Getting around in Bali: What not to do
A beautiful Indonesian island, Bali prompts visions of serene beaches, delicious vegan food & tranquil yoga.
Is that exactly why I went? Guilty as charged. Is that exactly what I got? Not at all.
Well, to be fair, I did eat mass amounts of tempe, took two jungle yoga classes and soaked up a hell of a lot of sand. However, getting to that stuff was WAY more taxing than I anticipated.
Balinese street culture was bound to shake me around a bit
Having recently moved from Canada to Australia, I thought I knew at least a bit about taking on a new culture. Thinking back, the Aussie infrastructure never really felt “foreign” or hard to adapt to.
Bali, on the other hand, had me feeling like a human kombucha at a Louisiana pig roast.
From the Denpasar airport we made our way to Seminyak; a relatively pricey area with great shopping, ocean villas and the famous Potato Head beach club. Anticipating our post-flight exhaustion, we pre-booked our transportation to our first villa. This bit went really smoothly. No complaints! We probably paid a bit too much, but for the convenience it was sweet.
The shit began to hit the fan on day two.
We heard from a friend that most of Bali was Uber-friendly. We ordered our first, and were told it would arrive in 13 minutes. After waiting patiently, we watched the little car icon start spinning in circles, change it’s ETA to 20 mins and then fall off the grid. It took three tries to get an Uber to actually arrive, but once it did, he was friendly and it cost us a minuscule 13,000 rupiah (just over $1 AUD) for a 20 minute drive.
After spending some time at the beach, shopping and eating a ton, we tried to order another Uber home. We soon got a message from the driver saying he couldn’t pick us up because we were in a “no-go zone.” This became a trend, especially in Ubud; many areas of Bali are still resistant to Uber. Take note of areas with transit officials and anti-Uber signage.
Overall Uber is definitely the cheapest, cash free way to get around but it’s not the most convenient.
On day three and four we tried our hand at both metre and street taxis; official and unofficial. Bluebird is the most popular official taxi company in Bali, complete with it’s own Uber-esque app. One evening, we downloaded the app and were quickly met by our "memorable" driver. We sat down in the backseat, exchanged pleasantries and then went nowhere.
Why? Well the driver began yelling “passport” at us with a frantic look on his face. “Pardon me?” I replied hesitantly, “PASSPORT,” he shouted louder while pointing at his phone. “PASSSSSPOOOOORT!”
Was I being mugged? Did this agitated little man want my identity? I’ll never know for sure. After 10 minutes of trying to communicate, we bailed. Left at the side of the road, near midnight, we had no choice but to try an unofficial street taxi. As you walk the main streets, day or night, you’ll be asked “taxi?” no less than 50 times an hour. We ended up finding a prompt and safe ride home for a fair price.
As far as taxis in Bali, it’s important to note three things.
Never say yes to the first price they quote you.
Before getting in the car, ask the driver to settle a price, and then haggle it down. Indonesian currency is confusing, driver’s know this, and take advantage of it. You can often drop the price by 50% by standing your ground.
Make sure you have the exact address and a map open on your phone
Often, the drivers pretend they know where they’re going and expect you to be able to direct them. Play it safe and check out the proper route before you get in. As long as you have a map handy you’ll be sweet.
Know that traffic can be a huge issue
We encountered the worst of it in Ubud. The popular monkey forest (which is terrifying and not worth it btw), creates a huge blockage in the middle of town. Whenever we could we walked from point A to point B. When moving hostels, we had about a 30 minute walk which was unrealistic with the amount of baggage and our lack of breakfast that day. Feeling comfortable with street taxis, we asked for a lift. Five times in a row we were blatantly turned down due to traffic. We started on one side of the monkey forest and no taxi was willing to enter the traffic to take us to the other side of town.
Know that walking might be your only option during high traffic times;
ALWAYS eat breakfast kids.