For those looking to travel abroad, in particular Europe, BlaBlaCar is a great app that can help facilitate one of the most expensive parts of travel, transportation. BlaBlaCar looks to improve ridesharing, by improving route discovery, while keeping prices lower.
This Guide to BlaBlaCar is here to help you break down the service and determine if it’s right for you.
Table of Contents
What is BlaBlaCar?
Founded in 2006, the French company has taken the much older idea of ridesharing and improved on the formula. The concept is that folks traveling in a specific direction can advertise their rides and others can decide and “chip in” to share the cost.
The idea of traveling with folks in the same direction is not new. I’ve seen and experienced this in many forums from Couchsurfing to Craigslist. There were lots of ride forums, those for carpooling as well as longer trips. For many reasons they stagnated or died, often due to lack of safety, reliability, or ease of use.
Most other companies that came into the ridesharing space took the approach of Uber to compete with taxis. Whereas Blablacar decided to shake up something that really was lacking, the carpool/ride sharing space.
Why the name BlaBlaCar?
The site had its origins as the company Covoiturage (French for Carpooling) when it bought the company and website in 2006 and launched the original service.
The company launched the name BlaBlaCar when it entered the UK market in 2011, and the name stuck. It’s based on the profile information you set when you create an account on how “chatty” you are.
Bla for quieter, BlaBla for talkative, and BlaBlaBla for those who don’t shut up!
Where is BlaBlaCar?
Sadly there is no BlaBlaCar in the United States (yet), although one day that may change. However, I’ve seen and experienced it in other places myself. It’s in quite a few European countries and continuing to expand around the world.
Countries with BlablaCar
Spain, Portugal, France, Italy, Belgium, Netherlands, Poland, the United Kingdom, Russia, Ukraine, Germany, Hungary, Croatia, Serbia, Romania, Czech Republic, Slovakia, Turkey
How BlaBlaCar Works
Overall the system is far simpler than I realized. You first have to set up an account. If you want you can verify yourself, and this is super important as it will build trust and make it easier to find rides.
You can set up your account as a driver, passenger, or both. I don’t have experience being or publishing routes as a driver (although hope to do so soon, especially if it comes to the US).
You can search for your start and destination and date of travel in their interface. I found it to be surprisingly good and there were a reasonable amount of options when I tried it in France. When searching you can see general driver ratings and other information. You can even msg the driver ahead of time to ask questions.
You book and pay based on the published carpool fee. And the money does not get transferred by BlaBlaCar until after the ride is completed.
How Much does BlaBlaCar Cost
It’s surprisingly affordable. There is a limit on how much a person can charge based on the route chosen. Much of it is calculated on costs associated with splitting of the fare, fees, etc.
BlaBlabCar also charges a fee to facilitate the system and transaction (as most “gig type” companies do). Only passengers pay the fee.
From what I read, the cost is needed to be low and based on cost of travel, etc. to qualify legally as a carpool. Some places and locales have regulatory requirements regarding this.
Is BlaBlaCar Safe?
I think this is a tricky one. Many years ago, before Uber I would be like heck no! But I’ve found through services like couchsurfing that the average person is pretty good. Even so, there is always a risk of an issue or potential problem.
I found the ratings, verification, and other information to be an important mitigation to risks associated with this type of service. I think more and more people are not comfortable with the concept of strangers in their vehicles, homes, etc, so there’s far more history now with these services. And generally they run very well!
However, incidents do happen. You are getting in someone’s car so if something does not feel safe you should consider other options.
Is There BlaBlaCar in the United States?
Sadly No. I think this is something I wish would change. I think there are probably a few reasons for this.
For one, Carpool sharing systems have not worked all that well in the United States. Although, reasonably there’s not been a good option for carpooling in the US.
But I think there are some reasons why the company may avoid the United States.
- Car ownership in the US is very high.
- Gas is cheap in the United States compared to many other countries (especially Europe). Therefore incentives for carpooling are lower.
- Destinations in the United States often still require personal vehicles to get around. So while you may be able to get to another town/city you may have difficulty navigating by public transportation.
However, I think the app would be very successful here, especially in large metros like Washington DC, Philadelphia, Boston, etc. Most of these have carpool forums, and there are advantages to carpooling (HOV lanes). So while it may not be as widely used for long destinations, it would be great for short ones!
Pros and Cons of BlaBlaCar
- The Price tends to be Super Reasonable compared to other options
- You can get some great company for your ride
- Often faster for cities that otherwise require train/bus transfers.
- Route may not be as direct or on-time as you would like
- You may have to share the car with lots of people, so can be uncomfortable
- There may be issues if you have luggage/baggage (confirm with driver)
- In case of an accident, BlaBlaCar expects the drivers insurance to cover you (carpooling) so there could be issues here.
Tips for Using BlaBlaCar
- READ the Profile of potential drivers (or passengers). You can improve the drive, lower risk, and make sure things meet your needs.
- CONFIRM with the Driver the pick-up / drop-off location at least a day ahead of time
- DON’T book too Early. I found both talking with friends/more frequent users, that too early may have higher chance cancellations. Generally a few days before you’ll find some good options and likely the trip will happen.
- CHECK Car Situation. Read up on smoking rules, number of passengers, music, etc, so you find a car that meets your personal needs as well.
Overall, try to have a good trip. While not everyone is friendly, I found that the vast majority of folks enjoy this type of travel. Especially for longer trips where it can get boring/lonely solo.
Enjoy the ride, and let us know your experiences as well. Be sure to comment or email us. We’d love to hear from you.