The Etiquette and Safety of Riding in an Uber

Woman hailing a cab

Uber is a great service. It's fast, affordable and — if you're like me and don't like to drive — somewhat essential. Overall the system works seamlessly, which is why Uber has become one of the more significant success stories of the digital age. The more you ride the more you notice the subtle ways in which Uber has developed its own sub-culture — an unspoken set of dos and don'ts. It's important to treat your Uber with respect since riders also get a star rating from the driver, and if yours gets too low, nobody will want to pick you up! Here, the basics of Uber etiquette.

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Before you ride

Make sure you're ready to go. Uber drivers are instructed to wait around for five minutes or so, but they shouldn't have to — after all, time is money. This particular rule is especially important if you are using Uber Pool. Uber Pool is a shared service where you agree to let the driver pick up additional passengers and share their stops on your way to your final destination. In these cases, if you're late for the pick up, you're not just wasting your driver's time, but are holding up your fellow passengers as well.

Once you are ready to get going, make sure you stand in a place clearly visible to the driver. If you're in a particularly crowded location, or have to wait somewhere secluded, send your driver a text to let them know where you'll be (the app will handle any messages sent in this way).

With regards to human cargo, don't try to cram in more riders than a car can accommodate. You have the option of ordering an extra large vehicle if necessary. Use it. Trying to fit five riders into four seats is uncomfortable, dangerous and probably illegal.

En route

Now you're in your car and on your way. Don't change the destination too many times. Sure, it's okay to amend your travel plan if something comes up, but try to keep such detours to a minimum.

If you have a preferred route, make sure you let the driver know. Most Uber drivers will look to their GPS to guide them. Don't penalize a driver for taking back streets if you haven't made it clear you want to use the highway. That being said, Uber drivers should always facilitate your requests (unless you tell them to drive through a river or something).

Food, drink, and other messy endeavors

This should be self evident, but in case you're oblivious — don't make a mess in the back of your car, so just, you know, wait to get home to eat that seven course Indian dinner you just picked up.

Also kind of obvious: Don't throw up. Uber is a great way to avoid a DUI, but don't be that guy. If you're feeling nauseous, try and wait for it to pass before ordering your car.


You're well within your rights to ask the driver to switch off the radio entirely, but be sensitive to the fact that they spend many a long hour in their vehicle and enjoy music as a way to pass the time. Similarly, you can ask your driver to change the station, or tune in to one of your favorites.

To talk or not to talk?

So, what about conversation? If you get into the front seat, it's a cue that you're willing to engage in a chat. If you'd prefer a silent journey, opt to sit in the backseat (the seat behind the driver is probably most private), and politely answer any questions they might ask, but do so in a way that shuts down further inquiry. If the conversation isn't letting up, you can also always take out your phone and politely say, "I'm sorry, I have to respond to an email right now."

To tip or not to tip?

This is a somewhat controversial issue. On one hand, one of Uber's great selling points is the fact that no cash ever changes hands. Riders enjoy not having to worry about currency. On the other, drivers have reported that Uber is not good at pre-allocating service charges, and that tips are an important source of income for them. It's a bit of a gray area as to whether drivers are even allowed to take tips. In these cases go with your instinct, but know that technically, tipping is not as necessary as with a conventional cab service.


If possible, make sure you schedule your pick ups in well-lit, public locations. Use the star rating system to "pre-screen" your driver. A higher rating means that a driver has proven his or herself over a series of successful trips. But even if you're driver is highly rated, if something about them seems off, don't get in the car! Follow your instincts.

Since the Uber app uses GPS to track every stage of your journey its almost impossible for a driver to go off-grid, but presumably some dubious types have found a way to circumvent this system. If you're traveling late at night, or are generally spooked by something, call or text your location and the details of your journey to a friend or loved one. Include the driver's name, the model of the car and the license plate number in this message. Parents should require their adolescents to do this as a manner of course, even if everything seems perfectly safe.

Common human decency

This should be easy, and we'll spell it out plainly: Don't be a jerk. Don't use foul language. Don't scream into your cell phone. Thank the driver when you're exiting the car. Be respectful.

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