The Grab Conflict in Bali: Solutions.
Updated: Apr 13
Bali is a super peaceful, tranquil escape from reality. I have been 5 times. I adore it here. And this morning I had one of my first “bad” experiences here. I wanted to travel from Ubud to Seminyak. The bus was 60,000 IDR but went about 30 mins from my hostel. Taxi’s were quoting 300,000 IDR, and whilst absolutely melting in 31 degrees, I checked Grab. 144,000 IDR. Great, I ordered. A guy on a bike rode up and asked if I wanted a taxi, "No Suksma". He asked if I was waiting for Grab. Hmm. "Ok. Yes, I am actually."
He replied: "Grab is illegal."
I assumed he was just trying to get me on his bike. I walked away.
The grab turned up, and I got in. A few seconds later, about 5 bikes parked up behind the car- that had pulled into a restaurant car park. The same guy said through the window, "Get out. Grab illegal you cannot use here in Bali." I said I had confirmation on my phone, and I looked at the driver and he sheepishly shrugged and told me to get out.
I got out quickly and the men asked if I wanted to go to Seminyak with them. Yes, because I want to get on a bike with men who basically just threatened me.
I walked to the bus stop, and caught the next bus and then a 100,000IDR scooter to my hostel.
This is so out of character for the Balinese people that I love. I checked online to see what the score was. And I found that these clashes were common, and actually sometimes are a lot more violent. The Balinese drivers protested Uber (that has been bought as is now Grab). They run their taxis companies, that donate a huge percentage of their taxi rates to community initiatives. These are truly community run, and community profiting enterprises.
So. Being in the line of ecotourism and ethical travel, I am conflicted. You see, I am also a solo travel right now. I support community run initiates as much as I can. But here is the practical side, the involves my judgement AWAY from my professional opinion.
Tourists famously do not like Taxi touts. It ruins the blissful Bali vibes. Its frustrating, especially when hot and lost. IF tourists WANT a taxi, they’ll approach. Being asked for a taxi 100 times down the street is annoying. I will add, if you're polite, they're polite back.
Tourists also do not like being ripped off. They do not like being charged almost 10 times more on occasions, that uber. They use uber or grab at home.
Solo female travellers do often feel scared, or nervous getting into a random cab, especially at night. Apps allow you to send your drivers info to a friend. They can track you. It’s safer.
You can order an uber or grab when rural. Especially relevant in Bali.
So, there are a lot of practical benefits to taxi hailing apps.
But of course, the local businesses have a point. They pay a lot for road upkeep. They fund local initiates. In some cases, they even built the road themselves.
Grab is sucking a lot of local dollar- and taking it to their big overseas companies. I can completely understand why the local “taxi mafia” are upset.
However, as I wrote above, taxi hailing apps are the future.
Perhaps instead of so brutally, and damagingly protesting the apps, maybe they should create their own.
Maybe they can reach out of the street touting and into the app scene, thats increasibly big. To utilise the app scene themselves. Keep it local, and within themselves.
A local company, that allows ordering, funds local initiates and allows travellers to benefit from all the things that come with ordering a taxi through an app.
I will always be an ambassador for this thriving and blissful island. But this is a problem, that will gain negative attention and damage oh so valuable tourism dollar if not addressed and a solution found.