Tip: BlaBlaCar Ride Sharing in Europe

In the past, car sharing meant standing on the side of the road and soliciting rides from passing vehicles by sticking out your thumb. Times have changed: why desperately wait for a car to pick you up, if a lift is a mere click away on the Internet?

There are plenty of ways to get around in Europe, but car sharing is often overlooked. Shame, because travelling with strangers is both good for your wallet and the environment. Companies like BlaBlaCar*, which connect drivers who have empty seats with people looking for a ride, are steadily gaining ground in Europe. Just recently, the Parisian company reached the milestone of 3 million members, which shows that Europe is a viable market for this modern-day version of hitchhiking. After all, no border control in the Schengen Area means easy travel around the continent!

How does it work? 
Car owners sign up as a member of BlaBlaCar and post extensive details of themselves, their planned journey and proposed fare (usually between 5 and 20 euro, depending on the route). Ride-seekers, in turn, look for a ride that suits their needs and contact the owner in question. Because the company acts as a mediator, it levies a small fee on each deal, while you pay the driver in cash on the day of departure.

Is it safe?
Because both driver and traveller are registered users and receive feedback from one another, you can be sure you're not signing up for dodgy deals. That said, it's still important to trust your guts: if you feel uncomfortable, just don't ride with him or her. It also pays off to meet in a public place, get as much personal information to verify the driver and inform a friend or family member about your travel plans. Better safe than sorry!

Is it really that much cheaper?
Yes! Just to give you an idea, I compiled a small list with train/BlaBlaCar price comparisons. Please note that this table is based on one-way rides and that prices are subject to change.

Bratislava – Vienna (79 kms): €12 (train), €3 (BlaBlaCar)
Rotterdam – Brussels (150 kms): €17 (train), €8 (BlaBlaCar)
Rome - Florence (280 kms): €21–€40 (train), €13 (BlaBlaCar)
Hamburg – Berlin (290 kms): €49–€69 (train), €15 (BlaBlaCar)
Barcelona – Paris (1040 kms): €153 (train), €62 (BlaBlaCar)

As you can see, the prices differ enormously in most cases! You have to take into consideration that driving by car usually takes up a big part of your day, so if you're looking for a fast way to get from Point A to B, perhaps car sharing is not your thing. Yet, if you're willing to give up time to save some money, BlaBlaCar is your best bet. Or else you can do it the 'Kerouacian' way: thumbs up and start hitchhiking!

Click here to visit BlaBlaCar.com.

* There are many (pan-)European car sharing websites, but BlaBlaCar has the most extensive network of members. If you can't find what you're looking for, I suggest you search on Mitfahrgelegenheit (German), Toogethr (Dutch) or Carpooling (UK), which offer rides that extend beyond national borders too.

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