I have used Uber for the past 2 months. I have to admit it was a hard sell. I have a regular cab guy who I and my friends are used to and it was hard to start off. I started out by only using Uber when my regular cab guy was unavailable or when I was somewhere far and needed a cab to take me home and waiting for my cab guy who is in Westlands would take too long.
Now I tend to use Uber all the time although I still have to give my regular cab guy some biashara. After all he is the type of guy you can trust to come to your house, and be given something to bring to you. And he is the guy who when I didn’t have cash or loose cash would drive me home for free so you do not want to break those ties. I will need him some day.
What is Uber?
Uber is a new taxi service that is now operating in Kenya via an App from the beginning of this year. Uber is an american company founded in 2009 and it connects drivers to passengers using GPS. The customer pinpoints where they are on GPS, the cab comes to pick up the passenger. You are able to track the cab with your phone to see where you are.
Once you enter your ride the app says you are enroute. One your ride is over, the service deducts the amount owed from your credit or debit card. You are then send an email with a breakdown of the charges although you will also get a notification immediately after on the cost. The drivers are trained by Uber on professionalism and etiquette. They are then given a free iPhone that serves as a dispatch and is mounted somewhere on the dashboard.
Uber conducts background checks on its drivers. Uber X which was launched locally is a low cost option in which individual or corporate taxi drivers use their own cars. Uber offers Toyota Fielders, Toyota Allison and Toyota Corolla for customers.
The maximum number of customers the cab can carry is four and the driver is not allowed to pick other passengers along the way unless of course the person being picked is part of the party in the car.
You can access the app via Android or iOS (Apple). Both the driver and passenger are rated after each trip on a scale of 1 to 5. If a driver gets consistently low reviews then their contract may be terminated. Passengers who are rated poorly may be blacklisted. There is a report feature where you can report any issues you may have with the ride.
Pricing. There is a base fare of Ksh. 100 for any ride. The Uber ride is charged using two methods. There is time at 4 shillings a minute. And then there is a price of Ksh. 60 per Kilometer. The minimum cost is Ksh. 300 and it costs Ksh 100 for cancellation.
Things I like about Uber.
The app is easy to use and understand. It is very easy to navigate and very user friendly. You can see the cars coming towards you.
The billing system works very well because you can track your expenditure and it shows you how you have used your funds. You do not have to have money in your wallet but you must have money in your debit card or use your credit card.
The response time is usually really good. You can usually get a taxi in between 2 -15 minutes. This depends of course on whether there is traffic and if there is an Uber near you.
The quality of the cars. The cabs are clean and not old models. When you are going for a meeting you look good getting out of an Uber. The cars look good and well maintained.
The drivers are well trained and are courteous. They are friendly but leave you alone if you do not look like you want to engage in conversation. But if you are the type who likes to talk then they are able to hold a decent conversation.
The customer support from Uber is excellent. You are able to report if you have any issues and they deal with the issue immediately.
Uber taxi is cheap when there is no traffic or the traffic is not heavy.
It also has a feature where you can check for a fare estimate. You can say where you are starting from and where you are going and it will give you a fare estimate so that you know how much you are likely to spend.
The drivers are vetted. Both the car and the drivers have to have PSV licenses. They also take fingerprints in order to check the criminal background. The check is supervised by KK security. They also conduct interviews with former employers, upcountry chiefs, neighbors, social acquaintances to make up for gaps in records. The drivers have a photo, you get the vehicle number coming to pick you, and you will be able to get information on your driver.
You can share your estimated Time of Arrival and it is possible for others who you have shared your ETA with to track you in real-time.
You must leave a comment before ordering your next ride. This means that the driver is always rated which helps Uber decide on whether to keep the driver.
There is risk free payment – no haggling with the driver which means there is safety for the driver and the passenger as well.
The other day I realized that they are now offering free Wi-Fi. Funny thing is that only one guy has told me about the Wi-Fi which is weird because I am always on my phone. That is something they should tell you when you enter the vehicle.
Uber X is supposed to offer free perks like sweets and bottled water but I have taken over 15 rides and I have only been asked once whether I would like some water. So that is not something that is a selling point for me.
The not so good
It does not use mpesa which most people would be comfortable using as their method of payment. Many people would prefer to use Mpesa instead of using credit cards as not everybody has credit cards or is comfortable using credit cards.
I would recommend Uber if there is no traffic but if where you are going there is jam it is bound to be more expensive than your regular cab guy. When traffic is crazy using Uber can be expensive going to almost twice the amount. A regular cab will have a fixed price whether or not there is traffic.
Some of the drivers don’t seem to know Nairobi. Some of the drivers don’t seem to know Nairobi very well even places which a seasoned cab guy would know. They consult the map on the screen but still end up getting lost sometimes. If you are like me who is usually busy on my phone you might look up to find you have taken a wrong turn or taken the long way round to go wherever you are going. That might not matter if you are with your regular cab guy who charges you a fixed rate but when you are being billed per minute and per kilometer then the costs go up. The Uber App does not have Google maps so some of the drivers have admitted to getting lost on the way to find me.
It doesn’t seem to accept some cards.The first time I tried Uber I was using my Nakumatt Global card. It did not validate it even though they sent a message to the bank and it was validated. I had to change to another card which I hadnt wanted to use. So they should make sure you can use it with any card.
At this point let me tell you about one bad experience. During Easter I was having drinks with a friend at Sierra. When I was ready to leave the app refused to work. It was saying my last payment had not gone through. I tried restarting my phone, putting in my credit card details again; I even tried changing to another credit card. Nothing happened. I then had to call my regular cab guy to come for me. The irony is I had been praising this cab service to my friend and after this I doubt he was impressed. I felt like that Judge who swiped his card at the supermarket and he was told he has insufficient funds. It’s embarrassing when you know you have money in your debit card but the app is saying the payment is not going through.
The other bad experience I had is when I was waiting for a ride at Yaya. The guy who came said his car was having issues, changed me to another Uber, they switched the iPhone and it was still showing the details of the car which was originally to pick me. I felt very vulnerable as I went home because if anything happened I was not in the car I had ordered. I reported the issue to Uber, they refunded me for that ride, and I hope they did something about that.
I think Uber has a great future. It is still on a learning curve and some issues may come up but there are many positives that make it a good option to try. They are working on getting more female drivers and they are also working on getting Mpesa on board. If you would like to try out Uber X use this code for 1000 free credit to try it out. Let me know if it was a good experience.