now that affordable cabs have come to india, getting around the city has become easier than ever before. while i continue to be a proponent of bus travel during the day, the truth is that there are times when it is inconvenient, inappropriate, or even potentially unsafe for me to ride the bus alone. in those times, i often turn to autos which, while more expensive, provide a little more privacy and convenience. but sometimes auto drivers don’t want to go where you need to go, or they try to overcharge you if they feel it is becoming late. in theory they are only supposed to begin charging 1.5 fare after 10pm and double meter after 11.30pm, but in truth they often begin much earlier.
in the past, when friends and i have known we would be out late and would need a safe way to return home, we have called on meru cabs. there were a number of other cab companies available, but often they would not have cars or would straight up just not pick us up [i’m looking at you, easy cabs]. but because meru was the best, you needed to call them well in advance to ensure there would be a cab available for you. and it could get stressful, especially if you are standing outside a restaurant or club that has closed and the street is dark and empty. not fun.
but now. now there are so many cab companies it makes my head spin. i have tried out a few different ones and thought i would share my experiences here. [note: there are more companies than those i have listed below, but these are the three most popular and also the three i have experience with]
meru cabs. the old guard. the company that once had the monopoly and is now fighting for its place. meru cabs are still the cabs on offer if you take a cab from the airport, but otherwise i’ve not used them in quite a while. they are more expensive than the other available options, and when i looked at their mobile app while i was in hyderabad, i honestly found it a little clunky and difficult to navigate. to gain a wider appeal, they now have a fleet of “genie cabs”, which are smaller cars that run on a cheaper fare. because i’ve not used them since they launched their mobile app, i don’t know how good the drivers are at following the in-app navigation when picking up customers. what i do like about meru, however, is that they allow you to book cabs ahead of time, so if you need to get to the airport or to a meeting, you will know you have a confirmed ride. and for as long as i live, i don’t think i’ll ever get their number out of my head [4422 4422, with the appropriate city code in front].
pros: good prices from the airport if you have too much luggage to take the bus; you can book cabs ahead of time to ensure your pickup; genie cabs offer a cheaper travel option.
cons: the sedans are much more expensive than the other two companies i’ve listed below; the mobile app is difficult to navigate.
basic fare info for a sedan: rs 80 for the first 4km; rs 20 for each additional km. fares increase slightly after midnight.
uber. the worldwide sensation that has had its ups-and-downs in india. i’m sure by now we have all heard about the unfortunate incident that happened in delhi where an uber driver assaulted his female passenger, so i won’t rehash it here. what i will say, however, is that uber is slowly trying to mend its fences in india. they are kickstarting a drive to hire female drivers, and there is now an sos button built into the app that will call the local police when activated [which, frankly, should have been in place from the beginning]. i will say that i have used uber in three cities in india – bombay, hyderabad, and bangalore – and i have had great experiences in all three places. because they have slashed their prices, the rides are the cheapest i’ve found for cabs; most of the drivers use the in-app navigation to come directly to where you are, so i don’t have to clumsily try to give directions in the local language; when i have had to give directions, the drivers have spoken english, making it infinitely easier. this one has been the pick of the litter for me. [shameless self-promotion: if you are interested in signing up for uber – wherever you are in the world – feel free to use my invite code. we’ll both get discounted rides :)]
pros: cheapest sedan rides in my experience; drivers use the in-app navigation to come pick you up; most of the drivers speak enough english to communicate; the app is very user-friendly; can store any card as your default payment; with the “track my ride” option, you can literally see every turn your driver makes on his – or her – way to you, so you can correct them immediately if they are off course [this actually happened to me the other night. i could see my driver going in the completely opposite direction to where i was. it was rather hilarious].
cons: cannot book cabs ahead of time, so you’re at the mercy of hoping there is a cab around when you need it; will have surcharges during peak hours.
basic fare info for a sedan: rs 30 base fare; rs 8 per km; rs 1 per minute; peak time surcharges will apply.
ola. the indian upstart that has taken the country by storm. i first learned about ola when i arrived in bangalore in january. my friends were raving about it, and i have had a mostly positive experience with them overall. they were the cheapest option until uber slashed their prices, but they are still very affordable, and the app is easy to use if not quite as sleek as uber’s. they are constantly running deals and offering discounts, especially around holidays. and i very much like the option of being able to call an auto — i used this option regularly in hyderabad, because often the rs 10 convenience charge still made my ride home cheaper than what auto drivers without meters would charge me. i found the “track my ride” a little frustrating, though, because it often didn’t update or the app would crash unexpectedly if i was not connected to wi-fi. but overall a good company and very reliable. my only complaint would be the auto driver in hyderabad who had a fast meter; that was unexpected and extremely disappointing. needless to say, he only got one out of five stars when i reviewed him. [more shameless self-promotion: I have a referral code for ola as well! just type in Q7HVC1 when you sign up. you will immediately earn rs 100, and i will earn rs 100 when you take your first ride. you scratch my back, i scratch yours :)]
pros: includes the option of booking an auto and having it pick you up from your location for a rs 10 convenience charge; cabs can be booked and confirmed ahead of time; very affordable; can use ola money to pay for your ride if you don’t have cash; just debuted a new feature where they do food delivery as well [a much-needed service in india].
cons: most of my drivers didn’t use the in-app navigation in hyderabad, and sometimes trying to explain directions to them was difficult and frustrating; ola money has to be set up prior to your ride, and only indian cards are accepted.
basic fare info for a sedan: rs 100 for the first 6km [it changes depending on your city; was only 4km in hyderabad]; rs 10 per additional km; peak time surcharges will apply.
as you can see, i am a little partial to uber these days, but it all depends on where i am going and what time of day it is. i still like ola and will continue to support them as well [especially to get some munchies delivered until i can get my kitchen set up in my new digs].
what has your experience been with cab companies and drivers in bangalore / india? which company do you like best?