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13 Expert Tips for Hiring a Private Driver in Bali

Watching the Kecak Dance at Uluwatu Temple, Bali

Hiring a Bali private driver for sightseeing some of Bali’s extraordinary attractions or just to drive you for the day while visiting markets, beach clubs and restaurants for dinner is a great idea. This article will teach you how to hire a private driver in Bali, what you should pay and help you make a booking.

1. Why hire a Bali private driver?

If you are within walking distance to the beach, shops and restaurants from your accommodation, and will only be going further for the odd sightseeing day then you only need a private car and driver on an ad-hoc basis for day tours.

However, if you will be going further than walking distance for most days I highly recommend hiring a private car and driver for the full length of your stay. Having a driver on call for most if not the whole day and evening will help make your Bali holiday friction-free because you remove the hassle of getting taxi’s in Bali on a regular basis, which can be a real pain.

Whether you and your crew are looking to spend the day at a beach club, visiting the unique attractions like temples, rice terraces, the Bali swings, some of the amazing waterfalls or just spending the day shopping, hiring a car and driver can make a huge difference.

  • If you are just venturing out locally, then hire a taxi.
  • For trips to attractions further than 5 km away, then hire a private car and driver.
  • If you will be gone for more than 4 hours, then hire a car and driver.
  • Thinking of hiring a rental car and driving yourself? Just don’t. A local driver will cost fractionally more. And he will be a much better navigator through Bali traffic conditions than you ever will.
  • Want to go on a shopping expedition? Hire a car and driver.

2. How much you should pay for a private car and driver for the day?

Let’s start with the basics. A rule of thumb is the cheapest you will get a private car and driver for the day is IDR600k. That’s rock bottom. If you are offered anything cheaper then do not take it. You are simply being set-up to pay more later from the usual scams — making you wait, being asked for more during the trip, running out of petrol or just being intimidated. You have been warned.

Realistically, the lowest amount you should expect to pay for small cars is IDR600k bare minimum. Anything less and you run the risk of being taken for a ride (please excuse the pun. It had to be said.)

An experienced driver who knows their way around, can adapt to your specific needs and has a solid grasp of English in a high-quality, air-conditioned 6-seater SUV is IDR800k for travel around South Bali and 1.000k for travel to North or East Bali. I highly recommend you set this as your budget. The great private drivers (and there are many) have a solid contact list and will make over 50% of their revenue through repeat business and referrals.

The age-old maxim of you get what you pay for is never more appropriate than when hiring a private car and driver in Bali.

And be careful of the referral from a friend who has been to Bali, possibly many times before, and has their mate Ketut to look after you. I’ve heard from many people who were disappointed in the service they were provided. That’s why I only ever work with a small, knowledgable group of drivers I know and can trust implicitly.

If you would like to book one of my trusted, knowledgable, English-speaking drivers with a 6-seater air-conditioned SUV you can do so using my private car and driver booking system. Or read further below for more details.

3. Understand the basic geography of Bali.

Don’t forget that it will cost slightly more to travel to attractions on the North and East regions of Bali. Or to look at the opposite point of view, it is cheaper to book a private car and driver if you are only touring within the South Bali region. This is simply because trips to the other side of Bali takes longer, uses more fuel and is harder on vehicles than just touring locally.

South Bali includes Canggu, Gianyar, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Seminyak, Sanur, Ubud and Uluwatu.

Attractions in South Bali include Tanah Lot, Ubud Monkey Forest, Ubud Art Market, Tegalalang Rice Terraces, Bali Safari & Marine Park, Tegenungan Waterfall, Waterbom Theme Park, Uluwatu Temple, Goa Gajah, Gunung Kawi, Garuda Wisnu Kencana, Bali Swing Park, Bali Bird Park, Pura Tirta Empul, Ubud Royal Palace, Tukad Cepung Waterfall, Kanto Lampo Waterfall, Tibumana Waterfall and of course, all the beaches from Canggu all the way down to Uluwatu.

North Bali includes Bedugul, Lovina, Singaraja, Plaga and Kintamani.

Attractions in North Bali include Handarah Golf Course Gates, Mount Batur – Kintamani, Jatiluwih Rice Terraces, Ulun Danu Beratan Temple, Bedugul Market (Pasar Candi Kuning), Lovina, Aling-Aling Waterfall, Gitgit Waterfall, Sekumpul Waterfall, Nungnung Waterfall, Banyumala Twin Waterfalls – basically all the good waterfalls.

East Bali includes Besakih, Sideman, Karangasem, Candidasa, Mount Agung, Amlapura and Amed.

Attractions in East Bali include Lempuyang Temple, Besakih Temple, Amed, Virgin Beach and Tirta Gangga Temple.

4. Be clear about the destination and what you expect.

Most drivers are reactive, not proactive, so if you ask to go to a destination that is very far away or may encounter heavy traffic they will generally just follow orders. Being proactive means discussing where you want to go, understand the realistic, expected elapsed travel time, and whether that leaves you enough time for your other destinations and the trip back home.

There is a big difference between a cheap hire and a driver who actually knows the places and attractions you want to visit.

Engage with your driver before you get in the car — don’t be pressured into hopping in and getting the trip going because he is holding the door open. Engage in straight-forward terms using simple language — and I don’t mean simple because of intellect, I mean simple because of the language barrier.

Engaging early with your driver will tell you how much English he actually understands. A great driver will begin to form a rapport with you and ask what kind of things you like and make adjustments accordingly.

Pro-tip: already know the rough itinerary of where you want to go, what times you would like to be there and engage with him so you can change plans according to conditions and not be disappointed because the clock ran out and you missed something you really wanted to see.

5. Going to a beach club or tourist attraction?

What most people don’t realise is that getting to a place is often quite easy. But getting from there back home can be a nightmare. The reason is the local transport services (think local taxi mafia) will always charge a much higher fee to get you back than it’s worth. Sometimes outrageously high.

Because they have a monopoly on the transport options if you don’t already have a private car and driver you are literally at their mercy. Depending on supply and demand and which way the wind is blowing you may have to pay up to 2-5 times the amount that a normal taxi fare would cost you.

For example, a taxi fare on the meter from Eat Street in Seminyak to Finn’s Beach Club in Canggu will cost you around Rp 120k. But when you want to leave, the local set prices will knock you back Rp250 – 350k (and sometimes much more during busy times at night).

6. Shopping expeditions can be awesome with a car and driver.

Going on shopping expeditions in Bali is why many people come here. Even leaving the souvenirs alone, the chance to buy homewares, textiles and artworks that are unique to Bali is more than tempting. It’s downright addictive if you know where to go. Along with shopping malls and supermarkets, there are local markets galore and some speciality streets for things like homewares and larger artworks.

If you treat shopping like a full-contact blood sport with bargains as the scoreboard and showing off to your friends and family back home is something you like the idea of, then hiring a private car and driver makes perfect sense.

Loading up the back of an SUV while the driver waits patiently for you to make the next “it’s like saving money” purchase is a pleasure. Trying to get a taxi while standing beside the road with a bunch of shopping bags or some seriously large artworks wrapped in bubble-wrap is not so much fun.

A private car and driver is the most useful investment you can make to lower the friction of getting around and going on shopping expeditions in Bali.

7. Booking a driver from your hotel.

Every hotel provides a booking service for a private car and driver, especially for day tours. It’s one of the many revenue streams a hotel depends on, so don’t be surprised that they take a significant markup.

Their biggest markups come from short trips where they can charge many times the rate that would be charged by a taxi. A prime example is a trip from the hotel to one of the local restaurants that are only a couple of kilometres away, and because they don’t allow taxi’s or ride-sharing providers to enter their property you are at their mercy.

I have a Golden Rule never to pay more than IDR50k for a ride to somewhere local from a hotel, and that’s being generous. For around $5 you should be able to get anywhere within a 5km radius.

If you book a private car and driver for a day tour from a hotel, expect to pay upwards of IDR800k or 1 million+ for 8 hours. That will include a 40-50% commission to the hotel and if the driver is employed directly by the hotel then the driver will likely only be receiving IDR100-300k.

If you do book a day tour from a hotel make sure you follow the next tips and make sure your driver speaks passable English, the destination is crystal clear and the waiting time and number of hours are clearly communicated with the driver.

The most common mistake is to book a driver with the hotel and expect the best. They will undoubtedly be providing the lowest cost driver possible, and while the car may be in decent condition your driver will most likely not have a clue as to your expectations.

8. Be really clear about the time-frame and how much you will be paying.

If there is one thing you can do before hopping into a private car or SUV, it’s engaging with your driver to set crystal clear expectations about how long you expect their services and the total cost.

For example, if you intend to see a waterfall on the northern side of Bali, good drivers will be quoting for a 12-hour day. Daily hire of a car and driver is usually 10 hours, plus 100k per hour thereafter.

However your driver may have somewhere to be later, so don’t count on unlimited time. Ask clearly what their expected number of hours are for the trip, and make a point to set a specific time you want to be back at your hotel or villa.

Have a look at the booking forms for hiring a private car and driver plus some speciality tours to Ubud, Waterfalls, Danu Beratan, Lempuyang and more here.

9. Waiting time is built-in to the cost of a private driver.

If you want to be dropped off at a beach club or restaurant, don’t think that you can pay less because your driver is waiting for you. The time they spend waiting for you all part of the hire, and let’s be honest — a big attraction for hiring a driver is to get going when you want to get going.

They will wait for you while you are there — that’s not an issue — but the key is communication. That’s why WhatsApp is so important. Having a good time at the pool bar? No sweat, just text your driver that you will be staying a bit longer. Enjoying your lunch and can’t be bothered hitting the next temple on the tour itinerary? Not a problem, just text your driver and let him know.

The more he knows about what you are thinking about your day the better service you will receive. Did you decide not to tell your driver you wanted to miss the next stop on your pre-arranged itinerary? Maybe he’s already headed towards where he thought you wanted to go and turning around now takes another 30 minutes. Communication is the key.

Wherever possible download and use WhatsApp, a free text and calling app over wifi, to communicate with your driver, giving him a heads-up 10-20 minutes before you are ready to leave for the next destination. He may have had to park some distance away from your current location depending on the availability and cost of parking in the immediate vicinity.

If you start your tour in the morning it will be assumed you have had breakfast. If you want to stop somewhere for breakfast make that clear, although it will naturally cut into your travel time.

The same for lunch — it’s always best to have at least the kind of food you want for lunch — be it a local warung (restaurant) or a popular well-known eatery.

10. Connect with your driver using WhatsApp.

Download WhatsApp. Everyone in Indonesia uses WhatsApp — a free smart-phone application that allows you to text and call using the Internet or WiFi, and is very cost-effective if you bought a SIM card at the airport so you don’t get hit with exorbitant data roaming charges from your home telco provider.

It’s an easy learning curve and I’ve had anyone with a smartphone of all ages using it easily and painlessly in minutes.

The best thing is you can be in constant contact with your driver, so you don’t have to worry about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. One of the best features is to send your current location via text which provides a GPS map directly to where you actually are. 

Even better — you can send a photo of what’s in front of you so there is no doubt where you are. Think about this common scenario. You are shopping your way down Ubud markets and have arranged with your driver to meet at the northern entrance when you where dropped off. The northern end is a terrible place to be picked up anyway, so you should shop your way down to the southern end of the laneway. Sending a photo makes it crystal clear where you are and avoids simple misunderstandings and mistakes when getting your driver to meet you.

11. Plan your toilet breaks and communicate with your driver.

Communicate with your driver well beforehand so you don’t get caught in traffic or a rural area without somewhere that has clean, serviceable toilets. 

A great driver will know where the best toilet stops are. Maybe at a McDonalds if travelling back via the highways from Ubud, or a little-known warung with clean and serviceable toilets in the middle of nowhere. A great driver will know where the best bathroom breaks are. Make sure you ask for a toilet break at least 20 minutes ahead of time, or at the very least your driver knows how to stop and find while travelling through suburban areas with no public amenities. 

A massive thank you for providing us with our wonderful driver

We wanted to say a massive thank you for providing us with our wonderful driver Kadek. I am so relieved we booked a private driver for 3 days as we explored around Bali. Kadek was amazing: a superb driver, so calm and understanding when our itinerary kept changing. He was patient and kind and I felt my family were in safe hands all the time, but particularly when I directed us down a back route of a very steep, winding narrow road. Thank you for providing such a reassuring service.

12. How much to tip your driver.

Tipping practices in Bali vary greatly, but here are some simples rules that will help you tip the appropriate amount and reward great service.

As I write above, the length of time a driver will be at your disposal ranges between 8 -12 hours. If you get a cheaper driver it will likely be for 8 hours, but the amount my drivers work for is 10 hours for a full-day hire or 12 hours for trips to Northen Bali.

While no tip is expected, it’s always welcome and demonstrates your appreciation in a very direct financial way while also making your driver feel valued. A small tip would be IDR50k. Less than that wouldn’t be an insult, but it could be viewed negatively relative to the total amount paid for the day.

I recommend IDR100k if your driver has done a great job and you’ve experienced an excellent day out. IDR200k will be greeted with joy and represents a sensible bonus for a job well done. This isn’t much in foreign currency terms – around AUD$10-20.

Considering the minimum monthly salary in Bali can be as low as IDR2.200.000 (or lower), it is a meaningful amount. If you have a multi-day booking then these guidelines still apply.

If your driver books tickets for attractions for something like Elephant Park rides, White Water Rafting or other adventure activities they quite likely get a commission on ticket sales, usually around 20% but sometimes more. There’s nothing wrong with this at all, as it augments their income and is a naturally accepted part of the tourism business in Bali.

Epic day…made our holiday!

What an outstanding day. Thank you Michael for putting this outstanding guide together and to Putu the Driver for a magic day. We got some amazing photos in the hills overlooking the lake (highly recommended) and LOVED the treetops advernture. The floating temple was always on our list but there is so much more to see. Go early like we did and get in front of the traffic - and make sure you have a great driver!! Epic day...made our holiday!

13. Book Ahead.

Safely and securely book a private car and driver for your Bali holiday. Whether it’s for going shopping, getting around the beach clubs or venturing out on a day tour, a private car and driver just makes life so much easier.

Since starting Bali Holiday Secrets, I have had so many inquiries asking to book the same drivers that I use for my family, friends, and villa guests that I’ve made a secure, online booking system that takes away the risk, stress and hassle of finding your own reliable, trustworthy, English-speaking private car and driver.

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