BlaBlaCar for budget travel in Europe

view from the backseat of a blablacar ride in spain

Last Updated on May 28, 2023 by Ellen

BlaBlaCar isn’t available in the U.S., but it’s how many Europeans travel regional distances, so we gave it a try.

Think of it as a regional Uber. But, it’s a little different from Uber.

With BlaBlaCar, you chose the driver, and then the driver agrees to take you as a passenger. That’s different from Uber, where the driver picks you and you have no say. Also different from Uber – some rides should be arranged days in advance, if possible, especially for longer road trips.

Like Uber’s car sharing, BlaBla’s car pooling saves travelers money. For example, bus tickets from Seville, Spain, to Lisbon, Portugal, would have cost about $100 USD for two people. Instead, two seats with BlaBlaCar cost about $65 USD for two people.

The Spain to Portugal ride was our second time with BlaBla, and as you can see, the savings are significant for budget travelers like us. There was another passenger along with Tedly and I, plus the driver. The four of us had a great trip.

As pleasant as the drive was, I need to warn you:

our first attempt nearly ended in failure.

We wanted to use BlaBlaCar for budget travel from Algeciseras to Seville, both locations in Spain that are about a two-hour drive apart. We made an offer to a driver leaving in just a few hours.

This short notice was a big mistake.

We waited for the driver to confirm or deny our offer. We sent him a message and explained if he was going to accept us in his car, we’d skip making our way to the bus station. When we didn’t hear back from him right away, we rolled the dice and figured surely, he’d accept us. Why wouldn’t he? So we did not go to the bus station.

Well, the driver didn’t deny or confirm. In fact, our offer expired and we missed the bus.

Only later – after the BlaBla offer expired and after we missed the bus – did we notice on the app that the driver had seen our messages and ignored us!

Our lesson with BlaBlaCar: arrange the trip before the day you want to travel.

Or, at least several hours before you travel. This is very different from the instant-book Uber or Grab (Grab is like Uber in Southeast Asia).

In the end, we were really lucky. We booked a ride with someone else that same day – several hours later. We arrived in Seville just fine, albeit way later than when we had wanted to arrive.

A big drawback for BlaBlaCar: we couldn’t leave a review for the driver who stiffed us because we “never used his service.” That sucks. He sucked.

The biggest plus for BlaBla is obviously its lower cost than buses (or trains), which I’ve already hit on. Another big plus is the time it saves. That trip from Spain to Portugal took us about four and half hours. It would have taken nearly eight by bus.

So if we can get there cheaper and faster – and safely – let’s go.

When it worked out, we loved the experience.

More information about BlaBlaCar is here.

(*This is an independent blog – so as always, I get nothing in return for this review, unlike other early retirement budget travel blogs…)

Other posts on beautiful Spain:

6 thoughts on “BlaBlaCar for budget travel in Europe”

  1. Thanks for this – I’m always looking for a more budget friendly way to travel and finding easy transportation via app.

    I wasn’t clear on whether the first driver took your payment but did not show up? Just curious on this point as it would help me determine which cc to connect to the app for protection.

    1. The driver saw our request, but ignored it. No idea why. We took a gamble and skipped the last bus out for the day, thinking he would be crazy not to take our offer. We were wrong. This is why short notice is not good if your travel options are limited. This is why I pointed out to make arrangements more than a few hours in advance. Good luck!

  2. Thanks for this. A valuable post for people looking to travel on a budget. Would you say this is a safe way for a single female to go? Thanks.

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