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Published August 22nd 2018
Grab, Gojek, Kura-Kura will save you money and angst
Photo @nadinecresswellmyatt Well I think it's a Bluebird Taxi
From when they first arrive in Bali to the moment they leave tourists are serenaded with the chorus 'Transport, transport. You want transport?'
@nadinecresswellmyatt navigating the footpaths in Bali
And of course, you need transport as the footpaths can be full of rubble and it's too humid to walk. And in some areas, the roads are so congested that motorcyclists find it easier to mount the pavements and that is hell if you are a walking tourist.
And in some areas, the roads are so congested that motorcyclists find it easier to use the pavements.
But if you have done your research you also know the rules. Don't take up offers of street transport. It is not worth the haggling and the cons. Better to get a taxi.
Then comes the second level of warnings. Make sure the driver turns on his metre. Have the correct notes to avoid the 'no change' scam. And what gets passed down as traveller's lore from the expats – only use Blue Bird taxis.
But then a number of taxis that aren't affiliated with the Blue Bird Group camouflage themselves as such. There are even online forums dedicated to how to authenticate a Blue Bird taxi with tips from look for a V on the door, to the shade of blue of the duco.
But tourists, unlike the expats, don't have a degree in Blue Bird spotting. So it is worth noting their new app called My Blue Bird Taxi, so you can book a verified Blue Bird on your smartphone.
Grab & Gojek
Uber has been incorporated under the banner of Grab in Indonesia since March 26 this year. You may have heard rumours to the contrary but the Jakarta Ministry of Transport legitimised the ride-sharing sharing economy on Nov 1, 2017. Perhaps because it a service also widely used by locals."Taxi too expensive. Use Grab,"said the owner of a warung after I admired her amazing cooking and she, in turn, rewarded me with this piece of local advice.
Just like Uber, you download the Grab app on your phone entering your location and destination. It comes up with a fixed price that is roughly half of what a taxi would charge.
The normal wait is about six minutes. The driver will message you through the app to confirm the pickup point. These messages are sometimes translated by the app into English.
But most times if I was in a restaurant or a shop, I would hand over my phone to one of the young people working there to respond. All Bali establishments take great care of their customers. Booking taxis and helping you with Grab is all part of the great service.
Grab drivers are locals and sometimes even women, so there is the feeling of helping the local economy. There is also added security in knowing your journey and the driver's identity is being tracked.
The motor scooter app equivalent is GoJek. You will see young boys scooting around town like an army of ants in their bright green jackets. You book to ride pillion on the back and they legally have to supply you with a helmet. They will also run errands such as picking up your takeaway food, groceries, laundry and movie tickets. The cost is around $1 per service.
Because Bali's major industry is tourism and because tourist numbers can decrease overnight (concerns over Mount Agung erupting and more recently earthquakes) there is a glut of taxis and not enough customers.
A taxi driver might get as little as one ride a day so there is a tendency to maximise how much they are paid by taking circuitous routes. Enter competitors like Grab and GoJek and tensions flare.
Taxi drivers resent the competition and there have been issues with drivers working within the alternative digital economy being verbally or even physically abused. One Grab driver told me a taxi driver had broken his glasses. To avoid such issues I would not be ordering a Grab close to a line of taxis.
You will also see signs declaring 'No Grab, Taxi Drop Off Only'. These scary signs are in areas that are harder to get to such as Ubud, Jimbaren Bay and Canggu.
Outside the busy tourist spots you can be beholden to local and sometimes unscrupulous taxi drivers who have a monopoly of getting you out of there.
Local taxi driver groups put up the signs marking their areas as they want a monopoly on driving tourists out. These trips will also cost you a lot more.
After I visited Finn's Beach Club, I was at a loss as to how to get back to Seminyak without resorting to circling and vulturish cries of 'Transport, transport'.
I asked in the surf shop, as young people always know the answer to tech-related questions. I was told to walk about eight minutes to the other side of the restriction sign, which fortunately was near the Koa D'Surfer Hotel so I could wait in the lobby after ordering my Grab.
Kura –Kura Bus Service
Bali has no public transport, which is why tourists are often at the mercy of unscrupulous taxi drivers. It is, therefore, worth knowing about the expat-owned bus service Kura-Kura that covers most of the tourist areas including Nusa Dua, Sanur, Kuta, Legian, and Seminyak. It even runs regular shuttles to Ubud.
The little green buses are marketed to Asian tourists but there is nothing to stop Australians from using them.
Buses have free wi-fi and run every 30 minutes to over two hours in outlying regions. They run into the early evenings, Kura-Kura also offers an app where you can check their bus schedule. You can see your closest stop on their maps and where your bus is in relation to this. There is an online messaging service where you can also ask questions in English.
Despite Bali's hectic traffic these buses normally run on time @nadinecresswellmyatt
While Grab and out of area taxis are banned in some tourist areas, these buses have unlimited access. I used it for return trips to Ayana Resort (to visit the famous Rock Bar) at Jimbaran and also to Ubud.
The help desk with help in English - photo @nadinecresswellmyatt
A single trip costs Rp. 20.000 (about $2) a day's pass costs ($10) and a three-day pass $15. And you can use your pass for long day trips such as the 90 minutes to Ubud.
In my experience, these buses were punctual and even when there was no one waiting at a stop the bus driver would always pull in, just in case. They are Bali's equivalent to the type of hop-on-hop-off buses that travellers are accustomed to and a great answer to solving your Bali transport needs.
A lot of Australian tourists also use private drivers in Bali and this can be a highly desirable option. Sometimes such drivers come as part of a package if you rent a villa (suggestions here) but if you after a recommended driver, it is worth checking out the Facebook group Bali Groupies. This is where tourists who love Bali answer questions from other tourists who are planning to travel there. One of the common requests is asking for recommendations for reliable and honest drivers.