While rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are predominately safe and reliable, they may not offer adequate security for travelers—learn more about transportation alternatives for secure travel when abroad.
When traveling for work or pleasure, visitors need to decide how they’ll get around an unfamiliar destination. Rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft have revolutionized the way we hail a cab, offering convenience, affordability, and often a sense of security. However, some travelers do question whether using rideshare apps is always advisable when exploring a foreign country or new city. The concern over whether Uber is safe is valid, especially when you’re in unknown territory.
In general, rideshare apps have proven to be safe and reliable, especially in comparison to unmarked taxis and other modes of transportation that can leave travelers more vulnerable to extortion, violence, and other dangers. Is Uber safe all of the time? Unfortunately, no. Uber’s 2022 safety report stated that while 99.9% of rides ended with no safety-related issues, there were over 3,000 cases of sexual assault reported on its U.S. platform over a two-year span. Murders and crashes were also reported.
While rideshare apps are often the default choice, there are times where a private option, featuring a private driver and company that the rider knows to be safe, knowledgeable, and accountable, may be preferred. This is especially true when traveling in high-risk countries and cities around the world, where the security risk is heightened and your need for different, more secure options is greater.
The Appeal of Rideshare Apps for Travelers
For years now, using rideshare apps such as Uber and Lyft — whether you’re in your hometown or traveling abroad for work or leisure — has become standard. The appeal of these services quickly became obvious, especially as their utility widened. Advantages of these apps include:
- Convenience: Rideshare apps provide a convenient, language barrier-free way to get from point A to point B. With just a few taps on your smartphone, you can request a ride and track your driver’s arrival in real-time. And whether you’re in New York, Mexico City, San Francisco, or Rome, the user interface for calling a car is generally the same across apps.
- Cost-effective: In many cases, rideshare services are more affordable than traditional taxis. You can often estimate the fare in advance, eliminating any potential surprises at the end of the trip or worrying that a driver is taking a circuitous route.
- Safety features: Apps typically provide information about your driver, including their name, photo, and license plate number. Additionally, they allow you to share your trip details with friends or family, adding an extra layer of security. Drivers must pass a background check before their first trip, and these checks are rerun over the years.
These advantages are especially valuable when traveling for work. If a meeting or dinner runs late, many travelers don’t want to be left waiting for a late-night subway, or wondering when or whether the cab they called will arrive, especially when holding sensitive documents, business credit cards, or other assets like laptops or smartphones.
Why Riders are Concerned About Rideshare Apps
As mentioned above, even 99.9% of rides ending without a safety issue means thousands of riders have had concerns or have dealt with assault or violence when using a rideshare app over the last few years.
Even if an Uber driver or Lyft driver doesn’t attack or otherwise harm a rider, there are countless incidents of riders made to feel uncomfortable by their drivers. There’s a reason that hundreds of people each month search the phrase “Can you request a female Uber driver?” This question is telling. On some level, we still want to know more about who is behind the wheel of our car before they arrive and during our ride.
To answer that question: no, riders on Uber or Lyft cannot request that their driver be a woman, or any other specifics about their driver, such as their sex, age, or orientation. On the other hand, female and non-binary Uber drivers can activate a “Woman Rider Preference” feature to give them more power over who they accept into their vehicle. It’s important to recognize that every party in a rideshare trip accepts some level of risk.
When Traveling Requires a More Secure Option
Different countries, cities, and even neighborhoods pose different levels of risk or difficulty to travelers. Simply put, some areas are less safe, and using the same tool (in this case, the rideshare apps you take for granted at home) won’t be as effective.
When traveling in everyday situations in higher-risk areas (such as any of the countries on our most dangerous countries in the world list), travelers may want to take extra precautions to address the heightened security risk. This includes knowing exactly who and where your driver is, and that they know how to move you from danger to safety.
This need for extra assurance and protection is exacerbated during a crisis such as civil unrest, military action, or other threats to general safety, which can happen more often in high-risk areas. While Uber and rideshare apps have their advantages, they might not be the best option in situations requiring a heightened level of security, such as parts of Mexico, Colombia, the Middle East, and cities across Central Asia and Europe.
There are logistical reasons why a traveler may want to have a rideshare alternative as well, including lack of internet connectivity in certain areas, unavailability in some locations, or virtual payment issues on the Uber or other rideshare platform.
Alternatives to Uber and Lyft When Traveling
Whether your concerns about Uber or Lyft are logistics- or security-related, there are options outside of this ecosystem that you and/or your employer can explore. Travelers who prefer a higher degree of security or have specific requirements may want to explore alternative transportation options. Here are some alternatives to consider:
Private Security Companies
For those who prioritize safety and reliability above all else, private security companies can be an excellent choice. These firms specialize in providing secure transportation services for individuals and businesses, and many adhere to travel risk management guidelines outlined in ISO 31030. The key advantages of opting for private security companies include:
- Vetted and trained drivers: Security firms often employ highly trained and vetted private drivers, including ex-military personnel, law enforcement officers, and security experts. These drivers are skilled in defensive driving and personal security.
- Known and trusted services: When you hire a private security company, you can have confidence in their reputation and commitment to safety. They have a vested interest in ensuring the security and well-being of their clients.
- Secure vehicles: These companies typically use well-maintained, and sometimes armored vehicles with advanced security features. This ensures a safe and comfortable travel experience.
- Customized services: Private security companies can tailor their services to your specific needs, whether you’re traveling for business, leisure, or other purposes.
- Global reach: Many of these firms have a global presence, making them suitable for international travel. They are well-versed in handling the unique security challenges of different regions.
Security companies are most effective in operating during unexpected emergencies, such as in areas with the potential for civil unrest, political violence, crime, and even terrorism. These private drivers are trained to handle crisis situations and navigate challenging environments with utmost caution. They can swiftly adapt to changing circumstances and prioritize your safety.
It’s important to note that private security services often come at a premium cost, but for travelers who require the utmost in safety and professionalism, and employers who are charged with providing duty of care for their employees, the investment can be well worth it.
Alternative Rideshare Companies
If you want to use rideshare services but are wary of Uber or Lyft, consider researching and using alternative rideshare companies. Several regional and international rideshare platforms operate in various countries and regions, such as Grab in Asia or Gett in Israel. These platforms may have different safety standards and features, so it’s a good idea to investigate them in advance.
Some of these alternative companies have their own unique strengths and benefits that can make them appealing for certain travelers, such as companies that are cooperatively owned, or offer luxury rides. That said, there may be even fewer security features in these apps than are available in Uber or Lyft, and the availability of drivers is sometimes limited.
Driving Yourself in a Car Rental
For those who prefer complete control over their transportation, renting a car and driving yourself is an option. This approach gives you the flexibility to explore at your own pace and visit remote areas that might be less accessible by rideshare or public transportation. However, it’s essential to consider factors like local traffic rules, road conditions, and parking availability. Additionally, you’ll need to be comfortable with navigation and be aware of potential language barriers.
If you choose to drive yourself, ensure that you have the necessary documentation, including an international driving permit if required. Familiarize yourself with local driving customs and ensure you have adequate insurance coverage.
Prioritize what is most important to you
To summarize, rideshare apps like Uber and Lyft are generally safe and convenient choices for travelers. At the end of the day, the convenience of these apps, balanced with the cost, is what makes them so popular and widely accepted around the world. If convenience is your primary concern, it’s hard to beat these options.
However, for those seeking an extra layer of safety and expertise while not worrying about ferrying themselves around a new city or locale, private security companies like Global Guardian stand out as a compelling option. These companies offer well-trained, vetted drivers with a specialization in personal security and defensive driving. With their global reach, secure vehicles, and customized services, they provide travelers with the assurance of a trusted, secure, and tailored travel experience. While rideshare apps can be excellent, the choice ultimately depends on your priorities, and opting for the expertise of a private security service can offer unparalleled peace of mind during your travels.