Hiring a Driver

Hiring a driver for a day, or a few days, can be a time- and money-saving way to get around while traveling. But lots of folks don’t do it, because it’s one area of travel that hasn’t (yet) been fully app-ified.

Why Hire a Driver?

Obviously services like Uber, Bolt and DiDi make it easy to hire a car from point A to point B. But what happens when you’re done at point B? More than a few times, I’ve taken an Uber to a remote destination, only to see the dreaded “no cars available” message when trying to get back. Just because a driver dropped you off doesn’t mean one will be around to pick you up.

The prices for ridesharing services can also add up quickly, even in “cheap” places. As rideshare services face pressure to actually make money, instead of just burning investor capital, expect prices to keep ticking up. Hiring a driver for a day can quickly pay for itself when compared to calling a few different Ubers.

Hiring a driver can also be a big time savings. On our trip to Mexico City, we probably spent (cumulatively) more than 2 hours just waiting for Ubers to get to us, working their way through the intense traffic. When you a hire a driver, part of what you’re paying them for is to wait nearby.

What Does Hiring a Driver Mean?

Let’s be clear – I’m not talking about hiring a chauffeur in a suit, driving a Lincoln Towncar. I’m talking about giving some cash to someone who would otherwise be driving for Uber to spend the day with you.

You can approach hiring a driver in a few ways. In many destinations, you’ll find drivers listing themselves on tour sites like Viator. That’s the easiest option – you’ll be paying a small fee to the booking services, but you’ll be able to arrange things in advance. That’s how I hired a driver for a day on my trip to Sri Lanka earlier this year.

The more common way of hiring a driver is through local connections or by asking an Uber or taxi driver what it’d cost to hire them for the day. It seems like most Airbnb owners have a cousin who’d be happy to take you around – not only is it a great way to get around, it’s a great way to get to know locals.

The Inevitable Caveats

The downside of stepping out of the app-ified world of travel is that you’re on your own if something goes wrong. You’re putting your trust in whoever you’re hiring, so use your best judgement. Even if you met your driver through Uber, once you’re doing a deal outside the app, the Uber safety and protection features no longer apply.  If you’re a solo traveler, especially a solo female traveler, the risks might not be worth it. If you’e traveling with a group on the other hand, it can be a really good option. Just make smart choices for your particular situation.

Or Rent a Car?

More often than not, I don’t rent a car on trips – between public transit, ridesharing, walking or renting a bike, it’s often more trouble than it’s worth. However, on a recent trip to Pittsburgh I was reminded that sometimes renting a car is the most economical option. I spent way more using Lyft than I would have on a rental car, and in a big American city, parking is never an issue. It was a good reminder to keep that option in mind, even if you’re just bouncing around a city.

Do you have your own tips for finding a driver when traveling? I’d love to hear them!

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