As travelers, we’re always looking for options for getting from one place to another. Especially in Europe, I noticed people using BlaBlaCar because it can be the cheapest and easiest option to get from one city to another. So what is BlaBlaCar, how do you use it, and is it any good?
How Does BlaBlaCar Work?
Maybe you already know that BlaBlaCar is a ridesharing community that has both an app and a website. Drivers publish their upcoming trips. For a fee, riders go along for the ride. BlaBlaCar started in France and is now available in 22 countries, mostly in Western Europe, but also in Brazil, Ukraine, Russia, Turkey, India, and Mexico.
I haven’t had a chance to use BlaBlaCar yet, BUT when I was recently in Slovenia, my cousin came from Italy to spend time with me and she’s used BlaBlaCar a bunch of times, so I asked her some questions about her experience. I hope you enjoy the interview!
BlaBlaCar is particularly popular in Europe
Shelli: How many times have you used BlaBlaCar?
My Cousin Julie: I’ve used BlaBlaCar a half dozen times, so I don’t know how my experiences compare to more frequent users. Everything went exactly as it should have, so I have no horrible memories and nothing that sticks out as unpleasant or unfortunate.
S: Do you find that the website and app work well?
J: I’ve only used the website (blablacar.co.uk, blablacar.fr, and blablacar.it versions). It worked well.
S: How much do you figure is your average savings per trip? I’m thinking you compare it to train costs mostly. Correct? Do you look at the time cost (assuming driving takes longer than a train or plane) and sometimes choose trains?
J: No idea about average savings because each trip is so different in terms of options. However, the times I’ve used BlaBlaCar, I chose it because train (let alone plane) wasn’t an option or a reasonably priced option.
For example, one of my trips would have been a 30 minute bus ride + 3 hour train ride + another 1 hour bus ride, so no thank you! In each case, the car trip was much quicker than the public transport, and it got me closer to where I wanted to end up. The start and end point of each trip often means that public transportation can be out of the way or simply take too long.
S: How many days ahead do you start looking and do you find more drivers post rides the closer in to the date?
J: Depends on the situation. I start looking anywhere from a couple weeks to a few days ahead. I think it’s generally the case that more rides appear over time, but I’ve also checked date and route combinations that no one was offering, ever.
S: Ever booked and had a driver cancel?
J: Happily, no.
S: Ever have any confusion about the pick-up place? I’ve read that some people have been confused by the route map and info on BBC and so they always confirm with the driver.
J: One time my ride to Ljubljana picked me up at the Mestre train station (on the Venice terrafirma), and I went out the front instead of the side entrance. A few texts and a call later, and we had found each other. I was fortunate to be traveling with someone who didn’t have a deadline, though. I’d definitely understand if someone trying to make a meeting (for instance) was upset in that situation, because it likely would have made them late.
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S: People who have more luggage need to be concerned that the driver has enough room. Have you seen any confusion about this?
J: No, but it hasn’t been an issue for me. I’d talk to the driver about it while setting up the pickup place and time. The more you can communicate with your driver, the smoother the trip is likely to go.
S: Do you send multiple messages to drivers asking about luggage, or where they’ll be dropping off in the city when you have special needs?
J: I would, yes. I asked the Ljubljana driver if he could pick me up in Padua instead of Venice (he was driving up from Tuscany and it didn’t look like it would be too far out of the way), and at first he said yes, but then he had to change it back to Venice. So there was some amount of pre-trip communication there.
I’ve been very lucky that all my BlaBlaCar drivers decided to drop me off exactly where I wanted to end up, regardless of what they’d put in their listing. I do think that’s a function of my friendliness, so I’d encourage everyone using this service who isn’t going with someone who wants quiet to have a nice chat with their driver! That’s another big part of the reason to use BlaBlaCar, of course: connecting with locals!
S: Do you simply choose the first one who confirms and has a good rating?
J: Yes, but that’s mostly because I had one choice (at least based on time) each time.
S: Since most readers will be English-only speakers, do you think this is something they should check out? Meaning is it important, do you think, that their drivers speak English? I know some young Germans who just sat quietly and didn’t Bla Bla much.
J: I think personality matters much more than language here: many, many (most?) young Europeans speak English — certainly well enough to arrange a pickup and drop-off -– so that’s likely not a problem, but if you’re not willing to go with the flow or try chatting with someone with multiple Bla’s on their profile, BlaBlaCar ain’t for you!
That said, if you’re comfortable only in English, send a message asking your potential driver if they speak English. Many young Europeans are also eager to use and improve their English, especially with a native Anglophone! BlaBlaCar.co.uk seems to have all the (European) listings, so you can find, for instance, rides within Italy with all the information in English. It just remains to contact the driver and see if you can communicate (well enough).
Thanks, Julie! Neither my cousin or I know any BlaBlaCar drivers, so I don’t have a driver profile to show you, but my cousin did give me her public profile. I’m sure drivers check rider’s profiles too!
Here’s a screenshot of my cousin’s public profile page (from BlaBlaCar.co.uk, so it’s in English).
Here is a BlaBlaCar search for a Florence-to-Rome trip.
And here are the details of a Florence-to-Rome trip on offer.
From watching my cousin schedule and then use BlaBlaCar, it seems like a really convenient travel option. And it can save money, whether you’re the driver or rider. And if you’re someone who doesn’t plan very far in advance or has a flexible schedule while traveling, BlaBlaCar would work well. I’ve checked into BlaBlaCar a few times and they seem to keep upgrading their website each year and adding locations they serve. Have you used BlaBlaCar before? What’s been your experience?
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