Updated 2019: Bali fulfills many dreams – from beautiful beaches to lush forests, from surfing the waves to relaxing among the rice paddies, from historic sights to nature & adventure. Thankfully, you can see a lot without spending a fortune. But there a plenty of taxi scams and there is no public transport, so check out my travel tips for getting around Bali to make it easy and to save some money- from airport taxis to bemos bali and the buses of Perama Tours Bali, from the Bluebird taxi Bali to using grab on Bali!
Getting There: Bali is blessed with many non-stop flights to all the major airports in the region, allowing you to get there easily from Europe, North America, the Middle-East or anywhere in Asia. What makes it even better is that all the regional low-cost carrier fly there, with bargain flights from Kuala Lumpur or Bangkok on AirAsia, from Manila on Cebu Pacific, from Singapore on Scoot or from Australia on Jetstar or Virgin Australia! While flights marketed to Bali can be expensive, an insider tip is to buy a cheap ticket to one of the many main hubs – and an even cheaper onward ticket to Bali! For a flight I purchased recently, the fare difference pays for several nights of hotel stays, so it’s worth a try! If you have time to buy your ticket, you should sign up for the promotional emails of these budget carriers – they have frequent sales and the tickets sell out quickly! If you are planning a trip on miles, you are in luck – all the major alliances have multiple flight options there, so you shouldn’t have a hard time to find availability!
The main airport on Bali is Ngurah Rai International Airport, Denpasar (DPS), in the South of Bali, a short drive to the many beaches and about 1h to Ubud. The new international terminal opened in 2013 – and it is gorgeous! There are plenty of shops and restaurants and you’ll even find a great Priority Pass Lounge Bali!
From/To the airport: Arriving in Bali can be overwhelming – countless taxi touts will rush you as soon as you leave the immigration area and their scams can put a damper on your vacation. The easiest way to avoid this and start your vacation without hassle is to ask your hotel to pick you up. It is more expensive, but the most comfortable way (for example the Indigo Seminyak charges IDR250,000).
A transparently priced and reliable alternative is to use grab, the ride hail service that took over uber in South East Asia. They now have pick-up areas, both at the Domestic and International Terminals. They are marked with signs from the Terminal and each is located on the 3rd floor of the parking garage booth at the Domestic Terminal and at the International Terminal. The International pick-up has staff that can assist you in finding your driver, making it easy for first-time visitors. This new-found convenience comes at a price: In a nod to the local taxi mafia, grab has increased the prices FROM the airport – they now cost as much as the authorized airport taxis. You still have the convenience of credit card payment and greater safety and reliability, making this my personal choice and recommendation for travel from the airport.
These are really the only two alternatives I can recommend – the local taxi situation is (again) an unpleasant mess, designed to rip off foreign visitors: The official aiport taxis (aka the taxi mafia) used to have fixed (relatively fair) fares with a board stating the official rates to different areas of Bali. That was replaced last year by a booth offering metered taxis, resulting in about the same fare.
Unfortunately, the situation has gotten worse since last year: The “official” booth no longer offers metered taxis and has removed the board of fixed fares. Just like the taxi touts, they will now quote whatever price they want, in my case 3x the previous fixed rate!
Getting Around: If you are planning to explore the top tourist sights of Bali, like Lake Batur, Pura Besakih or Pura Ulun Danu Beratan (and you really should!), I recommend to hire a driver. A car & driver for an 8h day will start at around $35. You’ll most frequently find a Toyota Avanza (see photo), good for up to 4 passengers, or similar vans. You’ll pay more for larger or nicer cars, a longer day or distances! It allows you to go wherever you want, whenever you want, and the drivers know most of the frequently visited sites and have GPS systems for the not-so-well-known ones! You can reach most of the major sites within 2h from South Bali or Ubud, so you can see a lot in a day! You can ask your uber driver from the airport – many of them will do day tours as well!
Insider Tip: One-way trips to Ubud or further afield are relatively expensive (because the driver won’t be able to do a full-day tour), so consider combining the ride to a different hotel with seeing some sights – have the driver pick you up in Ubud, take you to a few sights and drop you off at your beach hotel at the end of the day!
grab is the easiest, most convenient and least expensive way to get around South Bali, with plenty of drivers available in Seminyak, Legian, Kuta or Nusa Dua and now Ubud and I strongly recommend to download the app. It’s easy, safe and offers inexpensive and transparent pricing. You can pay by credit card or even with cash, if you prefer!
If you don’t have a smartphone or don’t want to use grab, there is only one taxi company I can recommend on Bali – and that’s Bluebird! They have developed a reputation for being reliable, safe and honest, always using the meter and not overcharging! They look like the one in the picture. Unfortunately, there are many dishonest drivers for other companies who are charging 2-5 times the metered fare! They will refuse to use the meter and demand a fixed fee. If that happens to you, just get out and get another taxi! They all know about Bluebird’s stellar reputation – and are shamelessly copying their design, so now most taxis on Bali are blue, have a bird in the logo and “Bali Taxi” on the side. Your best bet is to look for the “Bluebird Group” on the front windshield. Be aware, some of the fake, scammy taxis now have “Blue Biro Group” or similar on the windshield, so look closely. Or, you can download their app or ask your hotel to call and order a Bluebird taxi directly. Similar to grap or other taxi apps, you can see the taxi on a map and know their arrival and license plate. I used it and loved it!
If you want to rely on mass transportation instead, your best bet is the Kura Kura bus – it’s connecting the major tourist spots along the beaches in South Bali and Ubud. They charge a fixed fee of under $2 for a ride along the beach, $4 to Nusa Dua or $7 to Ubud. They are mini buses, air conditioned and even have wifi on board. While you can connect between the different lines, the traffic in South Bali is pretty crazy, so I wouldn’t rely on their published schedule to much. Take your time – or stick with simple routes without connections. You can find out more about them here!
The traditional mass transport, Bemos (mini vans or buses with benches down the side), are becoming less frequent, are not very comfortable and are harder to use. Ask your hotel or locals for help with bemos Bali and make sure you know where you are going and where to get off. They run on defined routes and have fixed (but unpublished) fares, so ask locals for what you should pay. If you are the only one onboard, make sure the driver understands that you are not chartering the van for a private ride – or you’ll pay a small fortune! They’ll pick up and drop off passengers along the way, so it will take a while.
For longer trips, especially for solo travelers on a budget, I recommend Perama Tours Bali. operates a number of scheduled buses, for example to Ubud or Lovina. The maintenance and features vary greatly, so you might want to buy your ticket at the station after seeing the bus! It’s very cheap – and you pretty much get what you paid for!
You can also rent your own car and drive yourself – and that’s a whole experience on it’s own. Cars drive on the left side of the road, the roads are narrow and there are few signs. While rumors persists that there are traffic rules, nobody cares, so the biggest truck/bus/car has the right of way and everybody pretty much does what they want. Thankfully, most drivers pay attention, so if you do, too, you will be fine! You can read this advice for a better understanding of what to expect. I’d recommend to stick with a car & driver – it’s much more relaxing for little extra pay and you get to enjoy your journey from the moment you get in! You can also run a motorcycle or scooter all along the beach – but the same rules apply. Traffic is chaotic, accidents are frequent and as a foreigner the police won’t cut you any slack on the traffic rules – so be careful!
If you don’t mind traveling in a tourist group, you can of course also sign up for one of the many tours sold all-over Bali. They go to all the major sights every day. You will be going in a large group, most likely on the same schedule as the other groups, putting you into the sights at the same time as lots of other people. You’ll also have stops at some shop along the way – all of which takes away from the relaxing, beautiful place Bali truly is. I’d only recommend that if you are traveling solo and on a budget – for everybody else, hiring a car & driver is a much better way to see Bali! If you try to save money, try to put the key sites into one day, find somebody to share the ride with and get a driver together! You’ll have a lot more fun for about the same amount of money!
Now that you know how to get to Bali and around the island, you should check out my travel tips where to stay and what to do:
Travel Made Easy: Bali – Where to Stay