We tested DiDi, the latest ride-hailing app to launch in South Africa, and found it stacks up well to established players like Uber and Bolt.
After initially rolling out in Gqeberha and Cape Town earlier this year, Didi launched in Gauteng on Monday, 23 August.
After downloading the DiDi-Rider app from the Google Play Store and launching it for the first time, I was prompted to create an account.
This process was simple and required that I provide my cellphone number and email address, and select a password.
After confirming my cellphone number via an OTP, I could start using the app, which required that I provide permission to my contacts, location, and phone dialling, all three of which served obvious purposes in the app.
The main page was dominated by a Google Maps window which showed my current location and a large tab at the bottom to enter a destination address.
At the top left was a hamburger menu which provided access to a list of options, including my profile, trip history, payment options, a help centre, messages, safety centre, and settings.
There were also options to invite friends to the app, learn more about becoming a DiDi driver, or view current promotions.
Much like its competitors, DiDi accepts cash or card payments.
After adding my Visa credit card information under the Payments section, I entered my destination and requested a trip.
The app provided an estimated price for the 7.6km trip of R69 for the standard Didi Express option or R55 for the more affordable Go compact option.
Both of these were cheaper than the standard UberX and UberGo services to the same destination.
Express offered a R40 discount voucher for my first ride using a card for payment, so I chose this option.
After this discount and a round-off fee deduction of R0.37, the final trip price was R29.
The app quickly connected me to a driver, showing his name, vehicle description and number plate, and options to message or call him.
It also indicated the distance and time he would take to get to me.
Clicking on his name showed his rating, the number of trips he had completed, and how long he had been a DiDi driver.
He had no trouble finding me waiting outside the building I had indicated as my pickup location within the indicated time.
During my trip, the driver told me he has also driven for Uber and Bolt but claimed that DiDi offered superior security for drivers and riders when compared to the latter.
In his first three days of driving, he had already completed enough trips to earn a bonus payment offered by DiDi to drivers who managed to complete 10 trips in their first week.
The total trip time was about 13 minutes, par for the course based on the speed limits he had to abide by.
After buying a few basic household items, I booked another trip to a house. This time the amount was R58, as the distance was a bit shorter. Once again, this was cheaper than Uber.
After using another R35 voucher, the final fare was just R23. I confirmed the trip, and the app connected me to another driver in a white Hyundai Accent.
During the return trip, the driver told me he was also an Uber driver and was trying out DiDi to see how well it worked.
I was pleased with my overall first experience with DiDi.
The drivers arrived on time, were well-mannered, had clean cars, and followed rules of the road to the letter. Both were paid sizeable tips for their service.
The rides were very comfortable, and I felt safe throughout.
In addition to the experience above, several features in the app stood out for me.
- Good Google Maps integration — Searching for locations was quick and seamless, and the location tracking during the ride was accurate.
- Useful safety features — The app features an emergency calling feature that dials 112 and can share your live location on trips with trusted contacts that you add to the app. These contacts get an SMS with a URL linking to a location tracking map that is constantly updated, showing your boarding and disembarking times, time to the destination, and the driver’s details.
- No hidden or unexpected charges — The amounts deducted from my card matched what was estimated on the app. Tips can be added after the trip as a completely separate payment that must be confirmed after typing in your amount.
- Detailed trip history and receipts — The trip history lets you see details like a complete fare breakdown, revealing how your trip’s cost was calculated.
- Big discounts on first trips — DiDi added R300’s worth of coupons to my account to get started on the app.