In honor of international ridesharing day, in it’s seventh year today, I am writing about my experience with ridesharing during a month long trip in Spain. Overall this sharing economy service has been a great addition to my trip. With ridesharing in Spain I saved a lot of money and often saved time, enjoyed conversations with interesting locals, and got good tips about things to do and see (and eat).
Having no experience with ridesharing platforms in the United States, I was a bit nervous about this idea of arranging a ride with a stranger. I loved the concept but wasn’t sure how well it would work in practice, especially for a traveler in Spain with less than perfect Spanish. After my first Blablacar ride from Barcelona to Girona for a day trip (undertaken in the first week of my trip), I felt much more comfortable with how these platforms work and found myself looking to Blablacar first for transportation between cities.
I like ridesharing because I can save money on my transportation and enjoy conversations with locals during the trip. I met a lot of interesting and friendly people, got some great local tips about things to do in various cities, and saved a decent amount of money over the alternative train or bus tickets. I found limited ridesharing options available in northern Spain (outside of Barcelona), possibly because busses there are pretty frequent, cheap, and ubiquitous. In the south, however, I was able to find rides for most of my transportation needs.
I took a day trip to Cordoba from Sevilla. It’s a 45 minute ride by high speed train, but that costs at least €16.30 with advance round trip booking. A rideshare for the hour and a half drive cost me €6. It included some pleasant conversation, and pickup and dropoff in locations that were much more convenient than the train stations in both cities. I could have returned to Sevilla that same evening with the same driver, or with several others, but all the cars leaving the city before 7pm were booked by the time I decided to take the trip (the night before) so I opted for the slow (cheaper) train back, which was still more expensive than a rideshare at €13.
I traveled from Sevilla to Cádiz by Blablacar. This trip was with a couple from Cádiz and one other rider. I got a lot of great tips about the city on the ride, and even an offer of a tour of the city with the driver and his girlfriend. In return I was able to supply the girlfriend’s sister some information about San Francisco, where she’ll be visiting in a week. The train ride would have been longer than the drive because there’s no fast train on this route, and it costs €15.75, compared with the €7 per person we paid for the rideshare.
And I traveled from Cádiz to Granada by Blablacar. The train going this route takes 5 hours and costs €33.50, while the car took just over 3 hours and cost €16.45. The drive goes through some beautiful countryside, passing adorable small towns with castles and churches.
There will be one more rideshare from Granada to Madrid, but that’ll be after international ridesharing day. Once again I will save a lot of money and time since the train options are less direct and slower for this route.
Although Blablacar is pretty new, almost everyone I’ve talked to in Spain has at least heard of the company. There is another major rideshare company in Spain, Amovens, but Blablacar seems to be dominating the market based on ride volume and also general awareness. I’ve heard from other users that it had a big surge in popularity in the past year in Spain.
There also seem to be some informal ridesharing standards developing in Spain. For instance, in Sevilla there were two locations that most rides use as meeting points. Both are pretty large areas that, to a novice like me, present a lot of possible places to look for your ride. But everyone else seemed to know exactly which end of the square or corner of the parking lot was for ridesharing meetups. I’m pretty sure Blablacar has done nothing to help these standards develop, they are just logical choices that everyone’s unofficially agreed on.
To me this widespread awareness of the service and the development of usable standards both indicate that ridesharing is likely to take hold as a common mode of transport in Spain. Of course Spain’s economy is not doing well, and for people who are money conscious sharing the cost of rides makes sense for both the drivers and the riders. I can’t say if this is true in other countries in Europe. But this is a case where economics, environmental impact, and general social benefit all coincide. I hope to see the same trend in other countries on future travels, and perhaps eventually in the United States.