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UBER IN BALI: The Status and Story of the Online-Based Transportation Service Favored by Many

UBER IN BALI: The Status and Story of the Online-Based Transportation Service Favored by Many

Bali, praised for its culture, spirituality and outstanding landscapes, is nevertheless way less renowned for its public transportation services. As this highly significant public facility has been nearly non-existent, for the past few decades the number of cars and motorbikes on the island has been growing exponentially.


Alongside with the above issue, the number of taxi services, especially in the south part of Bali, has shown to have increased over the years; creating a vast contribution in job opportunities while filling the big hole of transportation services demand. In the previous years, taxi services were limited to the national and local taxi companies which include the exclusive airport taxi companies. However, for the past year, like other big cities across Indonesia, Bali has joined the other urban areas around the world in its participation of making the greatest use out of online transportation services, such as Uber.

As reported by local news, Uber was recently accused by the local taxi driver organizations to have presented unfair competition. The matter became serious enough for the local government to get involved in this conflict between cab drivers in Bali and the new competitor.

Uber operation raises an issue since it provides similar services as licensed taxi companies, while not having a legal entity to operate. The Ministry of Transportation has stated that the application-based taxi service violates the Law of Republic of Indonesia Number 22/ 2009 concerning road traffic and transportation as well as the Law of Republic of Indonesia Number 6 / 1983 regarding the general terms and conditions related to taxes.


Both of the above violations were used as the legal ground of the Ministry of Transportation in its communication to the Ministry of Communications and Informatics to ban the access of Uber and all the similar kind of mobile applications which are considered to violate the above laws nationwide.

Uber, which has now been launched in almost 400 cities in 68 countries worldwide, has been estimated to be worth $62.5 billion last year. This rather new addition to the options of transportation services on the island has quickly earned a great place in the market, and became one of the most preferred brand, especially when compared to the regular and/or major taxi companies or those that are operated by local taxi associations around the island's tourism areas.

Uber is known to provide customers with the comfort of knowing the driver's distance from the ordering location, the estimated price of the trip and approximate time needed to reach the determined destination; all through the application. While on the other hand, it is pretty common to hear stories about local drivers who refuse to put the meter on, which is one of the popular scams on the transportation side of Badung regency. This is one of the reasons why a lot of people; locals, expatriates or tourists, decided to go with the certainty, comfort and rates offered by services like Uber.

From another point of view, according to the Bali Taxi Drivers Association (Pesotab) and Bali Alliance of Local Transportation Drivers, the ride-hailing and taxi-booking services are illegal and destructive to the livelihoods of independent local taxi drivers.


As a response to all those concerns voiced, on January 21, 2016, the Transportation Department of Bali issued a ban against Uber. The ban was issued after an official meeting between the Bali Province Department of Transportation (DISHUB) and the Bali Organization of Land Transportation (Organisasi Angkutan Darat - Organda) along with the association of freelance drivers in Bali.

Even though it is still possible to use the application-based transportation services, finding a ride can get pretty challenging, especially if you're in high profile tourism areas like Kuta, Legian, Seminyak, Canggu, and the airport zone, to name a few.

However, the socialization of the ban and its specific details are reportedly still considered to be quite blurry, indicated by the many Uber drivers who were interviewed claiming that they didn't even know about it. Awaiting for further concrete actions to be implemented especially in relation to the mobile application access which is still available and fully functional, despite of the central government laws and regulations as well as the ones issued by the provincial related departments, the Balinese customary villages authorities has applied zone restrictions as evidenced by the many "No Uber allowed" signs spread around the above-named destinations.


A local online news portal, also reported that an official from the Bali Transportation Department stated that following the official ban and the signs put on by the customary village authorities, the related department has been actively conducting roadside inspection on Bypass Ida Bagus Mantra, targetting those illegal transportation vehicles. However, with the mobile application still free to access, the online-based taxi services has shown to still operate as they've normally been for the past year. 

Uber has even opted to defy the ban by offering helicopter rides over the island and free car trips in the capital of Bali for a week in February and has continued to operate in Bali ever since.

However, it's safe to say that Uber has been largely successful thanks to its attractive fares, which goes as low as half the fare charged by a ‘regular' taxi company. That being said, in a place like south Bali; where public transportation is hardly even existent and minimum wages are far from enough to afford a car or the occasional regular cab fare, Uber has served as an affordable and safe option to many.


The laws, regulations and bans are out there, each highlighted for how it affects the future of Uber in this country. However, Uber has still been around until these days. It appears that this story might not be quite over yet; so let's see what happens next.


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