Taxi etiquette in Indonesia?
April 16, 2014 1:56 AM   Subscribe

Yesterday I took a (metred) taxi in Bali. Upon arriving at my destination, I attempted to pay the driver. He said "no sir, no sir" and made me get out of the taxi, at which point I paid him by passing the money to him through the open passenger-side window. Is this some kind of local taxi etiquette? Is there a reason for it?
posted by modernnomad to Travel & Transportation around Indonesia (10 answers total)
This is a tradition in the UK too. A London taxi driver recently told me that it was so drivers wouldn't have to twist around and face the back seat so many times in a day, causing back and neck strain.

My guess is that the driver you encountered either had very definite ideas on How Things Are Done, or had a bad back.

(Bali is a popular destination for Australians; I don't know whether Australian taxis do this or not.)
posted by Pallas Athena at 2:19 AM on April 16, 2014

I've been regularly travelling by taxi for a few months now (mostly in and around Sanur/ Denpasar), and I've never had any encounters such as the one you describe. I had quite a few drivers trying to hike the price up from what the meter showed (or even not use the meter in the first place), so could see this maybe as a stab at that.
posted by miorita at 2:20 AM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Miorita, funnily enough this was in sanur. No issue with meter either. And if there was an issue where he was trying to up the meter, it would seem to not make sense to try and do it when I was already out of the car and could easily just walk away.
posted by modernnomad at 2:38 AM on April 16, 2014

Something else did actually occur to me: if you phone for a taxi, some companies (such as Blue Star or whatever the name) have a minimum charge of around 25,000 Rupiah, rather than the frequently smaller sum marked by the meter. A couple of times when I phoned for a taxi rather than flagging it down in the street, I was trying to pay the fee shown by the meter (plus tip), and they kept going "sorry", and "no, bla, bla", and it took a while to understand what was going on, given that my Bahasa Indonesia is rudimentary and their English wasn't great either.

Could this have been it?

Have also asked my friend who is a long-termer here if this might be gender-related (a lot of things here seem to be), and if taxi drivers might have different behaviours for male and female clients (assuming that you are male, of course!), and she doesn't think this is the case.
posted by miorita at 2:45 AM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Male, but with my wife (we are both non-Indonesian). We flagged it down on the street and it was a blue star or blue bird taxi. Based on your comments about drivers trying to avoid the meter (and having had similar experiences elsewhere) the one possibility I can think of is that perhaps he hoped we would give a bill that required a lot of chnage, and if I was outside the taxi he could just take off without giving me the change. As it was it was a 17k charge and I gave him a 20 with no expectation of anything back.
posted by modernnomad at 2:54 AM on April 16, 2014

(Bali is a popular destination for Australians; I don't know whether Australian taxis do this or not.)

Not in my experience. But also, a lot of Australians will sit in the front passenger seat, especially if travelling alone.
posted by pianissimo at 3:00 AM on April 16, 2014 [3 favorites]

I'm Australian, and have been to Bali about 8 times (including living there 6 months). This is not a 'thing' in either Australian or Balinese taxis, to my knowledge, and I've caught a lot of both. Also, Bluebird is pretty reputable; I'd be surprised if he was trying to rip you off on a 20 000 Rp trip.

Of course, anything's possible, but I'd guess he's just an anomaly (or misunderstood something).
posted by Salamander at 3:19 AM on April 16, 2014

When I was travelling in Indonesia with a friend who works there a lot, she usually did the paying and she always got out and paid through the front window. She is Australian. Usually they would argue about the fare at that point, and she would sometimes conclude it by just shoving her money at the driver and walking away, so it seemed to me it was WORSE for the driver like that than to have the passenger kind of captive while paying.
posted by lollusc at 3:20 AM on April 16, 2014

Taken tons of Blue Bird taxis in that area. Never seen anything like it. And almost always only charged a fair on the meter fare. Just a weird thing, I think.
posted by Gotanda at 4:49 AM on April 16, 2014

Response by poster: Yeah I took another bluebird taxi the next day and that time the driver happily took my money from me when I was in the back seat. Guess i'll just chalk it up to a weird personal thing for that particular driver.
posted by modernnomad at 6:54 PM on April 17, 2014

« Older Impending pet death (probably). How do I take care...   |   What Am I Good For? Hopefully Absolutely Something Newer »
This thread is closed to new comments.