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I'll be visiting the US (specifically Los Angeles) in the very near future, and will need to travel from the airport to my hotel. To save money compared to a traditional taxi, I could take Uber or Lyft, but both of them seem to want US phone numbers, and I don't have one of those.

Is it possible to use either of these services purely via the internet (depending on airport wifi)? Obviously there'd be features that are unavailable (like automatic GPS marking to say "I'm here, pick me up"), but as long as I can get a ride to my destination, the rest can take care of itself.

Additional complication: I don't have a smart phone, so this would all be using my laptop's web browser (not the actual app). AIUI this should not be a problem, but it does mean I can't register a phone of any kind. I do have an Australian phone number capable of receiving text messages, but it won't have service once I'm in LA.

  • This question isn't really about using Uber/Lyft as a tourist (which lots of people do without issue), but using it on a laptop. As far as I know, this is impossible. – MJeffryes Oct 10 '17 at 9:52
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    Both of those services require a smart phone so that your location can be sent to the driver and so that the driver can contact you if they fail to find you. Using the service with only a laptop is not possible. – Jacob Horbulyk Oct 10 '17 at 9:54
  • It's both, @MJeffryes - my ability to send/receive text messages is linked to my non-US phone number. But I'll take that as an answer. – rosuav Oct 10 '17 at 10:07
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    And, btw, there are other options; did you check to see whether your hotel has a free shuttle from LAX (many do)? To save money, you can also use a shuttle service; this is the one I use most often (in LA and other cities), or there is Flyaway that goes to various locations for a few of $10 US or under. – Giorgio Oct 10 '17 at 11:49
  • My final conclusion is that it's just not worth trying to trust to Uber/Lyft under my circumstances, so I guess I'm paying 2-3 times the price for a "regular" taxi. But many thanks for the tip about supershuttle - I can probably use them. – rosuav Oct 12 '17 at 7:10
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but both of them seem to want US phone numbers

Uber and Lyft don't require you to have a US number when you register. Any international number that can receive a text message is going to work. There might be an issue with US drivers not wanting to call a foreign number in case they can't find you, but otherwise it doesn't matter which country you're coming from.

Is it possible to use either of these services purely via the internet (depending on airport wifi)?

If you have a smart phone it's possible to use the service through WiFi. Once you get into the car you no longer need to stay connected.

: I don't have a smart phone, so this would all be using my laptop's web browser (not the actual app)

Normally the apps require you to run them on a smartphone. You might be able to run it on an emulator though, but I've never tried it.

  • Are you sure they don't require a US number? I haven't tried Uber, but when I keyed my number into Lyft's sign up process, it errored out claiming that I needed a US phone number. – rosuav Oct 10 '17 at 12:09
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    @rosuav Uber at least operates in several countries other than the US, so presumably it accepts non-US numbers. – phoog Oct 10 '17 at 12:15
  • @rosuav tested Lyft with the Android app and it works with any numbers. – JonathanReez Oct 10 '17 at 12:18
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    There might be an issue with US drivers not wanting to call a foreign number in case they can't find you, but otherwise it doesn't matter which country you're coming from. This isn't a problem. Both services route calls and SMS from the driver through the app. The driver wouldn't incur any charge for contacting a non-US number. – MJeffryes Oct 10 '17 at 12:54
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    Uber and Lyft do have limited web interfaces now that you could use without a smartphone, though you'll still need to authorize with a phone number. It's not entirely practical, since you likely won't be standing at the curb with a laptop tracking the car's arrival, and I wouldn't want to rely on having wifi everywhere, but it's an option. – Zach Lipton Oct 10 '17 at 19:09

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