No one knows Uber better than those of us who rely on it every day. And no one relies on Uber like a part-time expat. Take me: I spend half the year in Chicago and half in Mexico City. When Uber expanded its services to Mexico in 2013, it changed my life. When traveling through Latin America, it is wise to figure out your transportation ahead of time. Whether you are headed there to meet women or make business, you have to have a solid plan for getting from Point A to Point B.
Uber released a guide on how to use its service in Mexico City, but it wasn’t very thorough. We will take things much further and tell you all about the ins and outs of using this transportation service while in Mexico.
Until this service was made available, I’d thought about owning my own car just for use in Mexico. That wasn’t practical. Like the rest of the world, Mexico is a bit less beholden to private car ownership than the US. For most, that’s not a big problem, but for someone in my position, it can be a hassle. Fewer private cars means fewer options for owning one and storing it for long stretches…and even then, not many of us can justify paying for a car we only see half the year.
If private car ownership isn’t quite as widespread in Mexico as it is in the States, that makes Mexico all the better an environment for ride-hailing services like Uber. Let’s take a closer look at how Uber works in Mexico.
Is Uber Safe in Mexico City?
Uber in Mexico City is as safe as it is in the US, and for the same basic reasons. Many of my Mexican friends insist that their teenage children use Uber rather than traditional taxicabs. When compared to cabs, Uber is considered a much safer option.
If you are landing at the Mexico City airport, you can catch an Uber from there and use it as your primary mode of transportation the entire time you are in town. In all of the major cities including Mexico City, Cancun and Playa del Carmen, you are safe using Uber in these areas.
Advice for Foreigners Using Uber in Mexico
Tipping Your Driver is a Must
Tipping your driver is not optional. Uber in Mexico costs roughly half its equivalent in the US, which affects drivers’ base pay. Tipping is considered such a fundamental courtesy that in Mexico, unlike in the US, your tip will affect your passenger rating.
Because Uber is so inexpensive in Mexico, and since Uber is safe in Mexico City and other popular destinations, hiring a driver by the hour can be a terrific way to explore your surroundings after arrival, or to run errands to multiple stores.
Pay for Your Uber in Cash in Mexico
Pay in cash. In Mexico, Uber drivers are not obliged to accept credit or debit cards. Because drivers do not know which method of payment you have chosen before they arrive to pick you up, your driver may simply drive away if you insist on paying with a card. The app will automatically pair you with another driver, but there’s no reason to endure the delay and frustration of a canceled ride if you can help it.
If you don’t have quite enough cash to cover your ride, be sure to explain your situation to your driver. Most will understand (especially if you reserve a bit of cash for a tip), and will arrange for you to cover the balance of the fare with a card.
Private cars in Mexico tend to be considerably smaller than those in the US. Several things account for this, but the overriding consideration is efficiency: gasoline is far more expensive in Mexico, and it’s just good sense to drive smaller, more fuel-efficient vehicles. If you’re carrying a lot of luggage or shopping bags, you might still want to hail a taxi, if only for the trunk space.
Watch for Flashing Lights
Uber in Mexico does not use stickers to identify cars; instead, drivers flash their lights at the pickup location. Before you get in, know that most Mexican passengers sit in the front seat, alongside the driver. If you must follow the American habit of sitting in the back seat, you probably won’t offend your driver, but following local custom tends to make for a happier ride.
For that matter, Uber drivers in Mexico tend to be worldly and well educated, and many speak at least a bit of English. But normally they don’t fully understand English. It’s good to have a basis of Spanish and use it as an opportunity to learn Spanish yourself.
And just because it’s so important, here it is again:
Tip your driver. Don’t forget, or it will become more and more difficult to get an Uber as a passenger.
Tips for a Happy Uber Ride in Mexico
It’s Good to Speak Some Spanish
The Uber app indicates whether your driver speaks English, but remember that those indications are self-reported. Your driver’s idea of speaking English (and understanding it) may differ from yours, so be ready to communicate in Spanish, even if you’re not perfectly bilingual.
Prepare a few phrases in Spanish if you’re not fluent, and text your driver once your ride is confirmed to let them know where to find you. Just a few bits of information—La entrada está en frente de la restaurant Tia Julia (The entrance is in front of the Tia Julia restaurant), Llevo vestido verde (I am wearing a green dress)—can make a big difference, and can save the day if you don’t speak much Spanish.
Be Precise with Your Destination’s Address
Be sure to include every detail of your destination’s address when you arrange a ride, and write the address down on a slip of paper that you can quickly show to your driver. It’s not a bad idea to have your home address written down and kept in your wallet or purse. Don’t rely entirely on the app to remember every address exactly the way you intend it to.