How to Use Ridesharing Apps When You Travel

Woman ordering rideshare app on smartphone

  d3sign / Getty Images

Several years ago, you only had two options for moving around travel destinations: a taxi or public transportation. The proliferation of rideshare apps like Lyft and Uber has completely changed the way we move around urban environments and can be a godsend for travelers in strange places. If you’re planning on using rideshare apps to navigate a new city, a few tips and tricks will help you get you where you need to go on a friendly budget.

Lyft or Uber?

Lyft and Uber are the biggest names in ridesharing, but which one is the best? It depends on what you’re looking for.

Uber is more feature-rich and more established. It’s typically easier to get a quick pick up from Uber compared to Lyft due to their proliferation of drivers, but it’s easy to grab a ride from either in most U.S.-based destinations. Lyft’s advantage comes from its simple and transparent charge and receipt system that helps you easily keep track of expenses.

The only significant difference between the two big names is splitting fares. If you intend on frequently splitting the fare, Uber is your better option. Uber allows you to split the fare between passengers with one button. Lyft stopped its fare-splitting feature in 2018 but is working on an improved version.

If they operate in your destination city, both are good choices. Because prices and features are similar, you don’t lose much compared to the other. It depends on your personal preference. Try out both to see which you prefer.

How to Save Money on Rideshare Apps

Everyone wants to save money while traveling and saving on transportation costs could put a lot more money in your pocket. Knowing a few essential tips about rideshare apps could save you.

Avoid Surge Pricing

When demand goes up, prices go up. That’s the basics of economics and the basis for rideshare app pricing. When traffic increases and more people are looking for rides, you can expect higher prices across all rideshare apps. Surge pricing typically occurs during rush hour or before and after events like concerts or festivals. Avoid these times whenever possible, or you could be paying many times the standard fare rates.

Take Advantage of Carpooling Options

There are many types of ridesharing options include carpooling and group rates you can take advantage of. Uber offers UberPool, while Lyft offers shared rides in their Lyft Line feature. Shared or carpooling rates are always lower than standard rates, but you will have to share with a stranger and go to separate destinations. Who is picked up and dropped off first depends on location and the time the ride was requested. If the driver can’t find another pickup during a shared trip, you will still get the discounted rate.

Take Advantage of Promotions

If you’ve never used a rideshare app before, you can almost always get a discount on your first ride. There aren’t many hoops to jump through, download your app of choice, and you should instantly see a promotion. Rideshare apps also offer regular promotions and discounts, but you usually must opt-in to receive these emails.

Tips on Tipping

In the U.S., it’s normal to tip cab drivers, but what about for rideshare? When Uber first came out, tipping wasn’t an option, but now both Uber and Lyft offer tipping features. Like anything else, tipping depends on your service. If you felt like you got a good ride in a clean vehicle, it’s recommended to tip 10 to 20 percent. You are not obligated to tip, but keep in mind that rideshare drivers can rate you just like you can rate them. If you stiff several good drivers in a row and get a low rating, it might become difficult for you to hail a rideshare.

Rideshare in Other Countries

Rideshare services are now found across the world. Traditions, customs, and navigating different destinations across the globe all have their unique subtleties to rideshare, but are mainly the same—press a button, hail a ride. Currently, Uber is offered in 65 countries, while Lyft is only found in the U.S. and Canada. In Southeast Asia, Grab is an easy-to-use and popular alternative. Always research information on how to use rideshare in different countries, so you’re adequately prepared.

Other Ridesharing Apps

Some major American cities like Washington, D.C., Chicago, and New York City have smaller rideshare services like Via in the three mentioned cities and Juno in New York City. Many of these companies are just as good and mostly cheaper. They don’t cost anything to sign up for, and many have sign-up bonuses for first-time riders.

Staying Safe with Rideshare Apps

Not everything is rainbows and kittens regarding rideshares. There have been several instances of strangers claiming to be hailed drivers only to commit crimes on the unsuspecting passengers that jump into their vehicles. When you call a rideshare, you need to take advantage of all the necessary signals and signs that you’re safe and in the right car.

Rideshare apps will provide you the name and picture of your driver, type of vehicle, license plate, and sometimes a unique color for your ride. When your driver pulls up, verify their appearance, the matching license plate, and matching color before approaching.

Ask the driver their name to match on the app. Don’t ask "are you the driver" or "are you, so-and-so," ask them to give you their name. Also, ask the driver who they’re picking up. A legitimate driver will provide you with your name.

If you ever feel uncomfortable, don’t climb into someone’s vehicle.

Both Lyft and Uber provide emergency lines if something goes wrong during the ride, but if you are in an emergency, you should always call 911 first.