Uber recently made headlines (as if they don't get enough already) when they lost their license to operate in London. Transport for London, which controls public transport in the city, cited safety issues, including failure to vet drivers with proper background checks, and failing to report criminal offenses. Uber has also been banned, or had to change their operating model in many cities in Europe to comply with local regulations. And despite the common conception of Uber as a cheaper, more efficient alternative to taxis, I often find local taxis to be less expensive. On several recent searches in Dublin, Barcelona, and Munich I found local taxis services to be significantly less (up to 50% less) than quoted Uber fares.
Fortunately there are plenty of good alternatives to Uber. In London specifically, minicabs have been operating for decades, long before Uber came along. These are essentially private cars that operate like a taxi, but are not allowed to pick up passengers without a prior booking. You can't just wave one down on the street, the way you can with a normal taxi. In the olden days (say, ten years ago) you had to call in advance and book your ride, but minicab operators have been quick to follow Uber's technology lead, and have developed their own Uber-style apps. In London, I like Addison Lee, which I have always found to be reliable and professional (they also operate in other cities in the UK).
Taxi drivers have also been quick to respond to Uber's perceived technology advantage. MyTaxi is an app that connects you to taxi drivers in cities all over Europe (as well as other regions). With the myTaxi app you can use your smartphone to hail a licensed taxi from wherever you are. No need to find a taxi stand, or try to flag one down on the street. And just like Uber, and other similar services, you can pay by credit card using the app.
When I'm planning a trip, one of the first questions is "how do I get from the airport to my hotel?" Getting into town is always a balance between ease and cost -- the easier it is, the more it costs. Public transportation is usually the cheapest option, but when you arrive in a strange city, jet-lagged and with luggage in tow, figuring out the system, buying tickets, negotiating stairs and waiting on train platforms might be the last thing you want to do.
The most expensive method is usually a private shuttle. Nothing like stepping off the plane and finding a driver holding a sign with your name on it to boost your ego and drain your wallet. Not quite so ritzy, and not quite so expensive, are shared shuttles. These often strike the perfect balance between ease and cost for the single traveler.
For two or more people traveling together it may be just as cheap or cheaper to take a taxi, though. To estimate taxi fares ahead of time, I use the World Taximeter, a fun site that also shows you the route on a map. Print it out, and you'll know whether the taxi driver is honest or taking you for a ride.
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