Ridesharing is a brand new form of transportation that is taking over many parts of the world. Pioneered in Europe with Blablacar and becoming popular in North America with Poparide (this link gets you $5 off!) as well, ridesharing has become a legitimate way to get to your next destination.
It can often be cheaper than any other method of transportation, even buses, and also gives you a unique experience that you wouldn’t usually get by taking those other standard forms of transportation. I have used ridesharing over 50 times in my own travels and I love it!
So what is ridesharing?
Think of ridesharing as a cross between ride-hailing (i.e. Uber/Lyft) and hitchhiking. Local drivers who plan to drive from one city to another will make a post on the local ridesharing website offering a spot in their car for a fee. If their itinerary matches yours and you are okay with the price they set, you can request to take that spot.
Sometimes your request will get approved automatically and sometimes the driver will approve it manually. Once you get approved, you get the driver’s contact information and you coordinate with them on the pickup/dropoff points and times.
You can find rides for itineraries ranging from 30 minute drives between two neighbouring cities in the same country to 10 hour marathon drives between two different countries, and everything in between.
Drivers also come with reviews so you can see what previous passengers have said about them and the platforms show you other details like how much luggage you can bring as well as who else is coming and whether or not they limit the amount of people in the back seat to 2.
In Europe, Turkey, India, Mexico, and Brazil, the platform you should use for ridesharing is Blablacar. Check out my Guide to Blablacar to learn how to use it.
In Canada and some parts of the US, the platform you should use is Poparide (this link gets you $5 off!). Check out my Guide to Poparide to learn how to use it.
But before you do that, make sure to read the rest of this guide so you know what to expect when you book your rideshare!
Here are the top 8 things you need to know about ridesharing:
1. Your experience will vary by driver
Since you’re getting in someone’s private car, your experience will depend on what your driver and their car are like. Some drivers are super talkative and love getting to know their passengers whereas there are others that prefer to keep it quiet and apart from some small talk, will just play the radio and focus on the road.
Some drivers prefer keeping the radio off whereas others will love to jam out to custom playlists. Some will even let you play your own music too if you want!
You will never really know what your driver will be like before you get in the car so part of ridesharing is to keep an open mind and be open to whatever. You can, however, get an idea for what to expect from your driver as well as their car by reading the reviews from previous passengers.
The drivers might also give more information about themselves in their bio like whether they travel with a child or a pet or anything else so make sure to check that out too!
Both platforms also tell you what the drivers’ preferences are in regards to chatting and smoking in their car (assuming they completed that section of their profile) and what kind of car they drive. You might be able to get a ride in a nicer car for a couple dollars more so always compare the options available to find the perfect one for you.
2. Driver reviews and verification are important for safety
Some people are concerned with the idea of getting into a stranger’s car whom they’ve never met before, and rightly so! There are some scary stories out there when it comes to ridesharing, both as a driver and as a rider, but these are typically very rare instances.
I’ve personally never had to deal with any scary situations while ridesharing and I’ve done it over 50 times now, but it is still important to stay vigilant.
The two best ways to stay safe while ridesharing is to check a driver’s reviews and whether or not they’re verified. Choosing a ride with a driver that has no reviews, no profile picture, and no verification is risky and you might be better off taking a bus or train instead if there aren’t any other drivers available.
How much risk you’re willing to take is completely up to you and in the end, you should be employing some common sense. If something feels off with a driver, either before or during a ride, don’t be afraid to cancel your trip or get out. But like I said, most people that rideshare are super awesome so you shouldn’t have too much to worry about!
3. Also be prepared to share a car with different strangers
We’ve already talked about the driver and how your experience will depend on what they’re like, but oftentimes you will also be sharing the car with other travelers too! Unless you’re traveling with enough people to fill up all the spots offered by a driver, the driver will most likely fill them up with other travelers just like you.
This can make for a fun experience where a bunch of strangers essentially go on a roadtrip together. If you want to know more about the other passengers you will share a ride with before meeting them in the car, you can check out their profiles in the same way you would check out the driver’s.
And sometimes, if a driver is planning to drive a longer distance, they may offer stops in other major destinations along the way meaning that while some people might be going with the driver all the way to their final destination, others might only be joining the ride for one leg of the journey.
This means that one of your fellow riders may get off at a stop before you and be replaced by another rider that wants to go to the final destination. All in all, be prepared to meet many new people!
4. Rides are usually only posted a few days beforehand
Unlike other, standard forms of transportation, ridesharing is not one you can plan too far ahead for. While there are some drivers who will post routine trips that they do on a weekly or maybe even daily basis, most drivers only post their trips on the platforms a few days in advance.
This makes relying on ridesharing to get around a bit risky because you won’t know if there are any rides available until a few days before you plan to travel. If you want to be certain of your transportation between destinations, ridesharing is not for you, but if you’re okay with finding plan Bs on the go, it’s 100% worth it!
The best way to get an idea for how often people post rides for your itinerary is to check for rides available from the current date for the next few days. If you see many rides available, you can be somewhat certain that you will also see a similar amount of rides available for when you plan to travel (assuming there isn’t some massive event happening at the time of your search which is skewing the numbers).
You can also set alerts for the platform to notify you when new rides are posted for the dates you want to travel for.
5. Departure and arrival times can vary
Since you are traveling with a normal person in their private car and not an established transport service, there are certain things that can influence your departure and arrival times. You will see the departure time that the driver has set for the ride before you book it and most drivers will give you a grace period of 15 minutes or so if you’re running late, but some of them might be in a rush so try not to be late.
And if you’re getting picked up in the middle of a driver’s journey, you will need to stay in touch with them throughout their trip to get an idea of their estimated time of arrival at your pickup location and to know if they are running late or anything.
Communicating via the platform’s messaging system is one way to do this, but texting/phone calls or using a messaging app like WhatsApp is better. A useful tip is to ask the driver to send you their active location on WhatsApp as they’re traveling so that you can see exactly where they are without having to constantly ask them for updates.
Note: you need an internet connection while abroad to be able to do this. Check out my Guide to Travel-Ready Phones and Guide to Prepaid SIM Cards for more information.
When it comes to arrival times, since you’re traveling in someone’s car, it’s hard to know the exact time at which you will arrive at your destination. Blablacar gives estimated arrival times based on the route that the driver has said they will take, but many things can influence it.
Traffic on the way, washroom/rest breaks, and changes in the route taken can all affect the actual arrival time. It’s best to be flexible with your arrival time and to pick a ride that departs early if you need to be at your destination by a certain time.
6. It's still possible to rideshare even if you don't speak the same language
While speaking the local language would make it much easier to rideshare, it’s not impossible to do it regardless. Most people in Europe do speak enough English to get by, but you shouldn’t go around assuming that they do because some people might perceive it as being rude.
The best thing to do when booking a ride in a foreign country is to communicate with the driver in the local language using Google Translate. This way, even if a driver doesn’t speak English, you can still communicate with them.
When communicating with a driver in a foreign country, just translate whatever you have to say to a driver via Google Translate before sending it to them. You can also add something about where you’re from so that the driver understands you’re a foreigner.
If the driver responds in their language, translate what they said and so on. Same thing with any text messages. And when you meet them in person, as long as you have internet on your phone, you can continue using Google Translate to chat with them during the ride!
7. Drivers might be flexible so communication is key
Whether it’s to confirm the pickup and dropoff points or to inquire about how much luggage you can bring, it’s important to communicate all the details with your driver before your trip.
If you plan to travel with large bags, it’s especially important to talk to your driver and see if they have enough space for them in their car. Most drivers will indicate how much room they have available for luggage on their ride posting, but they might have more space available if you ask.
In addition, confirming the pickup and dropoff points as well as the departure time is important too as many drivers are fairly flexible and might also be able to work around your schedule and itinerary if needed so it’s worth it to ask them if they can pick you up from a different location or drop you off somewhere else along the route as well as if they are able to delay or bring forward the departure time to a better time for you.
The dropoff location request can also be made when you’re already in the car, but the pickup location and departure time requests have to be made in advance.
Pro tip: If you can’t find any rides going to the destination you want, but you know that your destination is on the way to another larger one which has more rides available, don’t be afraid to book one of those rides and ask your driver if they’d be willing to drop you off at your destination for a lower price. You might be able to negotiate with them and get a cheaper ride to where you need to go!
8. There is some risk involved
I’ve already mentioned how you should be vigilant when picking a driver and how relying on ridesharing as your main method of transportation can be risky if there aren’t any rides available for the dates you need, but it can also be risky even if you have found and booked a ride.
This is because even if you’ve paid for your booking and communicated with your driver, there is no guarantee that you will get picked up and taken to your destination.
Life can get in the way and drivers may be forced to cancel their trip last minute or they might simply no-show (not cool, but it can happen). The driver won’t get your money because the ridesharing platforms hold it until a ride is completed (if you paid online), but you will also unfortunately be left without a ride last-minute and if you don’t have a plan B available, it can really screw with your plans.
If a trip is cancelled, any money you paid gets refunded and if they no-show, you have to let the platform know about it to get your refund. This is something you have to keep in mind when ridesharing.
For this reason, I do not recommend relying on ridesharing if you need to get to an airport to catch a flight or anything similar. The risk of your driver cancelling or no-showing is not worth missing an expensive flight, ferry, or train. This, coupled with the risk of traffic delaying your ride, can make ridesharing a stressful experience that turns into an expensive one if you end up missing your connection.
Ridesharing is best done when you are flexible with your arrival time and when you have reasonably priced alternatives as plan Bs available in case something happens. That being said, most rides happen without any issues so this is more of a precaution than anything!
And that’s all you need to know!
To find a rideshare in Europe, Turkey, India, Mexico, or Brazil, check out my Guide to Blablacar.
To find a rideshare in Canada and some parts of the US, check out my Guide to Poparide.
Ridesharing is one of my favourite ways to travel, but you have to know what you’re doing if you plan to start doing it. Don’t make it your primary method of transportation and always make sure there is a plan B available for you in case things don’t work out. Stay vigilant, but keep an open mind and it might even become one of your favourite ways to travel too!
Let me know about your ridesharing experiences in the comments below and if you want to learn about another way to travel that’s for the even more adventurous, check out my Guide to Hitchhiking.