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Uber in Chiang Mai getting around Chiang Mai just got a whole lot easier

Uber in Chiang Mai  getting around Chiang Mai just got a whole lot easier

drunk_drive-1Groaning under your own weight in groceries from Rimping and can’t face walking home? Had one too many craft lagers at Beer Republic and don’t care to risk driving back? Need to get that visa extension done at immigration in Promenada Resort Mall but live on the opposite side of town? Worried you might have dengue fever and need to get to Bangkok Hospital fast? Nervous to ride a motorbike on the city’s unforgiving roads? The time to rejoice is now for the pioneer and undisputed champion of on-demand ridesharing, Uber, has finally run a green light in Chiang Mai and its fledgling service is already revolutionising the way the city moves.

So what exactly is Uber?

Hailing from the U.S., Uber is, quite simply, an online platform that matches those who need to get from A to B with a network of drivers for hire. For a privately-held startup which began life less than eight years ago, Uber currently operates in no less than 552 metropolitan areas in 72 countries across the globe and, ironically, is now valued at more than the 50 billion dollar empire of motoring colossus Ford. In response to over 54,000 earlier expressions of interest from expat residents, their entry-level low cost solution, UberX, hit Chiang Mai on the 1st November last year giving everyday local drivers the opportunity to use their own non—luxury vehicle as an independent form of public transport.

uber-chiang-mai-mobile-app-2How does Uber work?

Through the miracle of modern technology developed with the expertise of a nuclear physicist, a computational neuroscientist and a machinery specialist, Uber offers both a desktop site as well as an intuitive mobile application through which those who need a door-to-door ride can summon a car to collect them from their desired location and, via the power of GPS satellite navigation, drive them (and their luggage) in air-conditioned comfort to their required destination – a phenomenon popularly known as ‘tap-and-ride’.

What do I need to get started with Uber?

As a would-be passenger, the first step to using the Uber service is to create an account for which you’ll need to be connected to the internet using 3G/4G, WiFi or Broadband. Although you can “sign up to ride” on the Uber web site, arguably the most convenient approach is to download and install the free Uber mobile application –by visiting whichever of Google Play (for Android devices), iTunes (for Apple gadgets) or Microsoft Store (for Windows Phones)- onto your smartphone or tablet and register through the app directly. Designed to get you moving in minutes, you simply need to supply your first and last names, email address, mobile phone number (prefixed with the appropriate country calling code) and a password of your choosing (minimally five characters) then select your preferred language, input details of a payment method (Visa or MasterCard prepaid/credit/debit card, PayPal or opt to pay in cash) and, lastly, enter a promotion code if you have one. After submitting the information, Uber will text a 4-digit code to the mobile phone you designated in order to verify the number. Once confirmed, you’re ready to make your very first booking!

How do I arrange a ride with Uber?

uber-chiang-mai-mobile-app-1After enabling an internet connection on your device, users of a laptop or PC with built-in location services can use their favourite web browser to access Uber’s secure mobile site while those with a smartphone or tablet need only launch the Uber mobile application. Once signed in, you’ll first need to set your pickup point on the interactive map either by selecting your current position as detected by the app or by manually typing in a place name nearest your exact whereabouts. Next, choose your drop off location to be presented with an estimate of the fare and, if satisfied with the quoted price, submit an UberX request. In no time at all, a nearby available driver will respond to your request and hasten your way. Along with an indication of the estimated moment of their arrival (wait times are seldom more than five minutes), you can even track the driver’s vehicle in real-time before as well as during the journey on the map within the Uber mobile app.

Showing no signs of hitting the brakes, Uber has recently partnered with LINE, the instant messaging system from Japan and by far the most widely used of its kind in Thailand, allowing their users to book a ride in order to meet any of their listed friends or family contacts by adding the Uber ID ‘@uberth’ as a ‘Friend’ within the LINE mobile application.

When are Uber drivers available & which areas do they serve?

Although the Uber service in Chiang Mai is accessible round-the-clock, as might be expected, drivers –being everyday folk- are most active during daylight hours and in more heavily populated areas. Encompassing the entire 40.2 km2 of the city municipality [thesaban nakhon] of Chiang Mai, Uber’s current coverage area also extends into the outlying suburbs and partway into the surrounding districts of Mae Rim, San Sai, San Kamphaeng, Saraphi and Hang Dong.

How much does Uber cost & how do I pay?

Uber Chiang MaiNo more haggling over fares or chance being fleeced as a foreigner, UberX’s standard pricing is appreciatively transparent with the approximate –but surprisingly accurate- cost of a ride stated upfront and, being the company’s budget service offering, satisfyingly light on the pocket. With regular fares calculated on the basis of distance, time and prevailing traffic conditions, the minimum flagfall in Chiang Mai for a one-way trip is 20 baht plus an additional 2 baht per kilometre and 2 baht per minute. As a guide, to travel by Uber from Phucome junction at the intersection of Canal and Huay Kaew Roads to Promenada Resort Mall (a walk of almost two and a half hours or roughly 30 minute drive) shows as a ludicrously low 74 to 93 baht; from Tha Phae Gate to Maya Lifestyle Shopping Centre near Nimman just 57 to 71 baht; and from the ‘Provincial Arcade’ bus terminals to the train station a mere 38 to 46 baht. As if their base fares weren’t affordable enough, the Uber Chiang Mai Facebook page continues to be the source of repeated promotions gifting free or discounted rides; better still, with UberX vehicles comfortably seating at least four passengers, split the cost of a journey with your buddies and, per head, it’ll amount to little more than peanuts.

For a ride to or from Chiang Mai International Airport, on the other hand, Uber charges a flat rate of 150 baht whereas a round trip to that most emblematic of Chiang Mai temples and prime tourist attraction, Wat Phra That Doi Suthep is fixed in price at 300 baht. At times of excessive demand from riders (such as during national holidays) or scarce supply of drivers, Uber’s ‘surge pricing’ algorithm is triggered causing fares to be adjusted upwards by up to five times the standard rates. Despite being widely criticised as a form of price gouging, the economic rationale behind such a practice isn’t to deter people from using the service but rather ingeniously to put more Uber wheels on the ground to pick up the slack while allocating available rides to those who value them most. Riders are notified within Uber’s mobile application of a temporary price hike and, of course, have the freedom to choose an alternative mode of conveyance for getting around Chiang Mai.

Upon reaching the destination, the final fare is communicated to the rider and, depending on the payment method selected at the time of registration, either billed directly to the prepaid/debit/credit card on file or settled in cash following which an electronic receipt is delivered to the email address associated with your Uber account. Although reports of which from Chiang Mai are almost non-existent, if you do feel you were overcharged by virtue of the driver taking an unnecessarily scenic route or using the city’s more congested roads, riders can connect with Uber’s 24/7 customer support team and request a fare review.

Whether or not to tip your driver was, in the past, something of a roadblock for Uber. Long vehemently opposed to the fact, the company has lately relaxed their policy now recognising gratuities as optional and a matter of personal discretion. Their mobile application doesn’t, though, feature a tipping function so any token benefit as a reward for good service will need to be volunteered in cold hard baht and, with drivers receiving only a 75% cut of the final fare, will no doubt be warmly welcomed.

Is Uber safe?

No transportation service in the world can be guaranteed completely free of risk and, as clearly laid out in their terms and conditions, Uber is no different. To safeguard passengers as much as is feasible, the company mandates certain minimum criteria concerning the roadworthiness of vehicles as well as stringent eligibility requirements and background security screening in order to be approved as an Uber driver.

Before they can accept each trip request, the driver has to take a selfie as an identity check and, after agreeing to the hire, their credentials (including name and photograph) along with the details of their vehicle (including make/model of car and licence plate number) are available to the waiting rider through the Uber mobile application. As an extra precaution, riders can share the particulars of their trip with friends or family through the app so they can follow the progress of your journey live.

Predictably, Uber drivers in Chiang Mai are local Thais often professionals working part-time on the side, generally possess a reasonable if not better command of spoken English, typically personable in nature owning clean, well-maintained cars with working seatbelts and far more likely to observe traffic laws and driving rules than the average road user here.

So as to continually improve service quality but also -in true Airbnb style- to provide mutual accountability, the Uber mobile app prompts driver and rider alike to leave a star rating and anonymous feedback at the end of the trip. Drivers who score above 4.6 out of 5 remain in good stead with Uber while riders with a poor standing may well find their trip requests refused!

Is Uber legal?

Uber-tuk-tuk warsCertainly no stranger to controversy, Uber has been the target of legal action, bans and even large-scale protests in a number of major cities worldwide by governments and taxi unions who variously accuse the company of unfair competition and endangering the lives of passengers by using drivers who are untrained, unlicensed and uninsured. Although Uber is no longer deemed unlawful in Thailand, they do occupy an unregulated space here since there are no provisions under the country’s archaic Motor Vehicle and Land Traffic Acts that cover ridesharing. In their defence, the company are known to be actively lobbying the Thai authorities in order to comply with the same legislation applicable to conventional taxi cabs.

Who is Uber’s main rival in Chiang Mai?

Publicised as a ride-hailing service, Malaysian founded Grab (formerly GrabTaxi) was introduced into Chiang Mai in December 2015. Replicating Uber’s innovative business model and also offering 24-hour instant bookings (subject to a 50 baht surcharge) through their smartphone app, Grab dispatches only licensed and metered city taxis, employs qualified drivers, provides complimentary personal accident insurance and allows riders to schedule a reservation up to seven days in advance. In sharp contrast to Uber’s virtually impeccable service record in Chiang Mai to date, however, Grab has provoked largely negative reactions among foreigners in the city with complaints about long wait times, an inadequate fleet of vehicles and limited coverage common.

What are your own experiences using Uber in Chiang Mai either as a driver or passenger? What do you think will be the impact on the city’s more conventional forms of public transport? We’d absolutely love to hear your views on the subject so please leave us a comment below!

(21) Comments

  1. Chris

    on   said 

    Been using Uber for sometime and it is the best form of transport here. If the government are serious about people stopping drink driving I hope it stays around.

    Only problem I have had with them is around rush hour getting into town there sometimes aren’t enough drivers but hopefully that will improve in time.

    I tried Grab when I couldn’t Uber one time and it just seems like another way for sneaky meter taxis to charge you what ever they want without putting the meter on.

    Reply
    • Perfect Homes (Chiang Mai Properties)

      on   said 

      Hi Chris, Thank you for your positive thoughts and comments on Using Uber in Chiang Mai. As you mention it will certainly have the positive effect of cutting down on drink driving in Chiang Mai.

      Reply
  2. I think it’s great for the people of Chiang Mai to have such an easy to use and affordable transport option. It’s a perfect option for when I’m going to meet friends for a few drinks in the city.

    It costs a fraction of what I was paying before for transport and every driver I’ve had so far has been polite and friendly.

    Reply
    • Perfect Homes (Chiang Mai Properties)

      on   said 

      HI Dan,
      thank you for your positive comments on Uber in Chiang Mai. It is obviously a great system and can save a lot of hassle.

      Reply
  3. Daniel

    on   said 

    Uber is a great way to get to and from many places where other forms of paid transportation are not available. I had family visiting my place which is a 15 minute walk from any main road. Within 5 we knew the price, drivers name and model of car. Minutes later my family were on their way back to their hotel at a fraction of the cost.

    Reply
    • Perfect Homes (Chiang Mai Properties)

      on   said 

      Hi Daniel, Thank you for sharing your experience with the Chiang Mai Uber services! We are hearing lots of good reports and the rides are very well priced!

      Reply
  4. I have just recently been introduced to Uber and wish i had know about it before. It is an incredibly simple and brilliant service, the taxis arrive within minutes and the costs are seriously low. No more searching and waiting for taxis that overcharge. A quick click on the Uber app and your ready to go. Life just got easier (:

    Reply
  5. Used it twice yesterday for first time. From Bo Sang to Hang Dong was 100 baht. Hang Dong to Bus Station a whopping 350 but apparently its because the bus station is like a ‘zone’ and theres set prices. Drivers were great, said mostly they only take farang as most Thais not heard of it. App was a bit awkward to use and rating was a pain, not sure if/how ratings went though. One driver was 4.7 average and apparently Uber are rough as hell if you drop below 4.5 average you can get fired or something crazy like that, so made sure to 5* both times. The mrs gave 4 on accident and struggled for 10 mins tryna change it as the poor guy mighta dropped below 4.5 from that, but hopefully it changed to 5 ok. Watching the cars come to you on the app is kinda cool. Overall impressed.

    Reply
  6. Tommy

    on   said 

    roads in Thailand are dangerous enough, last thing they need are Uber’s rushing around knocking people off there bikes trying to get 50 baht here and there.

    Reply
  7. Used it a bunch of times and it was great. Songtaew driver friend told me off the other day because Uber doesn’t have insurance if there’s an accident. I was astonished to discover that songtaews had insurance

    Reply
  8. Joolz

    on   said 

    The whole problem of CNX come from the lack of affordable late night infrastructure of transport. Try obtaining a city trip 7km or so from the city at say 9:30pm, Uber is a breath of fresh air in that aspect. Then the next problem is obtaining a reasonably price trip back home at say 1:00am. Once again Uber comes up trumps. Arguing with a Tuk Tuk driver to get out of town and he knows he’s no return fare is a nightmare. Hopefully Uber hangs in against the corruption and pressures they must be receiving.

    Reply
  9. We got a Uber yesterday. The driver knew where we were going before he agreed to take us & we received a quote, so great. This morning credit card hit with additional charge which was 3 x’s the original quoted price we had already also paid. Up until now we were happy with Uber. They said it was a flat rate charge. So if we ever decide to use them again, will be paying cash in future . Still waiting for a response from Uber.

    Reply
    • tommy sux

      on   said 

      yep same happened to me but i knew to never trust them w my credit card, so they froze my account demanding payment! Their customer service ignored my emails for FIVE WEEKS and finally said, theres only one way we will unfreeze your account, add your credit card and we will issue a credit

      well that would be fine and good except 2 things,
      i dont trust them w my cc

      this solves this issue but not future gouges, the reasoning is bc the driver doesnt end the trip at the destinationn, they drive around town and home and then say the trip ended showing u owe the money, so its exactly 5ish percent of drivers being scum of the earth crooks is the problem, and ubers 5 week delay in customer service, i know 10 people this has happened to (know them online only that is lol

      Reply
  10. Dzenis

    on   said 

    Every time I move somewhere, like I moved here from Poland and before that from Vietnam to Poland, I have problems with payment and can’t book a ride. It takes them ages to fix it. I rather use Grab.

    Reply
  11. I’ve used Uber in Chiang Mai about 8 times now and am very happy with the service. Very comfortable cars, with very good prices. Almost too good – I think they don’t pay the drivers enough, which leads to ride shortages. A great alternative to expensive, noisy tuk tuks for farang.

    Reply
  12. Brian

    on   said 

    We use it all the time, and recommend it to our clients. Have had nothing but positive experiences and positive reports from clients, and they are much cheaper than the tuk tuk mafia

    Reply
  13. perla

    on   said 

    I am using uber everyday bec it is easy for me to get a ride…today I took uber this morning and there is no problem…when I get back from Lampang I contacted uber again to go back home…I was in the bus terminal the driver named Chayut if im not mistaken did not called me so I called him and I told him the place where I am waiting for him…i gave him the instruction clearly…I said I am standing beside the name writened “Chiang Mai Bus Terminal 3”..and he still cant find me …I saw him passing by where I am waiting and told him to stop bec I will walk where he is…but he did not stop driving far from me I told him to come back but he doesnt…the problem is he dont understand what I said…he just say…yes…but he doesnt understand me…I callled him 3 times and talked for a long time…then he cancelled my ride after waiting for almost an hour…I took another ride and was surprised to receive a message from uber that I have to pay 35 baht additional …my question is..why I need to pay that I am not the one who cancelled the ride…I did not canceled it bec I know that I will pay…I think its not good that I am waiting for almost an hour and the driver cancelled the ride and then I will pay for a penalty????

    Reply
    • Perfect Homes (Chiang Mai Properties)

      on   said 

      Hi Perla,
      Not a good experience. But lets hope it is a one off.
      Good luck with UBer in the future!
      Thanks for posting!

      Reply
  14. Nad

    on   said 

    Hello everyone,
    I am leaving for the airport at 3.30 am tonight (sunday) and wonder what is the safest option, does uber run at this time of the night on nimman area? Is it possible to book it and get a confirmation ? Thank you for your reply.I am downloading the app

    Reply
  15. paul

    on   said 

    Using uber in chiang mai is always best choices. They’re polite and can make communicte even driver’s english is poor

    Reply

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