March 30, 2016 was the two year anniversary of Uber operating in Panama City, Panama and they celebrated by giving users free macaroons from Ladurée!
Starting at 11 am users could swipe to the Uberversary option within the app and have macaroons delivered to them by an Uber driver for FREE. I tried a few times and it was always busy, but plenty of people did get delicious macaroons delivered right to their door. Uber users posed on Instagram using the hashtag #happyuberversarypty.
Getting free macaroons is fun, but Uber has actually had an impact on people’s lives in Panama and I think locals often form an emotional connection with the service. It has filled a much needed gap in the transportation options to safely, reliably, and comfortably move people from point A to B that the taxi system has not yet been able to provide.
5 Ways Uber Has Changed Life In Panama
- Safety: Uber has provided a safe option for people to get around – especially at night. Every once in a while I hear about someone that got mugged in a taxi in Panama and this just isn’t something you have to worry about with Uber. The driver is background checked and every detail of the ride is documented and tracked which deters the driver from committing a crime.
- Drinking & driving: Another safety issue Uber has helped to resolve is drinking & driving. Getting wasted and driving home was unfortunately a common occurrence in Panama City before Uber. People who have cars in Panama do not normally like to use a taxi to go home at night so they would always take their car out. There is not any statistical data to back this up but I have personally seen more people using Uber to go to and from the bars now than driving home wasted at 4am.
- Fair Prices: Taxis are not metered in Panama so prices are not always fair – also especially at night. This isn’t a problem for locals most of the time (we don’t let them overcharge us), but I see taxi drivers constantly ripping tourists off and this leaves a bad impression for visitors. Uber’s price is based on your trip time and distance so you’re always charged a fair price.
- It’s cheaper to use Uber everyday than own a car: Along with the fair prices, Panama City might be one of the few cities in the world where it would be cheaper to go to and from work everyday using Uber than to own a car. The majority of my rides are $2-$4 within the city so let’s say that on the high end of the spectrum at $8 a day / 5 days a week you would be spending $160 a month plus maybe add an extra $40 for getting around on the weekends. Most car payments alone are at least $200 + gas + insurance + repairs + parking fees + traffic tickets, so it’s something to think about.
- Convenience: Taxis in Panama are famous for saying “no voy”. This means that after you tell them where you need to go they say they will not go there and then drive off. Whenever I call an Uber I rarely wait more than 5 minutes for them to arrive and they take me wherever I want them to go. I can have them take me to run a few errands, pick up a friend first and then head out to Casco Viejo, etc. There’s also no search for parking once we do arrive.
Taxi Drivers Aren’t Happy
The day before Uber’s two year anniversary, taxi drivers lined up along Cinta Costera for a peaceful protest claiming that Uber is an “unfair competition”.
According to a statement from President Juan Carlos Varela, Uber is not a competition for local taxi drivers. The service is more expensive than traditional taxi services and the payment is processed by credit card. The problem is that there are too many taxi licenses due to unauthorized approvals. To date, he said that there are almost 70,000 taxis licenses, and they are not authorizing more, despite having a lot of requests. (La Prensa)
Uber is also an addition to the number of transportation options that have launched in Panama City. When I first moved to Panama in 2011 there were basically two options: Diablo Rojos or taxis. Since then the newer Metro Buses were implemented, the first line of our Metro constructed, and Uber and several other transportation apps have launched so maybe the taxis are starting to see less riders. But regardless, everyone has a right to choose how they want to get around.
Do you think Uber should Uber stay or go? Leave a comment below…
I was not contacted by Uber to write this article, I just personally love the service. If you haven’t used Uber before and want to give it a shot, download the app from your App Store and enter promo code UBERPTYLIFE to get $10 off your first ride.