Transportation Apps Whether you are vacationing with or without a car I’ve found it’s easier and less stress to have someone drive you into the city and drop you off. You could hail a cab but in the new age of technology there are better, easier options that let you not only pay via credit card, rate your driver and track their progression towards picking you up all through the app. Currently, the two biggest players in the transportation app world are Uber and Lyft. Both apps are virtually the same thing with each developing new services each day to stay ahead of the game. Remember, during peak hours both will charge a higher rate. Here are a few tidbits about each: uber logoUber
  • A fan favorite in this space with an user friendly app. Simply tap where you’d like to be picked up, pick your drop off location, and a driver will be selected. A map will then show you the location of your driver and their ETA.
    • An estimated fare range is given before you are picked up.
  • Located in 66 counties and 507 cities worldwide.
  • Choose between UberX (standard car), UberCab (yellow cab), UberSelect (car class upgrade), UberX SUV (regular SUV).
  • One of the hidden gems of Uber is uberPOOL. Uber matches you with other riders going the same way and you “share” a ride with a set guaranteed rate with the rate being significantly cheaper. To ride about 10 miles during rush hour in Chicago is about $2.50-3.00 which is roughly the same as riding the train. Sure you have to share the car with strangers but in a big city this is nothing new!
  • Once you are dropped off, your credit card is charged and no tip is needed.
  • Not only do you rate the driver but the driver rates you guaranteeing a happy ride!
   lyft  Lyft
  • Attempting to push to the top, Lyft promotes its business primarily with promo codes and partnering with other companies.
    • Promo codes include 1 free ride up to $50 for new users.
    • If you are a T-Mobile customer, download the free T-Mobile Tuesdays app and every Tuesday you can get a $15 credit towards a Lyft ride that day.
  • Located in 200 U.S. cities; no international services.
  • Choose between line (shared), lyft (4 seats), or Plus (6 seats).
  • Lyft also offers pooling options, Line, however, my experience is it’s not quite as streamlined of a process as UberPOOL. It is a guaranteed rate so a great option to save money!
  • One you are dropped off, your credit card is charged and you can tip the driver if you want. You also rate the driver.

My experience with using Uber internationally has been hit or miss but I always try to use it instead of a local cab. It’s easier to explain where you want to go in case of a language barrier and you can pay in the local currency via the app. The following cities/countries are where I have used Uber and the experience I’ve had:
  • Houston, Chicago, NYC, San Francisco, Seattle, San Jose, Jacksonville, Orlando, Washington D.C.
  • Singapore – smooth and runs just like their America services. Almost everyone in Singapore speaks english but taking a taxi is expensive. If you prefer a car versus public transit, uber is the way to go.
  • Hong Kong – smooth and runs just like America services. English is widely spoken in Hong Kong and my Uber driver was awesome. Told me all the “hot spots” and even suggested restaurants to try. Hong Kong is pretty small so you probably will only need a ride to and from the airport.
  • Bejing, China – Uber is banned in China, among other things, but I successfully used Uber twice before the app was blocked. Barely anyone speaks english here so Uber was a great option to guarantee you are getting to the correct destination. One important fact: if you do get google maps or other services to work, everything is in Chinese (which is extremely difficult to understand!). The civilians find ways to still drive for Uber, however, the app is unreliable so have a back up mode of transportation in mind.
  • Dubai – Private e-hail taxi services, including Uber, are illegal in Dubai. They are working towards a licensing scheme for these services but until then they are technically illegal. Technically is key here as the app is still available and there are always plenty of drivers available. We used it and it was great – cheaper than hailing a cap through your hotel, however, peak hours can get pretty high.
  • Tokyo, Japan – smooth and easy to use but Uber only offers UberCab here. In other words, you’ll be hoping right in a cab that you could have just waved down and Uber will probably be a higher rate. The reason for this is cabs are on every corner in Tokyo and they tend to be high end, clean cars. Not to mention Tokyo cabbies don’t have a history of ripping off tourists so Uber really isn’t in demand. However, Tokyo cabs charge a significant surcharge at night for peak hours (20-30%) and Uber doesn’t so at night it’s a steal.
  • Doha, Qatar – smooth and easy experience – I would highly recommend this option if you aren’t comfortable with renting a car.

Public Transit One of the best and easiest ways to save money when traveling is using public transit. Don’t get me wrong, it’s not very glamorous and when traveling internationally you’ll probably have to ask for help, but it’ll be well worth it when your wallet is full of left over cash! Here are a few forms of public transit I’ve used while vacationing and some helpful hints for each: Trains and Subways
  • Great mode of transportation in big cities. Cheap and usually drops you pretty close to all the most popular tourist attractions.
  • ALWAYS check and see if they have a tourist pass or daily/weekly pass. This will save you tons of money and will save your feet the pain of walking.
    • Aren’t heavily advertised so don’t be afraid to ask at the train or subway customer service – this is especially true internationally. I’ve found these discounted passes recently in Singapore and Hong Kong.
    • In Singapore they have a great mass rapid transit (MRT) system – basically a subway. It’s clean and super easy to navigate. I highly recommend their 1, 2 or 3 day tourist pass at $10, $20, $30 which includes unlimited rides on their MRT, LRT and public buses. It’s worth every penny seeing your fare is based on distanced traveled and the fare can run you $2-5 each ride. Singapore is relatively small but many of the tourist attractions are a few miles away from the hotels and it’s hot all year around so you won’t want to walk it!
    • I highly recommend getting a weekly subway pass is NYC – Fares are expensive at $2.75 a ride and if you are there to see all of Manhattan (roughly 23 sq. miles) you definitely won’t want to walk. The 7 day pass runs at $31 and includes unlimited subway and local bus rides during those 7 days.
  • Easy mode of transportation in big cities especially to and from the airport. Look for the taxi line and you are on your way!
  • Most taxis now take credit cards, however, always ask before you accept a ride if you don’t see the “we accept visa, master card, amex”. Don’t assume because they have a machine that looks like a credit card machine that it’s actually functioning.
  • Taxis are readily available at hotels but be careful when you are traveling internationally. If your fare is based on a metered rate, this is often safe but there are some countries where you can be ripped off. Sure, it’s a taxi at your hotel and a hotel employee might even help you hail the taxi so it’s a probably a reasonable and fair rate, right – unfortunately this isn’t always the case. My advice is research what is reasonable for a taxi service in that country and be ready for it. I experienced this in Phuket, Thailand, a city that thrives on tourism.
  • I’m not a huge fan of taking a bus around town but I’ve traveled to certain cities where they really were the best, cheapest mode of transportation.
  • Much like the subways/trains, ALWAYS check and see if they have a tourist pass or daily/weekly pass.
    • One vacation spot I highly recommend this is Las Vegas. It’s so hot during the summer you won’t want to continue to walk up and down the strip and the bus runs 24 hours a day. It’ll cost you $20 for 3 days but will be a life saver and save you plenty of time between casinos.
  • Many major cities offer a Hop-On, Hop-Off bus tour which allows you to explore each location at your own pace and jump back on a different bus at one of their pick up locations. This can often be a great way to see a large city with limited time to see everything but still allowing for flexibility in your schedule.

Toll Roads It seems like most metropolitan areas are transitioning main major highways to toll roads. So, you are driving along peacefully and the road signs now say “TOLLWAY” you don’t have a toll tag in your car or your rental car for that city and you start to scramble and find another way to get to your destination which never fails to include side roads, an added 30 minutes of driving time. Not to mention many cities now force you to take a tollway with no other options. But don’t worry – you can potentially drive right through the toll, however, if you aren’t aware of the rules it’ll cost you!

If you are driving a rental car, ask the rental company if your car already has a toll tag or if you can drive right through the toll booth as if you have a tag – many states now allow for the latter. If they tell you to just run the toll, a third party company will send you a bill in the mail. They will bill you a daily rate for each day you use a toll plus the cost of each toll you run.

For example, if you rent a car for 7 days and run the toll on day 1, you will be charged approximately $5 per day (all 7 days of the rental) plus the rate for each toll you run. If you run the toll twice in one day, the daily charge remains $5, however, once you run a toll they will charge you the daily rate every day of your rental even if you don’t run a toll on those days.

OR If you are driving your own personal car without a tag the tollway sign should include their payment options – tag or pay by mail. Many tollways have abandoned cash options and fines for “running” through their tolls. Instead they bill you directly through mail at the standard rate. Note – if you have a toll tag the rate is discounted. Be careful as some tollways still charge a fine for “running” the toll without an appropriate toll tag. From my experience, these fines are anywhere from $10-$30.   jillheartlogo