6 STRANGE BUT USEFUL FACTS ABOUT BALI (TO KNOW BEFORE YOU GO)

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2. Taxi cartels are everywhere

Local taxi cartels (I personally call them the taxi mafia) are one of the biggest threats to Bali’s reputation as a tourist-friendly destination. I know this because I’ve personally experienced the challenges of finding a trustworthy taxi service in Bali, since I don’t rent scooters to get around!

One night, my mom and I had a seriously unpleasant experience trying to get from Canggu to our hotel in Seminyak. First off, I was unable to book a Grab (Southeast Asia’s equivalent of Uber) or even Blue Bird taxi (the one reliable taxi company in Bali) from Batu Bolong beach, because it’s “forbidden territory”; only a few private-hire drivers in a dimly-lit carpark taunted us with extortionate prices, knowing our only alternative was to walk for miles in the dark.

After walking some distance inland from the beach, we met a kind lady from Dubai who’d somehow managed to book a Grab ride and she gave us a lift back to Seminyak – while she sat in front so that the driver could claim he was picking up a friend.

Back in town, I thought that it’d be safe to use Grab to get back to our hotel. However, when waiting for our Grab driver to pick me and my mom up outside a convenience store, a few taxi drivers waiting along the roadside kept staring at us. When our ride arrived, one taxi driver angrily confronted our driver after we’d got on and kicked his car door before storming off!

ALMOST ALL TAXIS IN BALI ARE BLUE AND FEATURE A BIRD LOGO; CHECK THE LIVERY FOR THE BLUE BIRD WEBSITE AND OTHER SIGNS OF AUTHENTICITY (CLICK IMAGE TO LEARN MORE).

This isn’t a problem with technology disrupting the local economy: Bali’s taxi cartel problem has been around even before the rise of Uber/Grab and tourists are often warned to only use Blue Bird taxis, whose drivers follow metered rates instead of overcharging like other taxi companies do.

In less central areas like Uluwatu, hotels are even forced to use private taxi services run by locals! In the words of one hotel owner I spoke with: “If we don’t, they’ll make things difficult for us. The landowners here all know each other and they want in on good business. I’ve even had another property razed to the ground by local gangs due to some conflicts.”

What to make of this: If you want to explore Bali but don’t want to ride a scooter, it’s best to hire a credible, trustworthy driver and guide.

  • For a driver, try Anthony (WhatsApp +62 813-3310-4078) – he’ll match the rates on Uber/Grab and you can also book him for airport transfers, day trips and so on.
  • For a guide, I highly recommend Pak Yuda – a highly witty and wise elder I met in North Bali, who was my source for some of the facts in this post. Email askyuda@yahoo.com to inquire on his availability.
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