One of the first things you realize when you arrive on Bali, Indonesia, is that there is almost no public transportation. The few buses that operate can not be used as a tourist. There are plenty of taxi drivers trying to squeeze as much money out of you as possible, and it is really hard to trust one of them. Blue Bird taxi was recommended to us by our Uber driver as it should be safe and good. For us as backpackers though it is too expensive. Uber and grab car are the best alternatives to the expensive taxi drivers. Of course you can also organize a private driver and bargain about the price. Again, I find it hard to trust anyone, especially in the tourist hell of Kuta.
Our Uber experiences on Bali were very good and I would recommend it to everyone. You download the Uber app, you select your route and you can see the price for this route. If you book this route you see the name and the car of the driver who accepted your request. The remaining time until you are picked up is shown in the app. It’s very simple.
Because it is so simple and successful the taxi drivers organize themselves against Uber and grab car. There are „red zones“ for Uber drivers. In these areas they can not pick you up or drop you off because the taxi driver mafia controls these tourist hot spots. We saw big posters on many corners saying „no Uber, no grab here!“. There are stories where taxi drivers took pictures of the Uber drivers and share them within their organisation. No one knows what happens then exactly but when you travel Indonesia for a bit you can imagine. This country is based on corruption. It is not a no-go here but part of how the country works. There are many organisations we would call mafia because it’s not legal what they do. When we ordered an Uber in Kuta, Bali, and waited for our driver we were asked multiple times by taxi drivers who we were waiting for and if we booked an Uber. They put a lot of pressure on you. Here are some tipps how you can use Uber / grab car safely. These tipps are based on our experiences and given by our Uber drivers who were always a little bit worried about our and their security:
- When you install the app select „pay cash“ for the Uber rides. Do not enter your bank account details. It happened to us that one driver picked up the wrong tourists.
- Leave your whatsapp mobile number in your profile in the app. Most Uber drivers only accept bookings from people with a whatsapp number. They want to be able to contact you in case there is a problem with the pick up.
- Set a profile picture that makes it easy for the driver to recognize you.
- Chose your accommodation for the pickup. Do not wait on the street!
- If someone asks you what you are waiting for say you are waiting for your personal driver. Don’t mention Uber even if they ask. You organised a private driver. That’s it.
- You can see the car type and the number sign of the car that will pick you up in the Uber app. Like this you can make sure that you enter the right car. Don’t ask the driver if he / she is your Uber when other people are around.
- When your Uber arrives say hello to the driver as if you knew him for a long time. Use his / her name (it is shown in the app). Pretend to have seen him / her before (as a personal driver).
- When you feel comfortable with an Uber driver ask him / her if you can safe his / her number and contact him / her for the next ride. In some areas Uber doesn’t work or no one accepts your booking because it is too far away from the tourist crowd.
- Uber prices are not fix but depend on how often a route is requested. The more often a price for a specific route is checked the higher it gets! Check it once and maybe another time before you book it. It seemed that prices around 12 o’clock are the highest because it is the usual check-out time for hotels and guesthouses.
Maybe these tips seem to be exaggerated to you. But they come from our Uber drivers. They were all about to say the same things. They know best how to behave and how to avoid problems with the mafia. There are big demonstrations in Indonesia from the taxi drivers mafia. They want the government to stop Uber and grab car. In the last years the government made it a lot harder for people to become Uber drivers: they need to pay a high fee for a special number sign. Without this sign it is illegal to be an Uber driver. There are areas in Indonesia where there is no Uber. On Lombok for example the app doesn’t work for some reason. This country works differently than you and me may expect. So be careful, adjust and enjoy.