17 June 2014

Uber Has Arrived in Jakarta

Last Friday afternoon it was raining hard in Jakarta. As usual, Jakarta Friday night + (after) raining = hell traffic jam. When I got out from office to go home, I found a long queue of about 20 people in Blue Bird taxi stand in front of my office building. I had no choice other than joining the line and waiting patiently, because my husband couldn't pick me up that day, taking buses would be unbearably inconvenient, and flagging non Blue Bird taxi outside the queue would be a chaotic taxi war. With 20 people in front of me, I predicted I would finally get the taxi in 1 hour.

Then I realized I actually HAD another choice. I heard recently that Uber just arrived in Jakarta. Uber is a new way of transportation using Smartphone app to connect customers with car drivers; makes everyone feel like having their own private driver. I had downloaded Uber app from App Store and registered an account the day before but hadn't used it. During registration, inserting our credit card number is mandatory because the bill will be charged directly to our credit card in the end of the trip. Many Indonesians, not yet in cashless society, are not comfortable with it, but I tell you, it's safe!

I tried ordering Uber car while queuing for Blue Bird taxi; let's see which one would come first. When I dragged the pin to point the pickup location, I could see the available Uber cars around my location and estimated time of arrival.


I clicked the menu "Set pickup location", and the screen moved to Confirmation.


Before I pressed "Request Uber", first I checked the Fare Quote to my destination. 


I was shocked with the fare stated (Rp.57,000-74,000): I never had a taxi ride from office to my house for this cheap price, especially on Friday night and raining like this. This price must have been calculated without the traffic. The day before, I took Blue Bird taxi from office to home for Rp115,000, so I expected it would be around this as well. The fare for Uber car is Rp7,000 as base fare, plus Rp500/minute and Rp2,850/km, about the same price with regular taxi fare.


Then I clicked "Request Uber", and I wondered "is this app really working?" I did not expect much to get it because they had limited cars during this testing phase in Jakarta. So I really surprised when 15 minutes later I got a notification that a car was on the way to pick me up and arriving in 4 minutes, along with the driver name, the car type and number. Maybe I was lucky because my pick up location was located in Central Business District where their limited cars were centralized. One minute later the driver called me asking my exact location/building, and saying he would arrive in 10 minutes due to traffic (not 4 minutes like the app said). In the app, we could see the driver phone number so we could call him as well.


Again I thought, "is this really happening?" I had read many good reviews about this service from Twitter friends, but still a little part of me wondered if it's safe and not fraud. Not until 10 minutes later, a notification appeared in my smartphone telling me that my Uber car was arriving. Then I saw a silver Camry with the exact license number was REALLY approaching. I walked out from the taxi stand (still 9 people in front of me!) and approached it. Pak Dedi the driver greeted me and we're off to my destination. Ha, I was so excited!

During the trip, I can track my location real time and share it. There is no argo inside the car. The bill will come up in the end of the trip; I hope it would not be too different with the estimated fare earlier nor with the Blue Bird taxi fare I took the day before. Taking Uber is like having a private driver and car; so the car cannot pass "3 in 1" routes if you travel alone. The cool thing is Uber can split the bill and charge it to different credit cards when we are sharing the car with friends. The driver was friendly, and the luxury car was really convenient, equipped with an iPhone smartphone for the driver to operate.

When we arrived to my destination and the driver clicked "End the trip" on his smartphone, the final fare Rp117,500 came up on the driver's smartphone and Rp17,500 came up on my smartphone. I got Rp100,000 discount by applying a promo code. You can enjoy the discount too for your first Uber ride by using promo code 'rikas'. Remember to insert the promo code before the trip ends. In the end of the trip we could also give rates/stars for the driver :)

A detail receipt was sent to my email

With poor public transportation and the increasing population of middle high class people in Jakarta, Uber is having a big market here. However they have some challenges: traffic jam makes fare and arrival time becomes unpredictable, and poor internet connection to access the app. The latter is quite annoying. Several times I tried to request an Uber car but failed due to the poor 3G signal. Blue Bird taxi also has a reliable app to order a taxi. If internet is down, we can still order the taxi by phone, but this is not the case with Uber. Well, let's see how Uber will grow here.

Taking Uber is really a great experience. Nice app, good ride, friendly driver, cool car and affordable price. Register Uber now at http://uber.com/invite/rikas.

Update 17 Nov 2014
Now the promocode discount is Rp.75,000, not Rp.100,000 anymore. Up to now I've been using Uber regularly despite of the protests and government license issue. In the beginning I used it because of the promos. I could have 10 free rides from SCBD area to my home in Bekasi (which is faraway, yes)! But after 10 nice and easy rides, I'm hooked. I now prefer taking Uber than regular taxi eventhough I've run out the voucher (I still take regular taxi from home tho because Uber is not available around my house area).