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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 10km 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? Don’t do it. Hire a private car and driver.
- Want to go on a shopping expedition? Hire a car and driver.
2. 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.
3. 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 cartel) 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 10 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 Rp 250-350k (and sometimes much more during busy times at night).
4. 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 (more on that in a later chapter).
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 tool you will invest in while shopping like you mean it in Bali.
5. 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 IDR500k. 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 smaller cars (or the ubiquitous smaller SUV’s) 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 and 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 and knowledgable drivers with a 6-seater air-conditioned SUV you can do so using my reservation booking system here. Or read further below for more details.
6. 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 IDR200-300k.
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 top condition your driver will most likely not have a clue as to your expectations.
7. 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, understanding the real time of travel, 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.
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, don’t expect to be back at your hotel in less than 10 hours, if not much longer. Daily hire of a car and driver is usually 8 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.
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. 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.
11. How much to tip your driver.
Tipping practices in Bali vary greatly, but here is 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 -10 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 full day hire.
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 a great day out. IDR200k would be greeted with joy and the represents a real bonus for a job well done. This isn’t much in foreign currency terms – around AUD$20 or USD$14.
Considering the minimum monthly salary in Bali is between IDR2.4 and 2.8 million – around AUD$240-280 or USD$170-200, it really is a meaningful amount.
If you have a multi-day booking then these guidelines still apply.
However, there are exceptions. 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.
12. Book Ahead.
I have so many enquiries asking me to arrange or help book the trusted and knowledgable drivers I regularly use for my friends, family and villa guests that I’ve made a secure, online booking form here.
A 50% deposit guarantees your reservation and the remaining 50% can be paid to your driver on a daily basis from your first day of pick-up.
What is and what isn’t included?
Rates are all-inclusive and there are no hidden costs.
Included: English speaking, trustworthy and knowledgable driver with immaculately maintained 6-seater air-conditioned SUV. 10 consecutive hours of private driving services, fuel, applicable taxes and hotel pick-up and drop-off in Canggu, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, and Ubud.
Not included: Parking fees, entrance tickets to attractions or event tickets (if any).
How do I pay?
You pay a 50% deposit using the online booking form here. The remaining 50% is paid to your driver in Rupiah (the local currency). You pay separately for each day – no need to pay for all reserved days at once!
Do you provide half-day service?
You can hire my drivers for a full day only (10 hours). There are no refunds for unused hours. Considering how inexpensive this private driver service is it’s not really an issue.
I am staying at different villas and hotels. Is that OK?
We provide pick-up/drop-off at hotels in Canggu, Jimbaran, Kuta, Legian, Nusa Dua, Sanur, Seminyak, and Ubud only. If you are staying outside these areas I cannot provide a driver for you. If you are overnighting somewhere like Lovina or Amed it is possible but I will need to arrange accommodation at your cost for my driver. Leave a comment below and I’ll be in touch.
How can I choose tours and places to visit?
Plan your schedule directly with the driver when you meet. You can choose from some popular routes which my drivers are very knowledgable, or you can choose to follow your own tour itinerary. I’m OK with whatever you decide.
What if something happens and I need to cancel?
The deposit is non-refundable. Because my drivers have a confirmed reservation they will be knocking back other jobs they may have picked up, so the deposit at least compensates them a little if you need to cancel and not pay the remaining 50% still owed.
However, in order to make this a premium, flexible service, if your plans change during your holiday you can cancel the remaining days on your reservation and not have to pay the remaining 50% owing.
The entire remaining reservation days must be cancelled – you cannot simply cancel individual days at whim, as that is a very unfair practice sometimes inflicted upon drivers that cause them undue stress and economic hardship.
But we understand that sometimes things happen so you may cancel the remaining days of your reservation, forfeiting the non-refundable deposit, but not having to pay the remaining 50% owed for the remaining days.
Who will be my driver?
I will assign as soon as you make a reservation to ensure my best drivers are booked first. You will receive an immediate email confirmation with your driver’s name and number and reservation details.
Can you pick me up at the airport?
Yes, especially if you arrive in the morning or early afternoon so you can use the full day service after arrival. If you only need picking up from the airport to your hotel then use this airport transfer service instead.
Thank you Michael for providing such an amazing service and advice. The driver you reserved for us (Putu) is truly amazing! He took great care of us on all the days we booked and took us to places we never even knew about!! He was really cool about waiting for us when we went over time at some places and clearly knows all your secret trails. We had such a wonderful time and was the highlight of our trip to Bali. We are already booking our next trip!!!