Generations ago Indonesians realised that they have something special. A gorgeously landscaped country that is virtually unrivalled, they knew it would attract visitors from far and wide and would eventually become the place for world class hikes, beaches, culture and history. Back when tourists first arrived on the shores of Java and made their way to Bali they were met with warm locals keen to share what they had with outside eyes. And word spread, those few visionaries have helped turn parts of Indonesia into places or pilgrimage for year round backpackers and Australians looking for sun during August.
The Indonesian government keen to get in on this tourist influx introduced eye watering split pricing that see’s tourists paying insanely excessive entry fees to anything worth seeing. Rumour has it a tourist was seen looking at a tree, as he walked away an Indonesian official quickly set up a ticket desk with fees similar to that of the observation deck at the Empire State Building in New York. The reality is, though many tourists shore up the extortionate fees many arrive expecting paradise and then are stunned to find they simply cannot afford it.
No where is scamming more blatant than with Grab in the following places: Probolinggo, Banyuwangi, Bali. When Grab first extended it’s reach to East Java and Bali, local taxi drivers that had spent years fleecing tourists were up in arms. Their excuse, they didn’t want international companies profiting at the expense of locals. I put that into google translate and it came out as following: They didn’t want tourists getting a fair price.
Their argument is weak, many international companies operate in Indonesia. McDonald’s and KFC for example, surely they are taking money away from local Warungs? The reality is simple, these scumbag drivers that for decades have been refusing to use the meter, threatening tourists, and charging insane prices aren’t happy that they can longer feed their greed. So what do they do. They operate in areas on scooters and threaten Grab drivers. One driver refused to pick me up and made us walk a few hundred meters in Bali to meet him. He explained that the ‘taxi mafia’ threaten him with violence if he doesn’t pay them, and then leave the area not to return.
On my last trip to Bali I stayed at a place called Kosta Hostel near Seminyak, a no Grab pick up area. I walked outside the hostel with my bags and kids and a driver appeared out of nowhere asking where I was going. I asked if he would use the meter and he refused, saying that to go to Ubung bus terminal (for Java) was a fixed price of 300K. I walked away and another driver appeared, no meter, 500K. We walked about a mile, and used Grab. The ride cost 45K, but the driver refused to drop us at Ubung bus terminal because he said it was a ‘red zone’ and not safe for him.
This goes known, noticed and completely unpunished. You only have to do a search of Bali taxi reviews and you will see just how often tourists are scammed and just how desperate these conmen are at keeping going the famous and extremely boring Bali taxi scams.
Do yourself a favour, get Grab on your phone and check the price of a journey. Don’t be one of those tourists that compares the prices to those at home, you are not at home. Every time another tourist pays extortionate fees for a taxi ride these scumbags tick another box for a time to come. Walk a little, get Grab, and stay safe.