Renting a scooter in Bali can be a little tricky if you’re doing it for the first time. Many tourists are not familiar with renting a scooter, let alone driving it. There are some things you should know before climbing on a scooter in Bali, and I have summed them up in this guide.
Is it needed to rent a scooter during my stay in Bali?
The Island of Bali stretches out for about 150 kilometres North to South and 280 kilometres East to West. You won’t get very far by walking and the public transport is almost non-existent. Unless you want to stay in a 5 kilometre radius of your hotel or order taxis every day, scooters are the easiest and cheapest way to get anywhere. To be able to see as much as possible of Bali’s beauty, the best option will be to rent a scooter.
Scooters are the most popular means of transportation on the island, by far. You will see people of all ages and from all walks of life, riding a scooter in Bali. It’s not unlikely to see two adults and three kids on one bike because many families can only afford one bike. Local people oftentimes use the scooter to bring items bigger than the scooter itself, like ladders or sometimes complete closets.
The traffic at the busy roads and intersections can look intimidating at first but you will get used to it after a while. It’s the best way to get around here.
What’s the cheapest place for renting a scooter in Bali?
Scooters can be rented all over Bali but most of the cheap bike rentals are located in Kuta. Most of them have the possibility to rent for a day, a week or a month.
A normal price would be around 50,000 Rupiah (3 EUR) for a day or about 750,000 Rupiah (50 EUR) for a month. You shouldn’t have to pay much more than this.
What should I think about when renting a scooter in Bali?
It’s a good idea to look around several bike rentals and ask for prices, in the area you’re staying. You could just rent a bike for 1 day so you can use it to ride around looking for cheaper places. In many cases, your guesthouse or hotel can help you in finding a reliable and cheap rental company.
Many bike rentals don’t have set prices and the price tends to go up if you are a foreigner. Bring a local person to negotiate for you as it could save you some money.
Make sure that the scooter you’re renting, comes with a decent helmet that’s not gonna break into pieces once it hits the street. Making sure that it actually fits on your head and is relatively clean, is also not a bad idea. A helmet with a clear visor would be preferred so you can prevent sand from coming into your eyes at one of Bali’s many dusty roads.
The roads in Bali are not that great and many popular roads have traffic jams throughout the day. Because it’s not really possible to drive at top speeds for a long distance, you don’t really need a super-fast motorbike. A 150cc scooter will do.
Be sure to bring your passport or a copy of your passport, to the bike rental. In most cases they will ask for this. Don’t let them hold onto your passport. Most scooter rentals won’t ask for a license or other paperwork.
Some of the rental companies are capable of charging low prices because they make a habit of scamming the renters when they return the bike. They will point at some damage on the bike and claim that you caused it. This can be avoided if you make pictures of the bike at the time you rent it.
You should know the address of your hotel, or place of stay, because the rental company will probably want to know where they can find you in case something goes wrong.
Bring money with you as you will have to pay on the day you rent the bike. In rare cases, a deposit is also required to be able to rent a scooter.
You should always ask for the license and registration papers of the bike because the police will check these if you get stopped. Even if you have a valid license to ride a bike in Bali, without these papers you will still have to pay a fine.
What do I need, to drive a motorcycle in Bali?
Many tourists, as well as local people, don’t have the required license to ride a motorcycle in Bali. This could be a problem once you’re stopped by the police or when you get an accident.
International Driving Permit
An IDP can be obtained in your country of residence. It will have to be specifically marked for driving motorcycles and not just for cars. In order for the permit to be valid in Bali, or anywhere else in the world, you always need to accompany it with the driving license from your home country.
Indonesian Driver License (SIM)
It’s possible for foreigners to apply for an Indonesian Driver License in Bali. This is a good way for the Indonesian government to make some extra money so they made the whole process quite easy. The process of getting it does take a lot of time, however.
How to get an Indonesian Driver License in Bali
Anyone above 17 years of age can apply for an IDL, you don’t need to have a driving license from your home country. As many things in Indonesia, the price is not set but depends on your negotiation skills and whether or not you bring a local person with you. It normally costs somewhere around to 200,000 Rupiah to get it.
The validity of the license depends on the visa you’re on. If you have a Visa On Arrival that’s valid for one month, the IDL will also have a one month validity.
The process of getting the IDL can take anywhere from 20 minutes up to about 3 hours. If you go during the high season, there will be many tourists applying. If you’re willing to pay a little extra you can always skip in line though.
First you need to fill out some papers with your personal information and address of stay. After that you have to get your picture taken and sign a piece of paper. Now you can collect your credit card sized license. There is no testing of theoretical or practical skills anywhere in the process.
The police station to get your IDL can be found at Jalan Gunung Sanghyang in Denpasar. The address is pinpointed in the map below.
How do I deal with the traffic police in Bali?
Riding a motorcycle without a license in Bali will probably give you some problems with the police at some point, if you’re a foreigner. It doesn’t really matter if you did anything wrong, they will stop you and ask for your license and registration. If you can’t show them these items they will act as if you murdered someone.
Police officers all around Bali are standing on the streets, pretending to give directions to traffic. In reality they are just waiting for someone with a white skin to pull over and get money from. The traffic police can be identified by their yellow reflecting uniform and police hat, as seen in the picture below.
Traffic police on the lookout for white people on scooters
The police will tell you that you did something very terrible, as you’re driving on the Bali roads without a license. They will then proceed to ask where you’re from, what you do for a living and how long you’re already in Bali. Based on this information they will decide how much money you have to bribe them for.
It’s wise not to let them peek into your wallet because if they see you have a lot of money, they will become very persistent.
Most of the time they will bring out a book with fines in it. According to this book, the fine for driving without a license is something like 2,500,000 Rupiah. Because they are so ‘friendly’ to save you the time to go to court in Denpasar and to make it cheap for you, they will ask for a bribe.
The bribe that the police initially wants to receive can be anywhere between 100,000 Rupiah and 500,000 Rupiah, depending on how rich they think you are. This whole thing is just a game of bluff. If you get into a situation like this and you don’t have a license, you will basically have two options:
Option 1: Be friendly and pay
If you don’t want to make a big deal out of it you can choose to take the easy and fast way out. Just pay the police officer the amount he asks and be on your way. If you pay about 200,000 Rupiah, they will probably let you go in a matter of seconds. If you did something wrong, like driving without a helmet, this would be the best thing to do and you can still negotiate it down to about 50,000 Rupiah.
Option 2: Call their bluff
As the police is mostly playing a bluffing game here in Bali, you could decide to call their bluff. You can tell them to take you to court like they said, or take away your bike. The traffic police are mostly very lazy and don’t want to spend all this time on you when they can just go for the next foreigner driving on the street.
They might threaten to take your motorbike or your registration away if you don’t pay them, but this is just a scare tactic. The fine that you would have to pay if they did bring you to a police station would still be about the same what you pay them on the streets. It’s not going to be the crazy amount that’s written in their book.
Where are the traffic police’s checkpoints?
The traffic police has several fixed checkpoints where they pull foreigners off the street on a daily basis. These points are obviously in areas where there’s a high concentration of foreigners and are always close to busy intersections. Most of them are in the tourist areas like Denpasar, Kuta, Jimbaran Sanur or Nusa Dua.
If you go to the more quiet northern areas of Bali, you don’t have to worry that much anymore for the police. There are however, always some traffic police officers riding around on a motorcycle. Sometimes they stop you when they see you doing something wrong or they will just ask for your license and registration. This is a little harder to get away from without paying.
Because I’m stopped at many different points throughout Bali and know a lot of the traffic police’s regular checkpoints, I decided to put the ones I know in the map below. Very handy for anyone who wants to enjoy their time on the bike, instead of having to spend time talking to police officers on the side of the road.
What you should know before driving a scooter in Bali
Before you start racing away on the scooter it’s good to be aware of a couple of things.
Bali people are used to driving scooters. Many of them start to ride a scooter when they are about the age of 8 and they ride it almost everyday. Don’t try to keep up with them or copy their style but just try to take it easy and drive at your own pace.
Although it’s going against your feeling, it’s best to drive away if you see an accident happening. Because the conception here is that foreigners are rich, they will put the blame for accidents on you, even if you arrived after it happened. It’s better not to wait around for police to come, although you can still call for an ambulance.
Opposed to what’s the norm in most countries in the world, the traffic in Bali drives on the left side of the road. Definitely not something you want to forget while driving.
You will have to honk your horn a lot more than you might be used to. People tend to drive ‘on the edge’ out here. You will have to let people know you are coming sometimes, especially when you’re passing people and taking blind corners.
Never drive without your helmet. Not only will you be stopped by the police if you don’t wear it but if you fall without a helmet, you will seriously damage yourself.
Be prepared for flat tires. The roads have many bumps and holes which have a very bad effect on the tires. Fortunately it only costs about 10,000 Rupiah to get your tired fixed. You can find mechanics by looking for signs with the text ‘bengkel’ which are located in almost every street in Bali.
Getting a flat tire fixed should take about 15 minutes
You will have messy hair all day because you’re constantly wearing a helmet.
When you’re getting a refill at the gas station, always make sure to carefully check your change. Oftentimes the gas station crew can’t help themselves and give you a couple of bills short of what you should get. You are just a stupid foreigner after all.
You can easily avoid this by telling them you want 20,000 Rupiah worth, or any amount that will fill your tank, of petrol. You probably won’t miscount it this way and you don’t have to deal with a lot of change.
Memorize your numberplate before you drive away on your scooter. Many motorcycle parkings are overcrowded and the parking staff might relocate your bike to let others in. If you only remember the color and type, you will have a hard time finding it. Most of the bikes in Bali look very similar. It is safe to leave your bike out on the streets, even with your helmet on it, as long as you lock it but you will have to remember very well where you put it.
It can be hard finding your bike back
Always take the insurance papers with you in the trunk of your bike. The police will ask for it when they stop you and you’re also asked for it when you take your scooter on the boat to one of the nearby islands, like Lombok.
Drive careful but not scared. If you’re hitting the brakes every time someone wants to get on the road, you have the chance of people crashing into you from the back.
There are no speed limits in Bali. You can basically go as fast as you want but there are some areas with advised speeds. The new toll road between Nusa Dua and Denpasar has advised speeds in some of the corners but it’s still your own responsibility how fast you want to go.
Try to follow local people if you’re in unfamiliar areas. This is especially recommended at night when you can’t see holes in the road from far away. Local people mostly know where all the big holes are and drive around them. Don’t follow people that are driving like maniacs of course.
What are the petrol prices in Bali?
The petrol prices in Bali are extremely low. The cheapest way to get gas is at a gas station. There are many Pertamina stations around Bali that can be easily spotted. They look something like this:
“Pertamina filling station, Bali, Indonesia” by Yoshi Canopus – Self-photographed.
Licensed under CC BY-SA 3.0 via Wikimedia Commons
Depending on the size of your fuel tank, it would probably cost somewhere around 15,000 Rupiah and 30,000 Rupiah to fill your scooter. A full tank should be enough to keep your scooter driving, for about 120 kilometers at least.
Many people in Bali are trying to make some extra money by filling up bottles with petrol and selling it. You can never drive very long without passing a street stall that’s selling those bottles. The price for 1 liter is normally around 8,000 Rupiah at such stalls.
What’s the insurance situation when driving in Bali?
You’re not insured if you don’t have a valid license to drive a motor vehicle in Bali. Other than that, many insurances have a clause that will exclude them from having to pay for motorcycle accidents. Better to check in time if your insurance covers accidents like these.
Giving your motorbike to someone else to use is not allowed by most bike rental places. If an accident occurs, you are responsible for the damage.
If you want to be insured while driving a motorcycle in Bali you’ll need to have your driver license in place, drive according to the rules, have a health insurance that covers motorcycle accidents in Indonesia, be sober and wear a helmet. In all other cases, the insurance company is not going to pay.
Is it easy to get lost in Bali?
It’s very easy to get lost in The Kuta and Denpasar areas. There are many one way roads here and the streets have illogical turns and twists. Many of the streets look the same which adds to the confusion and this can make it easy to lose your sense of direction.
The area around Ubud, for example, is much easier to navigate. It consists out of long straight streets and there are actually signs with directions out here. Outside of Denpasar and Kuta the streets are more logically constructed.
To avoid getting lost, it’s a very good idea to bring a smartphone with the Google Maps app installed on it. You can buy a SIM-card in Bali for just 5,000 Rupiah, which will enable you to make use of GPS. Telkomsel would be the best network to use and you can buy credits for as cheap as 50,000 Rupiah. This should last a couple of weeks if you only use it for Google Maps.
Which places should I visit now that I have a scooter?
There are a lot of beautiful areas to go to in Bali. It would be a good idea to start off in a quiet area if you’re a first time driver. Driving with long pants on is also smart in the beginning, because there is a chance you will fall and the pants will give some protection.
I like the South part of Bali to drive around as it’s less crowded than Kuta or Denpasar, especially on the smaller roads. Another beautiful area to go to is the Karangasem district in East Bali. There are many temples to explore here and you can also enjoy the mountains and the nature.
It can be very enjoyable to drive around Bali, once you find the quiet roads
What’s the most fun to do is just cruising around and seeing where you’lll end up. The scooter can always get you to places that would be hard to get to with a taxi or by walking.