Remember a time when you dialled the local taxi company’s hotline to book a cab for the following morning? Neither do we. Ride-hailing apps have made this practice prehistoric and completely disrupted private transport industries worldwide. Call it revolutionary, or lament about taxi drivers going out of jobs. Either way, the consumer takes all.

Today, anyone with a smartphone in Southeast Asia probably uses Grab, no less than people in America and Europe would use Uber. But ever since the latter has pulled out of the Southeast Asia market, Grab prices have started to climb again. After all, it is the region’s top ride-hailing app across eight countries. Naturally, local alternatives have also sprouted to snag a slice of that pie.

What makes ride-hailing apps legit?

Getting around Southeast Asia by private transport comes with its fair share of horror stories. This is especially true in less developed cities, which are more prone to traffic congestion, exorbitant ripoffs, safety, and security issues.

On a work trip, the ubiquitous ride-hailing experience should make your job easier, not give you more travel-related headaches. It is thus imperative that your chosen transport or ride-hailing company has:

  1. Many positive ratings on the app store: This is the hallmark of a local ride-hailing app that has found its footing. It also hints at a strong network of drivers that won’t keep you waiting for too long.
  2. Safety and security checks: QC for both the operators and their vehicles will give you more peace of mind.
  3. A user-friendly interface: You shouldn’t have to struggle with language barriers digitally.

With these in mind, here’s a ride-hailing app for every popular city across Southeast Asia.

1. MyCar (Malaysia)

MyCar was launched in February 2018 and has since merged its operations with Grab. It’s strongly branded as the “third e-hailing force” in Malaysia, and is widely available and used across the country.

From a fleet of car types, the MyCar Premium and MyCar MPV Premium, in particular, could be useful for business travellers who’d like to show up professionally for a conference or simply work on the go through long commutes or traffic jams.

The best feature? The app comes with an SOS button for added security—a feature we’re sure late-night travellers will appreciate.

2. All Thai Taxi (Thailand)

Getting a ride in Thailand can be a chore. If the driver doesn’t use a meter, we often find ourselves haggling in the middle of a busy road with honking cars before being dismissed to “take a tuk-tuk instead”.

All Thai Taxi, though, promises that drivers will never reject passengers and will always use the meter, translating to shorter waiting time and eliminating tourist mark-ups. On top of that, safety is of utmost priority to the company, which equips its vehicles with a black box style data recorder, speed regulator, and breathalyser for the driver.

Good news for solo female travellers — this service even has female drivers (and passengers) on request!

3. Go-Jek (Indonesia)

Grab is a huge deal in Indonesia, but perhaps not as much as Go-Jek. In fact, an online survey conducted in early 2018 reveals that 56 per cent of Indonesians prefer it to Grab, and that “ease of finding a ride” is the top consideration for users in choosing Go-Jek.

It’s no surprise, then, that Go-Jek scored a partnership with Bluebird—arguably Indonesia’s largest taxi company—for the latter’s drivers to be on the platform. On top of transport, Go-Jek also does food delivery, shopping delivery, courier, on-demand massages, cleaning services, and beauty treatments.

4. PassApp (Cambodia)

Hailing taxis is a special case in Cambodia. Only in recent years have metered taxis started becoming a norm in Phnom Penh, and in some areas, they can’t be simply flagged down on congested streets. This is why PassApp came as a huge relief to passengers.

While users of ride-hailing apps around the world have long gotten used to the benefits of GPS accuracy, reliable reservations and transparent fares, PassApp is especially game-changing in Cambodia, where such assurances are understated. The app is also popular among sightseeing tourists, who can even book tuk-tuks and rickshaws that come with taxi meters.

5. LOCA (Laos)

Even with over 900,000 vehicles flooding the narrow roads of Vientiane, you don’t have to worry about safety amidst the chaotic traffic conditions with LOCA. Drivers are carefully screened, made to watch a training video, and monitored on their first few rides to ensure adherence to internal safety regulations. The system even automatically suspends vehicles with expired insurance policies.

Like Thailand’s All Thai Taxi, LOCA has a no-refusal policy, removing from its database drivers who repeatedly decline reservations from nearby passengers. In addition, their fleet also carries van rentals for half- and full-day city tours, so you can easily squeeze an impromptu visit to Luang Prabang into your schedule.

6. Go-Jek (Singapore)

Following Uber’s exit in mid-2018, Grab became the go-to option for Singaporeans, until Go-Jek showed up. For users who have grown exasperated with the rising prices, the Indonesian player’s entry into the market was a welcome disruption to the monopoly.

Throughout its (still ongoing) initial phase, Go-Jek has been onboarding new drivers rapidly while offering promotions to entice new users. The best perk? No fare surges during peak hours. Compared to Grab, local users are finding the prices to be lower even without promo code.

As a plus, Go-Jek’s UI is quite easy to use—in fact, some even say it looks just like Uber’s UI.

7. Vato (Vietnam)

There’s no close second to Grab in Vietnam. But if we had to nominate one, our eyes are on Go-Viet.

Like other developments in the Vietnamese ride-hailing scene—from Vato’s $100 million investment to Be’s launch in December—Go-Viet’s inception is recent, which may explain the teething phase it’s still undergoing. However, we can be reasonably optimistic about its backing by Go-Jek, whose international expertise might just crack what other contenders haven’t.

8. MiCab (Philippines)

In the Philippines, ride-hailing is often considered to be safer than local taxis on the streets. And while Grab is rather far ahead of its competitors, the next in line will have to be MiCab.

MiCab is available in Metro Manila, Baguio, Cebu, Iloilo and Bacolod, although it hasn’t exactly reached mainstream usage as Grab has. With a business model that earns through advertising banners on their vehicles, MiCab is able to do away with surge pricing. It also keeps prices lower than Grab’s by using standardised taxi meters for fare calculations.

The best of both worlds

Evidently, 2018 has been a booming year for the ride-hailing industry worldwide, with new apps emerging to rival existing monopolies, and large companies pumping funds into these start-ups. How incredible is it that our “taxi-apps” have now unlocked verticals like e-commerce and food delivery?

Most of us already have a default ride-hailing app, but it doesn’t hurt to have options while travelling. At the end of the day, you never know when a local-approved alternative will save you from being stranded, or when you might need a full-body massage on demand after a long day of meetings.