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- Great for the smartphone-savvy
- Cheaper than a booked chauffeur service
- Hassle-free from start to finish
- 'On demand' only - no advance bookings
- Ride and arrive in style
The Uber chauffeur drive service is becoming increasingly popular with business travellers in Sydney and Melbourne, especially for runs to and from the airport.
For those who came in late, Uber lets you use a simple smartphone app to book and pay for a private hire car at 'near-taxi' prices – although in some cities you can hire a taxi as well.
Uber doesn't actually employ the drivers or own the cars. The company is just a go-between, linking drivers who have some downtime between booked jobs with people seeking a quality ride that's a cut above a taxi.
Read: How Uber works
We tested out Uber on a recent rainy morning for a trip from Sydney's lower north shore to the airport.
Booking with Uber
The first tip for an Uber traveller is that there's no facility to book a specific pick-up time in advance: if that's what you want, you'll have to call a hire car company and book directly with them.
The Uber way is 'on-demand' – it relies on a hire car drive being available when you need it and in your local area (or willing to drive to your pickup location).
For that reason, it's best not to book a Uber car until you're absolutely ready to roll.
So at a little after 6.30am, with my bags packed and the cat given her goodbye scratches, I opened the Uber app on my iPhone, which automatically plotted my current location.
I opted for the standard (and default) Uber Black service and was surprised to see that even at this early hour there were two available cars in the neighbourhood, with the nearest just seven minutes away.
One tap later and I was at the Confirmation screen, ready for the app to make a booking with the nearest Uber driver.
This screen also gives you the chance to get a quote on your ride before you hit the big black button.
$74 to $89? That's not unreasonable, considering the average taxi fare from my house to the international airport usually nudges the $70 mark.
At least with Uber I'm going to get a better grade of car and driver and travel in a bit more comfort.
With the booking made, Uber runs a quick check against your smartphone's mobile number.
The next screen shows that my driver is on his way – as well as displaying his name, photo and Uber customer rating, plus the type of car, his current location and estimated time of arrival.
That six minutes' ETA is just enough time for more kitten-scratches until I receive an SMS and updated Uber screen to advise that my driver is around the corner.
So far, so good – the whole booking process has been seamless.
Riding with Uber
My driver for the morning is courteous and happy to chat about Uber. His car is a Mercedes-Benz S500, although he says the most common Uber Black car is the Holden Caprice, with a handful of BMW 7-series into the mix.
Our trip to Sydney Airport's international terminal takes just under 30 minutes and it's a smooth and relaxing ride all way.
When we arrive at T1 he hops out to fetch my carry-on bag from the S500's trunk and I'm good to go.
The trip comes to $84 including tolls, which is deducted from my credit card card because my card's details are already loaded into the Uber app.
Before reaching the checkin counter I've received a detailed invoice from Uber via email, with a complete breakdown of the fare and route for reimbursement or tax purposes.
Get free $10 Uber credit
If you haven't already tried Uber, you can sign up for free using the special Australian Business Traveller invitation code of uberAusBT and get $10 in credit towards your first ride.
(Disclaimer: we'll also pick up $10 of Uber credit when you take that first ride, so it's a win-win.)