A man rolled up in a darkly tinted car and shouted for us to get in QUICKLY. This was just one of the scary experiences we had while taking Grab in Indonesia.
Recently, I went on a trip to Indonesia. I started my adventure in Bali and later on made my way to Bandung. I wanted to take Grab in Indonesia everywhere I went.
Arriving in Bali close to midnight, all I wanted to do was take a Grab from the airport to the hotel so I could settle in and get some rest.
But this proved to be a challenge. I got my SIM card from the counter at the airport, changed my number on the Grab app and started looking for a ride.
The first driver accepted my ride and it said he was 10 minutes away. After waiting for about 5 minutes, the driver cancelled on me.
Frustrated but determined not to have to give in to taxi touts at the airport, I tried again. The next driver was just a minute away. This time, I wouldn't let him just cancel on me. I called him, tried my best to communicate with him in Bahasa Indonesia and told him where I was.
"NO, NO, NO!" came the reply over the phone. It was not possible for him to pick me up at the International Arrivals Hall, he said.
I was puzzled. But I eventually got into a Grab car in an isolated, dark corner of the airport. Feeling a little scared, I asked the driver what was up. But he told me he would only speak of it when we got out of the airport.
Fast forward a few days later, I landed at Bandung city's Husein Sastranegara International Airport. Seeing Grab posters everywhere, I was confident that getting a Grab would not pose an issue. I was wrong.
The Grab driver accepted my ride and requested I walk out of the airport. WAY out. We walked till we reached the main road, there, we saw him waving at us. From ACROSS the busy street. We had no choice but to drag our luggages over.
Another scary experience was when I was in Canggu, Bali, waiting for a Grab. The driver didn't tell us that he was arriving. A black car pulled up in front of us, windows tinted black and a man shouted for us to get in QUICKLY. In a panic, we hopped in and he sped off, only explaining to us later why we had to leave in such a dramatic fashion.
Why was it such a big deal to take a Grab in Indonesia? I soon found out.
Grab has quickly expanded across Southeast Asia. From its headquarters in Kuala Lumpur, it has brought the ride-sharing service to 191 in this part of the world. But many cities, still stuck in its old ways, refuse to accept Grab. Taxi drivers, insisting that their livelihoods are being compromised, protest against the service.
In places such as Bali, Bandung and even Siem Reap in Cambodia, Grab drivers are bullied and often times, even beat up. Passengers are not spared.
Every Grab driver we met in those cities were taking the risk. They admitted that while the fares were lower than what they would get in the past, the volume of rides more than made up for that. They no longer had to sit idly by, waiting for passengers to come by. Or worse, beg (and cheat) passengers.
In certain areas, taxi drivers or local transports resemble gangs and fiercely protect their territories. Most airports are marked high danger areas, like in Bandung. In Bali, beyond the airport, areas like Canggu and Ubud are incredibly dangerous for both passengers and Grab drivers.
For my experience in Canggu, we were already being watched by taxi drivers, the Grab driver told us, which is why we had to rush into his car and he sped off so quickly.
My best friend arrived in Bali the same night I did. He had 3 Grab drivers cancel on him and he waited over an hour, hoping to get into a Grab. In the end, he had to fork out S$20 for a ride into the city.
In comparison, I only paid S$6 with Grab. I called my Grab driver to ask him where would be best to meet him and I had to speak the native language (Bahasa Indonesia). He explained to me that the taxi drivers had claimed the International Arrivals Hall as their territory and any Grab driver seen there would be beat up. He feared for his life.
He requested instead that we walk to a quiet part of the parking lot at the International Departures Hall. We told him which pillar we were waiting at. He picked us up and we were on our merry way.
If you're lucky enough, you might find a driver who can speak a little English. But to be safe, you should be prepared with a couple of phrases just to get you by!
You might be expecting to see a white Honda City coming to pick you up, but instead a silver Toyota Innova shows up. In other cities, this is a huge red flag to not get into the ride. But for Grab in Indonesia, it is the norm.
My tip? Send a message to the driver to ask him what car make and colour he is driving, so you know what to expect. It is also a great way to confirm that you do indeed want a ride and won't be cancelling on him when he is on the way.
Unlike the rest of Indonesia where tips are pretty much expect everywhere, drivers for Grab in Indonesia don't expect tips. However, since the ride is already so cheap, I tend to give them a little extra for their bravery and honest nature as a driver for Grab in Indonesia. They will be incredibly grateful for this and it is a good encouragement for them to continue as Grab drivers, knowing that not all passengers are cheapskates!
What do you think about the situation surrounding Grab in Indonesia? Have you experienced something similar too? Share your story with us.