Travel Apps: Air BnB & Uber

So far while on the road in LA and now Mexico, we have fallen in love with these two apps.

Air BnB

Massively popular Air BnB is the app that allows travellers to stay with entrepreneurial locals. The beauty of this app is that you can find very reasonable priced digs, and then live like a local or live with locals. You can find a private room in a shared house, or a whole house or apartment to yourself, and rent it through the app. Many of the accommodations come via people renting out their spare room, or their house while they are away. From time to time you see accommodation that is clearly just a serviced apartment or business charading as a less-organised enterprise, but even those are often valued below market price.

The whole thing works on a system of reviews, so if there is a dodgy user or provider, they are quickly weeded out. The app is easy to use and accommodation listings have detailed information and images. You can compare places by price, type or location (on a map). You can check out pictures and descriptions of who lives there. Most importantly it takes the money side out of your and the provider's hands, making the cost clear upon booking and then completing the transaction through the app, so you don't have to exchange or discuss cash directly with the person you are staying with.

On past trips and this trip, I have had great experiences using this app. When I compare the accommodation to hotels, I consistently find the best places to stay on Air BnB, in terms of location and costs. We have just scored a serviced apartment in Puerto Escondido for way less per night than a hotel costs here, and it is walking distance to the best beach in the area. Love Air BnB.

Of course, you run the risk of having a bad experience, like a shitty house mate, a house that is not as advertised, or not being able to get the key when you arrive. And so if you need the security that a hotel desk provides, especially if arriving late at night or in a city you're unsure about, then I wouldn't use Air BnB. But in other cases, it is great for couples if you want a cool, private apartment to yourselves, and it is great when travelling alone and wanting to meet some local people by sharing a house.


Uber is like the Air BnB of the car world. In the cities where Uber operates (it covers 20 countries and growing), locals using their own cars can taxi you from place to place. Like Air BnB and accommodation services, Uber is causing a lot of upset in the taxi world, as it is a strong new competitor operating outside the normal systems.

As a user, you sign up with the app, adding your contact details, a photo, and your credit card details (actually, there is a cool function where you just scan your card and it saves it to the system, so no typing!). Then the app niftily shows you your location on a map, and maps the potential cars that could pick you up in the area, estimating how far they are from you. I found that using it in LA and San Fran, this was always just a matter of a few minutes wait.

You select a car, and it tells you who the driver is, with a picture of them, and the car type or the number plate. Then that driver comes and picks you up, and takes you where you want to go! We found Uber to be on par with the cost of taxis in LA and SF, or cheaper. But the service and user experience is far better than a taxi.

Again the whole thing is based on reviews, so the driver has no reason to screw around and take a long route. You often get a local entrepreneurial person who is working for Uber for extra cash, and they usually have a super clean car. All the drivers we had were lovely, and chatted to us about their cities. As a traveller that was a cool experience in itself.

From a safety perspective, these drivers have been screened in the same manner a taxi driver is, checking driving records and any criminal activity, so this is as safe, or safer than a taxi, because of the review system and the whole ride is tracked via GPS. We spoke to a few local women in San Francisco who use Uber when going out alone out at night, as they find it safer than a taxi.

At the end of the ride, no money is exchanged. You get an estimate of the cost before you depart, and then at the end of the ride the app tells you the total cost and you are charged automatically. This is a really simple and clear app experience that makes car journeys in a city easy and quick to organise. Uber is particularly helpful in a place like LA, where having a car is a massive advantage if you need to get into hard to reach places, or get anywhere fast.

There are other similar car sharing apps out there like Sidecar and Lyft, but we were unable to try them out since they required an American cell number to log in. Uber seems to be the best set up for international travellers so far.


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Anna Metcalfe is a content maker, word writer and editor of things.