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How To Hail An (Illegal) Ride In Mexico
A true crime follow-up
In my award-winning1 article from last February, How To Hail A Ride In Mexico, I sang the praises of the InDrive ride-hailing app (I have no financial stake in InDrive, nor in anything else that turns a profit).
Recently, however, I've been lazing about on the Pacific coast of Nayarit. In an unusual and spontaneous spurt of activity (which I hope isn't indicative of a growing trend) during all that lazing, I decided to go to a supermarket that would have required a hike of about 12 kilometers (in the English language as spoken in the United States, the words "12 kilometers" are pronounced "about 7.5 miles"). As it was quite hot outside, I did not want to walk for 12 kilometers, which, if I were interested in also returning from the supermarket, would have ballooned into 24 kilometers.
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Fortunately, I own a "smart" (it's actually kinda dumb) phone and I have the InDrive app installed on it. So I made a bid (with InDrive, one makes a "bid" for a ride - you offer a price and see if anyone accepts) for a trip to said supermarket. A nice guy named Victor (not his real name; I wouldn't want him to get in trouble. I got your back, "Victor") accepted my bid and picked me up. During our 12 kilometer journey, he mentioned that he needs to be careful who he picks up, because InDrive is, in his words (my translation): "illegal in Mexico".
I was taken aback. I had not heard this before, and I use InDrive a lot. I mean, a lot lot. I said, "Really? All of Mexico?". To which Victor replied "I think so, all of Mexico". He went on to explain that InDrive is illegal because they don't pay the proper taxes to the government, taxes that are expected from businesses operating in the transportation sector (such as taxis, Uber). Victor further explained that the police sometimes pose as people requesting rides, and then fine drivers when they accept and show up for the ride.
Anyway, to make a long story even longer, we arrived at my supermercado destination and I went and bought whatever pasta noodles I had decided that I couldn't live without. For the ride back, I hailed another InDrive ride. I asked this next driver: "Is InDrive illegal in Mexico?". "Oh yes", he replied, "It is illegal".
Huh. So there were two data points suggesting that I have been participating in a total outlaw culture, and that I probably had a warrant out for my arrest and a price on my head. So, after changing my name, dying my hair, and shaving off my beard, I started doing some research online regarding the legality (or lack thereof) of InDrive in Mexico. While I could not find much useful or verifiable information, what I did find suggests that in the state of Nayarit and in the municipality of Puerto Vallarta, InDrive had been (at least around 2021-2022) declared to be operating illegally (and perhaps still is); and that police were using those "pretend to be a rider" sting tactics to fine drivers and, sometimes, to confiscate their vehicles.
InDrive, for its part, is apparently claiming that it is not in the transportation business; rather, it is more of a "social" app, connecting people with each other. That the people they are "connecting" just happen to be those who want, and those who provide, a ride is completely coincidental and beside the point.
I did not find any information suggesting that InDrive was operating illegally in Mexico as a whole.
In any event, I have completely embraced the outlaw lifestyle. I still take InDrive. In coastal Nayarit, at least, the number of InDrive operators remains exceptionally high. I never have to wait more than a few minutes for a ride. And even with the "illegal" nature of this particular business, many drivers prefer it because it pays them much better than does Uber.
In all seriousness, though - there are issues with InDrive that need to be called out: one is that many drivers are not registering their vehicles properly for passenger use, or are not having their vehicles safety-inspected; another is that some drivers are not providing correct background information, which can result in actual criminal actions being taken by drivers against their passengers. It is rare, but it happens.
So keep this in mind when considering the use of InDrive. While I still find it practical to use - and I have met many nice people using InDrive - people who are now in my WhatsApp contact list - your milage may vary (see what I did there?). In my previous article, I did mention that you might not want to use InDrive in Mexico City. You might also want to reconsider using it in Nayarit and Puerto Vallarta. I know that a lot of drivers depend on InDrive, so I don't want to make any sort of blanket statement that it should be avoided. Just be as smart and informed about it as you can. Meanwhile, unless or until I can be convinced that it's a bad idea, I'm still using it. Shhhh.
Voted "Best Article of February 2023 About Ride Hailing In Mexico" by a panel of 1 (my dog)