Thinking of using Uber instead of a taxi, rental car, or bus transportation at Walt Disney World? We have tips in this post for making the most of the experience. Uber is already the most efficient way to get around the parks, resorts, and to Universal, and with these tips, you can make the process easier and more efficient.
Since our Uber v. Rental Cars at Walt Disney World post nearly a year ago, when we experimented with using Uber instead of a rental car, we have received a ton of questions and interest from readers who want to ditch the rental car and/or Disney transportation in favor of Uber. Chief among the questions has been “does this still work?” Pretty fair, as this all seems too good to be true.
To even our surprise, not only does it still work, but it’s actually gotten better in the time following our first tests at Walt Disney World last May. We also used Uber extensively in September, October, December, and most recently in January 2016. The January trip was the greatest test of all, as we stayed off-site and I was requesting rides at 4 a.m. to get to the Walt Disney World Marathon while navigating road closures.
Using Uber at Walt Disney World has by and large been a wonderful experience for us, so we thought we’d return to the popular topic with a new post that is all about Uber, rather than a cost-comparison to renting a car. If you want such a comparison, read our first post on the topic. (Short version: for most people, Uber will be cheaper than renting a car, but some people still might prefer the perceived freedom of their own car.) We also wanted to provide some new tips based on things we’ve learned with more recent experiences using Uber.
To start, although the details here are specific to Walt Disney World, the high-level advice can be applied to Disneyland and virtually anywhere else Uber operates in the United States (although Uber operates worldwide, I cannot say with certainty that these tips apply overseas, as foreign regulations can increase the cost of Uber in some other countries).
By way of background (you can skip all of this if you’ve ever used Uber), Uber is ride service that allow users to request rides via robust mobile apps. These apps show drivers in your vicinity, anticipated pick-up time, and have a host of other features. When a ride is requested, nearby drivers are pinged, and can accept or decline the riders. Riders then see that their ride has been accepted, the driver’s name, vehicle, license plate, average score, current GPS location, and arrival time. This is all virtually instantaneous: the amount of time from requesting a ride to a ride being confirmed is usually under 10 seconds. If all of that doesn’t totally make sense, think of Uber as a taxi for the modern age, with a really nice app.
Does that all sound pretty good? Well, it should, because it is. Uber has exploded in popularity in the last couple of years and has wrecked havoc for taxi companies that are rapidly losing business and are in danger of obsolescence in some areas. Taxi companies have fought bitter political and legal battles to keep Uber out of many areas, citing safety, the public good, and other nonsense. They can guise this however they want, but it boils down to one thing: money. Taxi companies want to keep making money, and Uber makes that difficult for them.
There are countless articles you can find via Google on the aforementioned political and legal battles. As a consumer, the only pertinent concerns are whether Uber safe, efficient, and less expensive.
The message I received when opening Uber on 1/28/16. Prices are literally cheaper than ever in Orlando & Anaheim!
Uber is obviously less expensive. That’s the whole reason taxi companies are fighting Uber tooth and nail. It’s cheaper because it’s more efficient, allocating resources via the app in a way that makes best use of them, with the app likewise providing a more efficient experience for riders.
Finally, safety. None of the above would matter if Uber isn’t safe. Uber performs background checks on its drivers (as do taxi companies), but more important is the rating system in the app. If a driver’s score falls below 4.5/5, they run the risk of being dropped by Uber. That’s right, 4.5/. Here, a B+ would be failing. How many taxi drivers would you score as a B+? I’ve certainly had my share of Cs and Ds. (The flip side of this is that drivers also rate riders, so if you’re constantly an angry, drunken buffoon, you run the risk of not being picked up.)
By contrast, ask any regular Uber rider how many negative experiences they’ve had with Uber drivers. The horror stories are few and far between, with most riders instead gushing over how much better the experience is than traditional taxis. Friendly drivers who come from interesting backgrounds and will make pleasant conversation with you, or simply leave you alone if you don’t feel like chatting.
Now that we’ve established some background, let’s get into the tips…
- Payment is automatically made via the app (and your attached credit card) at the end of the app. No cash payments.
- Tipping is not part of the Uber “culture” and although Uber’s corporate position is that tipping is unnecessary, some passengers still elect to offer cash tips to drivers. You cannot tip within the app.
- In lieu of tipping, a pleasant way to end each ride is by saying, “thanks for the great ride, I’ll be sure to give you 5-stars.”
- If you have more general questions about using Uber that this post doesn’t answer, refer to the Uber Help page for FAQ.
- If you’re new to the Uber scene, you can get a free ride up to $15 by signing up via this link for Uber (or use code tomb3417 if the link doesn’t work).
- If you have multiple adults in your party, after the first signs up with my code, have the first refer the second so you each get a $15 credit to use (and so on and so forth with additional adults).
- Average Uber cost within Walt Disney World is $8-13 per trip. This works out to be around one-third to half the cost of a Mears taxi for the same distance.
- Average Uber cost from Walt Disney World to Universal Orlando’s drop-off point is $15-18 per trip.
- Average wait for a pick-up at Walt Disney World is 4-8 minutes.
- By now, all regular security check-point and parking plaza Cast Members are familiar with the Uber service, and will allow drivers to pass (without paying for parking) if they show an ID and indicate they are there for guest drop-off.
- DO NOT show your Annual Pass or parking voucher at the parking plazas, as your driver will be directed to regular parking, which is farther away from the front entrance of parks than the guest drop-off points.
- Surge pricing is becoming less common in Orlando as more drivers flock to the area, but if there is a surge, it’s most likely to occur around 8 a.m. to 10 a.m. and 9:30 p.m. to 10:30 p.m.
- Only UberBLACK pickups are allowed at MCO. UberX drop-offs are allowed (there are work-arounds for UberX pickups that we have used effectively on multiple occasions). Both ways are far faster than Disney’s Magical Express.
- Uber drivers can see your GPS location, but sometimes the system is a bit wonky. Immediately after requesting an Uber, message the driver and indicate your exact location if it’s not the main lobby (e.g. “I’m wearing a ballin’ tie dyed EPCOT Center shirt outside Building 4 at Port Orleans French Quarter. Turn left as soon as you pass security and follow the signs.)
- To decrease your wait time for a pickup, drop a pin for the location where you want the pickup as you walk to that location, but be sure you can beat the driver there based on the estimated arrival time (e.g. If you’re walking from the Magic Kingdom to the Contemporary and the nearest driver is 4 minutes away, drop the pickup pin at the Contemporary’s lobby and request a ride when you’re at the intersection leading to the Contemporary.) Our average actual wait for a ride is about 2-3 minutes utilizing this method.
- UPDATE: Uber contacted me with following info on January 29, 2016: “Uber will soon be unveiling Uber + Car Seat in Orlando, which will bring parents an Uber vehicle with a car seat inside, on-demand. This will be hugely valuable for riders at Disney World in particular, as you can imagine.”
- Standard pickup and drop-off location for the Magic Kingdom is the Ticket & Transportation Center; from there, you take a monorail or ferry to the Magic Kingdom.
- We don’t do this. Instead, we specify the Contemporary as our destination, and walk 5 minutes to Magic Kingdom. It is far more efficient than being dropped off at the TTC.
- Security at the Contemporary isn’t always the easiest to pass (word on the street is that they now employ the keeper from the Bridge of Death due to people trying to circumvent parking rules), so an even better option is to be dropped off and picked up at the intersection before the Contemporary. I’ve dropped a pin on this map showing the exact location.
- Epcot is the worst park for using Uber. The roadway into the park and lot itself are both lengthy, making pickups take longer than at the other 3 parks.
- If possible, we recommend using the International Gateway entrance at Epcot, and walking to/from Beach Club for pickups and drop-offs. This is much simpler, and usually, faster. (Bonus: you can stop for a delicious burger at Crew’s Cup Lounge and ice cream at Beaches & Cream!)
- The pickup and drop-off spot at the front entrance of Epcot has constantly changed, but in both December and January 2016, the location was the handicapped parking area. This was true on two occasions with us. You can see the approximate location as the pin on this map.
Disney’s Hollywood Studios
- Drop-off and pickup are quick and easy at the Studios. You can see the spot as the pin on this map.
- If you request an Uber ride as you exit the park, your driver will often arrive within 2 minutes after you get to the taxi point at DHS. Just make sure you double-check that there isn’t a driver already near the Studios lot when you make the request, as you don’t want your driver having to wait for you!
Disney’s Animal Kingdom
- Animal Kingdom is another park with a long roadway leading into the park, so pickups can take a bit longer here, but it’s still pretty simple.
- The drop-off/pickup spot is also pretty simple at Animal Kingdom. You can see it as the pin on this map.
That about covers the major points for 2016, I think. Again, if you’re new to using Uber, you can get a free ride up to $15 by signing up via this link for Uber (or use code tomb3417 if the link doesn’t work). You lose whatever portion of the great you don’t use on your first ride, so it’s a good option for a long ride, such as that voyage from the airport. Don’t blow it going from the Contemporary to Grand Floridian or something short like that!
Planning a Walt Disney World trip? Learn about hotels on our Walt Disney World Hotels Reviews page. For where to eat, read our Walt Disney World Restaurant Reviews. To save money on tickets or determine which type to buy, read our Tips for Saving Money on Walt Disney World Tickets post. Our What to Pack for Disney Trips post takes a unique look at clever items to take. For what to do and when to do it, our Walt Disney World Ride Guides will help.
For comprehensive advice, the best place to start is our Walt Disney World Trip Planning Guide for everything you need to know!
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Any additional experiences using Uber that you’d like to share? Any questions that you still have after reading this post? Other thoughts or questions? Share below in the comments!