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Uber, Bolt or similar in small town England ?

My sister and I ( both mid-70s) are planning our trip to south-east England. This will be our first trip there without renting a car. We plan to use bus-trains, but are wondering how we can get to the castles and gardens that we love. Is Uber (or similar) available outside of the large cities?

Posted by
824 posts

London is very well served by Uber. Other towns, maybe less so.

A key word that many from the US won't know is "minicab". That's a private hire car, basically a taxi that you can't hail in the street but will come if you call them or book through their app.

If you're in any town in England, Google "insert name of town here minicabs" and you'll have any number of companies providing a service. Asking a local working at a shop, pub, railway station or gas station if they know a minicab number would usually work too.

Posted by
5360 posts

Minicab is a bit of a London term (*), not to say that people wouldn't understand it though. Outside they are more often (technically inaccurately) just described as taxis. These still have to be pre-booked rather than taken from a stand or hailed - although many companies operate both types.

(*) The laws governing taxis / minicabs inside and outside London are different - and so how they have developed.

Posted by
824 posts

It's interesting that you say that. It's a word I'd never have used in Scotland, but since I've been in London I sort of assumed it was England-wide. London bubble eh?!

Posted by
15573 posts

I have rarely seen Uber or Bolt outside of major cities. But there is usually a taxi available almost anywhere.

Ask at your lodgings. They more than likely know the setup.

Posted by
2554 posts

wondering how we can get to the castles and gardens that we love

check the website of the attraction. It will likely "have how to get there" information, whether by public transport and sometimes details of local taxi firms

Posted by
5648 posts

I haven’t used Uber or Bolt in the UK, but I have used various local taxi companies. I usually get the local taxi info from either my hotel, the site I am visiting’s website, or just via google. Most of the tourist sites have a ”how to get to …” section with info on local transit to the site.

One thing I will recommend is to have the ”Whatsapp” app set up on your phone. Last fall when I booked a taxi with a local company, they texted me back using Whatsapp with the description of the car that would be picking me up and then texted me where the taxi was waiting once it arrived. No one texts me on whatsapp in the U.S., but it is pretty widely used in Europe.

Posted by
5360 posts

It's interesting that you say that. It's a word I'd never have used in Scotland, but since I've been in London I sort of assumed it was England-wide. London bubble eh?!

One side of my family is from London so I notice these kind of differences ...

Posted by
101 posts

Thanks for all your insight. Was hoping for Uber but local taxis will have to do

Posted by
824 posts

Much of the time, the same drivers in the same cars will do shifts driving for the local company and Uber. I think in towns outside London driving for the local private hire firms is more lucrative, demand may not be as high for Uber. The preference may still be for local cab firms even in our modern corporate world. Hence you might wait longer for an Uber as there's not as many drivers on the road.

With a local private hire firm you won't get the "surge pricing" and what have you that Uber use. You're much more likely to get a fare that you'll be able to agree upfront.

In my younger days I'd sometimes get in a private hire in Glasgow and barter down the price with the driver. I don't think I would be rude enough to do that now, but try doing that in an Uber.

You'll be supporting local business, if that means anything to you (not saying it has to).

Sometimes it's still easier just to call, rather than using an app, provided you know where you are. Having a couple of numbers for the local firms where you're going scribbled down somewhere or saved on your phone is how you do it if you're going to a smaller town.

Posted by
15573 posts

Some local taxi companies in the UK actually have their own apps.

I have used the one for the largest cab company in Dundee and it works great. No Uber.

Posted by
824 posts

If you are a really big fan of Uber, you can always look there first. The app should tell you how many drivers are close.

You can also pick a location where you will be and search on Uber from home, before you get to England. without finalising a booking. That would give you an idea in advance how practical it would be in terms of coverage from drivers and how long you'd wait. England's some hours ahead from your US location, taking into account the time zone of course.

Taking on board what TexasTravelMom said, you might well be fine. Chichester isn't a small town, but including the other Medway towns, Canterbury or Dover Uber's probably fine. I may have some inherent bias towards using the local company in my previous comments, so bear that in mind too.

Posted by
100 posts

My (limited) experience has been that Uber is possible outside of London, but not as readily available as local taxis.

One thing I would like to add - if you are going to a remote site - and some of the National Trust properties tend to be - you may want to prebook a taxi for the return trip home before you leave, or make sure you have good local SIM. I learned this the hard way - I was at Grey's Court in Oxfordshire and could not get a cell phone connection to be able to call the taxi company (I was using Google Fi) and I was beginning to panic a little. Finally, I did get some connectivity near the entrance ticket booth and was able to summon a taxi.

Have a wonderful trip!