A Guide To Getting Around Europe Using Blablacar
HOW WE SAVED £528 BY USING BLABLACAR ON OUR EUROPEAN HOLIDAY
Never heard of Blablacar? Neither had we until we were planning our end of year trip. Our original plan was to buy a car and do the road trip ourselves and in somehow researching that I came across Blablacar as a way to lower costs. We didn't end up buying a car but we still took advantage of Blablacar as a way of reducing our travel costs.
The basic gist is this: you have a car and you're making a trip from A to B, to save a bit of money and even meet new people, you offer up seats in your car for a price. Someone who's car-less is also wanting to make that journey from A to B, so instead of paying for a pricey flight/train/bus, they buy 1 to 3 seats in your car. It's a win-win situation and it seems to be really taking off over here in Europe and worldwide (they have the largest long-distance ride sharing community and operate across 22 countries).
N.B. This is NOT Uber, they are great and all, but a different type of service.
On our three week trip to France, Andorra, Spain and back to France we ended up taking 6 Blablacar trips (well, we took 4 together and 2 separate so 8 different Blablacar drivers all up!). Before our first ride we were a little bit apprehensive. When you grow up with the "never jump in a car with strangers" rule hammered into you I suppose it's to be expected but it was fantastic. All of our rides were really good although Corey and his brother Dylan did get end up in one with an arguing couple, which was half awkward and half entertaining.
Let me walk you through what we liked and didn't like.
Pricing was a big factor for us and Blablacar always came out on top. The only time we chose to pick flying over Blablacar was when it was much quicker (like a 2 hour flight instead of 9 hours in the car).
To get an idea of pricing (not inc. booking fees) in comparison with other methods for the journeys we took:
As you can see in my nerdy table, Blablacar was the cheapest option for every trip. The difference between taking Blablacar and the most expensive options is £264.00 for one person and £528.00 for two people. Yes, we saved £528.00 by taking Blablacar rides and we had a blast while doing it.
It really is a no brainer.
This was both a pro and con. You could easily get last minute rides, we booked a few the day before (PRO) but that's because most of the rides are only posted 3 days before the actual trip (CON). If you need every last detail of your trip sorted before you go this might not work out for you. You can get trips that are posted further in advance, but there really isn't that much available until those few days before the trip. That being said though you can't beat the sheer amount of rides you can choose from, which brings me to my next point.
Sometimes you can only get morning flights or night flights or buses only come once a day. With Blablacar you're much more likely to find a trip that's at a suitable time for you. This is especially true for the more popular road trips that provide you with an abundance of choice. Not only is the timing flexible but the cancellation policy is great too. If the driver cancels you get a full refund, if you cancel more than 24hrs before the ride you get a refund of the price minus booking fee and if you cancel less than 24hrs before the ride you get a refund of 50% of the price minus booking fee. Good luck getting that with those cheap European airlines!
Getting to airports and through security is normally a big pain in the ass. I hate it. With Blablacar you simply arrange a pick up location and drop off point with your drivers. It's normally the main bus or train station which are super easy to get to and don't require any expensive special tickets. For one ride the driver dropped us right at our hostel (at 1.30am it was a definite lifesaver) and another driver dropped us right in front of the apartment we were staying in in Léon. Saved us getting a ride/bus/cab from the train station! Provided you aren't asking anything excessive, we found drivers to be really accommodating and helpful.
You're able to see what kind of car your potential driver owns and whether they only put two people max in the backseat! We can't complain about any of the cars we rode in, they were comfortable and spacious. The drivers we had were all very accommodating for things like heating, radio choice and toilet breaks which you definitely don't get on coaches. You can list on your profile whether you want non-smoking cars or no pets and even how much of a talker you are! Bla - not much of a talker, Blabla - happy to talk or just listen to music, BlaBlaBla - likely to keep talking even if under water (no I'm just kidding haha).
Yes, speed. Taking the ride share option with Blablacar was consistently the fastest way to a destination in comparison to taking a bus or train. It was anywhere from two to six hours faster and that really makes a difference when you're on a jam packed holiday. In some cases, it was even faster to ride share than to fly from destination A to B due to having to catch connecting buses/trains with your flights. Who woulda thunk it?
Ride sharing is environmentally friendly which is always a plus. I don't really need to explain this one, right?
You can't beat the fact that taking a road trip offers you a much better look at the countries you're travelling through than when you're up above the clouds. Due to the availability of rides (we couldn't go straight from Cadiz to Léon, or Léon to Bayonne), we added in two stop overs to our trip as well - Salamanca and San Sebastian. We were only there for a few hours in each before catching our next Blablacar but we loved adding in those extra experiences and sights.
For me, meeting new people is fun. For the same reason we use AirBnB frequently, meeting new people and especially locals from wherever you're travelling is a great way to learn new things or see things from a different perspective. Our drivers pointed out interesting things on the way or helped us delve deeper into the culture of the places we were visiting. I got to practise my French, learnt how to say the names of different countries in Czech, discussed the rabbit problem in Australia with a geography student, and helped a car load of people with the nuances of the English language. I learned new things and they learned new things, and that is seriously one of my favourite things about travelling!
You'd think that this would be a fairly unsafe way to travel. You're really entrusting your life to a stranger and his/her driving capability. You don't have to have blind faith though, Blablacar uses a ratings system for both passengers and drivers. After each trip you leave a rating for your driver and after that public review you can also anonymously rate their driving skills. Keep in mind that they also give you a rating so try not to be a stink passenger. This allows everyone to see what ratings their potential driver has had before and whether they were punctual, polite, drove with a phone in each hand, etc. The other great thing about Blablacar is every account gets verified with ID, Facebook, Linked In, etc. They have information on the car make, model and licence plate so if you do go missing they'll know where to look (don't worry, you'll be fine!)
If the car you've booked a ride in breaks down or has a crash there is no need to worry, Blablacar will make sure that you reach your destination. All drivers are covered by their regular insurance since drivers aren't making a profit on these rides (simply sharing the costs of the ride) and Blablacar makes sure that the seats are priced accordingly.
There are a lot of pros right? We are so glad that we managed to find this service and use it on our three week holiday, we really did end up saving so much money and time.
- Most rides pop up in the 3 days before the trip is due to start so don't worry if nothing is coming up ages before you travel.
- If it's very last minute and still no rides, add in a stop over! We couldn't get straight from Cadiz to Léon so we added in a stopover to Salamanca. The number of rides available increased dramatically and sometimes you get even better prices.
- Choose a driver with good ratings. No one wants to die in a car crash.
- Use the messenger system on Blablacar to ask potential drivers about the route they're taking, changing the drop-off or pick up location, how many people they'll have in the car - whatever it is, simply send them a message before booking your seat. We couldn't find any listings for a drop off in El Tarter, Andorra but I simply asked one of the drivers if he could take us there and it was no problem!
- Be a good passenger. Don't treat your driver like a chauffeur. Break the ice and get to know them a little. If you're absolutely knackered then have a sleep (we did multiple times) but do try and make the effort to make some conversation. It makes for a much nicer trip and overall experience.
Are you sick of me saying Blablacar yet? Have you taken any Blablacar rides as a driver or passenger?
I'd love to know what you think about it, we'll be trying to use it as much as possible from now on!