Ride-hailing apps such as Uber are a popular option for visitors to Buenos Aires and other large cities in Argentina. They are often more cost efficient and also remove some of the uncertainty or confusion that language issues can cause using a normal city taxi.
The main ride-sharing service that foreigners are familiar with, Uber, is generally about 30% cheaper than taking a taxi, except during peak times, such as holidays that cause surge pricing. Unlike most taxis, Uber can be paid with (non-Argentine) credit card, users know the cost of the trip beforehand and the app provides information about the driver, such as their name and customer rating.
This means Uber users don’t have to deal with cash and the perpetual problem of making sure one has change on hand with which to pay the driver.
Using the Silicon Valley-born app also cuts down on the possibility of taxi scams that include costly detours, sped-up meters or getting counterfeit bills as change.
The biggest drawback to using ride sharing apps in Argentina is that it usually takes five or ten minutes for a car to show up, while hailing a taxi is usually instantaneous.
Sometimes drivers will also cancel the ride if they see you are paying with a credit card instead of cash.
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Anger in Argentina over Uber
Buenos Aires’ taxis drivers are angry at being undercut by an unregulated service, and there have been loud protests about the app, taxi-led roadblocks and a few incidents of Uber drivers and passengers being mobbed by cab drivers.
The government has backed up the taxi union in the struggle. The day after the service debuted in Buenos Aires in 2015 the courts ordered the service shut down. Uber paid a fine but due to its unregulated nature, continued to operate and even pushed back by offering the service for free for a few days.
The government then blocked Uber from processing major credit cards issued in Argentina — locals have to use alternative prepaid methods (including bitcoin) or cash in order to pay for their ride. Travelers using a foreign credit card, can pay using it, but some drivers don’t like to accept rides paid with credit cards.
In 2018 the city of Buenos Aires voted in a law that imposes fines on Uber drivers caught using the app. The Supreme Court later backed Uber but the service remains in legal limbo in most of Argentina.
Some people remain loyal to taxis and not only because they are slow to warm to new technology. Argentines often view U.S. companies with suspicion and the country has a strong tradition of unionization and workers’ rights.
Uber drivers are independent contractors with no benefits or labor protection, but many Venezuelans coming to Argentina are enthusiastic to work as drivers with the app.
Safety of Uber in Argentina?
For now, passengers in most of Argentina use Uber at their own risk. Uber in Argentina has looser requirements than in some other places, particularly when it comes to the cars.
Occasional police checkpoints have been set up to crackdown on Uber drivers, which means drivers frequently request a passenger sit in the front.
Also, it is important to note that in the case of an accident, the insurance company will most likely get away with not covering Uber passengers, since the service is unregulated and technically illegal.
Those using Uber may want to make sure they have travel insurance.
The one exception is the city of Mendoza, where legislators have kept up with technology and thus legalized Uber in that city.
Getting Uber at Ezieza Airport
It’s worth noting that using Uber after landing at the international airport does not tend to go as smoothly as one would hope.
While the airport has free wifi, the Uber app is blocked. Even if one orders an Uber with their own data-plan they will have to walk away from the terminal, find the driver, luggage in hand, among a sea of cars.
Taxi drivers may become aggressive if they catch on that the car is an Uber. Because of this many Uber drivers avoid the airport, but if you do call Uber and actually find your driver, it is best to act like the driver is a friend and get in the front seat.
(If that prospect sounds dodgy, Wander Argentina offers safe, reliable prepaid airport pickup.)
Getting an Uber from Buenos Aires to arrive at the airport is not a problem. Although users should keep in mind that drivers prefer cash. Those who have their Uber app set to withdraw from their card should be aware that if the driver asks for cash, Uber will also automatically charge your card.
If one finds themselves in this predicament, take a video of the cash changing hands. It can help to get a refund, but it will take some arguing with Uber support staff unaware of the strange quirks of the Argentina economy.
Uber Alternatives: Cabify, Easy Taxi & BA Taxi
The Spanish-owned Cabify is an alternative to Uber with no price surging that is said to have more rigorous requirements for driver and cars, but it does tend to be more expensive. The ride service Lyft is not yet available in Argentina.
Although not ride-sharing app, Easy Taxi is a Brazilian-developed app that may be useful for travelers, as it is popular throughout Latin America. It locates a taxi using GPS, but the fare is usually paid with cash — just a few cars accept credit cards. It has been in the country four years and operates in Buenos Aires, Rosario and Cordoba.
BA Taxi is an app that the city of Buenos Aires government rolled out in early 2017 to compete with Uber. The app, which you can download on Google Play or Apple , allows users to order a taxi in Buenos Aires with their smartphone and is similar to Uber, although it is for registered taxis only and the platform is in Spanish.
BA Taxi fares can also be paid with a credit card. Unfortunately it has poor reviews, with taxi drivers and users saying it doesn’t open, it stalls, it’s slow — basically an Uber copy that doesn’t work well.
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