I love ridesharing when I’m traveling. It’s such a convenient and cheap way to get between cities. Unfortunately ridesharing is mostly available in Europe, though it’s expanding around the world. If you travel overland and are paying for train or bus tickets, consider ridesharing instead.
What is ridesharing?
Ridesharing is the modern day equivalent of hitchiking. But it’s been formalized so that you can schedule your rides/passengers. And all riders kick in some money for the cost of the trip. There’s no profiting from ridesharing. It’s just a cost sharing proposition. Say you’re driving from Madrid to Barcelona. That’s a lot of miles and gas. If you can get three people to come in the car with you, you can greatly reduce your costs, and probably also make the ride more fun.
Uber and Lyft (and all the other similar services) are not ridesharing. They are peer to peer taxis. The drivers are not already going in your direction. And they are driving for profit, not to share costs.
Is ridesharing safe?
Not according to the FBI! During WWII picking up hitchhikers was considered patriotic in America. But then in the mid-50s the FBI ran campaigns against hitchhiking, trying to convince people it was too dangerous, likely because they saw it as connected to counterculture and communism.
Combine that with the growth of crime fear mongering that started in the 70s, and Americans quickly became convinced that hitchhiking = death (and picking up hitchhikers was basically asking to be killed).
The reality is a lot less interesting. Ridesharing today is quite safe. Drivers must register with the rideshare network of their choice, and riders leave reviews. Most ridesharing networks verify IDs of both drivers and riders. And some even offer additional insurance covering incidents during carpooling trips. The chances of something bad happening aren’t very different from the chances of something bad happening in an Uber. And in many apps you can even screen for types of interactions (some people don’t want to talk) and even gender of the driver.
Right now BlaBlaCar is dominating the ridesharing world. They started off in Europe and have acquired companies operating in other countries around the world. Now BlaBlaCar can be found in Easter Europe, Russia, Latin America and India.
There are also a lot of ridesharing companies that operate only within one or two countries. You can find a complete list of your options on my spreadsheet of peer to peer travel services (filter the sub-category on “ridesharing”).