Does Uber work in Mexico? I see this question pop up quite often in travel forums when looking for new destinations. I can understand why people want to know about this. After all, we tend to stick to whatever we are familiar with. This applies to all things in life.
When we travel to a new destination, we might feel safer and more at ease using a service we have already used in our home countries. Nothing wrong with that.
But does Uber work in Mexico? Short answer, yes. There are some exceptions though. If you’re curious about Uber in Mexico, keep on reading.
Table of Contents
- First of All, What’s Uber?
- What Kinds of Uber Are There in Mexico?
- Does Uber Work in All of Mexico?
- Are There Any Differences When Using the App?
- Why Does Uber Take so Long in Mexico?
- Why Do Drivers Keep Canceling on Me?
- Why Do Uber Prices Vary so Much?
- How Do I Pay for My Ride?
- Controversy in Mexico
- A Few Additional Tips
- Is Uber Safe in Mexico?
- Do I Recommend Uber in Mexico?
- Alternatives to Uber
- Bottom Line
First of All, What’s Uber?
I’m assuming most of you know already what it is and how it works, but for those of you who don’t, here it goes. Uber is a private car or “taxi” service if you prefer the term, where you can arrange for a car to take you somewhere, all from the ease and comfort of your home or office. You just download an app to your smartphone, enter some personal information, and voila! You’re set to go.
Uber has gained popularity among Millennials and other generations due to its ease of use. Mexico, of course, is no exception. As of 2016, Uber has 1.2 million users nationwide and that number just keeps growing.
What Kinds of Uber Are There in Mexico?
There are several kinds of Uber units catering to different needs. These are:
- UberX, the standard ride service. Up to three people.
- Uber Planet, similar to UberX, but you pay a little more to help fund environmental programs.
- Uber Comfort, bigger cars for a better experience. Up to three people.
- Uber Black, premium rides in luxury cars. Up to three people.
- UberXL, spacious rides for up to five people.
- Uber Assist, special assistance from certified drivers. Up to four people.
- Uber Taxi, regular taxis that have an agreement with Uber.
- Uber Flash/Uber Moto, send packages locally.
- Uber Van, only in Monterrey. Up to 20 people. Not sure if it still works.
The ones you’ll find all over Mexico are UberX and Uber Planet. The rest will depend on each destination.
Does Uber Work in All of Mexico?
The answer is no. I mentioned earlier there are some exceptions regarding Uber operations. Although Uber does not operate in all parts of Mexico, the private car service does have a significant presence in the country with over 60 destinations. According to their website, they operate in the following Mexican cities:
|Cancún||Gómez Palacio||Mazatlán||Puerto Vallarta||Tijuana|
|Ciudad Juárez||Guasave||Mexico City||Salamanca||Torreón|
|Ciudad Obregón||Guaymas||Monclova||Saltillo||Tuxtla Gutiérrez|
|Ciudad Victoria||Hermosillo||Monterrey||San Juan del Río||Uruapan|
|Coatzacoalcos||Irapuato||Morelia||San Luis Potosí||Valladolid|
|Colima||La Paz||Navojoa||San Luis Río Colorado||Veracruz|
|Cuautla||León||Nogales||San Miguel de Allende||Villahermosa|
|Cuernavaca||Los Cabos||Nuevo Laredo||Tampico||Xalapa|
|Culiacán||Los Mochis||Nuevo Vallarta||Tehuacán||Zacatecas|
|Dolores Hidalgo||Manzanillo||Piedras Negras||Tepic||Zamora|
As you can see, Uber operates in many parts of Mexico. One thing you have to keep in mind is the cities listed above are major cities. For economic purposes, the list does not include metro areas. Take Monterrey as an example. Uber operates in Monterrey as well as in its whole metro area which includes 13 municipalities. The same applies to the rest.
To check the latest list of destinations Uber operates in, you can visit this link.
Are There Any Differences When Using the App?
Not really. The service you get and the process to request it are pretty much the same you would see in your home country.
A notable difference I can think of is regarding the forms of payment. Originally, Uber only accepted credit/debit cards. However, in Mexico, they had to make some adjustments to accept cash. Cash is still king in Mexico as opposed to credit cards.
Another difference I recall has to do with driver information. When you request a pickup, you instantly get access to the driver’s name, car make, car color, and license plate. However, on my most recent trip to Mexico, whenever I requested an Uber I wouldn’t get the full license plate, just the first 3 letters or numbers. I’ve only seen this happen in Morelia, nowhere else. I asked the driver about it, but she didn’t know the answer.
Aside from the above, Uber in Mexico is the same thing as Uber in the U.S. or other parts of the world.
Why Does Uber Take so Long in Mexico?
Something that I discovered in recent months during my trips in Mexico is that the fact that Uber operates at a certain destination does not mean that there are many drivers available there. Take the border town of Mexicali as an example. While Uber operates there, there are barely any Uber drivers no matter the time of day you request a ride. Every time I used the app to request a ride, I could only see one or two drivers available…and they were 20+ minutes away! Something similar happened to me in Guanajuato and Zacatecas. In many places, the average wait time is around 10 minutes.
You also have to consider the area of town you are in when requesting a ride. For instance, in Monterrey, a large city with many Uber drivers, it’s almost impossible to have someone pick you up at the airport. The airport is far from the city, and usually, drivers don’t get near unless they are taking someone there.
The time of day also matters. The number of drivers reduces significantly during late-night hours even in large cities. The problem becomes worse at smaller destinations.
Since the pandemic, many drivers quit. Fewer drivers mean longer wait times. These are but a handful of reasons Uber takes too long in some Mexican destinations.
Why Do Drivers Keep Canceling on Me?
About three years ago, people started complaining on social media about Uber drivers canceling trips for no apparent reason. Upon investigation, it was found this practice followed a pattern. Most Uber drivers canceled trips when you selected a credit card as your form of payment.
Either the driver would cancel on the spot or call you and ask if you could pay in cash instead. If you said no, they canceled your trip then.
Although Uber fired many drivers because of this and established new rules to prevent it from happening, it still happens from time to time. So, next time you need a ride and they keep canceling on you, switch your payment option to cash, and more than likely, that will solve the problem.
They might also cancel on you if they consider the trip isn’t worth it. I’ve been told if a trip is too short, some drivers will change their mind and cancel the trip.
Why Do Uber Prices Vary so Much?
This is not new, but it has been more common in recent years. If you have ever used Uber, you must have heard about “surge pricing”. This practice consists in using a variable that will affect the price per ride depending on user demand. Simply put, if too many people are requesting rides at the same time, Uber will increase the prices. This happens not only in Mexico but everywhere Uber operates.
Last December, many users all over Mexico complained about the excessive prices they were charged. In some cases, the prices increased up to 200%.
As a general rule, surge pricing is in effect during rush hour (7 a.m.-9 a.m. and 6 p.m.-8 p.m.) on weekdays and afternoon/night hours on weekends. However, keep in mind other factors come into play. For example, if there is an event going on near you such a soccer match or a concert, you will see an increase in prices.
To avoid paying higher prices than normal, avoid traveling at the times we just mentioned. If you’re not in a hurry, wait it out or move to a different location if possible. Sometimes surge pricing only affects a part of the city.
How Do I Pay for My Ride?
The easiest and most convenient way is using your credit/debit card. However, if you don’t have one or you don’t feel comfortable using it on the app, you have two options:
- Pay in cash.
- Buy a gift card at stores like Oxxo and Walmart. To add funds to your e-wallet, just enter the code on your card and you’re ready to go!
Controversy in Mexico
Ever since the start of their operations in Mexico, controversy has chased Uber. They have been accused of unfair competition practices by taxi unions not only in Mexico but also in other Latin American countries like Colombia and Argentina.
There have been numerous demonstrations in several Mexican cities against the transportation giant. They have been pacific for the most part, but unfortunately, it has not always been the case.
The tension between Uber and taxis worsened in airports. Uber rates are generally lower than airport taxi rates, so taxi companies would frown upon Uber “stealing” their customers. There have been some unfortunate incidents between Uber drivers and taxi drivers. In Cancún, for example, there have been reports of smashed windows and beaten drivers.
As a consequence, the Mexican government ruled that Uber could not operate within federal zones, which include airports. So, in theory, Uber should not operate in airports, but in practice, that’s not the case. As far as I know and based on what I’ve heard from Uber drivers, you won’t get in trouble for riding an Uber into the airport. However, requesting an airport pickup is a whole different story. It is complicated and is not as straightforward as we’d like.
Bus stations are not exempt from these bans. When I went to Tijuana, I read a sign stating that Uber was not allowed to pick up passengers inside the bus station facilities. That was the first time I ever saw something similar at a bus station.
A Few Additional Tips
Always double-check what form of payment you’re going to use before requesting an Uber ride. My parents had a couple of incidents where they thought the rides had been paid for, but it turned out they were supposed to pay in cash. Avoid any unpleasant surprises.
If you’re going to pay in cash, try using small bills. It’s happened to me that Uber drivers don’t carry too much change.
I’ve seen lots of travelers complain in forums about Uber pickups at the airport. It has mainly to do with what I explained above. Many Uber drivers prefer not to pick up passengers at the airport, but only drop them off. However, there are still Uber drivers willing to pick people up. To avoid any problems with the Federal Police guarding the area, the driver will probably call you to decide on a pickup spot. If your Spanish is not that strong, I strongly recommend you leave this to somebody else or avoid Uber altogether… at least when it comes to airport pickups.
Uber has a live location sharing tool. You can use that too and the driver might not need to call you. If you decide to request an airport pickup, don’t make it obvious you requested an Uber ride. You won’t get arrested or anything, but if the police notice an Uber car picking people up in the area, they may impound the car and you will be left with no ride.
Is Uber Safe in Mexico?
I’m sure this is probably your biggest concern. Honestly, you don’t have anything to worry about. Uber is safe to use for the most part.
A few years ago, there were reports of fake Ubers. They resembled the car model and color of the one that was supposed to pick you up, so many people just got in without checking the plates or the driver’s name and appearance first. Unfortunately, they were mugged during the trip. In other cases, the driver tried to kidnap or assault them.
There are some steps that you can take to stay safe during your trip. For starters, always check the car and driver match with the information you see on the app.
Second, Uber has a couple of functions that you can activate for your safety. You can choose a friend or family member to share your location and trip status with. Also, you can activate the PIN verification option. This will send you a PIN code every time you request a ride and it has to match with the one your driver has.
Third, sit in the back. It’s easier to defend yourself against an attack.
Uber has taken drastic steps to verify their drivers and provide a safe environment for users. I can’t guarantee you that nothing bad will happen, but it is highly unlikely.
Do I Recommend Uber in Mexico?
Yes! Uber continues to be one of the best options to go from one place to another in Mexico. It is safe for the most part and even with surge pricing, the prices you pay are lower than the ones you pay in your home country.
As I mentioned earlier, the only case I would refrain from requesting an Uber ride is for an airport pickup and/or in Cancún. Other than that, I highly recommend using Uber in Mexico when available.
Alternatives to Uber
Uber’s major competitors are Didi and Cabify. While their prices are usually lower than Uber, they cover a much smaller area. Uber operates in 60+ cities, but Didi only covers half of that and Cabify even fewer cities.
Another option is inDriver. It only covers a few Mexican cities, but they don’t accept credit card payments and the service isn’t straightforward. It works more like an auction where you offer X amount, and a rider accepts it.
Now you know Uber does work in Mexico with a few exceptions. There may be a few cases where Uber will not be an option, but there are always other means of transportation at hand.
Uber in Mexico is safe to use and that’s one of the main reasons it’s very popular among people. So rest assured in that respect.
Make sure to check Uber’s site regularly for any updates. Cities rarely change, but they occasionally cease operations as they did in Cancún a few years ago. They eventually resumed operations.
As always, feel free to leave your comments and questions below. I’ll get back to you as soon as possible. See you soon!
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