Is India ready for Uber?
India is in a massive race to become all things digital as it tries to move away from being such a cash heavy economy. There are apps for almost everything from booking transport to getting food delivered.
When we first discovered there was Uber in India we were beyond thrilled, it meant Ru didn’t have to get into massive arguments with tuk tuk drivers with every ride. When it goes right, Uber is perfect. It saves time, hassle and it’s so much cheaper than getting a tuk tuks or metered taxis, where by the way the meter is always broken (conveniently).
But there’s a massive but. Although you have the latest technology in India, there is so much that’s not quite right. You have Uber drivers with great cars and the latest phones, but they don’t know the roads, have trouble reading maps, many of them don’t speak any English and you’re both left relying entirely on google maps to get it right. That’s where a massive problem lies.
For example, when we were in Jaipur we picked a shopping mall we wanted to visit. Ru did all the research, read the reviews, plugged in the address in Uber and we were good to go. After a good half an hour drive we ended up outside a gym on a very quiet residential road on the outskirts of the city. Google had got it completely wrong, we checked the address and it was correct but there was no shopping mall in sight which could only mean the system is not up to date or just plain wrong. The car driver couldn’t speak a word of English, didn’t know the area, and had no idea what we were looking for.
He then drops us off and leaves for another job. We ended up walking into the gym and found the manager who spoke English. After waiting 15 minutes for another Uber car, the gym manager thankfully instructed the driver where to take us, so we got there in the end!
We’re not saying that Uber drivers need to speak English, we are in their country after all, but even that wouldn’t fix the problem.
With Uber there are a few things that have to happen for it to work well. Firstly, google maps needs to be more accurate as so many times the drivers were given the wrong drop off locations. Uber drivers really need to know the landmarks and the local area. You won’t believe this but the driver that took us to Humayun’s Tomb in New Delhi had no idea where the entrance and it’s one of the top sites in the city. Lastly, businesses need to update their contact information online otherwise the whole thing falls apart.
Despite all the problems with Uber it’s definitely the most comfortable and cost effective way to travel around.
But there is something to be said about taking a tuk-tuk that all travellers need to experience. It may be more expensive, takes longer to get anywhere and you’re exposed to the pollution but it’s so much more fun! And when you have a great driver it’s a wonderful way of getting a real flavour of the city. On our journey we met Ramzan, a tuk-tuk driver from Jaipur, he spoke great English, was very knowledgeable about the local area, took us to some great shops off the beaten track and we even enjoyed a lovely dinner together. We feel like we’ve actually made a friend who we still keep in touch with.
So what is the best way to travel around India? Choose a tuk tuk for a fun ride and when you’re feeling adventurous; choose Uber when you need efficiency.
Advice if you’re getting Uber
- Get a local India SIM card to avoid paying hundreds on data charges.
- Check the destination when you get into your Uber car, make sure it’s correct.
- Research – If you are going somewhere that’s not a tourist site, double check online that it exists and give them a call.
- Getting local advice is best – if staying in hotel as the hotel staff to check the address etc. or if you’re doing Airbnb the hosts are normally great at giving advice and tips.
- Be prepared to wait longer than the time on the Uber map – so many times its incorrect.