The fabulous rideshare concept, now considered part of the “sharing economy”, is definitely not a new concept. When you need (or prefer) to be somewhere at a certain time, ridesharing is not as up in the air as hitchhiking (more on that sweet sport later), since you choose the date and time of your ride, and you pay the driver a specified amount to cover cost of fuel.
The Paris startup BlaBlaCar has spread rapidly across Europe, with over 3 million users and an estimated 10 million people transported as of 2013 year end. At the moment, BlaBlaCar is thriving in over 10 European countries—most recently Russia and Ukraine–and has even spread to the US, a notoriously difficult market for ridesharing services.
To add to a great concept, it doesn’t hurt that BlaBlaCar utilizes a fun, colorful site design and is extremely user friendly. And what’s extra cool is that if you’re a solo female traveler and want to travel only with other females, then there’s a special section on the site called BlaBla for Ladies.
BlaBlaCar has a very easy to read and detailed profile page for drivers and passengers, and you can learn a lot about the driver before you decide to contact him: how chatty he/she can be (bla bla or bla bla bla), what kind of music he/she listens to, if he/she smokes, his/her photo, reviews from his/her past BlaBlaCar experiences as driver or passenger, and any other information that he/she wants to mention.
However, there’s also Mitfahrgelegenheit.de (try saying that out loud), a German-based rideshare service that also has an English language version (it becomes Carpooling.co.uk), plus 5 more languages. Drivers posting here travel all over western and central Europe. I used this site once to get from Berlin to Prague for just 20 euro (standard rate is 5 euro per 100 km) in under four hours! What can I say, the autobahn is badass.
If you’re traveling across the US, Craigslist is always a great place to look. I got a ride down the coast of California in a school bus-turned house on wheels driven by a 20-year-old. We listened to The Grateful Dead on full blast for most of the ride, and I like, totally, felt like I was time traveling dude… But I have seen a few domestic rideshare organizations like Ridester that advertise inter-city routes, although one such service, Ridejoy, recently had to shut down its operations.
So why hook up with a rideshare instead of using other transportation options? Let me count the ways:
—Save money: Sometimes the ride share cost is over HALF the cost of the bus ticket. To give you a better idea of the cost savings, here are some fare comparisons from my BlaBlaCar experiences in Spain in 2013:
Seville to Granada: 10 euro (BlaBlaCar); 18 euro (bus)
Cadiz to Seville: 7 euro (BlaBlaCar); 13.50 euro (bus)
—Save time: Buses and trains make many stops along the way and may move at a slower speed than cars, so your rideshare journey can be twice as fast as the bus or train journey.
—Meet people: Unless you just need to catch up on sleep or aren’t in a socializing mood, the rideshare experience gives you a new friend or three to chat and laugh with. You can even ask them for tips on what do, see, eat in your destination.
—Be more comfortable: You can open your window and enjoy a nice view, you can smoke if the driver doesn’t mind, you can listen to music, you can make a pit stop to use the bathroom or get some food. When we crossed the border from Germany into Czech Republic, our Czech driver decided to celebrate by stopping at the first roadside pub he found, where we chatted and enjoyed our first Czech beers and fried cheese in a long time.
—Enjoy convenience: Bus stations aren’t always in the most easy to access places, but with a rideshare, you can discuss a meeting point that is good for the driver and riders too.
—Travel eco-friendly: The driver is going to his destination anyways, so may as well fill up that car and cut down on the carbon footprint per person.
Next time you’re on the move, give ridesharing a chance–and grab yourself some real travel adventure.