Uber Comes To Hong Kong, And Why You May Want To Wait

Uber continues to change the way people think about transportation, and I’m a big fan.  There have been a few times where I’ve chosen to use Uber over a rental car where I wasn’t willing to trust that a taxi cab might be available to get me to the airport for an early flight.  Their reliability is one of the key reasons I choose them.

That’s the reason my Uber experience last week in Hong Kong was so disappointing.  If my memory serves me correctly, I had 4 or 5 rides in my brief stay.  This is roughly how things broke down:
Ride #1: Driver on-time, courteous. Everything I’ve come to expect.

Ride #2: Driver shows up 15 minutes later than estimates.  Estimates consistently wrong throughout the wait as I text the driver for updates. Hong Kong traffic is bad, but this is midday so less likely. Also, driver consistently tells me “5 minutes” for quite a while.

Ride #3: Driver shows up on time but app doesn’t show him as arrived. It says 3 minutes away for a while, I text driver, he says he’s there. When I hop in car and tell him destination and that I’m in a rush, he takes a longer route than necessary to get there. Not sure if this was intentional or just poor choice. High note: 5 minutes after I rate the drive 1 star Uber follows up and gives me a big discount on that ride.

Ride #4: Estimates completely wrong again. After 20 minutes of waiting and a few texts to driver that say he’s five minutes away, he drives by me on a one-way street. I give up and cancel the ride.  I think I got charged a fee to cancel.

I hit the button again for another driver and move to a part of the city that might be easier for pick-up. Once the estimated time hits, I can see car on map not far away from me (maybe 1/4 mile?).  But, the car isn’t moving.  No notice that the driver has arrived and no text or call from the driver.  I give it another few minutes and then text, “Are you coming?”.  The car immediately starts moving on the map and the driver is there less than 5 minutes later.  I’d say it could be blamed on traffic, but this was midnight in an area where there really wasn’t much.  Just odd.

Ride #5 (aborted): I hit the Uber button just before 6am the morning of my departure.  There were two cars on the map.  The app confirmed my ride and said I had 9 minutes to finish my packing and get my butt downstairs.  No problem.  5 minutes later the driver called me and told me he was at least 30 minutes away and he suggested I cancel the ride find another car.  Okaaayyy.  I mashed the cancel button only to find no more black cars.


And, that’s normally where the Uber story would end for this trip.  But, then I noticed the “taxi” option.  Hmmmm.

There were 3 options:

  • Taxi
  • Taxi + $15
  • Taxi + $30

Interesting.  A miniature version of surge pricing in the taxi cab market.  I should have taken pictures of all three screens, but it was apparently working.  The “Taxi” option had a few cabs on the screen where the +$15 and +$30 option had many more cabs available to me (the $30 option looked like an entire fleet).


I chose the +$15 option since I was now in a bit more of a rush.  I texted the driver to let him know where I was staying and immediately got a reply.  The driver showed up a few minutes early and was awesome/courteous.  It was a taxi cab, so not a black car.  But, the driver was truly awesome.

We talked throughout the entire ride.  He shared with me that Uber had included some incentives in the market for drivers when they first came to town but those had subsided now.  He expressed enjoyment driving for Uber and found most passengers to be friendly.  He gave me advice on how to get around Hong Kong Airport and other tidbits on the area.  It was an easy and enjoyable ride.

It didn’t occur to me when I mashed the button whether the surcharge was USD or HKD.  After speaking with Gary of View From The Wing on prices he paid for taxi cabs in the past, the surcharge appeared to be about $2 USD.

I don’t really have a need for a black car.  Uber for me is about punctuality and attentive drivers that know how to get around a city.  So, the condition of the car really doesn’t matter to me.  The taxi was perfectly fine for my ride to the airport and the driver was great.

All that being said, buyer beware on using Uber right now in Hong Kong.  I’m a big fan of Uber, but there definitely appears to be some kinks to work out.

It seems just wrong for me to include a referral link for people who might not have signed up for Uber yet in a post that bashes their service in Hong Kong.  So, if anyone who has an existing account with Uber wants to earn a referral credit, leave it in a comment here for any newbies who might stumble across this post.

The post Uber Comes To Hong Kong, And Why You May Want To Wait was published first on Pizza In Motion.

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My goal in life is to fill my family’s passports with stamps, creating buckets of memories along the way. You’ll find me writing about realistic ways for normal people to travel the world, whether you’re on a budget or enjoy luxury. I also enjoy taking us on the occasional detour to explore the inner workings of the travel industry.

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  1. What sort of black cars did they send you..Also I hear that Uber has been available in hongKong for a while now.. it is not brand new.. last year possibly?

  2. Hi Ed …

    I don’t understand why anybody would take a taxi to the airport in HK. HK has the single best airport express train I’ve ever ridden combined with a fabulously overbuilt and wonderful subway system (did you ride any of those fast escalators and marvel at how overbuilt the stations are?).

    And on top of all that? They have city check-in, separate loading/unloading areas all at street level for the airport express .. free wifi if you know the trick (download the MTR app) and so on.

    And this is a town with a great fleet of Toyota Corona taxicabs!

    What a great town!


    1. LIHPrem, I actually took Airport Express from the airport to downtown on the way in. I was planning to get to the airport very early, so didn’t want to have to transfer from the MTR to airport express with luggage (or cab to airport express) and get up a bit earlier. Figured that time of morning there would be very little traffic and there was. But, yes, I loved Airport Express.

  3. oh .. and if you missed riding the spur line to HK Disney, you missed the train buffs experience of a lifetime. Velour seats, mickey mouse ear windows, statues under glass … I kid you not.




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