In much of Latin America, taking a taxi isn’t usually the cheapest or the safest choice, even if it is the most convenient.
Let’s be honest, taking a taxi in Latin America isn’t even always convenient, especially when your driver flicks on the meter and goes for a joyride, taking twice as long and costing triple as much as it should.
Nor is it easy if you’re a Spanish beginner, and you have a communication barrier due to your well-meaning but poor pronunciation of the local language.
That taxis aren’t the safest mode of transportation is becoming more and more widely known, with the rise of express kidnappings in many of the bigger cities.
As a woman especially, alone in a cab, you’re at increased risk for sexual assault, and at the mercy of the driver.
Uber has revolutionized intracity travel in Latin America, especially for women.
It has done wonders for me, and my own independence that had felt stifled after leaving the relative perceived safety of Thailand for the “wild west” of Latin America – first Brazil and then Mexico.
Choose Uber Over a Taxi in Latin America Because of Safety
Drivers with Uber must register themselves and their vehicles, and both must be tested. When you order an Uber, you receive the name and photo of the person driving, and also the make and model and license plate of the car, so you can do a visual verification upon the car’s arrival.
Aside from personal security, cars working with Uber have been checked over to ensure their safety to the best of human ability, including the presence of required working seat belts – much more than you’ll get in most common cabs.
Finally, my favorite feature with Uber is the ability to send trip tracking to a friend (or spouse), who can track your travel in real time. If you don’t arrive when you’re supposed to, or the car makes an unexpected turn, the person tracking your trip can take next steps to ensure your safety (like calling you, or calling police).
Choose Uber Over a Taxi in Latin America Because of Cost
The Uber algorithm sets the fare, and gives you an estimate before you start the trip. There is no more awkward haggling, while you try to naively determine a fair fare, and could easily get screwed over if you aren’t familiar with the town or prices.
If a driver attempts to circumvent the established system by taking you on a lengthened, indirect route, you can later review the route. You can dispute the route with Uber (quite easily, two clicks) and receive at minimum a partial refund.
Also, because Uber draws from your credit card, there’s no opportunity for a driver to feign a lack of change in order to keep a big bill.
Choose Uber Over a Taxi in Latin America Because of Speed
Rather than taking their sweet time (if you’ve agreed upon a fare), or meandering along an indirect route (if you’ve agreed upon using the meter), most Uber drivers either use Uber navigation or Waze to determine the best route. It isn’t in a driver’s interest to take you on a lengthy ride, as you can later dispute it and get back your fare (as mentioned above).
Aside from the trip itself, you’ll also save time in not needing to haggle (also mentioned), and my most favorite feature of Uber – you’ll never need to hail a cab again. Instead of waving your arms, whistling, or waggling your hand on the side of a busy street trying to track down a cab, Uber automatically assigns you a nearby driver.
One of my biggest pet peeves was needing to get somewhere, hailing a cab, discussing with the driver about where I need to go, and then having him decline the ride either because he just doesn’t want to take it or because he wants to charge a rip-off fare that I won’t agree to. Uber does bye-bye to that bullshit.
Choose Uber Over a Taxi in Latin America Because of Ease
With Uber, you simply punch in your location and your destination, and wait for your assigned driver to pick you up. There’s no room for miscommunication (neither real nor faked), as you technically don’t need to communicate at all with your driver.
You don’t need to discuss the fare (no haggling!!) nor the destination, nor even hail the cab down, just order it, wait a few minutes, jump in and off you go.
Choose Uber Over a Taxi in Latin America Because of Pleasantness
This might be a bit hoity toity of me, but Uber cars are SO much nicer than any common cab I’ve been in, ANYWHERE in Latin America. Because Uber holds its drivers and their cars to a certain standard, you can rest assured you’ll be climbing into a clean, newer model vehicle.
Taxi drivers around the world aren’t exactly famed for their pleasant manners. Uber turns the tables on the stereotypical gruff and grumpy cabbie. Some of the nicest people I’ve met on my travels throughout this region have been Uber drivers. Because you rate your driver after your ride is finished, it is in every driver’s best interests to be fresh and polite.
Finally, Uber drivers offer extra perks that regular taxis would never. In Mexico City, most drivers offer you a bottle of water, and open the door for you. I’ve also been offered candies, snacks, and am usually questioned about my preference in radio channel and air conditioning strength.
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