BlaBlaCar is not your average plane or train ride. It’s a European transportation network that is like hitchhiking but with a small fee and a couple of rules and regulations
By Sandra De Grandis
Images: BlaBlaCar website and Facebook
Have you ever gotten into a car with a complete stranger or two and driven to another city or to another country? If the answer is no, well then you’ve probably never heard of BlaBlaCar before. BlaBlaCar is not your average plane or train ride. It’s a European transportation network that is like hitchhiking but with a small fee and a couple of rules and regulations.
So how exactly does it work? Well, first of all, people volunteer to be drivers not by pulling over to the side of the road but by signing up online. Those interested in becoming drivers publish a trip advertisement on the BlaBlaCar website indicating how many seats they will be “renting out” and where they’ll be driving to, said Alejandro Martinez, a driver with BlaBlaCar for almost two years. Drivers also list the date and time of departure, as well as the cost per passenger.
As for the passengers, all you have to do is go online and type in your travel date, departure and destination points, then find a driver who is going the same route. Once you find a driver, you just contact them by private message or phone to reserve a seat and voila! you’re ready to go.
BlaBlaCar has been active in Spain for about two years, according to Martinez, and operates in other European countries as well, including France, the UK and Italy. During his time as a driver he has made trips to various cities in Spain, such as Zaragoza and Granada. He has also ventured outside of Spain to Toulouse, France many times. For Martinez, driving to Zaragoza and Granada were regular occurrences, as he has connections to those cities.
“I have friends in Zaragoza. I visit my family in Granada. I relax there, go to the beach,” said Martinez.
Finding your precise destination may be a bit tricky. Destinations are listed by drivers based on where they are going, not on what passengers need. However, BlaBlaCar can provide a better alternative, especially for destinations that are not easily accessible by flying, bus or train.
“I’ve used BlaBlaCar a handful of times and I’ve always had great experiences. Overall, it is a more convenient, cheaper and efficient mode of transport, especially if you’re living in areas that aren’t super connected. The rides were speedier and cheaper,” says Alaina Rose from the U.S. who is now working and living in Spain.
While getting into a car with complete strangers may seem unnerving to some, to many users BlaBlaCar is synonymous to positive experiences.
“Sitting in a car with complete strangers for a few hours seemed strange to me but after my first good experience I realized that it is safe and there is a good system to it. Many of the drivers are very nice and informative about where to travel. Some even helped me with my Spanish… One time I even helped a driver with their English. It’s been a lot of fun. Compared to a train ride, it does offer the possibility of meeting new people and improving your language skills if you want to,” says Bridgette, a Canadian who, like Rose, now lives and works in Spain.
“Another priceless benefit is learning a bunch of information about your destination you wouldn’t otherwise ever learn, until you’ve arrived at least. You often get an experienced local’s point of view on what to eat and where, what’s overrated and underrated, perhaps events that are taking place while you’re there, etc.” adds Rose.
For those concerned with safety (and rightfully so), BlaBlaCar ensures the authenticity of the drivers and there is also a rating system for drivers written by other passengers. There is a “ladies only” option for women who don’t feel too comfortable travelling with male passengers. So the next time you want to visit a new city and want to take an alternative route, give BlaBlaCar a try!
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