Nine Hyper-Local Uber Services You Never Knew Existed
Have you ever heard of UberWine or UberSki? Didn’t think so.
Those services, like countless of other Uber add-ons, are destination-specific perks, created to suit local lifestyles and address common requests. In California, that means having a driver stick with you for a day of wine tastings, while in Utah, it's about getting to the slopes—with your gear in tow.
“Our focus is on local markets everywhere we are,” said Amy Friedlander, head of business development and experiential marketing at Uber, during an interview with Bloomberg. One of the company’s “north stars,” she said, is celebrating the uniqueness of the cities they operate in—all 400 and counting.
Sometimes this materializes as a brief pop-up program, such as the helicopter-centric UberChopper offering that has run in such places as the Hamptons and Cannes during busy summer and festival seasons, shuttling VIPs to and from tony events. Other times it’s even quicker, such as a one-day event delivering kittens to corporate buildings for a brief stress-relief session. After that promotion ran, said Friedlander, the company would have needed “hundreds of thousands of kittens" to meet the demand that came up in response, "which was off the charts.”
But the most useful Uber extensions aren’t short-term at all. “We want to explore what’s meaningful about a city and how we can contribute to how transportation works there,” Friendlander said. She was talking about such programs as UberBike, which lets Amsterdam bikers mount their bicycles onto a car if they’d rather not pedal home, or UberPitch, a recurring pop-up service that lets entrepreneurs book a ride with venture capitalists and private equity investors in business capitals from Boston to Berlin.
Usually special offerings are promoted only to locals—with the help of e-mail marketing campaigns that the company prefers to use as sparingly as possible. But for a company such as Uber, creating a hyper-local service is no small feat. It has to be offered instantly at scale, which means that city-specific general managers for the company have to work in tandem with the most willing-to-experiment drivers to ensure that there are enough cars—equipped with bike racks or pet-friendly seat covers—to meet demand right away.
The best way to find out about specialized services in the cities you’re visiting is simply to browse through the app, says Friendlander. But instead of leaving you guessing about what you’ll find where, we’ve rounded up the coolest, quirkiest, and most useful offerings that are regularly on offer around the globe.
Where you’ll find it: New York City, Philadelphia, and Washington, D.C.
This kid-friendly program happens to be one of the company’s more complicated value adds. The pricing is simple: A $10 surcharge on Uber X rides will get you one with a carseat for your child. But you’ll have to check this microsite to make sure your child is the right age and weight for the forward-facing seats that Uber is using. For Uber, pulling off the effort required special training to make sure the car seats were being installed safely—and the oversight of the advocacy group Car Seat Lady. The program is catching on internationally, too—a similar initiative called UberFamily made its debut in Istanbul this March.
Where you’ll find it: San Luis Obispo and Santa Barbara, Calif.; Valle de Guadalupe, Mexico
Forget about choosing a designated driver—or overpaying for a chauffeur—to take you from vineyard to vineyard. At least in some destinations, Uber has you covered for an entire day of tastings. The pilot for UberWine was launched last year in the central coast California regions of SLO and Santa Barbara, both emerging as veritable forces in their own right. (Though you can hire drivers for the day, you still pay $1.25 per mile or 29¢ per minute.)
The service is also available in Mexico’s burgeoning Valle de Guadalupe, where UberValle drivers pick you up at the U.S. border and take you to the best wineries for a quick and easy day trip. Napa and Sonoma, however, have yet to roll out the program.
Where you’ll find it: New Delhi, Hanoi, Bangalore, Ho Chi Minh City, and more
Motorcycle tours in these Asian capitals are coveted experiences—on such activity-booking sites as Viator, you can pay upward of $75 for a half-day outing. Hack it by booking an UberMoto, which works just like any other Uber vehicle. (It was introduced in multiple cities this past February.) You’ll be provided with the make and model of your driver’s motorcycle so you can easily find one another. And yes, helmets are included where required by law.
Where you’ll find it: Rome, London, and Los Angeles
Don’t settle for a ride in a Hyundai. In style capitals around the globe, Uber allows riders to book top-tier vehicles—each one inspected to meet certain standards. The basic rules: The car must be among a set of approved makes and models (e.g. Mercedes Benz S or G Class, Porsche Panamera, any Bentley or Maybach), can’t be more than four years old, and must have a black interior and exterior. Lux drivers are encouraged to dress professionally (“wearing a suit is highly recommended,” says the driver tip sheet), provide bottled water, and be able to offer restaurant recommendations. As a rider in Los Angeles, where the pricing is most transparent, you’ll pay a base of $20 for the privilege and four times the local per-minute price.
Where you’ll find it: Lake Tahoe, Park City, Utah, and Santiago, Chile
There are just two things you want if you’re hailing an Uber in a ski town: a rack for your gear and all-wheel drive. You’ll get both with UberSki, and you’ll have to pay only about $5 extra for the convenience.
Where you’ll find it: Amsterdam and São Paulo
In cities such as these, Uber faces competition not just from taxis, but also from the popularity of commuting by bike. Here, catering to bikers isn’t just a useful offering—it’s a smart business move. So Uber allows drivers to hitch bike racks to their vehicles and offer bike-and-passenger pickups as part of UberBike. It’s been available in São Paulo for a year and costs an additional 4 Brazilian reais; the service was introduced in Amsterdam this June and costs an extra €4 in addition to the regular fare.
Where you’ll find it: Mexico City
Who knew that Mexico City was a haven for pampered pets? Official this June, you can now travel with your dogs, cats, birds, and fish without worrying about potential cleaning fees. There are small minimum tariffs: 70 Mexican pesos (less than $4) for a regular car and roughly $8 for an Uber Black car. Service dogs, however, are exempt from the upcharge.
Where you’ll find it: Istanbul
UberBoat has popped up in Miami for Art Basel and in Baltimore for Light City—two annual festivals that drive thousands of travelers. But in Istanbul, UberBoat is a full-time offering. You can zip between Europe and Asia in a small, 6- to 8-person yacht—or you can use the service to get to the airport or the nearby Princess Islands for a quintessential day trip. (See here for pricing.)
Where you’ll find it: Paris, Porto, and Lisbon
The city that hosted the 2015 United Nations Climate Change Conference was also the first to offer UberGreen, which puts a spotlight on electric and hybrid cars, such as the Nissan Leaf and Toyota Prius. There’s no surcharge for passengers; a Green ride costs the same as an UberX trip if all other parameters remain unchanged. In Portugal, UberGreen is still in pilot mode; it was launched in March with just 20 cars in Porto and Lisbon combined.