uber_runningpinoy to get your first ride free (up to ₱200).  For Uber in other countries, I strongly suggest that you Google more appropriate promo codes in your area.

Use code uber_runningpinoy to get your first ride free (up to ₱200)

Signing up with Uber is pretty similar with how you sign up with social media sites, email, etc. but you would need to provide your credit card information.  I was a bit hesitant at first and would’ve preferred PayPal payment instead (which Uber Philippines doesn’t accept just yet) but due to necessity, I gave in.  And once my account was setup, I booked my first trip.  And over the course of my two weeks travel, booked three more (two in California and another one here in Manila).  Here’s a summary of my thoughts about Uber after four rides:

Pros:

  • Convenient.  All you need is your mobile phone and an internet connection and you can request a ride.  And you can specify where you want to be picked up and dropped off so it’s hassle-free for hard to reach places.

Just center that pin wherever you wanted to be picked up

  • Cashless.  Once your account is setup you don’t need to even have a cent with you to get a ride.  Saves you the trouble of bills and coins, particularly when traveling abroad and dealing with multiple currencies, and you don’t even have to worry about giving tips!  This cashless nature also adds a layer of safety for both passengers and drivers.
  • Automated fare computation.  All fares are computed by Uber itself so you can’t say that it’s rigged.  Fares are computed based on distance (based on actual route, computed via GPS) and total duration.  And since the computation is standard, you can let the app compute fare estimate of your journey.

By experience, my actual cost is cheaper than the lower end of the estimate, but traffic and Uber demand may greatly affect that

  • Transparency.  Your actual GPS route and total duration (start and end times) is reflected in your bill along with all the details you’d like to see and more!  If you see any discrepancy (e.g. erratic GPS routes leading to incorrect distance computation, etc.), left your things, or have questions, a channel is provided as well for your convenience.  I don’t think you’d ever get a more detailed receipt from any mode of transport!
Receipt

My actual Uber receipt (sections greyed out due to sensitivity)

  • Rating system.  If your driver’s name and rating is publicly shown, there’s a guarantee that they will provide you with a good service.  On the other hand, as a passenger, it is also your responsibility to provide a fair rating for your driver.  On three of four of my rides I gave a 5-star rating for excellent service with only one being a 4-star (no-half stars allowed).
  • Vehicles.  Vehicles being offered under Uber varies depending on location (from UberX by default to LUX) but one thing they have in common is that all of which are pretty much just a few years old so you’re guaranteed to have at least a decent ride.  You will be notified by Uber of what type of vehicle (maker and model) is picking you up, including its plate number and driver name once your request for a ride has been picked up.  The most interesting one I’ve had so far was a Toyota Prius because it’s a first time for me to ride a hybrid car.
  • Cost.  An Uber ride, believe it or not, may even be cheaper than a regular taxi!  They even round down the cents (in Metro Manila) to make the fare even slightly cheaper!
  • Split fare.  I’ve not tried this feature but apparently you can split your fare with up to three friends.  This I think is a great feature to encourage people to carpool and also to reduce your fare.

Cons:

  • Credit Card required.  Not sure if debits cards are accepted but cash is definitely not allowed as payment.  You can’t sign up for Uber without a credit card.
  • No running “meter.”  Unlike a taxi which shows you in real time your running costs, Uber does not have any visible “meter” whatsoever as you travel, not even in your phone app, and you have to wait for your ride to end and Uber to send in your receipt to know exactly how much it actually amounted to.  If you tend to be conscious about the rates during travel, I suggest you do a fare estimate first or do manual computation with the following rates (Metro Manila, in PHP, as of September, 2015, based on receipts):
    • Base Fare: ₱40.00
    • Duration: ₱2.00/minute
    • Distance: ₱5.697/kilometer (approximate)

    In Los Angeles, California area, the rates are as follows (in USD, as of September, 2015, based on receipts):

    • Base Fare: $1.00
    • Duration: $0.21/minute
    • Distance: $1.10/mile
    • Safe Rides Fee: $1.00

    Just make sure to note the time your trip started and tracked your route via GPS as you went along for distance covered.  (Tedious, but if you really wanted to, this is the manual way!)

  • Surge fares.  To my surprise, Uber’s rate could surge if demand is high.  This could occur in inclement weather or in such places as the airport (where I first encountered surge pricing).  Surge rates are multipliers to normal rates and they vary from time to time depending on demand, but they don’t include incidentals like toll fees.  You may still use the fare estimate tool to get an idea on how the surge rates may affect your actual fares and if you’re not in a hurry, wait for the surge to subside or ease a little.

Surge rates vary with the demand and supply in the area and you may let Uber advise you when the surge is over

Surge

My receipt with surge pricing; I waited a while before the surge rates have gone down enough for my budget 🙂

  • No advanced or scheduled booking.  You have to request a ride when you are just about ready to go near where you requested to be picked up as the closest Uber car may just be around the corner!  It would have been nice if you can pre-arrange a pickup ahead of time or have Uber defer your request by a few minutes, especially in areas that may have spotty internet coverage.
  • Internet connection is required.  To clarify, connection is only required for booking.  Once a driver picked up your request, he/she may be able to contact you directly via text or call.

Overall, I find Uber one of the best innovations in the transport industry.  I live in an area where taxis are not easy to come by and the highway where I could hail one is about a kilometer away from home!  In occasions when weather isn’t favorable or I’m carrying a lot of items, or even in emergencies, Uber is the most convenient way of getting a ride.  I love that I can request a ride anywhere and anytime even if I don’t have cash and I’m assured, to some extent, of my security.  It’s also kind of exciting what kind of vehicle will pick me up next!  For sure, I’ll pick the convenience of an Uber ride anytime over a taxi!

* * *

This is not a paid review and is based on my actual experiences of using Uber in Metro Manila and California.  For more information about the cities covered and how to drive for Uber, visit uber.com.  Uber is available for iOS, Android, and Windows Phone.


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