BlaBlaCar isn’t available in the U.S., but it’s how many Europeans travel regional distances, so we gave it a try.
Think of it as a sort-of, kind-of regional Uber. With BlaBlaCar, you chose the driver, and then the driver agrees to take you as a passenger. That’s different from Uber, where the driver picks you and you have no say. Also different from Uber – some rides should be arranged days in advance, if possible, especially for longer road trips.
Like Uber’s car sharing, BlaBla’s car pooling saves travelers money. For example, bus tickets from Seville, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, would have cost about $100 USD for two people. Instead, two seats with BlaBlaCar cost about $65 USD for two people.
The Spain to Portugal ride was our second time with BlaBla, and as you can see, the savings are significant for budget travelers like us. There was another passenger along with Tedly and I, plus the driver. The four of us had a great trip. As pleasant as the drive was, it was the cost savings that made us try the service a second time, after our first attempt nearly ended in failure.
Our first attempt with BlaBla was to go from Algeciseras to Seville, both locations in Spain about a two-hour drive apart. We made an offer to a driver leaving in a few hours. (This short notice was a mistake.) We waited for the driver to confirm or deny our offer. We sent him a message and explained if he was going to accept us in his car, we’d skip making our way to the bus station. We didn’t hear back from him, but we rolled the dice and figured surely, he’d accept us, so we did not go to the bus station.
Well, the driver didn’t deny or confirm. In fact, our offer expired and we missed the bus. Only later – after the offer expired and after we missed the bus – did we notice on the app that he had seen our messages yet ignored us!
Our lesson on this first attempt: arrange the trip before the day you want to travel – or at least several hours before you travel. We had tried to book this ride a couple of hours before go time. Maybe our lesson will help someone reading.
Our second choice for a driver on that first trip turned out much better. We sent an offer several hours before the trip, with a little more time to spare for acceptance or denial. The driver accepted and he turned out to be a kind man who he knew a lot about our destination. We arrived in Seville just fine, albeit several hours later than we had wanted.
I later told Tedly I’m kinda glad the first driver flaked out. He was only 25 years old. Do I really want a 25-year-old stranger driving me two hours in Spanish countryside? Not really. Better to stack the deck in our favor and go with an older driver with more real-world experience – I’m likely to trust a driver like that before a 25-year-old.
Which leads me to a drawback on BlaBlaCar: you have to trust the driver and give up control. Not exactly easy for this back-seat driver. I’m a lady who likes to be in charge on the road. That was the main reason I first decided to learn how to drive a motorcycle: I was not comfortable as a passive rider up against a sissy bar.
Another drawback for BlaBlaCar: we couldn’t leave a review for the driver who stiffed us because we never used his service. That sucks. He sucked.
The biggest plus for BlaBla is obviously its lower cost than buses (or trains), which I’ve already hit on. Another big plus is the time it saves. That trip from Spain to Portugal took us about four and half hours. It would have taken nearly eight by bus.
So if we can get there cheaper and faster – and safely – let’s go. When it worked out, we loved the experience. More information about BlaBlaCar is here.
(*This is an independent blog – so as always, I get nothing in return for this review, unlike other early retirement budget travel blogs…)