As a single woman/solo female traveler, I’ve been a little slow to embrace the whole Uber-Lyft ride sharing phenomenon. The idea of getting into a car with a stranger runs completely contrary to everything I was taught about safety growing up, you know? But after awhile, I had to realize how ridiculous that was. I mean, really, what’s the difference between getting into a cab driven by a stranger or getting into an Uber or Lyft with a stranger? Some would argue that cab drivers undergo more stringent background checks, but you wouldn’t know it by some of the sketchy cab drivers I’ve gotten in the past.
Finally, on my latest trip, I had just reached my limit with the longhauling cabbie situation in Las Vegas and decided to give ride sharing a try. At least, I hoped, with the apps, if something bad did happen to me, the culprit would be easy to track down. And it was less likely that an Uber or Lyft driver would leave me in a dark alley outside the tour lobby of my hotel like a Vegas cabbie once did so I couldn’t report him to the valet for longhauling me. (Yeah, that happened.)
I didn’t actually take Uber or Lyft to or from the airport. I had arrived very late at night after a brutally long flying day and didn’t have the mental wherewithal to find the pickup location in the parking garage, figure out how to use the app, or wait for a ride, when the taxi line at Terminal 3 was immediate gratification. I was starving and tired and just wanted to check in to my hotel. I didn’t take it back to the airport because I was feeling a little queasy that morning and thought “If I throw up, I’d rather throw up in a cab than somebody’s car.” (I didn’t throw up.)
Between Uber and Lyft, I decided to try Lyft first, because I’d read online there were more female drivers for Lyft than for Uber, and I wanted to see if that were true. It didn’t matter to me whether I got a male or female driver, but I know some women are nervous about using services like Uber and Lyft alone, and I wanted to be able to speak to that concern. It seems to me that if a woman traveling alone knew she could get a female driver, it might alleviate some of her fears.
Out of 5 rides, I got 4 male drivers, all of whom were perfectly polite, if not downright friendly (and not in a creepy way). There was also a wide variety of diversity among the drivers, which I liked. For all of my rides, I consistently sat in the back seat on the right hand side of the car, which was more comfortable for me and may have been for them as well.
My first request for a ride was almost a bust. The first driver who accepted didn’t show up even though he was allegedly “a minute away”–for 10 minutes. Then he cancelled. That was disappointing. But I tried again. This time, I got a winner: Jeffrey was prompt, courteous, friendly, and he had a very clean car. He was a good conversationalist, and I felt very comfortable riding with him–as if I were being picked up by a friend or a friend of a friend.
When I told him about the first driver, he said the guy probably couldn’t find the pickup location and that’s why he cancelled. Made sense to me, since the pickup locations were a little confusing for me to find as well. (I found myself waiting at the wrong valet one time at the Mirage. Oops. Luckily, my Lyft driver was understanding.)
I had signed up for a discount code at the beginning of my trip that gave me 10 rides for $5 off each ride. My ride with Jeffrey from the Monte Carlo to the Mirage cost just $5, along with a $1.70 “Trust and Service Fee”; so the total ride before tip only cost me $1.70. I could have tipped as little as $1 (or nothing, if it had been a terrible ride, which it wasn’t), but I felt guilty spending so little on the ride, knowing that he was spending his time and keeping his car in good condition trying to make money doing this. So I tipped back the $5 discount I’d gotten. It was still a bargain in my eyes, since it was such a pleasant ride, and I didn’t have to worry about getting longhauled. I did the same thing with my next driver, Tende. I know: That defeats the point of the discount. But I’d rather give the $5 to the driver than the company, so why not?
By the time I took my 3rd Lyft, I was ready to ease back on the tips from $5 to $2 to see if that affected anything (like people’s willingness to pick me up, my rating as a rider, etc.). I don’t think it did, but I can’t be sure, because the app doesn’t show me what my overall rating is. While Lyft, like Uber, allows passengers to rate drivers and drivers to rate passengers, I only received notice once that I’d been rated at all (one driver gave me 5 stars).
This leaves me feeling a little insecure about how I’m perceived as a passenger. Does this mean the others didn’t rate me? Or that they rated me poorly? Did I talk too much? I followed the etiquette for being a good passenger (except the talking thing). I’m pretty sure I rated all my drivers 5 stars, though of course, I can’t see that in the app, either. (Believe me when I say that if I were able to rate the cab drivers I’ve had in Las Vegas, only a very small percentage of them would ever get 5 stars.)
You might be wondering about Uber. I had planned to use both Uber and Lyft during my stay, so that I could compare the two, but as it turned out, I didn’t need to, because almost every Lyft driver I got a ride from told me they also drove for Uber. I peppered them all with questions about their experiences driving, because I wanted to get a sense of what it was like. 3 out of the 4 drivers who drove for both Uber and Lyft said they preferred Lyft, because Lyft treats its drivers better. (They give their drivers a bigger percentage of the fare than Uber does.) Only one said he didn’t see a difference and one didn’t drive for Uber. The 3 who prefer Lyft indicated that if they got a request from Uber and a request from Lyft at the same time, they would always take the Lyft request, because it would mean more money for them. Good to know.
My 5th Lyft ride was the charm in terms of finally getting a female driver, Jennifer. I asked her if it was true that Lyft had more women drivers. She said she didn’t know, but that the week she was hired, they’d hired 3 other female drivers. In any case, she said she enjoys it. She only drives for Lyft, not Uber, which I think is pretty telling.
Jennifer told me a story about getting a request once and as she was on her way to pick them up, she got caught at a red light. There was an Uber that was right in front of her in traffic that made it through the light, and she saw the people she was supposed to pick up jump in the Uber. So apparently, some people request a ride on both apps at once and whichever one arrives first, they take and cancel the other one. That seems very rude and unfair to the drivers to me, because they’re using gas and time to get to what they think is going to be a fare for them, and then miss out through no fault of their own, just luck of the draw (in this case, a red light). That kind of behavior is as shady as a cab driver longhauling tourists, as far as I’m concerned.
Based on my experiences, I am totally sold on ride sharing–yes, even as a woman traveling alone. I’ll definitely be using Lyft from now on whenever it’s available, and when it’s not, I’ll give Uber a try. All of my fares were $5 plus the $1.70 Trust and Service Fee, and according to the Taxi Fare Finder website would have been around $13.81 (including 15% tip) if I had taken a cab. The rides are quick to arrive, though at times it was difficult for me to identify them, because I’m not very good at knowing makes and models of vehicles, and I don’t see well at night. But otherwise, it was a very smooth process.
Not only is this a more cost-effective way to get around than taking cabs, but with some of the resorts charging for parking now, I think it’s also better than renting a car if you’re on a budget. It’s definitely preferable to using the monorail. The only way the monorail works is if you’re staying at one of the monorail resorts. If you’re staying on the West side of the Strip, take Uber or Lyft where you need to go. It’s quicker than the monorail–and cheaper if you’ve got a discount code.
Speaking of which….If you’ve never used Lyft before and want to get started with some sweet ride credits, just download the Lyft app using my referral. (I’ll get credit, too.) Here’s my referral link: https://lyft.com/iea/GRAY267487.
My only disappointment with this whole experiment? None of the vehicles giving me a ride had the cute pink mustache on the grill. I would’ve gotten a kick out of that.