Getting together with co-workers and friends to party this Christmas is all well and good, however, it's important to have a plan for getting yourself home safely afterward, especially if you're worn out or have had a little too much eggnog. But taxis can be expensive, and buses usually don't take you exactly where you need to go. Plus, you may not be able to catch them at the exact place you're leaving, and it's often a guessing game as to when they'll show up – or even if they'll show up at all.
A better option is to use a ride-sharing service, which is basically an independent taxi company. Two of the most popular ones in the United States today are Uber and Lyft. In this article, we'll explain:
Let's get you on your way to a safer ride home from your office Christmas party – or whatever kind of party you're having this holiday season!
With a ride-sharing service, there's no need to rush to a bus stop or a busy (and potentially dangerous) urban center to catch a bus or flag down a taxi. Just indicate where you are and where you want to go, and then sit tight and wait for your driver to arrive. They'll take you right to your door, and there's no need to fumble around for cash to pay them – your credit card is automatically charged.
One of the things that can make taxi rides expensive is that you usually aren't privy to how the meter works. If you get stuck in traffic or bad weather, your fare can keep going up until it ends up being way higher than you anticipated! Ride-sharing services fix this by being upfront about how their pricing works, including giving you a fare estimate before you even complete your ride request.
Another cool feature of ride-sharing services is that your fare doesn't have to be all on one bill. If you and your workmates all use the same ride-sharing app, you can split the cost of the ride equally among everyone taking the ride together (plus a small sharing fee). If everyone chips in, everyone pays less!
Buses and taxis are somewhat notorious for showing up late... or even not showing up at all. That isn't the case with ride-sharing services. Their GPS networks will show you approximately where your driver is and how long it will take them to get to you. Drivers can’t cancel after they have accepted your ride (without being charged a fee), so if your driver can't honor your ride request for some reason, they will let you know. Then you can start requesting another ride instead of waiting for one that's never going to come.
While we hope it doesn't happen, some bus or taxi drivers can be rude, abusive, or just not offer very good service. And often, there's very little you can do about it, since you don't know who these people are. Ride-sharing companies, on the other hand, track their drivers through the app, so you can anonymously rate their performance and report any bad behavior from them. They can do the same for you, though, so try to keep things civil on your ride.
You can see more of what makes Uber and Lyft different from other transportation options, and each other, in our Uber course and our course for Lyft. For now, though, we'll give you a brief lesson on how to actually hail a ride from one of these apps.
Here are the quick steps:
That's really all there is to it, but if you're a stickler for details, we'll give a more thorough explanation below. You can also visit our lessons on how to ask for an Uber ride or how to get a ride from Lyft if you need specific instructions for either app.
You'll first need to boot up your mobile device – usually a tablet computer or smart phone – and get the Uber or Lyft app for it. If you haven't downloaded it already, go to the Play Store (on Android OS) or App Store (on Apple iOS), search for "uber" or "lyft", find the app, and then tap Install (or Get and then Install on iOS devices). Then tap Open, or just tap the app icon itself.
Alternatively, you can download and install Lyft or Uber from these links:
Uber for iOS | Lyft for iOS | Uber for Android | Lyft for Android
From there, you'll need to log into your account. If you don't already have one, you'll need to register one with your full name, email address, phone number, and – depending on which service you use – your billing information or some other type of verification. If you already have an account, just enter your email address and password, and you're in!
Once you're in the app, you'll need to let your ride-sharing service of choice where you are and what you want to be picked up by. If the GPS functions on your device are active, the app should set your location automatically. If not, you can tap a location on the map to select it. Or, you can tap the location bar, type in exactly where you want to be picked up, tap the location you want to select it, and then tap Set Pickup.
You will also need to select your tier of service. Uber and Lyft both have multiple options for vehicles to get you from A to B, though not all options are available in all areas. Some vehicles may have more seats or more luxury features, or may be specially equipped for those with accessibility needs. For more information, read our comparison of Uber services or this help page on Lyft. (Note that Lyft has cheaper options than the ones listed in that article, such as Lyft Original, Lyft Plus, or Lyft Line.)
Next, you'll need to tell the app where you're going. It's very similar to manually setting a pick-up point: tap a location on the map to select it; or tap in the location box, type in and select a destination, and then tap Set Pickup.
You will also usually have other options here, such as getting a fare estimate, entering a promo code, selecting how you're going to pay, or changing your trip start and end points. When you're all set, hit Request.
While you're waiting for your ride, you can use the app to track approximately where they are and how long they'll be until they show up. You'll also see pictures of your driver and their car (or at least a description of the car make and model), along with their license plate number, so you won't get in the wrong car by accident.
While you're waiting for your ride – and sometimes during your ride – you will also have other options available to you. You may be able to cancel your ride, split the cost of the ride among other riders, call your driver on their phone, or even send your ETA to someone waiting at your destination!
Once you're at your destination, you can use the app to rate and comment on your driver's performance. In some cases, you can even give your driver a tip. Then you simply get out and go wherever you need to – the app takes care of all the billing!
Using a ride-sharing service basically means riding in a stranger's car, so it's a good idea to keep someone whom you trust in the loop. For example, before you request a ride, a wise decision would be to call a friend or family member and let them know where you are, where you're going, and that you're getting between the two places by using Uber or Lyft. Another good idea is to call or text that person to check in during the ride. This all helps them react more efficiently if something goes wrong.
You can get a Lyft or Uber taxi to pick you up pretty much anywhere you like, so take advantage of that! If you can, avoid asking to be picked up in potentially dangerous areas, such as dark, isolated neighborhoods or overly-busy city centers congested with traffic and other hazards. Better yet, wait inside a building and don't come out until your Lyft or Uber app tells you that your driver has arrived.
Uber and Lyft drivers use their own personal cars, which aren't distinctively marked like regular taxis are. That's why it's important to check your driver's information in the app, and make sure that all of it matches the person and car that come to pick you up. It's also good to ask the driver if they know your name(s); this also protects them, because they'll know they aren't picking up freeloaders or other potentially dangerous people.
If your driver arrives late, takes off before you get a chance to get in, exhibits poor driving skills, behaves abusively towards anyone in the car, or gives you any other sort of trouble, make sure Lyft or Uber knows about it. Give them a low rating and detail your problem(s) with them in your rating comments. Repeated low ratings will help warn other riders away from the driver, and may force Uber or Lyft to monitor them more closely – and perhaps take disciplinary action – unless their performance improves.
In the event of an emergency, you should probably call 9-1-1 or your local emergency services number and let them know what's going on. You should also contact Lyft over the phone or Uber through their app, and talk to a customer service representative – and/or fill out a report form – about the details of your incident.
Well, about wraps up our guide to taking an Uber or Lyft taxi home from your office (or any other) party! Remember to be responsible and stay safe, whether it's the holiday season or any other time you're having a celebration!
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