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Digital Nomad Hacks for Medellin Business Travel: Ride-Hailing Apps

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Nickolas Saraceni
ByPor Nickolas Saraceni

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As Medellin grows more popular every year among digital nomads and traveling professionals, the demand for trustworthy and time effective ride-hailing apps has grown with it. In a city that is praised for the efficiency of its Metro train and bus systems, expats and locals alike often opp for faster and more private means of transportation. With a variety of taxi apps like Cabify, EasyTaxi, and Smart Taxi, along with an abundance of other chauffeur apps like Uber and InDriver, this article aims to help visitors to Colombia decide which apps are worth downloading to their mobile devices before arriving. 

Taxis, the Traditional Option 

Yellow taxis are readily available in most areas of Medellin and use meters that charge per kilometer or per minute, but only when activated and honored by your driver. In the later hours of the night, even when the meter is activated, it is not uncommon for taxistas to insist on a higher “night rate.” If you are from out of town, they may pick up on it and take the long route to squeeze every peso out of you that they can. While it is wise to take note of the license plate and driver’s name badge, there is no way to vet or assure the safety and quality of service. Ultimately, taxi drivers have the ability to charge whatever they want and take riders wherever they please without any tracking system discouraging from doing so. Since you can see taxis from pretty much everywhere in the city, they may seem to be the most convenient option, but with quality ride-hailing apps and services in place, taxis can and ought to be your last option. 

Uber Sets the International Quality Standard For Ride-Hailing Apps

Uber is the most widely used driver app internationally and very popular among Colombian white-collar professionals, business travelers and digital nomads. In Medellin, Uber generally has the most cars available at any given time and has a fixed price that riders must agree to before the driver arrives. With an app that has been widely implemented in over 80 countries, now even offering UberCopter and other flight services, the Uber user experience is often so smooth that any language barrier between driver and passenger becomes a non-issue due to the final destination and fee being displayed on both party’s phone screens. As opposed to any random human that can pick you up in a taxi, Uber displays the photo and name of your driver next to their star rating, awarded by previous riders based on quality and safety of service, along with the number of rides they have successfully completed.  So when you see that Gilberto has a 4.8-star rating after 4922 trips, you can be rather sure that you’re going to get to where you need to go with relative comfort and ease. Paypal and credit cards can both be linked to the Uber app so businesses can expense transport costs and the rider never needs to touch their wallet. 

InDriver, Medellin’s Fastest Growing Ridesharing Service

InDriver is another popular app in Colombia that presents the same features as Uber regarding driver quality ratings and quick app responsiveness, while generally offering lower rates than their top competitors. These lower trip costs revolve around an interesting twist in the form of the app’s pre-pickup price negotiation. The way it works is that the rider names their price and all nearby drivers choose to either accept that price or counter with a rate they believe to be more fair. The system encourages riders to start low with their negotiation because an eager driver might actually accept it, or if not, drivers then begin offering their new prices while taking into account that the rider is likely to accept the lowest bid among them. 

Fresh out of their beta phase where new drivers were receiving 100% of the fare, the company still offers drivers a friendlier commission percentage than Uber, who takes 30% of every ride from the driver. Since InDrivers keep a higher percentage from each ride than they would driving the same trip for Uber, they are more likely to accept lower bids.  

One slight downside to InDriver being relatively young and unproven in Colombia is that the app and its map interface is still buggy, which often causes drivers to call customers for confirmation of pick-up points and ask again for addresses of final destinations. This is not a huge problem for Spanish speakers, but international business travelers passing through Bogota and Medellin might consider brushing up on their Spanish if they plan to take advantage of the value of InDriver. 

Other Options?

Among ride-hailing apps like EasyTaxi and Smart Taxi, Cabify usually has the most available drivers at any given time, though riders are likely to pay more than Uber because their rates mimic the metered price of traditional taxi rides. 

Finally, in every group, there is bound to be a wildcard, and in the case of Picap, extra emphasis should be placed on the word “wild.” Picap is naturally the fastest option in Medellin rideshare services for the simple fact that your ride is a motorcycle that zips through traffic with greater ease than a car. When a Picap driver gives their client a helmet, still warm from the last guy, the motorcycle taxi app really has riders considering what it means to “ride at their own risk.”  

UberCopter:
https://techcrunch.com/2019/06/06/uber-copter-offers-on-demand-jfk-helicopter-service-for-top-tier-users/