In the Spring of 2013, I lived in Berlin while my significant other lived in Munich. With these two cities being located on opposite sides of Germany, we were always trying to find the cheapest, quickest, and most comfortable way to visit each other, and we soon found out one great option while traveling in Europe: ride-sharing. Instead of shelling out hundreds of euros for plane or ICE tickets (the speed train in Germany), or wasting half a day on a bus with a driver who takes smoke breaks once an hour, I found that using online ride-sharing services were the best option for our commutes across the entirety of Germany.
On sites such as Mitfahrgelegenheit and BlaBlaCar, drivers post the trip they will be taking, how many open seats they have, the cost (which often decreases as the number of passengers goes up), and how to contact them, be that a cell phone number, email address, or through a messaging system within the site. Drivers have profiles that include information about their cars and pictures of themselves, and allow passengers to rate the driver as well as add comments about the quality of their trip. Some sites even require the driver’s banking information. This builds up a community of trust between members which makes the whole experience seem safer and full of good-intentions for everyone involved.
However, ride-sharing does have its drawbacks. People are fallible. In one incident in Munich, the night before I was supposed to return back to Berlin, I received a text from my driver, saying his tires were slashed and he could no longer take me with him. This unexpected inconvenience forced me to leave a day later, as there were no other available drivers going that direction soon enough. And there were other incidents where I was canceled on at the last minute. Most of the time, I was able to find another driver, but not always at the desired time, exact drop-off point, or best price. There is a level of uncertainty, a bit of risk, when choosing the option to carpool, and that is probably the biggest drawback in comparison to buying a trusty ticket issued from a professional bus, train, or plane service.
Carpooling isn’t for everyone. Maybe you like the speed and luxury of a plane. Maybe the idea of spending hours in a car with a stranger doesn’t sound too enticing. But if you don’t mind meeting new people and perhaps sacrificing a bit of personal space in order to save some time and money, ride-sharing in Germany is a great way to do it.