Rideshares to and from Toronto, in my view, leave us with the most interesting narratives from our travels. Buses are cramped, they take about a bazillion seemingly extraneous stops along the way, and your neighbour will generally drool on your shoulder as opposed to making friends. Driving alone is often boring, and doesn't score very high when it comes to being ecological or economical. And I'm just going to assume most are familiar with the antics of Air Canada, and not get into that one. Ride shares, then, are clearly a good option, especially for the traveler on a budget.
I used to be terrified of this form of transport, because I was obviously concerned I'd be kidnapped and viciously murdered. But, I finally mustered the courage to take my first rideshare a few years ago, when I was an especially poor university student. I found a drive to Montreal for $20 each way, and it was the only way I could afford to make it to my best friend's birthday party. So, off I went. Since then, some of the most interesting people I've ever come across have been in rideshares. They've given me countless tidbits of inspiration, story ideas and life lessons. Before I selected my first rideshare, though, and through the years since then, I've kept a few things in mind. From an experienced gallavanter in other people's shitty cars, to you, here is my lovingly-written guide to rideshares to and from Toronto.
How do I catch a rideshare?
Craigslist has a rideshare section listing all of the drives to and from the city. Kijiji has one, too. There are also sites like erideshare.com to organize shorter trips to spots like Waterloo, with usually a few scheduled for Montreal, too.
Where do they usually head to?
You can usually depend on finding a rideshare to Montreal, New York or Ottawa. There are several rideshares leaving the city for Montreal that operate every day of the week. Many times, drivers heading to Montreal will drop you off along the way if you'd like. I would check in advance for this, though. Some stop 'halfway' in Ottawa each time they go. Trips to New York are less frequent, so it's kind of hit-or-miss. I've found myself on a 12-hour Greyhound ride more than once because a drive fell through, or because I couldn't find one. If you're heading to New York and determined to do it by rideshare, I'd get to Montreal first and catch a ride from there. They can be had for $60, since it's only a short 6-hour drive.
Drives to Florida, the west coast, and the Atlantic provinces show up sometimes, too, but they're much less frequent.
What times do rideshares usually leave the city?
If you're headed to Montreal, they usually leave around 10 and around 5, though lots of random ones go at other times in the morning and afternoon, too. I find trips to New York tend to leave much earlier in the morning, and everything else is a toss-up.
And from where?
The only predictable departure points are for rides to Montreal, and those are usually at Yonge-Sheppard, Don Mills and York Mills subway stations.
What does it cost?
You can get a ride to Montreal any day of the week for $30 (seems to be close to $40 in the winter) and rides to New York for about $60 each way.
What can I expect?
The daily trips to Montreal are usually in giant white Mercedes vans that seat about 10 and rattle sketchily the entire way. The drivers are always super friendly, and the people in the car chat a little bit, and it's pleasant, but mainly everyone leaves everyone else with some personal space. These are the comfortable, universally desirable rideshares.
The crazy characters and long rambling stories that contribute a bit to who we are as people? Those happen in smaller cars with seating for five. You can expect to find yourself crammed in beside a prof from Hungary, a guitar teacher from Russia, and an engineer from Mexico. Legs akimbo, neck cramped, and no room to wield my arms, I made temporary friends with these people as we sped toward a common goal in someone else's filthy, maroon-upholstered backseat. These are the fun rideshares that teach you something if you allow them to.
Rideshare etiquette aligns with most other types of well-manneredness, as you can hopefully appreciate. You're a horrible person to share a car with if, for example, you bring smelly food, like a tuna fish sandwich with lots of onions, or steamed liver with garlic, settle into the car, open it up, and eat it. Also, don't bring so much luggage that other people can't fit their personal effects and/or personal pair of legs into the car. This especially applies if you're sharing a standard-sized car with five other humans. Also, don't complain about the tunes if the driver doesn't ask you. Needless to say, it's his or her car, and even though you're paying for the ride, it's still kind of a favour. Bring headphones and wear those instead, if you like, just be aware of others in the car who might be trying to get your attention.
What am I supposed to eat, then?
Drivers will generally stop at a rest stop which, predictably, will have crappy hamburgers and chips for sale and not much else. I tend to pack my own healthy snacks, little nuts and seeds, crackers and cheese, and fruit. But rest assured that if you don't want to do that, you won't have to starve. Or pee your pants.
Whenever I take a rideshare by myself, I text the driver's number to a couple of people, and check in with those people throughout the trip. I also stay in touch with the person I'm meeting in the next city. I make sure to text when I arrive, too, so they know I've arrived safely.
I also always snap a photo of the driver's license plate and send it to someone. It sounds like paranoia, maybe, but, hi. Stranger danger. You never know whose car you're getting into, and that does pose a possible risk.
Photo by Benson Kua in the blogTO Flickr pool.
by Sarah Ratchford via blogTO