For those not in the know, the app Grab is basically like Uber but only in South East Asia. If you have spent time traveling around SEA you’ve probably used Grab in some way or another. However, there is a big problem with the ‘taxi mafia’ as they are so aptly called in Bali and the use of online taxi services. This makes it a bit difficult to know if you can use Grab in Bali.
The truth is YES, you can use Grab in Bali…sort of. Let me explain. When Grab, Uber, GoJek, and other forms of online taxi ordering apps/companies hit the market it was a great thing for travelers all over. The problem was it made it much harder for local taxi drivers to screw you on the fare. These local taxi drivers do not want to work much, just do two or three rides a day and make their entire salary that way. The rest of the time is spent sitting at the outpost smoking cigarettes and talking with friends.
This makes using Grab in Bali a little bit difficult. In many places you’ll notice signs that say “No Grab/GoJek/etc” Or “Support Local Taxi” on telephone poles or building walls. If you are near a taxi outpost it will be near impossible to get a Grab since the drivers are afraid of retribution from the taxi mafia.
We had this problem when we had dinner at Room4Dessert in Ubud since the restaurant is literally right next to a local taxi stand. While we had no problem taking a Grab from our accommodation to get dropped off at the restaurant, we could not order one home. Forced to use a driver from the taxi mafia, he originally tried to get 200,000 IDR from us before we just said we’ll walk home and he went down to 100,000 IDR. Our ride on the way there was 42,000 IDR.
If you think this is being mean to the local taxi mafia remember that Grab drivers are locals as well. It is not like I’m trying not to put money into their pocket, I just don’t want to be taken advantage of.
If it sounds like I’m being extremely negative towards the local taxi drivers…I am. I have no problem with taking local taxi drivers if the rate is fair. Places like Hong Kong, UK, Tokyo, Singapore, and more tend to have a high percentage of honest drivers (from my experience). This is not the case in Bali. In Bali the local drivers will try to make you pay $10 for a 2 km ride, which should be more around $3-4. For this reason the locals hate Grab and the like. They feel undercut.
Like I said earlier, you can pretty much use Grab everywhere to get dropped off. If you are getting picked up, just try not to be right next to a taxi outpost. I find ordering taxis to my hotels, AirBnB, or guesthouses to be extremely easy since there is usually a driveway or parking lot. One hotel told us after we ordered that Grab was not allowed, but we just met the driver right outside the front gate.
I’ve found the Ubud is definitely the most difficult place to use these types of services because it is so tight knit. There are many taxi outposts all over the main street which make it really hard to call a taxi on an app. The good part though is that most accommodations are on or near the main street so for many people they can just walk home. Or drive a scooter since it is popular to rent scooters all over SEA.
I promise this isn’t an advertisement for Grab, but it is such a useful app to have when traveling in Bali I figure I should tell you a little more about it.
In a lot of ways Grab reminds me of when I used WeChat back when I lived in China. Other than the social media aspect, it’s probably the most useful app to have for locals and tourists alike.
If it sounds like I’m being extremely negative towards the local taxi drivers…I am. I have no problem with taking local taxi drivers if the rate is fair. Places like Hong Kong, UK, Tokyo, Singapore, and more tend to have a high percentage of honest drivers (from my experience). This is not the case in Bali. In Bali the local drivers will try to make you pay $10 for a 2 km ride, which should be more around $3-4. For this reason the local drivers hate Grab and the like. They feel undercut.
Don’t feel ashamed to use Grab or any online taxi service.