It may seem like a rite of passage to be ripped off by a Bali taxi driver during your first holiday to Bali — but don’t think it’s just the fresh-off-the-plane greenhorns that suffer the odd exorbitant taxi ride. This happens to repeat visitor, ex-pats and locals alike. Follow my guide and you’ll at least minimise the damage and know how to pay what you should be paying the majority of the time.
Unless you’re going to be a hermit (not necessarily a bad thing) and stay in your hotel or villa, venturing out in Bali is a big part of the holiday experience.
1. Catching a Taxi in Bali.
Most taxi drivers are honest, considerate people. The likelihood of catching a taxi in Bali and being ripped off is diminishing by the year. But there are some who are dishonest, inconsiderate and occasionally, downright aggressive.
Having said that taxi’s are everywhere and catching one isn’t difficult. If you are out on the streets you won’t have to walk far before a cab will appear, as they have a terrible habit of curb-crawling — inching along trying to catch the attention of pedestrians who might want a taxi by repeatedly tooting their horn — and at the same time creating a major traffic problem.
Until the local Banjar (the collective of council elders) choose to bite the bullet and assign designated ranks where taxis can park and wait for a fare, curb-crawlers are a fact of life.
You can make it easier for everyone, including the taxi driver and yourself if you already know where you want to go, confirm that the driver will use the meter, get in and get moving.
Metered taxis in Bali are incredibly cheap, so if you are travelling in one rest assured you are only paying a fraction of what you would in Europe, USA, UK, Australia or New Zealand.
2. Arguing over the price.
Inevitably, you will be asked “how much you pay”, or quoted an outrageous price for a local trip. If you are catching a taxi locally, say less than 5kms, then always insist on the meter. And if a driver uses the meter without argument, reward that behaviour with a tip! Make sure to tip at least IDR10k, which is only $1, even if the fare is as small as IDR30k.
If however your driver is asking for a set price and won’t use the meter, you have two options — refuse to accept the extortion and look for another cab, or agree to a price and accept it for what it is. For travelling locally you should never pay more than IDR50k. If you are travelling from the beachfront or somewhere popular where ride-sharing apps are banned and the locals have a monopoly you will get hit up for a lot more.
If you are at a supermarket, like Bintang Supermarket in Seminyak the local drivers will ask for a high set price and you may be better of simply walking along the road and waiting for a cruising cab. There’s plenty of them.
For other situations, like late-night taxi rides, from tourist attractions and peak hours taxi rides, I’ll deal with those situations separately later in this chapter.
3. Which taxis to get.
Bluebird Taxis are the only taxis worth getting in Bali. Of the various companies in Bali, Bluebird has the best reputation and consistent quality of drivers.
The taxis in Bali are universally blue in colour, so check for the Bluebird branding on the side of the car. Plain blue unaffiliated taxis have a much higher proportion of cowboy drivers looking for any chance to rip off tourists.
Always ask for the meter to be engaged or negotiate the price first. After you are already in the taxi and moving it’s difficult to negotiate anything and you may find yourself with a cost far in excess of what should be charged.
4. Having a taxi called to your accommodation.
If you have a taxi called to your accommodation then you’re good to go. It will be on the meter (although it never hurts to ask when you get in) and the taxi driver’s reputation is somewhat tied to the accommodation you are staying at.
The last thing they want is bad feedback from a crooked taxi driver — so there’s a high likelihood that the taxi that arrives to pick you up is as honest as the proprietor of the hotel or villa you are staying at.
If your hotel will not call a cab for you and will only arrange a private car and driver, then you have bigger problems than just transport. You are clearly staying somewhere that taxis either cannot or will not serve. If your location is remote, and you haven’t arranged what the transport cost to get from your remote location to wherever it is that you need to go, then I suggest you rethink how you plan your travel, and if the budget option is really a budget option.
There are four times a driver will argue or ask for a negotiated fare. If the trip is a long-distance (further than 10 km), during peak hours (going to or coming from dinner, sunset or an event), late at night (and you want to get home, just like everyone else) or you are a tourist attraction and have been dropped off with no plan for getting home again.
Let’s deal with these separately.
5. Long distances taxi rides in Bali.
For distances over 20
From Bali airport to Seminyak, for example, is around IDR80k on the meter. A general rule of thumb is that any ride less than an hour in duration will be cheaper on the meter than a negotiated rate. But for longer distances (for example from the airport or Seminyak to Ubud) a negotiated rate is to be expected. And Seminyak to Ubud (or vice versa) should cost IDR200-250k. Don’t forget, if you are taking a driver one-way any distance they must also factor the time and cost of the return trip.
If you are going somewhere longer than a couple of hours, I highly recommend hiring a private car and driver for the day. Most private cars are clean, comfortable, air-conditioned and will easily fit 4 passengers for the smaller SUVs and 6 passengers in the larger-model SUV’s.
6. Taxis in Bali during peak hours.
Do not be offended by the question “where you go” during peak hours. The last thing a cab driver in Bali wants is taking several inebriated souls 400m for a fare less than $3 that takes 45 minutes because of congested traffic.
Peak hours are generally between 3:30 pm and 7 pm. Before 3:30 pm the traffic will start light in the morning and build steadily during the day. Lunchtime is the best time to travel, because (obviously) most people are off the roads having lunch. After 8 pm many people have gone home after watching the sunset, at home getting ready for dinner or comfortably situated the bars and restaurants.
The exceptions to this are the tourist strips in Seminyak, Legian, Kuta and Ubud where the main streets with bars and restaurants become exceptionally congested with taxis carrying tourists to the local hot spots.
During peak hours you are much more likely to be asked for a set price than on the meter simply due to supply and demand. Drivers will normally want to avoid very short trips unless you flash some cash and make your intentions to pay well clearly known.
If you get asked the question, know the answer. State clearly where you want to go and how much you are willing to pay. Travelling by taxi during peak hour is not fun because the traffic congestion means the ride will be double the duration of when the traffic is light.
7. Getting a taxi late at night in Bali.
Getting a taxi after finishing up a late dinner or leaving one of the many nightclubs are always going to be more expensive than during the day. Virtually no taxis will agree to be on the meter and will consistently ask for a relatively high price. The price will depend on your level of inebriation, distance to destination, how much trouble you and your friends look like and the time of night.
Anywhere locally is usually going to cost you at least IDR50k early in the night and IDR100k and higher late at night. The best thing to do is agree to IDR100k and get on with it, especially if split between a few people, as the hassle of trying to get cheaper is probably futile.
A general rule of thumb is the fare will be twice whatever you paid earlier going in. Your driver will often ask for more when you arrive at your destination. Politely but firmly refuse, as this is unacceptably bad behaviour, and unfortunately far too common. Make sure you confirm the previously agreed amount before handing over your cash and make sure the change is forthcoming. A far better method is to have the correct amount ready so there is no argument over the change.
It’s a good reason to always have around Rp 200k in 10, 20 and 50k denominations.
And never, ever short-change a taxi driver in Bali. Expect serious consequences if you are incredibly foolish enough to think that short-changing a cab driver in Bali is going to end well for you. Once you have negotiated a rate, stick to the agreement even if it is over what you think acceptable. Remember, you agreed to it.
8. Taxis from Bali’s tourist attractions.
At almost all of Bali’s tourist attractions, including waterfalls, temples, Bali swings, beaches and beach clubs, a cartel of local drivers have a monopoly on transport. This means ride-sharing app operators will not be allowed to pick passengers up, often at the very real threat of physical violence. It also means you can’t call a taxi to come and collect you.
The only way is to negotiate a rate with the local taxi drivers and private car drivers who all work together. Even if you think you are negotiating with a taxi driver you may very well end up in a private car because that driver was “next in the queue”.
From places like the beaches in Uluwatu or Canggu back to Seminyak for example, prices of IDR350 and higher are the norm. Combined with your cost of getting there you may well end up paying as much or even more than a private car and driver for the day would have cost you.
It’s for that reason that I highly recommend hiring a private car and driver if you are going any distance to visit tourist attractions. That way your costs are known from the beginning, your driver will wait for you while you do your thing, you can store your gear in the car instead of humping it around all day, and generally enjoy the experience rather than getting hot and sweaty arguing over price with local drivers who have no other interest than extracting the maximum price from you considering you are stuck with no other options.
A private car and driver will cost between IDR600k and 800k for the day, depending on where you book a reliable, trustworthy driver, which means at least eight hours from the start time.
9. Ride-sharing apps.
I never take taxis whenever I can help it. Instead, I prefer to call a Grab using the app which you can download from the Google Play Store or Apple App Store. Many areas (like the airport and tourist attractions) will not allow Grab drivers to pick up, so this may not be an option for you. However, in those situations, you are better off with a private car anyway.
If using a Grab, always tip because the fares are ridiculously low. Lower than they reasonably should be, so do the right thing and tip at least IDR10k or more than the amount calculated by the app. This is an easy way to look after the locals at very little cost to yourself, engender goodwill and generate some good Karma.
As mentioned previously, only catch Bluebird Taxis and whenever possible avoid all the others. Bluebird taxis recently released their own taxi-hailing app called My Bluebird. It can be downloaded from the Google Play Store and Apple App Store.
Great confidence builder!
I was always too scared to get taxis until now. Been here a few times but just reading this everything makes sense. I now take a private driver for longer trips and make sure the meter is on in a bluebird taxi on shorter trips before letting him get going. And I always tip the Grab guys to make up for the dirt cheap price!
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