How to use Uber in China

Using Uber in China

DISCLAIMER – Before reading this blog it’s worth noting that Uber now no longer exists in China. Didi, it’s rival, took the market share and bought out Uber. That said, the content of the blog itself, is still largely relevant and the same applies with Didi these days (these days being 2018)! Happy reading!

Uber and it’s Chinese rival “Didi” are currently locked in a ferocious battle for market share in China, which means incredibly low prices for consumers. According to Uber, they lost 1 billion USD in China last year alone as they charge very low fares while paying their drivers substantial bonuses out of their own pocket to make sure they have sufficient coverage. How this will work out in the long term nobody knows, however at the moment using Uber in China is a very good idea, as you can get from A to B for almost half the cost of a normal taxi as Uber pays most of your bill.

If you do not speak Chinese (yet), then one issue is of course that drivers in China – like pretty much everyone in this country – do not speak English. However, this does not mean you cannot use Uber. You just need to follow a few simple rules:

1) Set your pick up location and destination correctly

As this is China, Google Maps does not work and your phone will use Baidu or Apple maps. Make sure you set your location exactly where you will be waiting.

2) Your driver will most likely call you twice

Once after accepting the job and once to tell you that he has arrived. During the first call, you just need to tell him one thing:

Dǎoháng (导航 – to navigate, follow the instructions giving to you by the map)

There is no proper translation for this great Chinese word in English, but it basically means: “just go where your mobile phone map tells you to”. If you want you can throw in a quick Xièxiè (谢谢 – thanks) or other Chinese words and phrases you know, but it is not really necessary. The magic “Dǎoháng” will inform your driver that you want him to simply follow the map.

3) The second call

This will be to tell you that he has arrived or is just about to do so. If you want you to, you do not even have to answer that call and just go to the pickup location. If you answer the call, he will most likely tell you: Wǒ yǐjīng dàole (我已经到了- I have already arrived), which you can answer with a simple Hǎo (好 – good).

Traffic Jams are a familiar sight in the bigger Chinese Cities!

Traffic Jams are a familiar sight in the bigger Chinese Cities!

And that is it. Go to the pick up location, look for the number plate of your driver or hold up your mobile phone to indicate that you booked a car via your phone and your driver will find you.

You will then be driven to you to your destination without any further hassle. If he asks you about the way, again the only thing you need to say is the magic “Dǎoháng” and once you got to the place, it would be nice to throw in another Xièxiè (谢谢 – thanks).

The only potential problem using Uber when you cannot speak Mandarin (yet) in China would be, if you wanted to complain about a driver. Even though they claim to do so, Uber customer service in China does not speak English. So in the rare case you wanted to make a complaint, you would need someone who speaks Chinese to help you.

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