So you’ve just arrived in one of China’s megacities and you want to hit the town to scope out the scene and check out the nightlife. But how will you get around? Do you want to navigate the subway or bus network or will you try to take advantage of the comparatively cheap taxi services on offer? What are your options if you want to go the smartphone route? Well, if you ask most folk they’ll probably point you to either Didi Chuxing or Uber. If you ask me, both options are solid choices but there are some key differences.
The following is an account of what you’re probably used to with Uber and what all else you can get with Didi Chuxing.
Didi got options
Compared with Uber, Didi Chuxing caters to a wider variety of situations.
Didi gained traction on the mainland thanks to its pioneering of cab-hailing via smartphone, with that being its main draw for a while. Things have now changed and nowadays Didi offers a variety of services across the board.
Gone are the days when users typically opted for traditional taxi services through the app. After all, why go for a traditional taxi when using something like carpooling or express car turns out more often than not to be cheaper.
Didi Chuxing covers the gamut of general car services from traditional taxi-hailing to carpooling to two tiers of private car service, a driver service and even a private bus service.
Buses have been introduced relatively recently on the platform with a number of routes operating in the main cities. Carpooling may be the cheapest current way to get around, although not always reliable and dependent on demand.
Didi’s driver service provides drivers on demand, for those occasions when driving your own car may not be convenient.
Uber mostly caters to the cab-substitute crowd, offering its standard services in Uber X and Uber Black, in addition to its China-only People’s Uber service, which purports to be a ‘not-for-profit’ class of service.
On the question of which is cheapest or most economical, I’d say it’s most likely a tie between 3 methods. Uber’s widely available People’s Uber service, the equally reliable express car (economy) service from Didi Chuxing, and, if you’re able to book a ride, the carpooling service from Didi Chuxing.
Paying your way
If you’re a casual visitor to China and you don’t want to use a traditional taxi, it is likely that Uber will be more convenient due to its acceptance of foreign credit cards. Uber offers three payment options: Alipay, Baidu Wallet and the option of using Visa and Mastercard-enabled cards.
Though Uber accepts Alipay as a form of payment for local mainland Chinese residents, it does not currently allow foreigners to use Alipay as a form of payment.
Didi Chuxing is arguably more convenient for more long term residents of China. Though it does not accept credit cards directly, it accepts cash for standard taxis and utilizes two of China’s most common payment platforms, Alipay and Wechat Payment.
Didi Chuxing also does not have the same restrictions placed on foreign holders of Alipay accounts, meaning that everybody, local Chinese and otherwise, can use the service.
(Top photo from Baidu)