Should I Use Uber? And Other Considerations

A lot of people ask me how I feel about using services such as Uber while traveling. In this post I want to discuss this and some other ethical questions that might arise. Should I use Uber? Let’s find out!

Regarding Uber Specifically

There has been a lot of uproar in many of the major cities in the world, from as far apart as New York City and Seoul. I use Uber a lot, mainly because I don’t have a car. Uber and Lyft are now available even in smaller cities. It’s been tremendously helpful in getting me out of the house. I don’t use the local taxi services because there aren’t more than two and they’re often not there when you need them. Even in Wichita, a much larger city, they got terrible reviews and often required booking ahead.

So my ethical issue doesn’t lie in using them in smaller towns – often they are by far the best option. But when it comes to bigger cities I really wish people would use taxis. It’s not like they aren’t right there, and most cities like Rome, London, Seoul, and New York City have easily identifiable cars. Often it takes a lot of effort and money to become a cab driver in London or NYC. And in the case of the latter two cities, it’s an experience that I’m surprised tourists are turning away from. Yellow cabs are iconic in NYC and still most of the girls in the hostel preferred Uber. The prices are often highly comparable (with some towns being much cheaper).

At the same time there is a little more safety in my mind when it comes to being out late and being able to be absolutely sure someone is coming to get you. So Uber/Lyft is a good backup to have on your phone.

So, should I use Uber? It depends, but unless there is a safety concern I think most of the time the local cabs should be the first go to.

Other Ethical Questions

When I go somewhere new I try very hard to eat and shop in places that are locally owned. There is very little point in traveling so far away to only eat McDonalds and drink Starbucks. You can definitely do that at home. Now, occasionally you might need a break, don’t get me wrong, but the average vacation is 10-12 days. Why give all your money to these big corporations? Sometimes McDonalds and Starbucks have some cool country-specific items, but even there I find the urge to go a little confusing when there’s so much else around. I’m not perfect, I ate KFC while I was in Cardiff because it was the cheapest thing I could find that hadn’t closed yet. But in general.

Bigger Ethical Questions

Where do you travel to? A lot of the time I’ll see forums talk about not going to places like Bhutan or Myanmar because of past or current human rights violations. I personally have no issues with going to either of those places. In Bhutan’s case, they seem to be working towards a good sustainable tourism industry that benefits everyone. In places like Myanmar or China or anywhere, you can generally make sure the majority of your tourist dollars go to the local populace. People are not generally responsible for their government’s poor decisions and it’s not a factor for most of my travel.

My one huge outlier in this scenario is North Korea. While I find this country fascinating and there is a certain part of me that would very much like to visit, I take issue with the concept of traveling there morally. You cannot support the locals. You are pretty much directly paying the government and to me that makes a person complicit. Everyone who I’ve read about going to North Korea has the exact same experience because it is all tailored to bring you into this crazy illusion. And again, I find that fascinating. But I won’t give my money to see it. While Bhutan has a similar structure of paying the government, you can see pretty much anything you want in the country and they don’t have anywhere near the level of human rights concerns as North Korea.

In Conclusion

I thought this post was important to write. While I am certainly not claiming to be an expert on ethics or morals, I think having a discussion about these topics is necessary. The world is getting smaller and more people are having the opportunity to travel. I would not have thought about any of this a few years ago. Anyways, this was kicking around my head as I took my taxis instead of Uber in NYC. I hope my thoughts can maybe encourage others to come to their own conclusions and I’d love to hear your thoughts 🙂 Should I use Uber? Turned into a much larger question.

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