It’s not the first time I saw the look of shock on someone’s face when I mention the kid’s and I love driving in Bali. I have been asked many times why I chose to drive in Bali? Do I have a death wish? Am I an adrenaline junkie? Isn’t it dangerous, scary, out of control?
The roads in Bali are a mess. Not only are most roads physically impaired with giant potholes, no markings, no speed signs, but the traffic… cars on one side, bikes on the other and in front and behind. Not to mention the lights that have several intersections going off like a clock in which half the time people don’t even acknowledge. Oh, and did I mention the roundabouts which no one goes around or the lines on the ground which don’t mean anything and a 2 lane road which is often 3, 4 or 5 lanes at any given time?
It’s an accident waiting to happen and for us, Australians who find it all so fascinating and dangerous, the pleasures of having a chauffeur drive you around for $40 a day is a small price to pay.
But what if you could do it cheaper? A scooter costs a couple of dollars a day and the tourists flock to them. Originally I had no interest in a scooter since ten years ago I came off of one in Phuket, thanks to the driver. Plus, with a 2 year old and a 3 year old I did not see that working and for all sakes and purposes why would you want to be on a road in a scooter with nothing but a hard hat on your head when you could get a car with a bunch of metal between you, the road, the holes, the elements, and the other drivers?
Driving in Bali with a Car
Hiring a car in Bali is easy to do; everyone has one or knows someone who does. During my months living in Bali, I hired a 7 seater car for 150,000 RP (approx. $16 AUD) per day. This includes full insurance. You need to make sure that is on the paperwork when you hire it so you don’t get caught out. Ask for the excess rate as well. I love the 7 seater car because for the longer day trips both my kids get a full seat to lie down on and go to sleep… with 101 things to do in Bali can they do that on a scooter?
Fuel is about 150,000 RP ($16 AUD) to fill up and lasts awhile. It works out to be less than 50 cents per liter. There are no other costs associated with it. This is approximately how much my car back home costs, before the rego, insurance and licensing…. And fines.
It does take a while to get used to it. My first trip to Kuta from Ubud took 2 hours… The 2nd trip only 1 hour. You barely get a chance to go over 50 km an hour.
Driving in Bali is actually freeing. There are hardly any rules so you can do what you want and it works. The tooting is friendly and cautionary, as opposed to bullying and threatening. You can change lanes without indicating or just drive in the middle of the lanes. The roundabouts are confusing and when in doubt following another car is always easiest. It can get hairy at busy traffic lights when all the bikes come in front and around you, but you let them take off and follow behind them and soon they are on the left scooting out of your way as you zoom past them.
Some little courtesy’s I learned while driving in Bali:
- When overtaking a bike, give them a toot so they know you are there.
- When overtaking a car, use your indicator so it and oncoming traffic can see what you are doing.
- When going straight ahead, hazards are used.
- Lights barely have a straight 4 cross way usually 5 or more. Therefore the lights only allow one-way traffic and go off in a clockwise direction… However more often then not if you are going straight you can ignore the red light if you don’t the toots behind you will remind you and get you moving.
- When parking, park anywhere you like. Some places will charge (Ubud is 2000 RP), most places do not. When in Kuta parking at Waterbom is free, but Discovery Mall is a great parking lot and only costs 30 cents per hour.
- When parking at traffic lights, ignore the lines and move far left or far right so that the 2 lanes become 4 or 5. Parking in the middle will just get someone trying to squeeze past you.
- At a U-Turn inch out and out until finally, you are so far out people have to stop to let you go.
- There is no speed limit, but the fastest I’ve been is 70km, most of the time you are driving about 40km.
- Driving in Denpasar in the day is manic, driving in Denpasar at night is terrifying, requires mountains of concentration and leads to yelling between all parties. Avoid!
- Ubud to Kuta is much faster going through Sanur.
- Dogs will not always get out of the way.
I use my smartphone GPS to navigate. It doesn’t require the Internet to run (although it does to search a destination) and the blue dot is very helpful. Still having a navigator and driver is better for this, since driving requires full attention. A lot of places in Bali (well where we live) are actually not mapped and it’s been fun just driving around and learning where to go and where NOT to go.
So am I crazy? Well, I will let you be the judge, but I drove a car for over 6 weeks with no accidents or bumps and have never seen an accident either. Everybody is courteous, bikes move out the way and no one wants to be in an accident, they love their cars and treat them really well…. It’s a shame, not the roads, but let’s face it all those bumps and curves and twists – it’s never dull.
Driving in Bali with a Scooter
Fast forward to 2019. My above post was written in 2012! My kids are now 9 and 10 years old and we scooter! Yes, we graduated from the car. And this isn’t the first time. It started when the kids were about 5 and 6 years old.
Younger I could get both of them on my bike. But at this age, it’s a little harder. They both sit behind me now, but the bike is heavier. Thank God, my partner came with me this year and made life a little easier bike wise.
The place we stayed in Ubud tried to convince me she could rent us a scooter at 70,000 RP. I said no, thank you. I know you can get bikes for 50,000 RP if booking long term. This time around being so far outside of town I ended up using a proper scooter rental service so the bikes could be delivered and picked up when we were finished with them.
Rental Scooter in Bali is on What’s App +62 813 3863 6123 and you simply send them your passport, driver’s license, dates, and details. 8 days was 850,000 RP for 2 bikes and 4 helmets. More than usual, but convenience won over.
Please be aware that most travel insurance does not cover you on a scooter unless you have a motorcycle license. If you have an accident you are more than likely not covered. That is a personal choice you need to make when choosing to hire a scooter. We have never had a scooter accident so we have felt the risk was warranted, but we have had friends who have. It’s always best to compare quotes for motorcycle insurance.
I also wouldn’t drive my scooter in Kuta or Seminyak. And this year even Ubud was getting quite busy for scooter riding. Staying outside of Ubud helped.
Ubud Scooter tips:
- On a scooter in Ubud, I barely travel over 40km.
- I avoid traveling at sunset because the bugs get in your eyes and mouth.
- I avoid riding between 12 pm – 3 pm because of the heat of the sun and the traffic.
- Ubud is a day trip for most people so avoid driving between 10 am and 4 pm.
- For me in Mas traveling to Penestanan most days the back way was way faster than traveling through Ubud center. Plus, you can stop off at Gaya Gelato!
- Always wear a helmet. My partner decided not to and was pulled over by police. He ended up paying the AUD $5 (50,000 RP) bribe offered.
- Technically you are supposed to have an International Driver’s License and if pulled over the police will ask for it or a bribe to drive without it. The scooter hire company will never check.
- When taking small paths past rice paddies try to drive fast, not slow. Slow makes the bike heavy and more unbalanced. Fast allows you to control the bike better. We saw one too many tourists in the mud after trying to slowly navigate the tight roads.
Driving in Bali is like living your life. You can get a driver and be “safe” in the back of his car, while someone steers your life for you. Your boss, your bank, your debt. Or you can get out on the road, go over some bumps, but still be free as a bird, driving where you like, when you like for much less!
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