I haven't had the reason to use Uber in Kuala Lumpur, but many of my friends raved about the car-sharing app and said that they couldn't live without it.
All I know about Uber is that it seems to create ripples everywhere it goes. Uber riders may love it, but governments seem inclined to ban it. There's always some form of protest when it comes to town!
In Malaysia, it's the same. Taxi associations have been protesting Uber's encroachment upon its ricebowl, and I've even seen "No Grabcar" (another Uber-like app) spray painted at a bus stop once - as if the taxis could claim sole right to pick up passengers there.
When I had to go to Penang for a holiday, I was recommended Uber to get around. Since I couldn't afford taxi everywhere I went I thought I'd give it a shot.
Using the app is really easy. So you just download the app to your smartphone, and then click on the icon and you're ready to use it. Then, you set your pick up point, and then where you want to be dropped off.
You can also get a fare estimate.
What I love about the app is how it shows you where Uber cabs are in the vicinity. When you book a Uber ride, you will be informed about your driver's Name, car type, plate number and be given his phone number.
Usually you (or the driver) will call the driver to tell him exactly where you want to be picked up.
Wow, I have to say that I am amazed at how cheap it is. RM5 to get to Eastern & Oriental from Times Square, and RM7 to get to Botanic Gardens from Times Square... this is quite affordable, especially to my friends who had the mighty Aussie dollar.
Freelance economy - good or bad?
Still, despite the ease and affordability, I'm not a fan of the freelance economy and what it does to the common man. I feel that Uber drivers had to struggle so much to get decent income.
I told one Uber driver that I actually felt guilty only giving him RM5 for the ride, so I gave him a tip. He was a happy camper.
He said that it was tough to make a living as a full-time Uber driver in Penang as they (Uber, I think) had slashed the rates. Most Uber drivers now have to make do with two jobs.
Of course, people using Uber are worried about safety issues, and I heard a few horror stories from a friend, who said that although there are horror stories, they are rare exceptions.
My first uber ride was not a great one - the man was clearly lost, could barely communicate properly with me, so he actually went round and round my pickup area and we yelled instructions at each other over barely audible smartphone audio. I tried to tell him where I was, but he didn't get me, and I didn't get what he was trying to say so in the end he picked me up after half an hour of waiting.
I was cross by then, but I could see that he was nervous as Uber drivers are rated after every ride, and they have to maintain a high rating. He gave me a discount, probably felt bad for the whole thing too.
Again, not a fan of the freelance economy sometimes, but I guess you gotta buck up if you are a Uber driver.
So would I recommend Uber?
Yup, most certainly!
Of the 10 rides or so my friends and I had in Penang, only one was not up to snuff, but even then it wasn't horrid as the man had a very clean car with great air-conditioning and I got to my destination with limbs and sanity intact.
Yes, you do have horror stories, but taxi rides have as many horror stories too. You will get a receipt of your Uber ride and details of the Uber driver, his car number plate and phone number, so it helps.