We all remember when Uber first arrived in Sri Lanka. There was excitement, and also scrambling about to get our first free ride. For a while, everything was good. Uber seemed to be performing as per our expectation. For once we had an affordable, comfortable way to get to where we were going. The icing on the cake for me was that I could pay via Credit/Debit card so I no longer had to keep stopping at ATMs to withdraw cash. And now the latest addition to Uber is UberZIP. According to a blog post by the taxi-hailing company, UberZIP offers a smaller, smarter and cheaper way for users to get around Colombo.
Just like UberGo, UberZIP also comprises of a range of vehicles. The difference is that whilst UberGo comprises of Tata Nano vehicles and UberX ranges anywhere from a Toyota Prius to a Honda Vezel, UberZIP’s lineup is made of compact Hatchbacks. The rates are lower than UberGo as well. In addition, UberZIP would still offer an AC ride as well.
In a normal world, this would be ideal for people who need to get to an important meeting or use Uber as their daily commute to work. After all, it’s cheaper and you can go to your destination in comfort without worrying about your clothes getting dirty or you being a sweaty mess. In reality, though, it’s a whole different ballgame.
Things are not the way they were before
Open up the Uber app anywhere between 8AM to 10AM (or even earlier) and 4PM-6PM or on a rainy day and you’ll see that all Uber rides are subjected to surge pricing. Now the concept of surge pricing is simple. There’s a heavy demand for Uber vehicles, so the company raises the per-kilometre rate. Vehicles are available, but the prices are ridiculously high. The ride that would usually cost you LKR 350 would now cost you LKR 1000.
Another questionable addition to Uber was upfront fees. This was where if you were paying by Credit or Debit card, the amount of the trip would be deducted before the ride began. This had its pros and cons. It made the payment less hassling at the end of the trip (if you were paying by card) but also meant that there would be additional costs incurred if for example, the driver or you took a longer route or were stuck in traffic or you changed your destination.
In addition, in case you didn’t know, Uber also began to charge for wait times for both UberGo and UberX at Rs. 4/min. Although, unlike PickMe, where you are charged for waiting the moment the vehicle is at a standstill (during a traffic block, for example), Uber charges waiting after the first five minutes of the driver arriving at your pickup location. So you essentially have 5 minutes to get to your Uber ride or you will be charged for waiting from the 6th minute onwards
In addition, Uber also charges passengers on Toll-free exits. You don’t necessarily need to pass a toll gate, even f you go on the freeway according to Uber, you would still be charged. So any time that the driver goes through a toll or travels into an area with surcharge, that amount would be added to your fare as well.
How cheap is UberZIP, really?
To find out, we chose to take the trip from Dematagoda station to our office in Rajagiriya as an example.
As you can see, Uber’s surge pricing is in effect with the ride costing LKR336.82 for an UberZIP and LKR577.95 for an UberGo. In a perfect world, you would be paying approximately LKR350 for an UberGo with surge pricing in place. However, as you can see, you’re paying that for a UberZIP. Just for comparison, if you were to take a Tuk or Nano from PickMe, you would still be able to get to the location for under LKR 330.
Looking at the images above, you can actually go ahead and book a Mini or even a Car from PickMe and it would still cost you LKR 344 and LKR 431, respectively. A difference of almost LKR140 and LKR364, respectively. The overall total would change slightly depending on traffic, but even then, not by much.
Is Uber really worth it in the end?
All in all, making a claim that they offer the most cost-effective AC rides in town leaves much to be desired, especially if they constantly have surge pricing. After all, if push comes to shove, I feel for one, feel that people would actually pay less and get to their destination by a tuk, than pay for what is supposedly cheaper, but in reality is more expensive. I may be wrong, but that is my opinion. So we ask you, UberZIP, is it really that cheap? You decide.
What are your thoughts on this? We would love to hear from you.