Seven ways to be a better Uber user

Apps to help you catch taxis overseas

BlaBlaCar, HailO and Uber are just a few of the global ride-sharing apps available around the world. Video: New York Times

There's been plenty of press about Uber over the past few months.

We've seen complaints over surge surcharges (from people who can't do their maths or are too drunk to read) and Government recognition of UberX in NSW and the ACT, although such 'ride sharing' remains technically illegal in Victoria. 

But the disruptive dot-com remains a popular alternative to cabs and hire cars for business travellers.

It's been around two years since I first tried Uber for my regular trips between the home and the airport, and I doubt that I've caught a taxi since – apart from the cabs which also list themselves on the Uber network.

And in my experience, those taxis tend to come from more upmarket fleets or have a better calibre of drivers.

But as with anything, there are some tips and tricks to using Uber.

Signing up

If you've yet to try Uber, head over to sign up and and enter the promo code uberAU10 to get $10 off your first Uber ride.  You'll also want to download the Uber app for your iPhone  or Android smartphone.

Know your options

Not all types of Uber cars are available in all cities.

Sydney and Melbourne range from the cheapest UberX category – where you'll be driven by a member of the public in his or her own car – to UberTaxi, standard UberBlack hire cars or top-end UberLux vehicles.

Brisbane has only UberX and UberSelect – with the later being latest-model UberX vehicles – while Perth is currently limited to UberX and UberBlack.

Prices scale accordingly, from low-cost ride-sharing to hire-car luxe.

Call when you're ready

Uber is an 'on-demand' service – it relies on a car being available when you need it and in your local area, instead of being booked in advance.

For that reason, it's best not to summon your Uber until you're pretty much ready to roll.

Once an Uber driver accepts your job, a map on the Uber app shows their location. But this tends to be less reliable in the built-up CBD, so don't be caught out thinking you've got five minutes until your ride arrives.

I typically see a 5-10 minute wait for pick-ups from my home on Sydney's lower north shore, so I build that into my timetable rather than stand around waiting idle.

Enter your destination – sometimes

The Uber app lets you enter your destination before putting a call out for a driver.

If your job is a good one – say, form the city to the airport – then by all means, plug it in.

But if it's a relatively short hop around the city you might be better served by leaving that field blank.

Check your passenger rating

Uber users can rate their drivers at the end of each ride – but did you know that the drivers can also rate you?

Every time you hop out of that Uber ride, your driver has the opportunity to rate you on a scale of one to five.

When you request an Uber pick-up the average rating appears under your name in the special Uber app used by drivers – giving drivers the opportunity to pass on jobs involving low-rated passengers.

To check your rating, open the Uber app, tap your profile icon and then tap the Help menu option. Tap the Account menu and on the next screen, tap "I'd like to know my rating" and click the Submit button.

You'll shortly receive an automated email from an Uber rep containing your rating – if it's on the low side, that might explain why you're not getting as many prompt pick-ups as you'd expect.

The art of the pick-up

UberBlack and UberLux cars can collect you from an airport's hire car pick-up zone. That's not an option for private UberX drivers – for example, UberX pick-ups are banned by Sydney Airport – but if there's an airport hotel in walking distance, any driver can legally collect you there.

Earn hotel points

Members of Starwood Preferred Guest (SPG) hotel loyalty program – which covers properties such as the Westin, W and St Regis – can earn up to four Starpoints for each US dollar spent on your Uber ride, depending on your destination (going to a Starwood hotel rakes in bonus points, as does having top-tier SPG status).

Those points can be traded in for a free night at Starwood hotels or converted into airline frequent flyer points with Virgin Australia, Singapore Airlines and American Airlines.

Visit the Starwood website. log into your SPG account and follow the instructions to link it to your Uber profile (you'll need the same email address attached to both accounts).

Do you use Uber – and if so, how does it compare to hire car and taxis? Let David know in the comment section. 

Few people spend more time on planes, in lounges or mulling over the best ways to use frequent flyer points than David Flynn, the editor of Australian Business Traveller magazine. His unparalleled knowledge of all aspects of business travel connects strongly with the interests of Executive Style readers.

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