In part 1 of my Safer Travel Series, I shared my best tips for making sure your hotel room was completely safe. In this second part, I’m going to share all of my advice on staying safe when you have to use a ride share service, like a taxi, Uber, or Lyft and my ride share safety tips. Many of these can even apply to airport/hotel shuttles, particularly if they require you to ride alone with the driver. I share these ride share safety tips in the hopes that it empowers everyone, women and solo-travelers in particular, to travel fearlessly.
As I discussed in the first part of this series, some of these tips are things we should all do whenever we use ride share services, while others we will hopefully never need to use. These pieces of advice, including the advice here about ride share safety, are never meant to victim blame in any way, they are instead meant to help everyone stay safe and be aware of what could go wrong, in order to know what to do to protect themselves should a problem arise.
I personally use ride share services, particularly in large cities or places where renting a car is impractical, often and I’ve never once felt unsafe. While unscrupulous people can be anywhere, most ride share apps do a great job of screening their drivers to keep riders safe, and crimes against ride share users are quite low. Of course, even one victim is too many, so always trust your instincts, and save this ride share safety guide for anytime you may need it.
General Ride Share Advice & Ordering Your Ride
Avoid riding alone whenever possible, especially at night. If you can ride with friends, do so.
Wait indoors when possible to limit the amount of time you spend standing around outside waiting.
Some people cancel their rides over and over until the get a female driver to feel safer. This may only work in large cities or near large airports with lots of different drivers nearby.
Finding Your Driver
Confirm that you have found the correct car by checking their license plate number, car color, make and model with the information the driver has listed in the app. These should be identical matches with zero variations, as drivers are required to register any changes with the app, which will then be immediately updated.
Once you think you’ve found the correct driver, check that their photo matches the photo provided in the ride share app. If the driver is a different person than the photo provided on the app, do NOT get in the car with them, cancel your ride, report their account, go back inside to safety, and call the authorities to report the driver’s attempted fraud.
Ask the driver to verify your destination and your name. Have them say your name first, instead of volunteering that information to them, as there are scammers out there who may just be looking to pick people up and take them to ATMs to force them to take out money, or worse.
Getting Into the Vehicle
If someone else is in the vehicle when they shouldn’t be, do not enter it, immediately cancel the ride, and report the driver. There is no reason for other people to be in the car with the driver and you, if you are the only one paying for your ride.
Sit in the backseat, on the opposite side of the driver. This puts more space between you and the driver, making it more difficult to reach you, it allows you to keep an eye on the driver and their body language, it allows you to keep an eye on the road to make sure they’re following the correct route, and it makes it easy to get out of either of the back doors depending upon which side of the street the driver parks against.
As you enter the car, ask if you can roll down your window while you ride, and roll the window down while the door is still open, so if anything happened you could easily yell and signal for help, or open the door from the outside of the car through the open window.
If anything feels off, don’t be afraid to cancel the ride and try another driver.
Get in at the same time as any other people you’re with so no one is left behind should the car take off. That would be a scary situation, but even scarier if you’re separated from friends or travel companions.
Immediately after shutting the door, try to reopen it to ensure the child locks aren’t engaged, which is against the terms and service ride share drivers are required to follow for safety reasons. You can say you shut the hem of your skirt or jacket into the door if the driver questions you (which they likely won’t). If the door won’t open, loudly ask them to release the child locks, or get out by reaching through the open window and grabbing the outer handle and cancel the ride. This is one of the many reasons to ride with the window down.
On the Road with Your Driver
Remember that you can always ask to be dropped off somewhere else before you reach your destination safe like a hotel, gas station, or police station where there will be people around 24/7 who can help you find another way to your destination, should you feel unsafe.
If you feel you need to get out of the car and it is safe to do so, firmly say “stop the car now, I’m getting out here.” or feign intense nausea, they won’t want you to make a mess in their car. A part of ride share safety is knowing your rights as a rider, and knowing that you are never obligated to stay in a car where you don’t feel safe.
When chatting with drivers, don’t give them any of your personal information that they could use to look you up later, and don’t tell them details about your travels, like where you’re staying, if you’re a local, how long you’re in town, etc. If they continue to pry, tell them you’re so sorry to cut it short, but you have to check in on a friend, and call a trusted friend or loved one talk with them instead. Information like your phone number and drop off location are not stored by ride share drivers booked through phone apps.
Always Make sure your cell phone has at least some battery. This is my favorite mobile power bank, which I take with me everywhere. I also own this less expensive mobile charger as well as this one, both of which work well, and charge my phone fully at least a few times.
Never let an Uber driver cancel your ride before you reach your destination. If they do this, know that it’s very sketchy behavior and include this in your review of them.
Talk to someone on the phone while you’re in the car and give them regular updates of where you are and when you will arrive to your destination, if you’re feeling nervous about your driver.
If the driver asks if you live at the destination say no, even if you do, and mention that you’re just visiting friends who are waiting on you to start an event/surprise party for someone else/etc.
If legal, carry whatever self defense method you’re most comfortable with and authorized to use. I strongly recommend taking a few self-defense lessons to anyone who travels.
At Your Destination
Assess your destination when you arrive, and look out for obstacles like bicyclists, high curbs, other vehicles or other things that might prevent you from opening your door.
Be sure to gather all of your personal belongings prior to arriving at your destination, and keep any valuables such as your phone, laptop, passport, etc. close at hand and tucked away safely. Do a sweep of the vehicle to ensure you didn’t drop anything under the seat or where you were sitting.
Don’t be afraid to call the police to file a report if your ride share driver has made you uncomfortable, harassed you, or been inappropriate. Be sure to report them to the app as well should this happen. This helps keep others safe, creates a concrete record of what happened should any further issues arise, and helps prevent dangerous drivers from interacting with others.
More Safety Tips Coming Soon
I hope these ride share safety tips help you travel more confidently. Next in this series I’ll talk about all the ways you can keep yourself safe while out exploring a new place, driving long distances alone, traveling late at night, when in a place where you don’t speak the language, and many other topics I’m asked about frequently. If you have a suggestion for this series, please reach out to me at firstname.lastname@example.org with questions or suggestions.