As someone who is always looking for a way to save a buck or two, I recently learned of an interesting–and very affordable–means of middle-distance transportation called BlaBlaCar. Although it is new to me, BlaBlaCar has been around for ten years, and is currently the largest ridesharing platform in the world. After learning about it, Linda and I decided to give it a try, and we liked it so much that we’ve already used it three times.
The service is similar to Uber or Lyft, but is generally used for longer trips. For example, so far, we have used BlaBlaCar to travel from Lisbon to Porto, Porto to Salamanca, and Salamanca to Madrid–all trips lasting at least 2.5 hours. The business model is almost perfect. First, you make a profile (check mine out if you’re interested). Next, either add your vehicle (if you plan on driving) or simply search for trips. The service has a user-friendly mobile app, and drivers receive ratings, so you can choose one with a lot of positive feedback–especially if you’re a bit apprehensive. BlaBlaCar allows the driver to cover most of the toll road fees and fuel costs of a trip, while providing passengers a cheaper, more comfortable, and faster alternative to most buses and trains. Passengers simply provide a code (text message) at the end of the trip, which the driver enters to receive payment, so no cash is required. There is a small service fee, but it is used to provide insurance for the trip, as well as the BlaBlaCar platform (website, apps, etc.) In our case, it was cheaper for two seats in a BlaBlaCar than it was for a single bus fare, which usually takes at least twice as long to arrive.
In addition to saving a bit of money, you have the opportunity to talk a lot (hence BlaBla) to those traveling with you, but only if you want to–there’s a filter for gregariousness (that’s a word, right?). So far, we’ve traveled with a manager at Cisco Systems, a pharmacist, two teachers, and a college student. All of the them have been extremely friendly and helpful. They’ve given us tips about where we’re headed, and the trip also serves as a sort of cultural exchange, which is very interesting and informative.
So if you’re traveling in Europe (or several other countries, excluding the U.S.), and you’d like to travel on the cheaply while making new friends, check out BlaBlaCar. It is a great way to travel.