From Canada to Chiang Mai: An Uber Driver’s Comparison

 |  February 1, 2018

My first Uber experience was way back in 2015. I was out with a friend and she ordered me an Uber after a night out with some drinks. It went something like this;

“So, I don’t know the best way home from here,” I said, mildly under the influence.

“It’s okay, I’ll order you an Uber,” she replied.

“A what?”

“Uber. It’s a guy that comes and picks you up.”

“Is that, um, safe?”

Little did I know after that exchange how Uber would change my life. The following year, being a freelance writer working from home, I was looking into more ways to earn money. Uber seemed perfect for me and it worked well with my schedule, it also had the added bonus of meeting new people.

Andrew Caballero-Reynolds/AFP/Getty Images

Since my first ride in the fall of 2015, I’ve given 3700 rides. 99% have gone smoothly. The main problems I encounter in Canada are drunk riders, wait times and driving through the bleak cold winter. I am Canadian, so I drive Uber when I am back at home, but now in Chiang Mai, Thailand, I can begin to see how the drivers here go through exactly what I do at home, and that mutual understanding is bringing me closer to one of my most adored cities in the world.

My first experience was taking an Uber to Citylife office from the Old City. With having no Wi-Fi once I stepped out of my home, it was a little bit of a struggle to find my driver, but it eventually worked out. The lack of a Thai number was problematic, as most drivers her prefer calling to using the in-app messenger service.

We were off and as we approached the address on the map 45 minutes later through congested traffic, I began to feel concerned as the driver dipped and darted through a number of smaller roads – the GPS on his dashboard recalculating after every turn. Soon enough we ‘arrived’ at our destination, miles away from where I wanted to be. After a broken English conversation, we managed to work out where to go and he set off again.

This is a problem I have encountered as a driver in Canada, the map is on rare occasion, out of date, something I suspect Chiang Mai struggles with more than Canada given the vast amount of new developments cropping up across the city.

My next Chiang Mai Uber encounter was a fun one. Having finished a wonderful day exploring Wat Pha Lat with some friends, we discovered a parking lot at the top of the temple. This would save us the 2km walk back down to where we were first dropped off. As we were a good 20 minutes out of town it took some time to hail a car but in the end we were lucky and a very friendly female driver took us back to town, earning herself a very generous tip.

As both a driver and a rider of Uber, I can tell you that the life of an Uber driver is the same world over. As for new Uber cities like Chiang Mai (celebrating their 1st year anniversary last November), there are obviously kinks that need to be ironed out. What was different was the cost however. In Canada it would cost almost ten times the amount here, and different currencies and day to day costs aside, I felt sorry for the little cash I know the drivers here get, so I like to tip where I can.

I go home in a few weeks to continue Uber’ing and have my own set of Canadian challenges, most notably driving in the snow and navigating the bad traffic surrounding hockey games…although I don’t think anywhere in the world can beat the traffic at Rim Come Junction at rush hour. Drivers everywhere will continue to face their own unique set of challenges as the local norms and conditions will dictate the experience. This is all part of the Uber adventure. I for one wholeheartedly support Uber, making transport affordable to the masses and creating jobs wherever it is set up. Whether you’re a driver, a rider or both, I wish you all all a happy Uber experience next time you head out into town, and don’t forget to tip!