Is it safe to hire a driver in Bali?

The most effective way to visit multiple attractions in one day in Bali is definitely hiring a private car with a driver. Sure, there are alternatives such as taxis and buses, but taxi will cost you exorbitant fees to have them driving around for an entire day and buses only cover a tiny percentage of attractions with even slower pace and multiple stops in between.

Getting a private car and driver in Bali is easy, however, finding one that is truthful, reliable and honest requires much more due diligence. And if you plan to hire one, you may want to keep an eye out for bad drivers.

Be wary of drivers pushing you to certain commissioned places

There are lots of complaints from travelers online about how their drivers were pushing them to visit places where they can make lots of money in commission.

I’ve been told stories where drivers ask the passengers for something like:

“Do you like coffee?”

The passengers simply responded: “Yeah.”

And just like that, without further explanation, the passengers are being delivered to some random coffee farm in Ubud where they hand out free samples and then proceed to push sell a bag of luwak coffee for $100. That is a straight-up deception.

How to avoid going to places you don’t want to

Here’s some tips:

1. Create your own daily itinerary prior to your trip and be straightforward about where you want and don’t want to go.

2. If your driver recommends a certain place or asks if you want to do something that wasn’t originally in your plan, take it with a grain of salt. Google will be your best friend. See what other people say about the place and trust your gut whether you want to go there or not.

3. In my experience, you can see about 4-5 places in the same area in one day, and if you want to strictly follow your own itinerary, you’ll probably have to spend extra time.  Daily car & driver hire in Bali generally stipulates 10 hours as the default duration per day and you will be charged 10% of the 10-hour price for each extra hour.

Having said that, these tips only work if the driver himself is already a reliable and honest guy to begin with.

Good vs bad drivers

All drivers in Bali, good or bad, will have their recommended places for a lot of things – from restaurants to take lunch at, to operator for tour activities.

However, a good driver will always do one of these:

a) Either he’s going to ask if you have a preferred place that you might have searched online, or

b) He’s going to recommend a place and tell you the name and the location of the establishment so that you can check for their reputation and prices on the internet.

A good driver will never force you into visiting a place in particular and always ask for your agreement and respect a “no” from you.

Meanwhile, a bad driver will try as hard as he can to sway you into accepting or even taking you to his preferred establishment without consent.

Bad drivers know that it will be of no use for passengers to reject their advance since you obviously cannot just leave your driver in the middle of the trip – your hands are basically tied until you’re dropped back to your hotel.

Good drivers, however, understand that they need to keep their integrity intact, especially in this digital age where one bad conduct could ruin his reputation forever.

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Finding reliable drivers

The easiest way to find a legitimately good driver is to seek for reviews on Tripadvisor. A lot of companies (or sometimes a community of private drivers) are listed here and they do take a lot of care about their reputation.

Even so, based on my experience working in a private car company, not all drivers are equal. There are multiple factors to consider, such as communication, map knowledge and last but not least: comfort-driving skills. A skillful driver could turn the riding experience of an $18,000 Toyota Avanza into a $40,000 Lexus sedan.

2019 Toyota Avanza

And when it comes to putting their reviews on Tripadvisor, a lot of travelers actually do put more emphasis on the driver and not the company. The relationship between the traveler and the driver can be really strong that even years after their trip they’re still in contact with each other.

My suggestion is to read perhaps 30-50 reviews on a 5-star rated company and look for the driver that is mentioned the most. Then you can ask the company to assign you that particular driver for your trip, or if he’s not available, other drivers that have also been mentioned by reviewers.

Another factor that could determine whether a driver is reliable and has good principles is from the overall price you’re paying for their service each day.

I’m a firm believer in this proverb: “If you pay peanuts, you get monkeys.”

Based on my experience in a car hire company, IDR 590,000-650,000 (around $39-$44) is what you should aim to pay for traveling around popular areas, and IDR 690,000-750,000 ($47-$52) for remote areas.

Breaking down the cost of car hire business in Bali

To help you better understand why those price tags are the ideal range to hire a daily car and driver in Bali, let’s see the cost breakdown:

Monthly car loan payment (Toyota Avanza)

This is most popular and affordable 7-seater car model in Indonesia, with monthly installment of around IDR 7,000,000 per month. That means IDR 233,000 per day.

Fuel cost

IDR 10,000 per liter or IDR 40,000 per US gallon. Depending on your travel distance, it could cost IDR 100,000 – IDR 250,000 per day.

Driver salary

IDR 100,000 – IDR 150,000 ($7-$14) per day. The more ethical and fairer the company, the higher their driver’s salary. If the guests are traveling remote, it also influences how much they earn. If the driver owns his car, this is his expectation of net income for each day.

Vehicle maintenance costs

IDR 5,000,000 – IDR 6,000,000 give or take per year. That means IDR 14,000 – 17,000 per day. However, this is before we count the costs of repair if the car is involved in a road accident, which are pretty broad but commonly mitigated with total-risk insurance.

Yearly vehicle tax and road legal fees

IDR 4,000,000 per year. That means IDR 11,000 per day.

Total cost of running a car hire business per day

In total, each day trip will cost the driver/company at least IDR 440,000 (or IDR 490,000 if they’re willing to pay their drivers top money).

Here in Get Bali Driver, we charge IDR 550,000 (USD 36) for traveling around popular areas using Toyota Avanza per day. So what about the rest of the money? That goes to our company as profits and to pay for our employees.

With such a tight margin of profit, it is understandable why car companies rarely respond to bargains despite the awareness that travelers are advised to bargain as it is part of Southeast Asian culture. These companies simply don’t have the same liberties as places like gift shops to set high profit margins.

Cheap doesn’t always equal good

I’m always wary of agents or travel apps offering way too low prices for hiring a car with a driver, because that could mean a lot of bad stuff waiting to happen.

As a customer, you will definitely be tempted by such a cheap price, and honestly you won’t even find a similar rate in Thailand, Philippines or even Vietnam. But ask any regular Balinese who owns a car (not necessarily a tourism worker) and they’ll say this is a terrible price to work for.

And remember, the agent/app needs to make their profit too, so the driver will receive a net income that’s even lower than the price listed above. With such a low price, the vehicle could be too old and prone to breaks and dysfunctional air conditioner because the pay simply cannot command for a brand-new car loan.

2005 Suzuki APV

The driver will also be hell-bent on delivering you to places where they can earn huge commissions because they simply won’t make any money by just relying on their pay from these agents or apps.

If you need help finding a reliable driver…

Look no further. Here at Get Bali Driver we have gathered some of the best drivers that we’ve personally been working with and have earned lots of reputation on sites like Tripadvisor.

Our vehicles are 4 years old at maximum, periodically inspected and maintained with clean interior and strict no-smoking policy.

Also, we allow booking up until 2 hours before pickup time, although if you want to flexible with the timing, it’s best to book at least one day before.

Click here to book our private car and driver hire service now.

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