Uber vs Careem vs A-Taxi: Which One is the Best?

By Ahmed Ahsen

Ok folks, enough with technology.

Lets step back to the humble streets where we spend most of our time drawing in polluted air that will do God knows what twenty years down the road.

As someone who likes to get around the city in comfort, the likes of Careem and Uber have been nothing less than a blessing. Sure I do own a car, but then again who wants to get their vehicle scratched up in Lahore traffic, not to mention parking and theft issues. There are also those who advocate bikes as the only suitable sawari in Lahore. To an extent, I agree with that, but there are just some times when even that becomes too hectic – for example when you have luggage or other valuables.

I decided to take some ride-hailing services in Lahore for a spin. And I’ve decided to pen down my thoughts about them.

Here is my experience testing out Careem, Uber, and a Taxi in Lahore over a period of about one year:

A-Taxi

Touted as the new pet project of the ruling family in Punjab, Albayrak’s A-Taxi was launched within a fortnight in February of this year. Boasting brand new Honda City and Suzuki Swift vehicles (a first time role for both of these cars), A-Taxi promised to revolutionize domestic travel.

Here are some of their features:

  • Always On Price Display: The cost is continuously displayed on the rear view mirror. A highly convenient feature so you can choose to jump out in the middle of the Canal Bank road in case you run out of cash.
  • App and Call Center: “Quick and easy”, 24 hour service. This has to be a world first, right?
  • Full Air conditioning: Let’s just leave it at that.
  • Navigation and GPS: You can be assured of a safe journey through continuous monitoring of the vehicles (that’s right, the vehicles are valuable).
What I Experienced:
  • The Call Center: Horrible
    It took 6 phone calls over a 3 hour period for my cab to arrive. My booking earlier was cancelled without informing me. I called in at the expected time to have another booking made. That was also cancelled. Then the call center agent in charge of bookings went on a smoke break and so on and so forth.
  • The App: Doesn’t Work
    First I couldn’t find the app, thanks to A-Taxi using the Turkish language version (no English) on Google Play. When I did, I couldn’t download it, so I decided to go to the call center instead.
  • The Cars: Just Okay
    How much can you complain when the driver tells you the mess was made by the last family and he will get fired if you raise the issue? These brand new vehicles show more than their fair age and a band of mechanical noises plays whenever you pass over a rough patch on the road.
  • The Staff: Awful
    The call center works on a “sarkari” attitude. They even yell at you and tell you to wait, “sabar nahi hota? Ajaye gi gari” (Cant you wait? The car will come when it comes) . The drivers are overly apologetic, sir we will get fired, please don’t make a complain, sir they will cut our salaries, sir please don’t raise a quality issue.
  • The Cost: Extreme!
    Despite the delays and rude staff, you still get slapped with a high and mighty bill. On average my estimate (read: estimate, not calculation) was about 40 percent higher than Uber or Careem.

The Verdict: Best avoided at all cost.

A helpful tip: If you are in an area where you can’t find another option, try City Cab or Metro Cab (the guys from the airport). You can get their numbers off the web. They cater to families and corporate clients regularly, and while the cost is higher than a taxi, they will reach any area of Lahore at any time.

Careem

Careem was launched in Pakistan in late 2015 after a successful career in the Middle East. The service successfully implemented the online booking system for cars and became a hit.

Here are some of their features:

  • An App That Works (Most of the Time): Before the last update, the app was as good as useless and you had to use your browser to do bookings. However, Careem actually managed to make an app that now works most of the time. There are some issues when GPS locations aren’t accurate, so you are forced to either text or call the driver if that happens.
  • Large Range of Vehicles: You can catch rides in a compact compact from Japan like the Honda N One or a Daihatsu Mira, or you can always have the king of Pakistani roads, the Toyota Corolla (cue incoming hate from Civic fans). There are different classes – economy, business and wifi, with their own separate rates. However, in many cases, you get upgraded to a sedan even if you are booking an economy ride.
  • Drivers are Polite: Most of the drivers, whether employees or vendors, are polite and easy to talk to. There are always exceptions though.
My Experience:
  • Reliable Enough:
    For important engagements, I make sure to spend Rs. 100 extra and make a booking well before time. On other occasions, the cars arrive usually within 10 to 15 minutes of ordering so its reliable enough.
  • Problems with Location:
    The biggest complaint is that the location on the app is either not accurate, shows up elsewhere on the drivers phone, or the drivers cant navigate to it. To avoid any undue delays or difficulty, I have to make sure to text or call the drivers once the ride is booked. Many drivers tell me about receiving directions opposite from my direction, or being re routed all the way around when there are shortcuts available.
  • The Call Center:
    Unless you have just booked a ride, be prepared to hold for 30 minutes on average. If you have just booked or finished a ride, their system puts you through to an operator in 2-5 minutes. On the downside, this means that to get any information or to make a complaint, you have to endure 30 minutes of useless drivel telling you to download the app.
  • Call Center Agents Can’t Really Help Outside of Booking or Cancelling a Ride:
    The concept of customer service got lost somewhere in the Careem building. The call center agents are there to book rides, cancel rides, or assign new drivers to your booking. They cant address issues with your payments or take other complaints. For that you have to email Careem.
  • The Complaint System is Highly Mismanaged:
    I’ve had the opportunity to test out Careem’s complaint system. Emails usually go unresponded for 3-4 days before you get frantic calls from their “customer service” team – a highly ironic name for a bunch of folks who say the issue never happened and that you’re probably lying to weasel out a free ride from them. Unless you email their GM in Pakistan (hint: check the website), your issue will go unresolved – I guarantee it.
  • Promo Problems:
    Careem does offer good promos, but at times the codes don’t get accepted, because their official page made a typo while sharing it with fans.
  • Card Payment Problems:
    Their recent credit card deal (20% off for credit card and MCB lite users) received several complaints of duplicate charges – meaning people were charged twice for one ride. Till the time of the writing of this article, that issue has not been resolved.
  • Other Complaints:
    Here are some other issues drivers have reported: bike riders following them when they have female passengers, harassing females, or trying to get their numbers. There have been reports of passengers leaving their valuable stuff like phones or laptops inside cars, only to have them disappear for good. This is not to say all drivers are like that, but it is always in your interest to be cautious.

The Verdict: Good pricing, nice deals (if you can get them to work) and fairly reliable. Vehicle availability is good during working hours. Don’t expect much in terms of customer service though.

Uber:

As much as we’d love to have Starbucks here, Uber did arrive first so here goes: Uber launched in Pakistan in the mid of 2016. The US corporation has invested a fairly large amount in trying to revolutionize cab transport in Pakistan.

Here are some of their features:

  • A Working App:
    Uber was the first one in Pakistan to have an app that actually worked accurately. Hats off to Uber for bringing in that and forcing the competition to improve.
  • Reliable:
    Most drivers I have come across in Uber are vehicle owners, not drivers. This means they know shortcuts and generally provide a higher level of service.
  • Good Customer Support:
    Uber doesn’t have a call center (major flaw here Uber folks!) but you can email them with your issues. The good thing is their US customer reps do reply and your issues do get resolved quickly.
What They Can Improve:
  • Playing with the Price:
    Sure, price hikes may work abroad, but it’s a new concept in Pakistan. Many users have permanently turned away from Uber because of the 1.3 or 1.5 price surges.
  • No Physical Office:
    Ask any Uber driver, and you will hear this complaint: who are these people? Why don’t they have a permanent office? Why isn’t there a helpline we can call on? You’d think for the amount of Pakistani staff hired by Uber and for what they get paid, someone would have had the sense to tell the company about the cultural significance of having a local point of contact. As a result, any serious issues or complaints will have to be emailed and then you can wait for Uber to take its sweet time getting back to you while suffering from emotional or physical trauma.
  • Carefree Attitude of Some Drivers:
    Many drivers exhibit a dangerously carefree attitude. ‘If the company has no office or people here, who will catch me?’ (direct quote).
  • Some Uber Auto Ricksha Drivers Deceive Customers:
    Uber just launched a ricksha service, Uber Auto. Great, but does Uber know some ricksha drivers purposefully take the long way or wrong directions to earn more?

The Verdict: A fairly nice experience and great app. My friends from Saudi Arabia were surprised at their efficiency, which they claim doesn’t exist in KSA. Even though Uber is new here, they have made waves in the local travel market. Don’t expect much from their contractors though. Vehicle availability varies widely, sometimes you can’t get a ride even at 7 pm on a weekend. Surge pricing is another turn off.

Disclaimer:
The Author does not work for, consult, own shares in or receive funding from any company or organization that would benefit from this article. The Author has based his review on a period of use extending six months at various times, on various vehicles. A thorough testing of each companies customer support has been conducted through actual complaints and issues, and follow ups have been done to ensure their true levels of customer service.


  • Yasir Saeed

    the author needs to keep some facts straight:

    1. There is now a permanent office for Uber in Model Town K Block, next to my office
    2. They are setting up call center in Pakistan
    3. Careem has also started price hikes, termed as peak pricing, which is essentially the same way of saying Uber’s surge pricing!

  • Ahsan

    I have gotten my issues resolved through their facebook page, however, I agree with the author that the issues on emails are never answered.

  • Ishtiaq

    Uber! All the way.

  • Pasha

    There is also Daewoo Cab owned by Daewoo Express bus service working 24/7 in Pakistan. They also launched there app 2-3 months back. Good service with Fixed price.

  • College

    I like A-Taxi
    Reliable and Safe service, own fleet no third party involvment

    • Taha Najam

      If there’s one word that doesn’t suit A-Taxi, it’s reliable. Author is right in saying they work like government officials. As in they’re doing us all a big favor for providing their services.

      • And the drivers are over are treated like shit by the company. They’re underpaid, feels threatened and hence overly apologetic.

  • ahmad

    A-Taxi is also reliable and efficient. Drivers of A-Taxi know their way around Lahore. Sometime Uber and Careem drivers have issue in finding your place to pick you for ride but A-Taxi drivers are better in this regard.

    • Taha Najam

      Yeah they’re surely street smart, but reliable? Nope.

  • Vinay Kumar

    Author tried well to hide his/her bias but the truth is that this is a heavily biased and not a well researched article. At one point I actually scrolled up to see if this wasn’t a post from 2015.

    • Taha Najam

      I wouldn’t call it bias. More like being overly critical, since they had something bad to say about every service. But yeah, definitely uninformed.

      • Why are you replying in defense? Are you the writer? He’s stated the obvious.

        • Taha Najam

          It’s called having an opinion. Might want to look that up next time before having a cow.

          • Good work, brah!
            Go on giving your faltu opinions whenever/wherever not needed.
            Give us a break, go comment somewhere else, will ya?

            • Taha Najam

              Um, make me?

            • Arsalan Shah

              And who gave you the right to object or comment over his opinions? xD

  • SHAFAAT HUSSAIN

    SUB SAY BEST CAREEM FAST AND FAST

  • Faheem Janjua

    Used Careem and love it, drivers were very polite and direction was well in control with fair deals. A-Taxi was a bad expereince yet driver was a good guy while Uber I have not tried yet.

  • Hamid Ahmed Khan

    I used both Careem and Uber recently in Karachi, and found Careem to be reliable, quick and polite. I had great conversations with all drivers that included exchanging marriage advice, learning about their ethnic origins and culture and what not. Uber is slightly more affordable on the whole, although if you are comfortable with taking the Careem ‘Go’ and riding in a mehran, that is the most affordable option. I also had an issue with Careem where a driver asked me to cancel the ride, by which time it was too late and I was charged a penalty. I called their helpline, they answered in less than 5 minutes and told me my money will be refunded within 24-48 hours. It was back in my ‘credit’ on the app within half an hour, along with an email confirmation.

  • I have to travel daily for official and domestic purposes and I can tell from my experience of almost 300+ rides that they way Careem improving things, it is going to dominate them all.

    Apart from offering all the baseline features that other car chauffeurs like Uber does, they’re focusing on creating a bond with the customers. And for that they keep throwing me special discounts and bonuses pretty frequently….and did I mention they sent me a gift hamper with sweets yesterday.

    Uber does have a better app, no doubt about that. With their most recent update around the corner, the gap will further increase by miles (They app is going to get even bulkier, beware!). But I’m sure Careem will catch up sooner or later, just like they have been in the past.

    Usually you’ll find Careem drivers to be more polite and professional than those of Uber’s. That’s mostly because Careem drivers own the cars unlike Uber. Like for instance, I know a guy who has invested 50 cars with Uber driven by amateur drivers who are first timers to Lahore themselves.

    Even with so many problems with the Careem app, I will still continue to choose Careem to support its Pakistani developers who’re working their asses off to make it better.

    • Zill E Ahmed

      uber ki ek month mai 10 rides ap vip member ban jayen ge 2 months k liye wo try kare cars bhi luxury cars milege aur drivers bhi wo jin ki reputation achi hoge usi charges mai

      • I’ll give it a shot. Thanks for the suggestion!

  • @Admins: Why is my post on the hold?

  • Ali

    Careem is great! Drivers are super professional and the drive is comfortable. Whenever I used their call centre, I didn’t have any problems but if anyone else does, then send them a tweet instead, they’re super active on twitter and they basically have it just for customer support

  • tayyab

    bad careem service and driver are mahan.

  • Asif Jafri

    Author has his/her own view , but according to my experience Careem services are good but fare are at the higher side also positive this is that they are offering categories like Go -Economy-Business and wifi class so customers have choice to chose which category he wanted to use for his/her travel , however in Uber there is no such category .

    Careem has office and call center but Uber’s still awaited even they have only fleet partner office in North Nazimabab.

    But it’s a good sign that investments are coming in Pakistan and mostly people are making good money to be a captain / Hero or investor .

  • Abdullah Obaidullah

    Ataxi : A highly convenient feature so you can choose to jump out in the middle of the Canal Bank road in case you run out of cash. #high-five :-D

    My friends from Saudi Arabia were surprised at their efficiency, which they claim doesn’t exist in KSA. (it exists in KSA, i recently traveled to Riyadh, and they offer up to 30-40 SR free ride for the first time. )

  • salman alsalman

    Yesterday midnight I was with a trip with Careem, once he dropped me off to the requested location, I noticed that my mobile phone was in the Captain’s Car, so I can’t call him because the captain’s number is in my phone which is in the Captain’s car!
    In order to get the Captains number I logged in my account from my friends phone and searched my ride’s history and found every detail except for his phone number!
    So I use my friends phone to call Careems’ hotline 920033786 and 920001846 and the amazing thing is NO ONE IS ANSWERING I called for more than 2 Hours!
    So I go on Twitter in an attempt to contact you (to give me the Captain’s phone number) and guess what happens? They DON’T ANSWER ! There is no concern for my emergency call for help

    After several Hours of trying to contact Careem through various ways which there was no slight concern or interest in my situation, I gave up on Careem’s Customer Care Service!
    I took the matter in my own hands, I tracked my phone through “Find My Phone” and after wondering the streets of Riyadh late at night searching for my phone, I found the Captains Car and Asked for my phone back and he gave it back to me.

    Yesterday Night was a horrible experience with Careem. I use Careem a couple of time per month I really like the app, Captains, Cars and the quality of service that Careem provides ! but yesterday, once Careem’s service was put to the test for more than 4 hours there was no simple effort made to help a Customer in need, and that’s why I will defiantly will not use Careem in the future.
    The Funny story was; That my Friend and I was debating on what App to use that night, and I was going on with Careem’s Features and quality of service. Since I was paying my friend had to accept that we are going to use Careem. So all the time I was trying to reach Customer Care Representative through various ways he Kept saying “I told you, Uber is way better” and the most miserable thing was I kept agreeing with him although, I once had faith that Careem was the best without any doubt, but sadly not any more.
    Anyway, I don’t know why I am Writing this, but maybe I thought I owed Careem a story of “why I stopped using Careem” before I quit using it.

    At the end, I would like to thank for making my life a little harder yesterday, but that will not happen again.

  • Usama BinSalman

    Great article man, based on real facts

  • Masumi

    Based on my experiences, satisfied enough with the article.
    .
    I find fare issues on Drivers end,
    Try to differentiate between fares of Islamabad, Lahore and Karachi.
    The companies pay the drivers in form of Promotions and targets instead of fair FARE.
    .
    Making it all LOOK like the companies are doing drivers a BIG favor.
    Pakistani Drivers are not ENTIRELY stupid, its just a matter of time.

  • Masumi

    What so ever is charged by these companies, is way too lower then a conventional TAXI.
    Then why some customer is still unhappy with fare ?

  • Ad Rehman

    Merto cab, in my last few experiences from air port to home they do things like KALI PEELI taxi drivers.. they start crying about their gurbat and ask for your additional support…. careem is good for deals and daytime dont count on careem for late night ride “Usatab bari khawari honay wali hay” after waiting for hours and will excuse “SORRY SIR GARI KHARAB HO GAYEE” stright TOPI, uber is good in this case only.

  • Hamza Tahir

    I live in Lahore but work in rwp/isb. Here ( isloo) careem is much better than uber due to following reason
    Arrival time ( where uber comes in 20 minutes careem comes in 5-6 minutes ).
    Driver attitude ( uber drivers are rude and unprofessional as compared to careem ones).
    Accountability ( the customer service of careem is actually very effective here they not only pick up the phone early, cancel/ rebook / etc at the spot but also reply to your email after taking action against the driver under complaint)