Why I Created Ubud Taxi ServiceJanuary 16, 2019
During my recent travels, I visited Ubud, Bali. One of the first things I noticed before even arriving in Bali was that my taxi from the airport to my homestay was going to cost 300k RP (or about $20 USD). This seemed like a very high amount compared to the cost of other local goods and services - especially since the ride would take less than an hour. I shopped around before accepting the fare and discovered it was the going rate for the area.
Since I arrived so late, around 2 AM, I didn’t need additional transportation until the morning. When I woke up I spoke with Nyoman (an employee at the homestay) and he helped arrange a scooter rental for me that was located directly across the street. I agreed to a price of 50k RP per day (about $3.50) for a length of 5 days.
As you can see, scooter rentals are significantly cheaper than using a taxi, and the cost of fuel is extremely low. I wondered how the cab drivers made money aside from airport transfers since they clearly couldn’t compete with the low rental cost of local scooters.
What's the Issue?
As I expected, the cost disparity between taxi rides and scooter rentals has resulted in local taxi drivers receiving fewer and fewer fares. In addition to cheap scooter rentals, the rise of ride-sharing apps like Grab and GO-JEK (the Asian equivalent of Uber and Lyft) have contributed to a decline in local taxi use by tourists.
Although I completely support ridesharing apps (I think they increase competition, provide fair market pricing, and create a better overall service for riders), they have been banned and pushed out of most cities/towns in Bali. They are essentially being “lobbied against” by local taxi unions (or as some call it, the “Taxi Mafia”). This is something we’ve already seen play out through the US and we all know the story ends.
An Even Cheaper Scooter Rental
Once my 5-day scooter rental was up, I looked for something longer term (2 weeks) and rented an even nicer scooter at a cheaper rate of 35k RP per day (about $2.50 USD). This worked out great for me and I was able to explore all over the island and go into town whenever I wanted. Unfortunately, not everyone is comfortable driving a scooter (and I don’t blame them).
I stayed in a new location during this time that was about 10 minutes outside of town in the rice paddies. There were only 2 small shops within walking distance and 1 dining option (that had limited hours). I met a few other people that were staying there and we discussed transportation to/from town.
They were able to book a Grab from our villa that cost just a few dollars to get into town, but since Grab is banned within the Ubud city limits, they were being charged about $20 to get back to the villa (a 2-mile drive that takes around 10 minutes). This is not right and shows the extortionate nature of taxis in Ubud.
Transportation to Canggu
I ended up enjoying my time in Ubud and didn’t think about the taxi situation again until I was ready to leave for another town in Bali called Canggu. Since I planned on heading South after Canggu I knew wouldn’t be able to return my scooter back to Ubud. This left me with the options of taking a bus or booking a taxi to make the journey between the two towns.
I googled “Ubud Taxi to Canggu” and started reviewing my options. Once I found a taxi service with good reviews I sent them a message on WhatsApp (the preferred method of communication in most of Southeast Asia). I was quoted with a non-negotiable price of 350k RP (or $25). After hearing mixed reviews about the bus route to Canggu, I decided to book the taxi.
I was contacted by my driver shortly after confirming the ride and we communicated the final details through WhatsApp. I was picked up by a very friendly driver named Dewa. We started chatting right away and I mentioned a few things about my experience in Bali (including the transportation situation).
Dewa recognized that the taxi industry (something he’s been involved with for over 15 years) is quickly changing and he is having a hard time keeping up. He was worried that he may have to sell his vehicle if he can’t start making more money, and this would make it very difficult to transport his family of 6 around since they can’t all fit on a scooter.
How it Works
Dewa explained that in order to find a customer he has to solicit them on the streets (which makes sense now after being asked if I wanted a cab about 50 times while walking around in Ubud) or receive an “overflow” request from one of his friends.
A few of his friends have been able to set up websites or receive a lot of mentions of their service through online services like TripAdvisor, Facebook, etc. They’ve utilized technology to gain an advantage over their competitors, and it’s working out extremely well for them.
When Dewa receives an “overflow” request (meaning that his friends have received more taxi inquiries than they can handle themselves) he is essentially subcontracted to perform the work. This seems great at the surface but the people with the overflow requests are not generous. My trip from Ubud to Canggu with Dewa cost 350k and Dewa said he would only receive 100k of the fare.
Dewa explained that he was driving his own car and using his own fuel (neither of these are provided by the person that provided him with the request). This made me frustrated since that is not even close to a fair “finders fee”. In my opinion, a fair finders fee would be between 10% and 30% of the total fare (in this case Dewa would keep between 245k to 315k for himself).
As we continued talking I explained that I’m learning how to build websites and previously worked in digital marketing. I let him know that I would like to help him with his problem by creating a new website to represent his business.
Dewa seemed very excited and we tossed around a few names and ideas. I think he thought I was bluffing at first but I am serious about creating this site. At the least, it will be a nice project to work on for my web development portfolio (even though it will likely be a static site).
I’m going to build a website for Dewa and I plan to turn it into the number 1 search result on google for “Ubud Taxi” and “Ubud Taxi Service” (and likely many other search terms). Once the site is established and doing well I plan to get him the number 1 result on Google Maps (which is where I found my taxi). I’ve already checked the competition, and I’m confident that I can create the best site available. I told Dewa I would have something live within 2 to 4 weeks and that I would send him updates as I made progress.