Smartphone taxi service Uber finally started operating in the Algarve today (June 7).
The controversial service that has enraged traditional taxi companies all over Portugal for posing what they call “illegal and unfair competition” is now available to transport people in the Faro, Vilamoura and Albufeira areas until the end of summer.
Uber is offering two services for Algarve passengers: the basic and low-cost UberX service, and the new but more expensive UberXL which provides vehicles with room for seven passengers.
The company had already hinted at an expansion to the Algarve, where it believes it can be as successful (at least for the summer) as it is in Lisbon and Porto.
“Before we expand anywhere, we have access to the number of requests of people who want to use Uber in places where we do not operate. And we noticed that the demand for Uber in the Algarve was very large,” Uber representative Rui Bento told TSF radio.
Though the expansion does not come as a surprise, it is not expected to be totally peaceful.
During the nationwide anti-Uber protests in April, a regional taxi representative said that Uber would “jeopardise the whole taxi sector in the Algarve”.
“Uber isn’t regulated, doesn’t pay taxes in our country, doesn’t contribute to Social Security, and isn’t asked to comply with the same rules that our sector has to comply with,” Francisco Pereira, Algarve representative of the Portuguese Taxi Federation (FPT), told Barlavento newspaper at the time.
He did say however that if Uber followed the same regulations as everyone else, their protests would stop.
Though Uber’s Rui Bento did not address this possibility, he did say that Uber and national taxi companies can “co-exist”.
“We understand that technology can be seen as a threat, but we believe we can co-exist and that the variety of taxi services is actually healthy and beneficial for our clients,” he said.
Uber celebrates with ‘Bolas de Berlim’
To celebrate its first day in the Algarve, Uber will be offering ‘Bolas de Berlim’ (doughnuts) to anyone who requests an Uber cab between 3pm and 6pm today.
These popular doughnuts are often sold at Algarve beaches, and will symbolise the company’s expansion to Portugal’s most popular tourism region.