When metered taxis are not a good idea in Bali

Sorry for the long time between posts. I was busy organising our fundraiser for the Rural Agency for Social and Technological Advancement (which incidentally was a great success and raised over $4,000), and then getting my Christmas cards and presents organised before heading off to Bali. That’s where we are now, or rather Lombok to be precise.

We spent our first night in Bali in Kuta before travelling east to Padangbai where boats to Lombok leave from.  2015-12-17 15.46.18Travelling around Bali, we tend to hire taxis as they are so reasonably priced and distances are short. Also, public transport is not well publicised. We asked taxi drivers outside our Kuta hotel how much they would charge to take us to Padangbai, a distance of 53km. They said $50.

I had a dental appointment before we left, and we chatted to a gay Indonesian couple in the waiting room. One was in the tourist industry and had a car. He said that his driver would charge about $30 but he recommended using Uber, which he uses all the time especially from the airport. The taxi drivers at the airport seem to have it all stitched up and all quote the same price (AU$15) – our new friend travels from the airport to Kuta for just $5 using Uber.

We’ve used Uber in Australia but hadn’t thought of using it overseas. When we got back to our hotel we booked an Uber ride to Padangbai, the quote was just $12.5. What a bargain! The driver arrived but when we told him where we wanted to go he said he couldn’t drive that far. He rang his boss to check, but no. He quoted us $60 to drive us privately for cash, but we decided we could do better than that, given our other quotes.

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Ian later discovered that Uber had charged him a penalty for cancelling an Uber ride! He emailed them to explain that it was the Uber driver who could not fulfil his side of the bargain. We are waiting to hear the outcome. It’s not the money we’re bothered about, as the penalty is only about $1, but the principle.

Meanwhile, back on the pavement outside our Kuta hotel, the next taxi who stopped and asked if we needed his services was metered. We’d been advised to use metered taxis when travelling around Bali as they usually work out cheaper. So we decided to take it.

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The traffic getting out of Kuta was very slow. The meter kept ticking over.  It soon became obvious that this was not a good idea. We were up to $30 and still only a third of the way to Padangbai. I was getting worried about how much it would cost, but our only option was to carry on or to get out, pay this taxi driver off and they try and negotiate a price for the rest of the journey with another taxi. We decided to stick with it.  The meter kept ticking over. I checked it periodically … we were soon past $50 and still a long way from Padangbai.

I told the driver this ride was proving to be a lot more expensive than other quotes we’d had. His reply was that metered taxis are not a good option for long rides. I said he should have told us before we set off, but he claimed he had no idea what it would cost as he rarely drove to Padangbai

The ride ended up costing us $73. Luckily the driver waived the 30% extra charge he could have added for a long one-way journey. Later, while walking around Padangbai, we saw taxis to Kuta advertised for $30.

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We had been ripped off, but it was our own fault. As Ian philosophically says, it’s not a matter of if you will get ripped off in these countries but by how much.

The moral of this story is that the best way to travel around Bali by car on short trips is to use Uber. On long trips, try to get an idea of what a journey should cost by asking hotel staff or taxi drivers. Then agree with the driver on a price you are happy with before you set off. That way there will be no nasty surprises!