When I heard that there was such a thing as Uber Manila, I was giddy as a nun with a contraband Pope on a Rope.
I’m a huge fan of Uber. HUGE I tell you.
I’ve been using the ride-sharing service for years now in a few different countries, and I already wrote a review of one ride taking Uber in Bali. But the Uber Manila experience was special because it ticked off a bucket list item of mine. Not a bungee-jumping/skydiving/becoming a Rockefeller kinda bucket list item, but the kind found only among the geekiest of the geeks of the world — I wanted an Uber driver who was on his first day driving for Uber.
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Ever since I’ve started using Uber, I make it a habit of asking the driver how long they’ve worked for the ride-sharing service. The answer for the longest driver was eight months, and my previous best for shortest was a driver who been at it for only five days. Uber Philippines has been expanding rapidly though (and even starting to offer cash payments in some markets), and I was in luck to get Michael — a first-day-on-the-job driver with Uber.
Although I was his eighth ride of the day (and my ultimate goal is to be first passenger for an Uber driver on his or her first day — I pop the cherries no one else wants to), I was content for now to be with a driver on Day One.
He picked me up from the Harley-Davidson store in Bonaficio Global City (I was souvenir hunting for a friend) and drove me back to my Airbnb rental in Makati. I like to chat up my Uber drivers, because who doesn’t who doesn’t love small talk? So I present to you Small Talk with Uber Drivers: Ep. 1.
Me: Ummm, so are you married?
Me: Any kids?
Driver: Yes, eight.
Me: Eight kids?? Eight?!? How old are you?
Me: Have you heard of condoms?
Driver: I don’t like the feel.
Me: Well…have you heard of anal?
I thought he was going to drive off the road he laughed so hard.
Since I had broken the ice, I asked what he did before he was an Uber driver and Michael shared he used to be a driver for KFC, delivering chickens and supplies to local restaurants. He worked 7 days a week between 1:00 AM and 1:00 PM, for a whopping 500 Philippine Pesos (about $10.60 USD) PER DAY. That’s just over $300 USD per month, with no days off and very long days. With Uber, he said he earned 11,000 PHP (about $233.16 USD) per week, with 2 days off per week. That’s well over 3 times what he made at his old job.
No wonder he was in such a good mood.
Since he was a KFC driver for so long, he knew the roads in Manila well — notably the shortcuts and how best to navigate Manila’s nasty traffic snarls. So that put me in a good mood. Well that and the fact that the Uber fare cost me a paltry $3 USD for a 36-minute ride. I’m supposing to stay competitive with taxis, Uber Manila rates are kept pretty low, which is a win for any traveller.
Is Uber Manila safe to use?
Yes, yes, and YES. Here are some of the taxi safety issues that taking an Uber in Manila addresses:
The No Meter Taxi Driver
There is no arguing with a driver that refuses to turn on the meter. You can see at the end of your ride exactly how much you’ve been charged.
The “No Change” Excuse
You don’t need to fumble with money or correct change or cash since it gets directly charged to your credit card. Taxi drivers love to play the “no change” card when you have big bills.
Many taxi drivers in Manila expect a tip (and you should if the service is good), but many will use the “no change” excuse or simply round up and just pocket the extra money. A “forced tip” if you will.
Not Knowing Where You’re Going
If you’re a stranger in a strange land in a strange taxi, you really have no idea where the taxi driver is taking you. You really just hoping that the taxi driver doesn’t take advantage of you and lure you down an alley.
I used to work in Manila ten years ago, and kidnappings by taxi drivers were actually a big problem back then. Sadly, kidnappings, rapes and murders by rogue taxi drivers in Manila are a still a reality. If you’ve ever been to Manila, you’ll know that if you pick up a taxi from a taxi line at a mall or the airport, the attendant or security guard will usually give you a small piece of paper with the taxi’s license plate number on it. The idea is that you’re supposed to text that number to a friend, you know, just in case you go “missing” en route and at least the police can contact the last known soul you had contact with. Comforting isn’t it?
With Uber, you can text or email (or WhatsApp or Viberr or message) a link directly from the Uber app with your route and ETA, and your friends or family can track your progress real-time to so they know exactly when you’re arriving.
Overall, Uber gets all the love from me, so of course I gave my Uber Manila review 5 stars (I mean, he did laugh at an anal joke, so there’s that too.)
Uber at Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International Airport
I was disappointed that I couldn’t take Uber from the Manila airport into Makati though. Uber is not allowed to pickup from Manila’s Ninoy Aquino International airport. It is allowed to drop off passengers at both the Domestic and International terminals, but Uber drivers are not allowed to pick up passengers from either. Grab is allowed to pick up from both terminals though, but only GrabCar, not GrabTaxi, is allowed to pick up NAIA, even though both can be hailed from the Grab app.
Note that both GrabTaxi and GrabCar were previously under the GrabTaxi banner, now it’s all just called Grab, and both are available in the Grab app.
So what’s the difference? GrabTaxi Philippines vehicles are registered and licensed taxis, while GrabCar Philippines vehicles are ride-sharing service vehicles, much like Uber Philippines. Which begs the question, why is GrabCar allowed to pick up at Manila airport, but Uber is not? Apparently it has something to do with accreditation requirements, and Uber will be allowed to pick up from the airport eventually once it has met those conditions, whatever those may be. I think I remember seeing somewhere on Twitter that Uber Manila will probably be operating from Manila Airport in Fall 2016. I’ll update this post when I find out more.
Haven’t signed up for GrabTaxi yet?
As I was researching this article, I discovered that regular taxis are now allowed to pick up from the airport at well. Historically, only the yellow airport metered taxis were allowed to pick up from the Arrivals level at NAIA, but as of July 18, 2016 regular white taxis can take passengers from Manila’s airport as well. This is more good news for travellers. Those airport taxis charged about 4 times the rate that regular white taxis do, and until Uber gets permission to. Just exercise caution when getting those cabs.
What are your thoughts? Would you try Uber in Manila?