We just used Uber a couple of times in Lima – between Miraflores and the Parque de las Layendas (zoo park). It was far cheaper than the other transportation we’d used, and the drivers were friendlier. The first driver was a university student, who drove part time and was trying to learn English, and very happy to practice with us. The second wasn’t as fluent in English, but offered chocolates to the girls!
Recommendation for Lima, Peru: Uber all the way
Uber is actually banned in Rio de Janeiro, but there are (or were) some drivers there. Less expensive and friendlier than the alternatives. Also since we don’t speak Portuguese the ability to enter a destination in the app was extremely useful! We went from Laranjeiras to and from Sugar Loaf mountain.
We had two experiences in Brazil which really highlighted how much better the Uber experience is:
99Taxis is a local competitor to Uber. It’s pretty ubiquitous, and lets you pay via the app, so it does some things right. The main bad experience we had was this: all 99Taxis drivers are also just regular taxi drivers, so close to Itacoatiara beach in Niteroi we had hailed a cab via 99Taxis, and waited for almost 15 minutes only to have driver cancel when he was within a block of us – because he’d found another fare! We did use 99Taxis more, and while I prefer Uber, sometimes you have no choice.
Being able to pay via app is another great thing – in Sao Paolo in transit from Rio to Johannesburg we had to get from Congonhas airport to Guarulhos international airport. We booked an airport taxi and I tried to pre-pay but was assured I could pay via credit card in the taxi. Once we got to Guarulhos, the taxi payment machine didn’t work, none of the apps the driver had worked, etc. So we had to go into the terminal to an ATM. Payments can be annoying.
Recommendation for Brazil: Uber if you can, 99Taxis or regular taxis if you have to
Sugar Loaf – or Pão de Açúcar – it’s the pronunciation that’s difficult in Portuguese!
We used Uber in both Capetown and Johannesburg.
Capetown: great experience, friendly driver who upon learning we were from Silicon Valley was thrilled, and we had a great conversation about technology and how it’s transforming people’s lives even in South Africa.
Johannesburg: we used UberVAN after arriving at Park Station in Johannesburg. It was the best part of leaving the station! Parts of Jo’burg can be a bit dodgy – this was certainly one of them. A local resident appointed himself our guide (or maybe protector). Unfortunately I didn’t have enough rand to pay him for his ‘services’, which he wasn’t happy about. The Uber driver when he arrived was extremely helpful in getting us out of that situation.
Recommendation for South Africa (Cape Town and Johannesburg): Definitely Uber
Park Station, Johannesburg
The local competitor here is Grab – (it was called MyTeksi when we were there). Generally comparable to Uber in almost every way – definitely recommended, though Uber still is a bit smoother especially on payment. Taxis are hit and miss – we got a pretty gruff reaction from a group of drivers outside of KL Pavilion when we asked if there was a taxi driver who wouldn’t smoke while driving. Not a problem with MyTeksi or Uber who seem much more focused on customer happiness.
One more caution: if you’re out of the Kuala Lumpur city center like we were (we were in a suburb of KL called Selangor) it may be hard to catch an Uber – we luckily got one on the way into the city. MyTeksi seemed to be a bit more widespread. Coming from the city center it didn’t matter as much.
Recommendation for Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia: Uber or Grab
Petronas Twin Towers, Kuala Lumpur, Malaysia
We used Uber a lot in Rome, and a couple of times in Florence. Just as you’d expect it would work in any North American city. This was great in places with difficult to describe locations, like our AirBnB in a beautiful old court in Trastevere, Rome.
Recommendation for Italy: you don’t need to worry much about ground transportation in Italy, but Uber where you can, otherwise taxis are fine
Trastevere, Roma, Italy
Top 5 Things that Make Uber great for international travelers:
- You don’t have to worry about local currency – payment is through the app, and we weren’t charged extra for foreign currency transactions
- Uber drivers tend to be very friendly, have clean cars, and seem to care about their passengers
- Language is less of an issue, since you can input your destination in the app
- It’s a good way to meet local drivers – since all Uber drivers are independent, many of them also offer day tours, or better rates on longer drives, outside of Uber
- Some drivers will have treats for the kids! (and the adults!)
- Check that Uber is available where you’re going to travel. Many airports especially are only recently allowing Uber drivers to pick up passengers. This info changes often so check here: https://www.uber.com/cities/
- Consider a local SIM card so that drivers have your local number if they need to find you – they don’t always phone international numbers
- If you have put a local SIM card into your phone, there’s a couple step process to change your Uber contact number. Make sure you do that before you decide you urgently need to call an Uber!