Bali Taxi Mafia – Tips for How to Deal

Please note that some links on my site are affiliate links, including Amazon Affiliate links. As an Amazon Associate, I earn from qualifying purchases – These affiliate links help support my site at no additional cost to you. Read more about this on my privacy policy page.

The Infamous Bali Taxi Mafia has been bullying tourists for years. Wondering why there are never any Ubers in popular tourist destinations? That’s because of the Taxi Mafias which are a worldwide phenomenon pushing Ubers out.

Screen grab of a recent story from a Bali Travel FB group about a traveler dealing with the taxi mafia in bali

^ A story from a Bali Travel FB group about a traveler dealing with the taxi mafia in Bali. This level of harassment is not common but it does happen sometimes.

What is the Bali Taxi Mafia?

I remember when I was on study abroad in college the metered taxis in Rome would take me on a 40-minute ride for something that was actually only 10 minutes away, assuming because I was a foreigner I didn’t know any better (in all fairness, I didn’t know any better). Taxis have always scammed tourists – It’s almost a worldwide tradition at this point.

In the past 10 years, ride-sharing apps like Uber, Grab, Lyft, and Gojek have made this much more difficult. An app doesn’t discriminate between a tourist and a local and charges everyone the same rate per distance, drastically cutting into the revenue taxi drivers in highly touristed areas have come to depend upon.

This has given rise to the all too common Taxi Mafia.

The goal of Taxi Mafias is to drive out ride-sharing apps from their area by intimidating the drivers. In some areas, like Ubud, a lot of the drivers are local and know each other. So, if they see a new car picking up passengers they might interrogate the driver/passengers, trash the car, or even gang up and beat the driver up so they’ll leave town.

My Experience With the Bali Taxi Mafia

Before coming to Indonesia when I was researching my trip I had only read that Grab and Gojek (Bali’s version of Uber) don’t pick up in Ubud.

Later when I was actually there I discovered that wasn’t true, and that Gojek and Grab both picked up from Ubud, and I proceeded to call a car from my Gojek app.

Not only are ride-hailing apps cheaper, but I also think they’re safer, especially in areas where taxis aren’t marked. It just makes me feel safe to be able to have my ride tracked – So if it’s an option to use a ride-hailing app while I’m traveling I will.

One time I was hailing a Gojek ride in Ubud, and I was waiting on a small side road when an Ubud taxi driver saw me standing on a curb looking at my phone and pulled over to talk (lie) to me.

The conversation went something like this:

Taxi Driver: “You’re waiting for an Uber?”

Me: “Yeah, a Gojek”

Taxi Driver: “We don’t have those in Ubud, they’re illegal – get in my car instead?”

Me: “You do have them though, I just called one”

Taxi Driver: “You like breaking the law??? I call the cops on you????”

😐

At this point, the guy was freaking me out, so I walked away from him down the street and he hung around and parked his car.

I thought that was that, but once my Gojek Came and picked me up the taxi driver got out of the car and came to the driver’s window.

I don’t know what he was saying because it was in Indonesian, but he sounded angry. My Gojek driver showed him some form of ID, which after reading about the mafias might have been proof of residency that he was an Ubud local, and we drove off.

There was just one member of the “mafia” at that time, but it’s kinda scary to think what could have happened if it was a group of taxi drivers.

Although I still took many Gojeks in Ubud after this experience, I did so smarter, and never encountered another angry member of the Taxi Mob again.

Where is the Taxi Mafia in Bali?

There are many places in Bali where Grab and Gojek, the local ride-sharing apps, will pick up passengers only to be met with harassment and even sometimes violence. Anywhere that there are more tourists than locals, you will encounter resistance against the ride-hailing apps.

Recently I was at Savaya Beach Club in Uluwatu and there was a strict “No Grab” policy – It was wild at the end of the night to see very posh influencers toddle down the road in 5-inch heels to meet their Grab drivers off-site. The reason they can get away with this at Savaya is because it’s in a remote location. Finns and La Brisa Beach Clubs, two of the most popular beach clubs in Canggu, are located in very populous areas of Bali – So, you’ll have no problem taking a ride-hailing app from them.

There’s also a strict “No Grab” policy in Kintamani, Bali – Kintamani is a mountainous area of Bali that’s only known for its volcano hikes. The area is more remote, and there’s no Grab or Gojek there.

Mafia Tourism in Bali

Mafia Tourism in Bali is nothing new – I’ve encountered it at Wae Rebo Traditional Village on Flores Island, at Mount Batur Volcano in Kintamani, and at Sekumpul Waterfall in North Bali.

The most common manifestation of Mafia Tourism In Bali I’ve encountered is where tourists are required (by the locals) to use a guide for an activity that doesn’t need a guide. Usually for easy hikes. The issue arises when the tourists know they don’t need a guide, and try to bypass the rules – The locals turn to harassing the travelers or even using violence to enforce the guide rule.

While annoying, Mafia Tourism in Indonesia is merely a symptom of a larger problem of the locals being underpaid.

One of my Bali travel tips is to disregard the mafia tourism issue – Yes, it’s annoying to be required to use a guide when you don’t need one, but I’ve heard of people getting into fights with locals or getting their tires slashed in retaliation for not using a guide – In my opinion, it’s simply not worth the stress!

My Top Tips for Taking Gojeks & Grabs in Bali Despite the Taxi Mafia

  • It’s much easier to get a Gojek or Grab scooter than a car to pick you up from popular tourist sites in Bali. This is because the local taxi services don’t offer scooter rides so there’s no competition.
  • It’s better to get picked up somewhere remote. If you’re trying to take a Gojek from the main street or right in front of a tourist location local taxi drivers might harass you if they see you waiting around and looking at your phone.
  • If you do call a Grab/Gojek from the main area the driver might PM you and ask you to go down a side street or somewhere more remote.
  • Don’t listen to people saying there’s no Grab/Gojek in Bali, or that Gojek is illegal and you’ll be arrested, you won’t be.
  • Most taxi drivers / Grab drivers will give you their card at the end of a trip. You can communicate via WhatsApp to schedule a trip and negotiate a price beforehand if you don’t want to deal with possible harassment over calling a ride via an app.
Anti taxi-app sign in Ubud put up by the taxi mafia
Anti-taxi-app sign in Ubud
  • In that vein, if a taxi driver is bothering you about taking Grab/Gojek, you can say you’re waiting for your Bali private driver. Most Gojeks aren’t marked and the person harassing you won’t know.
  • If a taxi driver asks you if you’re waiting for a Grab/Gojek say no, there’s a popular trick where a taxi driver will pretend to be your Gojek driver to get your business. Always check the license plate of your Gojek driver to make sure it matches what’s on the app before getting in a car.
  • If taxi drivers are harassing you with questions (and telling you lies) don’t feel obligated to respond. Put your headphones in and your hand up and remove yourself from their area if you can.
  • If you can’t take a Gojek/Grab somewhere, use the listed price for your trip to start negotiations with taxis and private drivers. I’ve seen local taxis in Ubud try to charge 20x the amount Gojek does for the same trip.
The Grab Lounge at Denpasar Airport Domestic Terminal can arrange a ride for you.

Tips for Taking a Gojek or Grab from the Airport in Bali

Recently, Grab has partnered with Denpasar International Airport and they now have a desk arranging transfers directly from the terminal. Grab has a concierge service at the airport that will help you call a taxi if you’ve never used it before.

This is a great service, except they charge quite steep fees to take Grab from the airport. You’re paying around 1/3rd more than the normal price in airport terminal fees. If you want to save money and take the cheapest airport transfer possible, I arranging your transfer ahead of time.

Alternatively, you can walk off the airport grounds to hail a Gojek taxi. Gojek doesn’t have the same partnership with the airport that Grab does, so Gojek will pick you up from Denpasar International Airport’s parking area.

This tip works best if you’re traveling with light luggage and you can fit on a scooter taxi. Cars are less likely to pick up near the airport, for fear of retaliation from local taxi drivers. On the way to the pick-up spot, expect to be harassed and followed by a dozen taxi drivers at the airport vying for your service – It’s annoying, but remember they’re just trying to make a living!

Katie’s Tips ✶

There are no fees for taking Grab TO the airport when you depart from Bali, just when you take Grab/Gojek FROM the airport are fees applied to trips.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *