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Uber vs Taxi in Lisbon

Today is a day where the taxi drivers in Lisbon will be on slow go to protest the proposed legalisation of Uber (and Cabify) in Portugal. This dispute is extremely bitter and has been going on for a while now (see these reports about it – in Portuguese).

To be honest… I’m in a bit of two minds about this.. on the one side I really don’t like the Uber’s business model, and therefore have always avoided taking them in London (or other places I have traveled). On the other hand, four out of five times I have been in a taxi in Lisbon I have been taken for a ride… which really doesn’t endear me to the Lisbon taxi drivers.

It is true that in Lisbon the taxis are relatively cheap, so even if they take you for a ride, it will not usually break the bank. That said – it can be quite a bit more expensive, and I’m definitely not happy about such behaviour. In fact, if you read some price comparisons, it seems Uber is sometimes slightly more expensive than regular taxis (and by that I’m talking with someone who is Portuguese in the back seat). However, as cheap as the taxis may be when they go directly from point A to B, the more complicated it can get when you have to explain to a taxi driver where he should go. To make it easier and avoiding having to explain where to go, I simply  pick a big building or square … and ask to be dropped off there. However, at least in Lisbon that doesn’t seem to be a recipe for success: When I tried that with Praça de Espanha the taxi driver completely ignored this – and drove off on a dual carriage way to somewhere else… It took a lot of shouting to get him to stop and I eventually made my way back to the place I wanted to be on foot. And really, Praça de Espanha is not that easy to miss or not know…
Another time, a taxi driver decided that the quickest way to go from the Airport to the Parliament Building was to first head to Parque das Naçoes … and then loop all the way around. In the latter case the damage wasn’t really so bad as being in the middle of nowhere because a taxi driver can’t locate a quite massive intersection in Lisbon, that said, it was notably more expensive than it should have been (still not really expensive, but about 25% more or so).

So far with Uber, on the other hand, I never seemed to have any problems. Firstly, because I guess the application seems to automatically guide the driver to wherever you tell it to go. That is a massive convenience (it also means I can rely on the person dropping me off where I want them to, rather than going somewhere nearby). Also, without exception, the Uber drivers I have met seem to be friendly, genuinely happy to have you on board and all seem to speak very good English.

I know this doesn’t really make up for the issues surrounding the company as such… I know that maybe I have just been unlucky with regular taxi drivers… but  to be honest, from my experience at least, Uber seems to have the upper hand in Lisbon – and while I’m sure there are some really honest and hard working cabbies out there… unfortunately, some taxistas seem to enjoy taking the scenic route a bit too much.