Taking an Uber Across a Border? Here’s What You Must Know

Taking an Uber Across a Border? Here’s What You Must Know

Uber is a wonderful service of convenience that people usually associate with short rides, but what about long journeys or crossing the border?

Many people have questions about how far Uber can take you, going across city lines, state lines, and even international boundaries.  Yet, you rarely hear anything about this.

Can you take an Uber across a border?  Uber tried an app called UberPASSPORT specifically for this purpose, but the company discontinued the app due to legal complications.  Uber now suggests that you:

  1. Call an Uber
  2. Cross the border yourself with all required documentation
  3. Call a new Uber on the opposite side of the border

Being without a ride is a helpless feeling, and if you plan to cross any borders, you’ll want to know the protocol ahead of time. This quick guide will answer all your commute, border crossing, and Uber-related questions by going through the most common and fascinating situations you find yourselves in and breaking them down into bite-sized pieces. By the end, you will know what you can use Uber for and what you cannot.

Taking an Uber Across a Border? Here’s What You Must Know

First off, I want to say that you can go to plenty of Quora and forum debates on using Uber to cross a border and you will see varied answers along the lines of:

  • Yes, they’ll take you, they just need their passport
  • If you tip them well, they’ll run home and get their passport to take you
  • They can cancel the ride if they don’t want to take you across the border
  • Not at the Southern border, but yes on the Northern border to Canada

These might be true. Your Uber driver might take you across the border. Your driver might not mind.

But the point is – this is not the regulation released from Uber.

Uber has strictly stated that Uber drivers are not allowed to do this. What drivers do on their own time, in their privately owned vehicles, with their passengers – is their business.  But Uber does not sanction it.

So yes, you might get a ride across the border, but it’s against Uber’s policy.  Some drivers still do it apparently, but there is no guarantee yours will.

UberPASSPORT – Before the Shut Down

Uber released UBERPASSPORT in March of 2016.  You could request your driver be able to speak English, open up the app, cross using the U.S. pedestrian lane, and voila! Uber even gave recommendations to turn on your Wi-Fi to avoid data fees, seemingly giving commuters a convenient way to cross the Southern border.

They were commercially insuring their drivers for $750,000 coverage and even secured insurance policies for passengers with liability coverage in Mexico up to $30,000 per passenger.

Uber was so excited about the prospect of this new way of crossing the border that at the time they released this statement: “Today, we’re excited to go global in a whole new way with UberPASSPORT. Riders can now use the Uber platform to arrange one seamless trip from San Diego to Tijuana. Whether it’s a business trip or a beach getaway, Uber can help make your journey into Mexico safe and hassle-free.”

Nice words.  But on September 1st, six months after the release of UberPASSPORT, the program was discontinued. 

UberPASSPORT – Why It Shut Down

The logistical challenges that led to the company’s demise were as follows:

  • The wait time wasn’t working for the Uber fee structure.  The return trip can take over an hour or more in wait time, and getting back into the U.S./through customs, is time-consuming. These cross-border trips were costing drivers money instead of adding to their earnings.  
  • High-risk liability – Uber obtained coverage from a commercial vehicle insurance provider in Mexico for almost $300,000 worth of coverage.  All of this was swell, but the issue arose when the U.S. couldn’t control, or provide coverage for, the Mexican Uber drivers that entered the U.S. with passengers.
  • It was challenging to be confident both the passenger and the driver were carrying the proper documentation requirements.
  • Essentially–getting there was easy, but the difficulty of the driver getting back led to UberPASSPORT’s demise.

How Crossing the Border Works Now

After the test project (UberPASSPORT) failed, new terms of service were published.

 Now, if you wanted to return to the United States side of the border, you are instructed by Uber to:

  1. Have your passport and all documentation in hand.
  2. Call an Uber in Tijuana to the Border Crossing Called San Ysidro International Border.
  3. Cross the pedestrian lane
  4. Then request a new Uber on the San Diego side to your American destination.

It will work the same for every international border in the world. You will leave one car, cross the border, and then request a new ride. This policy is the safest course of action and saves the driver time spent trying to commute over the border.

We recommend you follow this protocol to avoid putting yourself and your driver at risk.

Uber-Driver Discretion

Again – many drivers have indicated that the decision to cross a border is at their discretion. It is their car after all, and if they want to take you, there’s no law stopping them.

If your Uber driver does want to take you across the border, he or she will need to have their passport as well. There are still some drivers who choose to provide this service and are comfortable with the process.

Another valid point brought up commonly is that the Uber driver can see the destination when you submit the request. If they don’t want to accept your request, they don’t have to.  A driver who accepts your request is likely aware of the assignment ahead.  They could easily choose to ignore your request, citing Uber policy.

Keep in mind as the passenger, since the UberPASSPORT program ended, you will not be insured or protected in any way by Uber.

This cross border service is not within Uber’s terms of service agreement, so you are on your own when it comes to individual risk, having international insurance, and personal liability. Uber will in no way be held liable for the risk you take once you cross the border. 

We are in no way recommending that you try to convince an Uber driver to take you across the border. It is 100% their discretion.  You cannot force a driver to take that risk if they don’t want to.

Documentation Required to Cross (With or Without Uber)

Documentation requirements are different depending on how you are entering (air, land, or sea) a country. They also vary widely from one country to the next. It is challenging to get from Mexico to the United States, but going from the United States into Canada isn’t a walk in the park either.

Crossing the Border Generally

Generally, you will need:

Important to note: Since 2009, you can no longer cross the border with just your birth certificate.

The U.S. to Canada

Usually, if you are a Canadian citizen, they won’t prevent a citizen from entering their home country, even if a small portion of the documentation is not present. If you do not have all documentation, you can expect secondary or tertiary screenings and long delays.

Crossing the border from the United States into Canada:

  • Americans need – A Passport or Passport Card, and birth certificate or something to prove your American citizenship.
  • Canadians re-entering Canada need – A Passport, proof of citizenship, government-issued photo ID.

For more questions on where to start, reference the Cross U.S. Borders Page.

The U.S. to Mexico

Crossing from the U.S. to Mexico, again, cannot be done with just a Birth Certificate or driver’s license since 2009.

Now you are required to have:

  • A valid passport
  • A Travelers Card such as NEXUS, SENTRI, or FAST
  • If on military orders – Military Identification Card
  • or a form of Government Issued Photo Identification
  • May also require a Mexico Tourist Card

Resources for Border Crossing Expectations

Here are some resources for crossing the border and what to expect:

Be sure you have all required legal documentation, or you may be referred to a secondary port of screening to have officers re-evaluate your proof.

A secondary screening port is an intimidating place to be if trapped on the wrong side of the border. It can take a long time and delay your travel plans by hours, if not days. So research your situation, citizenship, and documentation requirements ahead of time.

Don’t attempt to misrepresent yourself or lie in some way because this could eliminate your future access to any international borders or ban you from future crossings.

Can Uber Take Me Across City Borderlines?

Yes, they absolutely can.

There is technically a 4-hour limit on how long an Uber trip can take, but all the driver has to do is extend the time or reset it to a new 4-hour limit. These resets could go on forever, so there is no official duration or limit to the length of an Uber trip. They can take you as far as there is a road and as long as you can tolerate each other.

The longest Uber ride on record was 2,256 miles and cost over $5,500! Not all of that went to the Uber driver, of course, and there are many fees involved with transportation. Keep this in mind when taking your Uber driver on a long or dangerous path because they maintain their privately owned vehicle and get little help from Uber for things outside of a small gas discount and insurance rebate. 

Can Uber Take Me Across State-lines?

Yes, they can. There are no restrictions enforced by the company on anything within a national border for passengers or drivers.

The tricky part of this situation is the driver is only registered to pick-up Uber rides in the state in which you start the journey.

If you depart from New York and end up in Florida, the driver will not be able to pick anyone up in Florida and drive them back to New York. So you are essentially stranding that driver for a journey where they will not get paid for the return drive, ultimately spending the gas money they just made on your trip. 

A driver usually will not take you on the journey that is too far out of state-lines for this reason. It wouldn’t make sense for them financially, and they will lose money in expenses and gas (unless you are willing to cover those costs personally).

There is an exception for the Uber markets of D.C., Virginia, and Maryland, where Uber has offered permission to drivers to operate in all three connected markets.

What You Cannot Bring Across International Borders

Generally, what you should keep in mind are the following, but we will break it down into Mexico and Canadian border protocols so you know what should stay on the other side.

Mexican Border

What you cannot bring across the Mexican border includes but is not limited to:

  • Alcohol
  • Illegal drugs
  • Paraphernalia
  • Fireworks
  • Firearms
  • Fish
  • Food products
  • Fruits and produce
  • Gold or silver
  • Plants, flowers, or botanicals
  • Wildlife

Here is a list of the complete non-accepted goods crossing through the Mexican Border.

Canadian Border:

What you can‘t take with you when crossing the border into Canada:

  • Fresh, unpackaged food or living animal or fish products. Be careful with food products because, like this man, in a story covered by the National Post, you could be detained and face a hefty fine for trying to cross the border with something as innocuous as Kinder Chocolate Eggs. 
  • Live bait
  • Firearms
  • Mace
  • Pepper spray
  • Cannabis – even though it’s legal here, it is not lawful to cross the borders with it even if you have a prescription or medical license. This rule even includes the border between Canada and Washington, where both sides have legalized marijuana. As of October 17th, 2018, under no condition are you allowed to bring Marijuana, CBD, or other Cannabis products into Canada.
  • Other illicit drugs

What You Can Bring Across the Canadian Border

The items that you can bring across the Canadian border when entering Canada are:

  • Snacks and food – as long as you declare them to customs and they are, canned, packaged, dried, or cooked.
  • Alcohol – you can bring a maximum of 1.5 liters of wine into Canada, which is equivalent to two regular 750-millimeter-sized bottles. Or up to 40 ounces of liquor, the average size of a single liquor bottle.
  • Tobacco – you can bring up to 200 cigarettes and up to 50 legal cigars. Cuban cigars are legal in Canada, but not permitted in the U.S. (so don’t forget to smoke them all in Canada and don’t bring them home into the U.S. or you will be stopped and detained).
  • Pets – you will need all documentation and up to date vaccinations for your pet, but they can come along with you.

Final Tips for Border Crossing Safety

As far as your Uber trip across the border, stick to city and state travel within your national boundary. Traveling across the border in an Uber gets too messy and is not technically within Uber policy despite some drivers who are willing to take on the risk.

We would recommend you don’t try to beat the system. It is easier to do as Uber requests and cross individually then call a new Uber once you’re on the other side. This simplifies the process for everyone involved. You also don’t want to get your Uber driver in trouble, and it is not worth the liability risk. 

Always check the license plate and driver information of your Uber and make sure it matches the driver and vehicle description on your app. Be sure you are hopping into the car with a reputable and legitimate driver. To be blunt, you are getting into a stranger’s car along the Mexican border, so do not act impatiently and skip this step. 

Important notemake sure you review customs information applicable to both sides of the border.  If you fail to do this, you could end up with a situation like the Cuban Cigars, where you obey the law going one way and violate it coming back.   

You don’t want to end up detained or arrested, so please do your research in advance, so you don’t get caught thinking the country nearest to you has similar or identical laws. 

Take the necessary research in stride.  It’s just one more step towards getting to know the country you will visit.  Then make sure you have the documentation and identification you need to smooth out the process of crossing a national boundary.  Finally, plow ahead with the adventure and have fun exploring a new country!  Be safe out there!

Dan Ferrantelli

I'm Dan Ferrantelli. I discovered rideshare through my wife and daughter who used the service a full year before I decided to try it. Now I am a part-time Uber & Lyft driver and love sharing my experiences with others. I'm also an entrepreneur who has developed several businesses and I have a passion to write! I hope you enjoy the articles I post. Kind feedback is always welcome.

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