How to NOT have your Uber ride in Bali

Uber is a revolutionary application that connect passengers with drivers in a way that's never been happened before. Through the app, Uber users can easily order their ride, rent out a car only for the duration and distance they need.

More than the ease in ordering, Uber users also have the comfort of knowing how long their ride will arrive, who the driver is, along with the driver's reputation. Uber users also get the cost estimation of the trip, and how long approximately will it take to get there. Something that exists only in the wildest customer dreams in the past, despite the abundance of similar rent-based car already in service.

Rejection of Uber service in Bali

Outside of all the service and customer experience advantages, to local Bali cabbies Uber and other similar services like Grab Taxi poses a threat to their operation, which mostly prefers a haggle based pricing scheme despite having the mandatory argo meter installed.

To the government, Uber operation also raises issue since it provides similar service with taxi, but doesn't have a legal entity to operate in Indonesia. Uber's self-established pricing also violates the government rules that require all taxi tariff must undergo government review to ensure its fairness, which includes it wont severely hurt other taxi companies operating with their current pricing scheme.

Awaiting for a stricter government regulation, a zone restriction is applied by the local Balinese authority, hence the many "No Uber allowed" signs sprouted up on Bali's popular tourist destinations, and discreetly on many hotels as well.

Hotels as well? Yes, because in Bali, most if not all of the hotels must sign an agreement with local Banjar (Balinese authority village) that guarantees employment of local workforce up to certain percentage of hotel staffing, along with rights to provide specific services like hotel security and transportation for the hotel guests.

Foto: Kalangan sopir taksi di Bali menolak taksi berbasis aplikasi beroperasi di Bali ( Maruta)

In Uber's defense, they repeatedly states that Uber is not a taxi service, but they're a technology company that offers way to rent and rent out car in convenience, in cooperation with registered Uber partners to provide the cars. To prove the difference, Uber don't have a taxi armada, or have even a single car they operate as taxi.

Outside of the definition and legal battle, it's still quite possible to use Uber service in Bali as the government itself still figuring out what they want to do with modern day internet based service like Uber, Grab Car, Gojek, etc. hence no stricter action has been taken yet.

With the zone restrictions happening in Bali though, getting your Uber ride could be tricky, especially if you're in the hot tourism destination zones like Airport, Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Batu Belig, Canggu, and Echo Beach.

Uber drivers worst case scenarios

Having some riding experience myself with Uber, traveling between venues and meetings related to my Bali food blog activity, I got to learn about the different stories different drivers have, including their worst ever experiences.

Here's what the Uber drivers explained as worst case scenario they have faced related with the local cabbies and authority sentiments, where on most of those occasions they prefer to step on the gas and cancel the order from their side. It's just not worth risking a broken window glass or dents and nasty scratch marks on your car over a cancellation penalty.

Scenario 01 - The Haggler

You finished shopping at the local shop, then haggle price with local cabbies with no satisfying agreement. Instead of walking away, you then proceed to open your Uber App and order your ride, right there beside the now insulted local cabbies.

Scenario 02 - The Innocent

You finished eating in a hip restaurant, politely reject local cabbies offering their service, but right there proceed to open your Uber app and said "Yes" when they ask "Are you ordering Uber?!" despite noticing tenseness in their voice.

Scenario 03 - The Unsure

Walked out of your Hotel, doesn't haggle price with local cabbies, but order your Uber ride right there near the local cabbies parked their taxi, and constantly cross-checking the plate number of every car passing with the number shown on your Apps, thus getting all the attention from the now insulted local cabbies.

Scenario 04 - The Big City Tourist 

You walked out from the arrival gate at the airport, ordering Uber, then go to the nearest passenger pickup zone patiently awaiting for your ride... but waves frantically while yelling out loud "You're from Uber right? From Uber right?! Uuubeeer?" upon your ride arrives, attracting unnecessary attention from all the insulted local cabbies, informal cabbies using private cars, freelance tour agents, and security guards.

Some thoughts about Uber endangering local Balinese businesses

While I acknowledge the reasons local Balinese taxi drivers (and associations) about Uber operation hurting Balinese Taxis, and that all Uber cars are operating without taxi license, here's some of the interesting findings discovered from using Uber and interviewing the Uber drivers:

  • On my numerous rides with Uber in Bali, surprisingly most of Uber drivers in Bali are Balinese! They're using Bali registered cars with special tourism permit from the government, that took months to process, and costs at least 6 million rupiah to obtain.
  • Many Uber drivers are only utilizing Uber in between of their regular business of renting cars, or tour guide, meaning they're already doing the business anyway before Uber comes to Bali. 
  • Some Uber drivers are even "graduated" local Bali taxi drivers that switching to Uber for a more humane working hours and better income through the guaranteed passengers, especially during low tourism sessions.
  • Some Uber drivers are turning to Uber to come out of their hardship, e.g.: Pemutusan Hubungan Kerja (PHK), in between jobs, slow going business, etc.

Outside of rejection and legality issues, the most notable differences I experienced as passenger upon riding Uber is transparency, and consistency, which in turn establish the sense of fairness, something that most local taxi companies failed to give, for example:

  • There's been numerous cases where I arrived in Ngurah Rai from business trips outside Bali, ordering the official Ngurah Rai Airport cab, and find out that the cost of the trip varies each time, as it's determined not by a price table but by someone "official" who remembered the pricing in his head. 
  • What's consistent though is the Airport taxi price is always about 30% to 50% higher than using regular taxi like Blue Bird. Compared to airport extra charge in Soekarno Hatta Airport for example, this is quite high as taxi companies there usually charge only 15-30 K IDR for a 150K worth of taxi ride. 
  • When your Bali Airport taxi broke down, there's rarely working contingency plan. They don't provide replacement car so you have to wait until the driver fix his car, or order another taxi by your own cost.
  • When you arrives really late in Bali, the official Ngurah Rai Airport cab has officially closed down their service for the day, and what's left are haggle based unofficial taxi that has this shady "Jakarta in the 80s" aura, and even shadier condition car.
  • Ordering Bali local taxi on the street usually mean you have to prepare to haggle for the fare. As even though they're all equipped with Argometer/Taximeter, most drivers prefer the "guess your price" method, which poses real issue for visitors as they usually don't have idea how far their destination is, and what the fair fare would be. 
  • Most discussion about fairness and transparency happened online rarely ends in brainstorming on what we could do to improve the quality of Balinese taxi service, or its attractiveness, instead they're mostly ended with "Pulang saja jangan tinggal di Bali" classic closing.

From years of living in and visiting various cities in Indonesia, I do recognize that this haggle based pricing and syndicated protection is nothing new, as it also applied in various cities across Indonesia.

What I also learn from the history though, rarely the forced protection survives. In Jakarta for example, there's no more thing like Airport Official Taxi company, only regular taxi that has special permit to receive passengers from the Airport.

In Bandung the same thing happened, but on much later years. What used to be a service orchestrated in monopoly by Koperasi Angkatan Udara, are now replaced with regular taxis with special Airport permit.

While forced options or protections like the zone restriction sometimes work, however in the modern days, it's usually the customer demands that dictate the market, and shaped the future. If we failed to listen to the customers voice, sooner or later we'll be abruptly forced to change, and usually in the least convenient ways. (byms)


01. "Uber Taxi Dilarang di Bali, Grab Car Kok Boleh?" -
02. "Bali Akan Hentikan Taksi Uber dan Grab Car" -