Posted in Mobile App, Travel

Grab vs Uber in Thailand

I have only ever used the Uber mobile app for the first time when I arrived here in Bangkok a week ago. I had Uber downloaded on my phone about a year ago but could only use GrabTaxi in my hometown.

Upon clearing immigration at the Don Mueang International Airport, I opened Maps to ask for directions from the airport to the place I was staying. Under Ride, UberX mainly comes up along with the fare information. I paid ฿300 for the 20-minute UberX ride. I didn’t even think of comparing the fare with the Grab mobile app as I was in a hurry to leave there. The fact that Uber was integrated within the Maps app is an advantage for Uber.

Seven days, 2 Grab rides and 7 UberX rides later, I can say I’ve mostly had a more pleasant experience with Grab than Uber. Don’t let the quantity fool you. I’d had to raise the issue to Support about being prompted to pay ฿300 again for that first UberX ride. As explained in their Help section, I was apparently overcharged because of a technical issue:

For compensation, we’ve added THB 300 Uber credit to your account to reflect the difference in the amount you paid and what the trip fare should have been. Please note this Uber credit will automatically apply to your next trip fare.
However, In order to make an adjustment for a cash fare, we need you to first settle this outstanding balance. Please note that you will be unable to request rides until this balance is paid.
To pay your account balance, please sign in to your account. You can use a payment method on your account to pay your balance before you request your next trip. Here’s how it works:
1. When you try to request a trip, your app will notify you that your account is in arrears.
2. You’ll be prompted to add a credit or debit card to your Uber account.
3. After you’ve added a card, you can select it as your payment method to pay your arrears in full.

It makes sense to use up my Uber credits than to use Grab more.

What I don’t like about the Uber mobile app, though, is the inability to change my cellular number on file. When I tried to change it, it prompted me to make another account which is totally unnecessary. I don’t know why it would not recognise my Thailand cellular number, even if it’s just a traveler’s sim card. With Grab, I could switch my number on file to the Thai number, despite the latter being a traveler’s sim. Just had to emphasize that.

I also notice way too many glitches with the Uber mobile app. This resulted in so many cancellations by Uber drivers. For a 10-minute walk back to the hotel, it would take me an hour or so to successfully get an Uber ride. I could walk the way back, if only I weren’t carrying some groceries.
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Posted in Mobile App, Travel

Mobile Apps For Hotel Bookings

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As a budget traveler, I have used a few mobile apps for hotel bookings. There are times when booking via a mobile app is recommended compared to a hotel booking done on the web because of the discounts made only available on its mobile app version.

It is best to ascertain what kind of traveler you are and what do you want to get out of a hotel booking or accommodation and once you take note of this, you will be able to narrow down your choices.

I mostly use Booking.com and I prefer it over Agoda. Both mobile apps and web versions are awesome to use and some blocks of room in Agoda are facilitated by Booking.com. Here’s what I think about Booking.com and Agoda mobile apps:

1 – I like hotel stay prices to be displayed as the final amount I would be paying. In this regard, Booking.com would take the most points. With Agoda, I would only see the partial price and the breakdown of the price would be seen a few pages later.

2 – When it comes to newsletter subscription headings, I noticed I would tend to ignore and delete Booking.com e-mails on hotel deals because they don’t usually come off  as a “call to action” kind of heading. They generally are about the hotel deals of a specific city you were last recorded browsing using your account. Agoda, on the other hand, has headings about a specific discount. I often find myself clicking through the Agoda e-mails because of the tempting deals. The headings draw me in to check out how I can get the 10% discount as promised within a limited time period.

3 – I recently booked via Agoda at one hotel three times within a week and two times out of those I had to do cancellations. Luckily it was the same room and it was still available for the same dates. When I click on Bookings, there isn’t really much you can change from there even though, for example, the special requests drop down menu and the submit button are still active. This seems to me as somewhat rigid. When I initially booked the room, I set it to pay later and had only 1 card saved. When I wanted to change the card under the saved payment method within the booking itself, the system won’t let me do it. Overall, there is not much change you can do within the booking itself. I had to e-mail customer support regarding the availability of changing the payment method once I’ve made my decision to pay for the booking. After almost two days, I got the reply that changing the payment method was not possible and that I had to re-book. How cumbersome. When I cancelled, I received an e-mail confirmation and it had an invitation to take a survey and leave a feedback regarding the said booking. I certainly hope they take my suggestion seriously to be flexible with making changes to a booking within the particular reservation itself.

4 – What really attracted me to Booking.com in the first place was the fact that they enable the “pay at the hotel” feature in most reservations. Although free cancellations can also be found in Agoda reservations, there’s a catch called prepayment. Because things sometimes get shitty between GCash (the main card I use) and PayPal instant withdrawal transfers, I cannot always guarantee I can do an automatic prepayment using my GCash MasterCard when PayPal and GCash delay my funds for all the sluggish reasons just because they can.

5 – Both Booking.com and Agoda mobile apps load pretty quickly.

6 – I use AirAsia and Scoot Tiger Air as alternatives to Cebu Pacific. AirAsia and Scoot sometimes have special hotel deals when you book with them and I have been able to apply these discounted rates because of their affiliated promos with Booking.com. Agoda offers Point Max where you can choose to earn miles for a particular booking. It’s not retroactive as you would have to determine your rewards program first. Only when you come to the select rooms section will you be able to view deals like how many miles you can earn with your already chosen rewards program if you book a particular room.

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7 – I have compared rates between Booking.com and Agoda with the accommodations I frequent and Booking.com always has the higher discount rates. As someone who has a Frequent Traveller badge next to my avatar, I get awesome Genius secret deals. Below is a comparison of prices I get as a Booking.com Frequent Traveller and what I get on Agoda. Both screenshots are taken from their mobile apps.

I find that an advantage for Agoda is the Book Now option which charges your card upon booking completion. Few accommodation searches I did in the same area offer the Book Now option and with discounts as high as 65%. Those kinds of deals are what I couldn’t find in Booking.com. The only problem I have with those discounted accommodations are accessibility from the train station (I’m talking about a stone’s throw away), a 7-Eleven convenience store and the mall.

Because I am a budget traveler as I mentioned in the beginning of this article, I tend to book the similar hotel upon returning to a particular country, until of course I find a better alternative. Accessibility has always been first on my list and I usually get to narrow down my options from there.

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There are rare occasions when I prefer to pay for a duration of a hotel booking immediately with a debit/credit card and Booking.com nor Agoda would not have this kind of option for the same hotel I liked. I would then resort to Hotels.com mobile app. They have discounted deals for mobile app hotel bookings only and their reward system involves an extra night free for collecting 10 nights even as a first-time user. The collected nights would be reflected 72 hours after checkout.

There is another neat option that I hope to explore someday and it’s called Trip.com as it involves train bookings as well. Perhaps when I get to travel in an ever bigger continent this might come in handy.

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Posted in Business, Marketing, Travel

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