I have known of Uber’s existence for some time but have never explored its use, as there was no real need for me to do so.
At home in Adelaide, I use buses, bicycles and my feet as the main mode of transportation, resorting to a car if the first 3 choices are found wanting and use taxis only when no other alternative can be found. I’d rather get 2 buses (1 hour & $3) from home to the airport than pay $35 for the 20 minute taxi ride.
Transport options in Bali have been a source of frustration for some time;
- The public transport bus system is extremely limited and inaccessible (for where I stay)
- Footpaths are usually not available or used by motorcycles, vendors or as car parking areas
- Airport taxis have a monopoly and are 300% above the cost of a metered taxi for the same distance
- Freelance drivers (who call out “transport”) are usually much more expensive than a metered taxi
- Other than Bluebird, most taxis are extremely reluctant to use a meter.
Faced with the need to get from Kuta Beach area (near Kuta Square) to the Sindhu Beach area of Sanur, I decided to install the Uber, GoJek and Bluebird Taxi apps on my Android smartphone. I looked at Grab Car but did not complete the installation as it demanded (unlike the other 3), full access to my Contacts details.
The Uber app is well designed, intuitive and generally very easy to use. It does require (as do GoJek and Bluebird) a local sim card be in your phone, to complete the registration process.
Of the 3 I’ve played with; Bluebird is the most difficult to set pick up and drop off details, its map sensing very poor compared to Uber or GoJek. It is also the most expensive for the trip that I wanted to do, double the cost of either GoJek or Uber but still under the 150,000 Rp asked by the hotel.
I chose to use the Uber app over GoJek, primarily because I associated GoJek with motorcycle transport, having added car transport more recently.
The Uber app is easy to use:
- It identifies your location very accurately and allows editing if it is slightly off
- The search function for your destination has all the speed and usability of Google Maps
- It displays how many cars are near you and how long one will take to reach you
- The fixed cost is displayed (1 to 4 people) and you’re 1 click away from booking
- Once booked, the app displays the drivers name, the vehicle type and registration number
- The cars progress to your location is displayed on the map and also in minutes
The vehicles that were sent for each of my 4 trips were quite new, clean and of the popular Kijang style, ie. a vehicle that looks like a small 4 wheel drive but is more of a people transporter. The drivers had limited English but used the Uber app on their smartphones to guide them to your destination so any need for conversation is entirely optional.
Prices for the same route vary by the time of day, possibly related to travel time. For my Kuta to Sanur trips, I paid 56,000 Rp to get there around midday and 48,000 Rp to get back at around 0745 hrs.
NB: don’t click the ‘request now’ button until you are ready to leave – all cars arrived within 5 minutes, at the correct location.
Enroute, your progress is displayed either on a map or along a timeline, each showing expected arrival time. There is the option of sharing your trip with others from your contact list.
After the trip, an email is sent from Uber with a receipt for the journey and opportunity to rate the driver. If you rate the driver or view the app after the ride you will find the option of sharing a code with others that can result in trip discounts for both you and anyone else who registers from the code sent by you.
I’ve read reports and seen large signs that indicate Uber and GrabCar (but not GoJek) are not at all liked by the existing taxi and transport services in Bali (or other parts of Indonesia).
Certainly those drivers that sit at the side of a road and ask people as they pass, if they want “Transport”, and then ask for 50% to 100% more than a metered taxi and around 300% more than Uber or GoCar, will not like the competition.
The first Uber driver I got (and I suspect others are the same), also worked for a transport company that offered to provide other services. He quoted me 80,000 Rp from my hotel to the airport (3.8 Km) when he was driving me 13.8 Km to Sanur for 57,000 Rp.
I haven’t explored the issue of insurance cover during the Uber trip, but, I would suspect, and have assumed, that there is none. I am also unclear if any insurance would be available from any freelance drivers or even taxi companies (with the possible exception of Bluebird).