After months of speculation Uber has finally landed in Kampala. As a seasoned Uber rider from my time in Nairobi, I have been anxiously awaiting its launch in Kampala. Here are five things to expect now that the service is live.
- Unmatched Convenience
For people who prefer cabs to boda bodas finding a “Special Hire” (Cab/Taxi) in Kampala can be quite tedious. Cabs are usually located in or around a bar, a restaurant or a mall. You’ll even be lucky to identify one driving down the street. A regular cab user ends up having 10 taxi driver numbers and hoping that when they need one it’ll be available and in the vicinity.
Here in lies Ubers’ key value addition to the Kampala based customer. Downloading the app instantly gives you the ability to request a cab, from anywhere, twenty-four hours, seven days a week. In a few clicks you see how many Ubers are in the area, which ones are closest, and once requested you can see it navigate to your location.
Have you ever left an item in a cab, a random cab that you used only once? You’d need a considerable amount of effort and luck to recovery your belongings. I experienced this last year, luckily it was an Uber, after frantically calling and emailing the Uber offices I relaxed, fiddled through the app where I found the drivers number, called him and he delivered my items fully intact.
Every Uber ride you make has the added security of having the picture and contact details of the driver, the car make and registration number, and the ability to report any issues directly to Uber. This gives riders an extra level of security in case the service isn’t up to par and an added assurance in case you need to get in touch with the driver.
After a handful of Uber rides in Nairobi I recognized that the cars were dent free, the ACs’ worked, the rides were smooth, the interiors were pristine, the radios functioned and on a few lucky occasions they had USB charging ports. For someone new to the service I consistently felt like I was getting some kind of VIP cab service.
The comfort in the cars was great and I later found out that one of Ubers’ requirements in Nairobi is that all vehicles must be manufactured after 2009. The newness of the vehicles explained the consistent high level of comfort experienced while riding whether it was a Toyota, Subaru or Mitsubishi. Let’s hope the same level of comfort is maintained in Kampala.
We’ve all had that moment you calmly ask the cab driver how much it will cost from point A to point B? The cab driver looks you up and down; you feel he’s judged you based on your new outfit for that all important meeting you need to get to. He throws out a number; it’s double what you are used to paying for the same distance. Your usual cab guy is two kilometers away on Jinja Road, he can get to you in twenty minutes, or two hours, or tomorrow…who knows. This cab driver tells you its rush hour, fuel is expensive, the dollar is up (LOL), and he has to pay school fees next week. Finally after some negotiation he’s only willing to drop his price by two thousand shillings. Time is wasting, you jump in the cab and head to your meeting.
Now imagine a world where price is never discussed, feelings are never caught, irritation is never experienced. This world is Uber. In Nairobi, and I believe it will be similar in Kampala, the formula is derived from a Base Fare (A flat fee paid for every ride) + Per minute fare + Per Kilometer fare which equals your total cost for the trip. I won’t dig deep into this formulation all you need to know is if you are travelling from Acacia Mall to Village Mall, your worst enemy will be traffic. If there’s minimal traffic and you get there quickly it’ll be cheaper than if you find traffic, then the price increases. However, if you choose to avoid the traffic and use a longer route, the added kilometers will still affect your total cost.
The bottom line is, you won’t have to bicker about the price beforehand, the app calculates how much you owe, you get a record of your trip in the app and you make the payment with cash or credit. In my use of the app I found that most times what I ended up paying was considerably cheaper than what a regular cab would have charged, a sentiment that many Nairobi users shared.
Unless you are a seasoned veteran who knows all the different areas in and around Kampala, giving or receiving directions can be a painstaking experience. Cab drivers know some areas, major streets have names, and other roads are described by landmarks or number of bumps. But a lot of times you want to be picked up at home that’s off Lugogo bypass, go like you are driving to Kisassi, right after the Shell Gas station, then up the hill slightly, behind the blue building, you’ll see a shop, then there at the black gate with a sign, that’s where I am, on the 3rd floor….waving.
The Uber app lets the driver know where to pick you up, the driver will either come to exactly where you are, or very close. The system is not full proof and I predict with Kampala’s’ many back roads, and shortcuts, many drivers will call riders for their exact location after the app GPS gets them ninety percent of the way there. At least you don’t have to start from the beginning as is most cases without a GPS app.
In the coming months expect Uber to be a hot topic of discussion. Start by downloading the app. Look out for promotions, free rides and discounts. Compare prices. Share your experiences. Tell a friend to tell a friend. Enjoy the ride.
Guest Post written by Ken Njihia.