Scary Uber Ride
I recently travelled to Prague for a 10 day trip with a bunch of friends and the first stop was Pilsen for Pilsner Fest (think way too much beer and late night shenanigans.) I arrived a few days after the rest of my friends because I took a small detour to UAE so that I could fly Emirates Suites and Etihad Apartments on the way (yes I'm insane). As I arrived solo at the airport after 65 hours of traveling and 5 separate flights, I decided I was too tired to take multiple trains to get to Pilsen so i opted for an Uber. I can wholeheartedly say that has been the worst decision I have made since I began traveling for a living. (Bear in mind the terrible decisions list is stacked and includes things like getting halfway home from the airport and realizing my 50 lb suitcase was still on the carousel or flying 20+ hours in a day around the US on 5 separate flights just to try out as many AA domestic lie flat options as I could in 24 hours.) The following is an account of a very scary Uber ride and the failure of Uber and several of it's employees to take a clear safety issue seriously.
Check Out My New YouTube Channel!
My Ride Details
I was picked up around 10:30-11PM after a 25 minute wait for the driver. He was very courteous at first sight and smiled at me as he put my bag in his trunk. A few minutes into the trip I noticed we turned onto a parkway that seemed pretty desolate, see I try to always be aware of my surrounding when I'm traveling solo because I know solo travelers especially women are more likely to become targets than groups. I did however break one of my cardinal rules which is to make sure I always have a fully charged portable charger in my bag to make sure my phone is always available. (A mistake that came back to bite me in the… you know the saying).
About 10 minutes in, the driver started cursing (apparently [email protected]#K is a universally used word) and pulled over on the side of the nearly empty parkway. He started very excitedly yelling at me in what I imagine was Czech. I started trying to guess what his issue was and and playing a charades type game with him. He then pulled out a translation app and while I couldn't quite make out exactly what he was saying I was able to understand that the amount he was getting for the ride was not to his liking. I immediately responded that we should call Uber and let them know to adjust it to a fair price- no problem right? Wrong! I opened the Uber App looking for a way to call Uber and found nothing, he also told me he couldn't call them (at least that's what I think he said). So I called the emergency line and I explained to the person I thought was an Uber rep what was going on and was it possible for someone to adjust the rate? She informed me that I'd dialed Prague's version of 9-1-1 and she could send police. I decided we weren't quite there yet and truth be told I didn't want to get my driver in trouble if there was just a major misunderstanding, I also didn't know much about police in Prague and worried that I could be getting myself into a worse situation.
Trying to Find a Solution
My driver continued his freak out and I began to beg him to please just take me back to the airport. He didn't move and I furiously tried to convey to him that I'd make up the difference in his tip on the app and give him all the cash I had in my bag which was about $65. He didn't get it. Finally I showed him the app and said through the translator “I will tip you the extra money in the app” He seemed to nod in acceptance and make a gesture at my phone as if to say “go ahead.” Yeayyy! Right? Wrong again :(. The app will only let you preset a tip up to a certain percentage of the fare while you're riding- here it was only about 20%.
I then began to convert USD to Croation Kuna because that's what it sounded like he was asking for also the app he showed me said KC for currency. Well $65 is only about 500 of those, thankfully I finally realized he was talking about Czech Koruna which converts to USD at a much higher amount (Obviously CZK is the logical currency but I know Uber allows drivers to see their preferred currency and i was obviously in panic mode so rational thinking was out the window.) I then realized, that 1500 CZK is the amount he said he wanted so I explained that $65 was in fact about 1500 CZK and that I would still tip the max. Basically he would be getting 2300 CZK which is much more than the 1500 he wanted. After about 10 minutes of trying to explain, he basically just said fine with a grumble and proceeded to get back on the parkway. I wish the ordeal had ended here but we still had a 40 minute drive ahead of us and he was on the phone the whole time cursing and making faces at me.
Uber's “Emergency” Response
For this section I feel lit's far more effective for you to view the conversation I had with Uber's Emergency Response Team aka the Critical Safety Response Line.
Surely someone called me, right? Wrong. In fact they waited a whole 2 hours and 40 minutes to send a reply. In the meantime I was pulled over for a total approximate time of 35-40 mins with a dying battery. The other thing that really ticked me off was the last response, he probably should have called me or at least asked if I was alive. I think the whole situation is made worse by the fact that two separate safety response team members didn't take the situation seriously. Sometimes the issue is more with the specific person you get when you reach out, but I believe the issue is an issue with Uber's policies and lack of concern for safety. Mark at Miles to Memories wrote up a situation involving his wife Kirsten, you can check it out here.
How the situation comes across: Basically Uber doesn't seem to think that being held hostage by a driver on the side of a road in a foreign country for 30-50 minutes is a safety issue. Good to know.
Final Thoughts: This Wasn't the First Scary Uber Ride
In the end I got to my destination safely but my concern is for other solo travelers or anyone without the travel skills I have. If I was scared, imagine how a less experienced or less confident person would have felt in this situation. A quick google search returns thousands of results of nightmare passenger stories involving their own scary Uber ride stores. Going forward, I will certainly not be using Uber when I don't absolutely have to (especially when I'm alone). I also recommend researching the best public transportation options to get from the airport and your destination ahead of time. Once I got used to ride sharing I basically stopped worrying about transportation to and from the airport. I do however use the metro whenever I possibly can and generally find it to be safe and convenient but that's entirely dependent on the city.