Getting a taxi in any country can be a random hit-and-miss experience, and getting a taxi in Bali is no different. And just everywhere else in the world, most taxi drivers are solid, honest and hardworking. However, Bali is no different from anywhere else in that there are some dishonest drivers and plenty of scams to watch out for.
During the Covid pandemic pretty much everything in Bali shut down, and for the past couple of years, taxis almost completely disappeared from our streets. Now that Bali is reopening after the Covid pandemic taxis are becoming more and more prevalent, and it won’t be long before they start clogging up traffic by curb-crawling – the practice of slowing down almost to a stop to follow tourists walking along the sidewalk, tooting and trying to attract their attention for a fare.
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 taxis 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, the USA, UK, Canada, Australia or New Zealand.
2. 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.
All other taxis are also blue in colour but are driven by independent operators who have a well-deserved reputation for unscrupulous practices when it comes to ripping tourists off.
3. Arguing over the price
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.
Sooner or later, 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 off simply walking along the road and waiting for a cruising cab. There are plenty of them.
There are generally four instances a driver will argue or ask for a negotiated fare. If the trip is a long-distance (further than 5 km), during peak ho
urs (going to or coming from dinner, sunset or an event), going to or from a tourist attraction and have been dropped off with no plan for getting home again, and late at night (and you want to get home, just like everyone else).
Let’s deal with these separately, but first a quick note on getting a taxi from the airport.
4. Getting a taxi from the airport
You can’t get a taxi from the airport, full stop. There are no taxi ranks, and while a taxi kiosk was recently installed that offers a taxi ticket purchasing system, I’ve used it with varying degrees of failure ranging from annoying to epic.
Sometimes it works, sometimes it doesn’t. But even when it does work, the reality is you are simply being funnelled towards a private contractor and not a real taxi.
And never forget, the touts that claim to have a taxi ready for you as you run the wall of waiting for drivers after exiting the arrivals hall are all playing the same game — hooking you into agreeing to take their taxi knowing you have likely come off a long flight, are a bit stressed and faced with unfamiliar surroundings.
And just like the taxi kiosk, the “official” looking transport options as you leave customs and enter the arrivals area are playing the same game as well. Wealthy businesses are simply selling you a private car and driver, who is generally underpaid and keen to make a bit extra by engaging in the scams common for airport transport operators everywhere.
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5. 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 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.
6. Long distances taxi rides in Bali
For distances over 5
From Bali airport to Seminyak, for example, should be around IDR80k on the meter. However, you will never get that price as the “taxis” from Bali Airport are regulated and will cost you at least 4 times that amount.
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 IDR250-300k. Don’t forget, if you are taking a driver one-way any distance they must also factor in 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 in the smaller SUVs and 6 passengers in the larger-model SUVs.
7. 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, are at home getting ready for dinner or are comfortably situated in 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 hours is not fun because the traffic congestion means the ride will be 2-4 times the duration of when the traffic is light.
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 IDR800k and 1,000k for the day, depending on where you book a reliable, trustworthy driver, which means at least eight hours from the start time.
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9. Getting a taxi late at night in Bali
Getting a taxi after finishing up a late dinner or leaving one of the many nightclubs is 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 is acceptable. Remember, you agreed to it.
10. 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.
One of the big problems in Bali is the appalling and sometimes violent treatment of ride-sharing drivers in many areas of Bali by the local taxi mafia. Depending on where you are staying, you may see large, intimidating signs stating that Grab or Go-Jek is banned.
Drivers have been physically assaulted and passengers abused by the local private taxi and transport operators who are desperate to hang on to their monopoly and practice of exorbitant price gouging.
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!