Uber, Please Come to Honduras

Crime and violence has made Hondurans reluctant to use public transportation. (Hondudiario.com)
Crime and violence have made Hondurans reluctant to use public transportation. (Hondudiario)

EspañolDuring my trip to Miami last week, I decided to try out the ride-sharing app, Uber, to get to a local coffee shop where I interviewed Venezuelan activist Patricia Andrade.

I became very interested in Uber the week before, when my friend Brendan in South Bend, Indiana, told me he recently joined the service as a driver. He said he had yet to work his first shift, but had successfully completed the Uber verification process.

I was very pleased to learn from Brendan that drivers are given background checks and must abide by other safety standards.

I took two rides using Uber services in Miami, and I was very satisfied with both.

On the first ride, Uber partner Dagmar was incredibly polite and helpful. I told him I was a first-time user and wanted to write about the experience. He shared with me that before deciding to apply to become a driver, he had used the service himself. He said he found it very practical, especially when needing a safe ride to and from a celebration.

For those not familiar with how the Uber app works, the following gallery of screen captures shows my interaction with it for my first ride.

Dagmar patiently answered my questions and went out of his way to show me how Uber works from his end. He explained that when calling a user to announce a pickup, the call originates from within the app.

He also showed me how the Uber partner app allows him to rate a rider. I found this feature noteworthy, since it promotes safety standards for the driver as well.

On my way back from the coffee shop, I rode with Cesare. When I told him I really liked the service, and that I wish we had it in my hometown — even though I knew it would create problems with taxi unions — he said: “Well, there are always problems for Uber when they first arrive anywhere, but you should promote it in your country! In the end, the people win out, because they will be the users, and they want Uber in their cities.”

The company isn’t the only one to enable users to utilize smartphone technology to hail a ride, but from what I can tell, it is one of the most popular. It is also currently present in nearly 60 countries.

If you’ve ever been exposed to news stories coming out of Honduras, you know that personal security has become a challenge. I know people who have never used any type of urban-transportation service, because they have a bad reputation. This mindset is fairly common among visitors and catrachos alike.

There are more cars than people in Tegucigalpa. (Curbsideclassic)

Fear of violence has created an overabundance of vehicles in Honduran cities, particularly in the capital, Tegucigalpa, which I often describe with the phrase: “there are more vehicles here than people.”

I mentioned security concerns to Dagmar, my first driver. Then I asked him if Uber vehicles are marked in any way. “No, I wouldn’t be able to tell whether those two are Uber vehicles or not,” he replied, pointing at a couple cars on the road.

Another useful feature that I know some freelancers would love is that you can pay your driver using PayPal or a credit card.

I have lived in Tegucigalpa since I was born, save for a few years when I lived in a handful of relatively small towns in the United States. This means I have experienced two very different worlds when it comes to getting around.

In one, public transportation is more than plentiful, but personal security is not; and in the other, where public transportation is scarce, people feel safe enough to walk or ride their bikes to work.

I also have a very varied work history, including several positions in customer service, and I don’t really mind driving. You may understand, then, how impressive Uber sounds to someone like me, both as a potential user and partner.

I’m sure I’m not alone in this. So, Uber, please come to Honduras.

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