The Battle of Online Cabs in South East Asia: Uber, Grab or Go-Jek?

I remember getting lost in the city that I had never been before with the language that I barely spoke, hailing a cab to get me somewhere without knowing how to tell the driver about your destination could be really difficult. Nowadays, with the emergence of Uber and then some similar platforms, life is a whole lot easier!

In the past few years, I get used to traveling around South East Asia and the existence of these platforms are so handy at times.

From my home country Indonesia to Uncle Ho's Vietnam, I gotta say Uber, Grab and Go-Jek are applications that I would not delete from my phone as long as they operate. But which one is the best amongst the three?

Hard to tell, but everything has its perks so stay tuned! 😉


Uber was the first transportation platform that I've got on my phone. Not only because it's pretty much the pioneer of online cab application, but also because I could rely on credit card payment through this app while the other applications didn't provide cashless payment back in the day.

Based on my experience, the interface of the apps will be automatically changed based on the country that you're in. For example, in Indonesia and Thailand you will find UberMotor options while in Singapore, instead of UberMotor, you'll get something like UberEats for food delivery.


  • Uber is available in more countries than Grab and Go-Jek. It's like, when in doubt, choose Uber.
  • Credit card payment is available, and even at some countries preferrable.
  • They often give you surprise promo!
  • Uber is available if you're planning to get across the border from Johor Bahru (Malaysia) to Singapore.


  • Their bad publicity with their ex-employees calling out sexual harassment with also the video of Travis Kallanick telling one of the drivers off.
  • I hate the fact that sometimes when I use credit card payment for my transaction, I couldn't reach the driver so I had to cancel it but then they have already charged me partially.
  • Refund for similar case is possible through some procedures. But in the name of lazy people in the world, ain't nobody got time for that!
  • The surcharge fee can be hella expensive.


Originally from Malaysia, Grab is a big competitor for Go-Jek in Indonesia. You could totally find a GrabBike or a million in the city of Jakarta. The only difference is that Grab focus on the ride service such as GrabBike, GrabBike, etc.

But I gotta say, Grab is my first platform option whenever I travel outside Indonesia. They have expanded their market to Vietnam, and GrabBike is available in Uncle Ho's country.


  • Their fee is somewhat cheaper than Uber with a relatively more stable tariff.
  • The best application of the three in my opinion due to more advanced map. Also, for some, they provide a messaging platform for passengers to communicate with their drivers directly.
  • Credit card payment is available.
  • Particularly in Indonesia, they have merged with Kudos for GrabPay, their cashless payment.


  • For GrabPay, it's not particularly easy for me as I don't have Permata Bank or BCA's account in Indonesia. It takes more effort for me to use GrabPay.


When I heard that FoodPanda was going to close its operation in Indonesia, I wasn't surprised because well, Indonesian people have pretty much everything in one app. Why choose another app when there's one app that provides you food delivery and even sends you a masseuse when you feel like having a massage?

The existence of Go-Jek undoubtedly eases people's lives in Indonesia. Although at the same time, it gets people even lazier than ever. Especially for someone like me who barely likes to go out.


  • Go-Jek has so many features, from Go-Ride to Go-Glam, and I even heard that they're about to launch a new feature Go-Pet. Everything you need in one app. Literally!
  • The fee is the lowest amongst the three in Indonesia. With a fixed price and surcharge.


  • Only available in Indonesia and India.
  • The application often gets troublesome. Once I ordered food and couldn't find the driver so I canceled it when my battery got drained. Turned out, I actually got the driver and because of the error system, the order wasn't canceled until I got the message a few hours from the assigned driver when I turned on the phone. He bought my order and was waiting for me as I charged my phone. Thank God I used GoPay for this service, plus I tipped him extra due to the guilt.

The Battle of the Three

So, which app is the best to travel?

Well, I think all of them have their own perks but if I got to choose one out of the three, I would probably choose Grab due to their wide-ranged availability.

Unfortunately, in Indonesia, the use of credit card payment for this platform isn't that effective since most of their fleets would request to cancel the order unless getting paid in cash. Indonesia is still a cash country after all.

For the platform that I like the least, I gotta say it would be Uber since I often got bad experience ordering Uber. From unreachable driver that costs me extra and I got charged for nothing. So far, that's my last option for my travel.

Based on my experience, I would rank like this:

  1. Grab
  2. Go-Jek
  3. Uber

How about you? What's your best option to travel in South East Asia?

Update as per March 2018: Uber has stopped their operation in South East Asia and transferred their operational matter to Grab.

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7 thoughts on “The Battle of Online Cabs in South East Asia: Uber, Grab or Go-Jek?”

  1. A very nice and detailed article I must say. Personally, I’ve never used Go-Jek, so it’s a very interesting insight.

    When I was back home in Croatia, Uber is very popular and I was actively using it. When I arrived to Hanoi, I was looking for Uber but I really didn’t like it and one of my friends recommended me Grab.

    I’m using Grab everywhere now as it’s so easy to use it and it’s also kind of cheap.

    Such an amazing article filled with many information.

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