+ jetset tip // uber & grabtaxi in bali.

January 27, 2017

Taxi Experience
The government banned Uber and GrabTaxi over a year ago but both continue to operate in specific areas on the island. Since the ban, local taxi companies have been rallying against and hating on Uber, GrabTaxi and other apps that dont require street hustling and honking for passengers. And I get it, locals feel like these companies are taking away their livelihoods and threatening their way of life. As a traveler support local economies and their communities in ways that I can, but service and convenience are important to me as a customer, and local Bali taxis provide neither. I have taken a few taxis here in Bali and all of them have been terrible experiences:

  • For a 2km ride within Seminyak, a Bluebird taxi tried to charge me 75k flat fee, even though it was a metered cab. When I asked him to turn on the meter, it started at 12k. Meters should always start at 7k base. I called this out and he made up some excuse. I told him I would find another taxi. He told me to pay for the 5 meters he had already driven. I got out of the car and he yelled “f-ck you!”
  • My meter came out to 37k. I only have 36k and 1k in coins. I gave this to him and he rolled down his window and threw the coins out and yelled “get the f-ck out.”
  • Cabs love to tell you “I dont have change.” My response: don’t drive a cab, or always carry change. I only had a 50k or 20k bill for a 25k cab ride. I gave him the 50k and he made no attempt at offering change. I asked for the remainder and he grunted “no small bills.” Sorry, you’re not getting 25k for free (principle vs about the actual money, which comes out to $1.87 difference). He cursed and reached for the 20k and told me to “get the f-ck out.”
  • I negotiated a taxi from 50k to 30k (an Uber would have been 15k) to take me to a villa 10 minutes from Ubud center. I showed the taxi driver the map of the villa location and told him it was after Maya. As soon as we passed Maya, he asked, “Where? We are past Maya. Where? This is past Maya. Where?!” and kept huffing and puffing that “This is too far, this is more money.” I couldn’t take it anymore and told him to drop me off, in the middle of a rice field. I didn’t care, I refused to pay for this kind of service. He said it was 40k and I gave him 30k and shut the door.

Uber Experience
Then you hear the stories of what taxi drivers have done to Uber drivers, how taxi drivers gang up and smash car windows or doors or beat drivers up. I had avoided that up until yesterday.

Just so you know, Uber drivers will take every precaution necessary to make sure they are safe. As a customer and international Uber user, I find them to be annoying and unnecessary as the whole point is to communicate through the app. They will:

  • Call/message you on Whatsapp to ask where you are. Be considerate and look around for taxi stands and avoid any highly visible/public areas, i.e. Monkey Forest Road in Ubud, Potato Head in Seminyak. If you are in one of those areas, drop a pin on a smaller street nearby that you can walk to. Reply and let them know you are not near a taxi stand, any drivers and not on a main road. If you are in an area where they know it is not safe for them, they will ask you to meet somewhere else, i.e. Dkoa Surf Hotel vs Finns Beach Club (see below)
  • Call/message you on Whatsapp to ask where you are going. This is more selfish than a precaution. One guy asked me that and then asked if there were any taxi stands around my drop off point, but most of them ask so that they know where they are going before they actually pick you up so that they can cancel if its too far/not where they want to go. I always tell them that Uber will show my destination when they pick me up

Uber doesn’t always make it easy either. The app will sometimes not include the license plate number or provide a fake one, since there have been cases of taxi drivers ordering Ubers to beat them up. And finally, the Uber location on the map will not always update/will freeze, even though the time updates from 3 to 2 to minute away, and the car is still 10 blocks away on the map.

I ordered an Uber to pick me up at Frii Echo Beach to go down to Seminyak. The Uber driver had parked about 300 ft from the hotel and the hotel bellhop called him over so that he could load up my luggage. The Uber driver seemed reluctant at first but reversed into the hotel drop off area, where I have gotten in and out of six Ubers without any problems. I opened the back door and started to put my backpack and carryon inside. As soon as the driver stepped out, six guys (taxi drivers) came out of nowhere and surrounded him and I quickly realized what was going down. As soon as I took my stuff out of the car, one of the taxi drivers took the Uber car keys and reversed the car and parked it. Before I could see where they took the Uber driver, the taxi ‘ring leader’ pulled me and told me that only local taxis service the Canggu area and that I would have to take a taxi. I asked how much to Seminyak, he replied 200k. It should have cost me 30k. I said I would find my own way. I called Bluebird and asked for a taxi to pick me up in Canggu. I asked how much and the woman replied that it was by meter. She asked for the address. I gave it to her but she couldn’t understand me. She asked to speak with someone at the hotel. I gave my phone to a woman behind the desk, who then gave it to a man, presumably a manager. He spoke with Bluebird for a good five minutes (was that really necessary? no). He gave me the phone and the woman told me that Bluebird could not pick me up in Canggu and hung up. I refused to give into the corruption and deceit of it all by taking a taxi. I took my 30kg checked bag, my 10kg carry on, my backpack and a few shopping bags and lugged them through the muddy “street,” into a back alley and onto a real, main road. I stopped to check if there were any Uber drivers around. I felt like I was being watched and followed so I walked some more before ducking into a driveway. I called an Uber and thankfully got in safely.

I hope that this is helpful and it will help you avoid my experience at all costs. Places that Uber drivers told me they could not pick me up below:

You will not be able to get an Uber:

  • At the airport. Book a private car/pick up through your hotel to avoid the hassle of negotiating a taxi
  • At Kafe in Ubud
  • At most corners along Jl Raya Ubud, Hanoman, Monkey Forest and others
  • At Potato Head Beach Club in Seminyak, Seminyak Square, Seminyak Village
  • At most places along Jl Kayu Aya, Jati (again, drop a pin on a smaller road)