BlaBlaCar is an online platform where verified drivers offer spaces in their car for a particular journey in exchange for a small fee. Drivers are verified by the website using driving licenses or other ID and they also publish small profiles, including how chatty they are, which range from “bla”(quiet) to “blablabla”(very talkative), hence the name. Potential travellers search for the journey they wish to take and place reservations online, with payment to the driver only being processed once the traveller confirms they have travelled with them.
The concept seems great. Drivers are able to make a bit of extra cash on a journey they would otherwise be doing anyway, travellers get to travel more directly and there are potentially less cars on the road so a positive impact on the environment. However, with other recent concepts such as AirBnB, the UK has been slow to take up the trend. One of my friend’s first reactions when I told her I was travelling to Madrid in a BlablaCar (in continental Europe), was “OMG, that’s so dangerous, you’re going to be kidnapped!” (Spoiler: I wasn’t, it was perfectly safe).
My first experience with this service was last Friday with my flatmate who had previously used it. The driver was a 24 year old Medical student driving to Madrid for athletics driving. He was very pleasant, friendly and drove in a safe manner. He offered us snacks, helped me with learn some new Spanish vocab and then dropped us off where we agreed. We left each other 5* ratings and glowing reviews, all was good.
My second experience was sadly not as good. Arriving in Madrid, the driver had refused to pick me up from the airport so I spent an hour sprinting between platforms on the metro to get to Railway station on time. Once there, the driver was nowhere to be seen…. “we will be 40-50 mins late” she texted…Another 1.5 hrs later, she had arrived but instead of pulling up to the main car park where I was stood in (and where the majority of travellers were being picked up from), she told me to come and find her at some petrol station on the other said of a busy road around 10 minutes from the car park. At this stage, I’d been travelling for 11 hours, I was cold, hungry and very frustrated. Nevertheless, when I met the driver with her smiley face and not a single apology for being late and making me go on a wild goose chase, I gritted my teeth and reciprocated her smiley attitude.
Unfortunately, things did not improve once the journey started. As a driver who was not familiar with Madrid, the first drama of the ride was when she realised that she had missed a turning, she then proceeded to drive the WRONG way around the roundabout. By the time we left the city, I had already missed the class that I had been rushing back to Spain to attend. For the rest of the journey, her phone never left her hand, after all it was crucial for switching between GPS and messaging her boyfriend. She was so determined at taking photos of upcoming traffic to send to her boyfriend that she paid no attention to the red lights she cruised through. At the end of the journey, she also charged me an extra 2 euros for me NOT to be stranded in the middle of nowhere and to be dropped off closer to the city centre. I felt genuinely lucky to survive the 2.5 hour journey back to my city.
Here, I had a moral dilemma. The driver herself was a lovely person. She was a good at keeping conversation going and very friendly. At one point, she went to use the services whilst leaving me in the car with the keys in the engine, phone, purse and keys in the tray, clearly a trusting person. A bad rating from me may dissuade others from travelling with her in the future. However, the driving was a truly dreadful experience. Even being in the cars of my newly-qualified driver friends, they have never driven in such a reckless manner. I received no apology from her for being over an hour and half late and paying 2 euros NOT to be stranded was just the icing on the top. It is a shame that BlaBlaCar does not have separate ratings for the driving experience and the person.
So, my thoughts on BlaBlaCar? Overall, I think it’s a great concept. With the right driver, you can reach your destination for a fraction of the price you’d pay for public transport, and often the route can be quicker and a car can be more comfortable. However, I would highly recommend looking at the driver’s reviews and travelling well ahead of when you want to arrive in case of unexpected delays. Whilst the concept is still in its developing stages, it’s still very much pot luck what your experience will be, but I would say it’s definitely worth a try!
Have any of you had experiences with BlaBlaCar? Let me know in the comments how you found it! 🙂