Riding a scooter in Bali is both an essential experience while visiting Bali and an incredibly dangerous one. Here’s everything you need to know about riding a scooter in Bali so you can stay safe and be prepared for your adventurous trip.
Riding a Scooter in Bali: The Basics
Before we get into the tips on how to ride a scooter in Bali, let’s go over a few common questions.
Is it Dangerous to Ride a Scooter in Bali?
It definitely can be dangerous to ride a scooter in Bali. Especially if you haven’t done it before or if you aren’t wearing a helmet.
If you plan to ride a scooter in Bali, you need travel insurance in case of emergency. I’ve seen way too many posts in the Bali Facebook groups about someone who got into a scooter accident in Bali and needed funds or the hospital wouldn’t perform surgery / give them blood, etc.
I’m not sure what ends up happening in those situations since we’ve been lucky to never have to visit the hospital because of a scooter accident, but I wouldn’t risk it without insurance.
Do You Need an International Driving License to Ride a Scooter in Bali?
This is a very controversial topic, but one that I have quite a bit of experience in. We lived in Bali for 6 months and have visited since then.
No, you do not need a license to ride a scooter or rent a scooter in Bali. Although there is a possibility that you get pulled over a receive a fine from a policeman, the truth is that you would probably receive a fine anyway.
The only way you might avoid a fine is if you have a Motorcycle license in your home country and then you get an International Driver’s License that is marked as a Motorcycle license.
How do I know this? I’ve tried it! I was pulled over in Bali and received a “ticket” for not having a license.
The word “ticket” is used loosely, as you don’t actually receive any ticket at all. You are actually just paying a bribe to a corrupt cop so that he will let you continue to ride your scooter in Bali.
I was frustrated with getting pulled over, so I decided that on our next trip to America I would get an International Driver’s License.
Although we moved to Thailand after that instead of Bali, we still got pulled over by corrupt cops (most of Southeast Asia is very similar in this aspect).
I gave them our International Driver’s License and they pointed out very quickly that the license is only for driving cars, not scooters or motorbikes.
So unless you have a Balinese Driving License for Scooters or a License from your home country for scooters/motorcycles AND an IDP, there’s not much of a point in getting one.
How to Get an International Driver’s License or Permit to Ride a Scooter in Bali?
If you want to get an International Driver’s License, they cost about $20 per person at AAA.
Just know that the cops in Bali want your money, so back in the day having an IDL might have helped, but by now I bet they have learned that you need a motorcycle license and the license won’t mean a lot.
If you get one, to save money just get them for the people who plan to drive. I never had one, even though I drove sometimes.
Jake drives most of the time, so I figured only he would need one. I’m glad I did that too since it proved to be a waste of money anyway!
Which Side of the Road Do They Drive on in Bali?
They drive on the left side of the road in Bali.
Why Try Riding a Scooter in Bali?
Well, first of all, the taxi services in Bali are CRAZY expensive. Not only that, but they are a terrible rip-off. During our first week in Bali, we were too scared to hop on a scooter right away, so we decided to take an Uber to get where we wanted to go.
Whoops… Can’t do that. In most areas in Bali, there are laws against Uber drivers (or GoJek, Grab, and other pick-up services used in Indonesia) even entering the area!
There are giant signs that say “Drop-offs only! No Uber!” Therefore, our millennial brains were stumped.
Since we were living in a more local area in Canggu, Bali, we just started to walk. We thought “We’ll just keep walking until we find an area with Wifi that allows us to get an Uber.” Instead, we walked for about 15 minutes and were not finding any free Wifi…
So, we stopped a blue taxi car and showed them the address on our Google Maps. He said he could take us there for 100,000 rupiahs (about 7 bucks). Problem solved, right?
Nope, he took us about two streets down and told us that we were there. “Uh… no, this isn’t it.” He insisted it was, and we showed him the map again.
He got all angry and sped off, immediately demanding double what we had agreed on in order to get us there. I was not about to get ripped off since we showed him the exact address on a map and it was his fault.
He kept yelling and asking for more money, and I said “100,000 IDR or drop us off here because you aren’t getting any more money than that.” So the loser dropped us off on the side of a busy road, about a 30 minutes walk from our destination.
It’s safe to say I have never stepped foot inside a Bali taxi ever again. And that is why we decided to drive a scooter. It’s the cheapest option and the quickest.
Tips for Riding a Scooter in Bali
So now that you know why, here are the keys to help you understand how to drive a scooter in Bali:
1. Honking Your Horn Does Not Mean What You Think it Means
People in Bali aren’t angry people. In America, when I honk at you, you can safely assume that I am pissed off and have already sent a stream of cuss words your way. In Bali, the honk means “Hey buddy, here I am!
Don’t forget about me! I’m just right here.” Since most people scooter in Bali for transportation, this is extremely important to understand. Whenever you want to pass someone, or you are unsure at all if they have seen you, just honk!
2. There Are No Rules About How Many Cars Can Fit Into One Lane
It’s chaotic, but you fit somewhere. Any space that is open will be filled, so don’t be afraid to fill it!
3. The Balinese Generally Don’t Look Both Ways When Switching Lanes
They really don’t. They just go. This is why honking your horn when you plan to pass by someone(either a car or a scooter) is very important. Chances are, if you don’t, they might just hop over unexpectedly because they are assuming that no one is there.
4. The Inside or the Outside?
When there is traffic (which there always is) you will be so happy you are not in a car. However, you shouldn’t be swerving through cars. Our rule here is to choose the inside or the outside of the line of cars, depending on where the locals are going and how much room there is to drive.
That means you can either pass the cars in front of you by going close to the sidewalk or by crossing into the oncoming traffic lane. That sounds more dangerous than it actually is.
It is very common in Bali for cars to drive for short or long periods of time in the opposite lane in order to pass slower cars, and there are no markers telling you when to do this.
5. Wear a Helmet
Not just any helmet either! Make sure that it actually buckles and that it fits your head! If you rent a bike from somewhere, you can trade out the helmet if you don’t like the one that they gave you or if it doesn’t work properly.
Plus, it’s the law. If you are a tourist and aren’t wearing a helmet, you will get pulled over and fined. You will get fined for not wearing a helmet AND because you probably don’t have an international driver’s license (whoops, those are pointless.)
6. Don’t Drive Too Late at Night
We try to be home by 10 at the latest if we are taking the scooter in Bali. Yeah, we’re married so we don’t really “party” and this may sound like a boring rule, but it has kept us safe!
It’s fine to drive at night as long as your bike has lights but driving too late at night means you could run into drunk drivers or worse: dogs that run into the road without any warning.
7. Drive Much Slower When You Enter a Local Area
Just like in the States, except for different reasons. When you are driving in America and you have to pass through a small town, you should slow down because that’s usually where the cops are.
In Bali, that’s where tourists and dogs are. Both of them have a hard time judging when it is a good time to cross the road.
My friend, Nate, was coming home from a grocery store pretty late at night and had a head-on collision with a dog. He flew over the handlebars of his bike and his groceries were strewn all over the road.
Luckily, the Balinese are quick to help when something goes wrong, but he got a few good cuts and the dog is most likely dead.
8. Slow Down
There are no speed limits in Bali. None. But that doesn’t mean you should drive like a maniac as fast as you can. Things can change very quickly in traffic, especially if you are following a car or a taxi. Just be smart and SLOW DOWN.
9. Watch Out for the U-turners
On busier roads, there are a lot of opportunities for illegal U-turns. I say “illegal” because there are signs and roadblocks up saying don’t do them, but everyone does.
Even in front of cops, and nothing happens. Just know that these people come into oncoming traffic going much slower than they should be and at times you have to come to a complete stop(especially if it is a car).
10. The Security Guards
When I first came to Bali, I had been warned thoroughly on the internet about Balinese Police stopping tourists to get their money. So when I first heard the whistles blowing and a man walking out into traffic while waving his hands, I thought we were in trouble.
Turns out, this is super normal here!
Businesses will pay a security guard to help their customers enter and leave their business without waiting for centuries for an opening in traffic. So the little man will walk out, blowing his whistle while most Balinese rush past him trying to ignore him.
Eventually, he gets traffic to stop, and the car (or in the worst-case scenario, the tour bus) gets out of the parking lot and onto the road. Then the security guard waves everyone past and the world goes on.
This happens a lot, and if you are on a scooter, you can usually just pass them without having to stop. However, if everyone else is already stopped and the car is coming out, don’t be that guy.
11. Get a Scooter Lesson from Someone Who Knows How to Drive
Before you head out on the crazy Bali streets, make sure you find a place where you can practice a bit. We made the mistake of taking our brother-in-law out on the roads AS a practice lesson instead of teaching him back at the Airbnb.
This ended in him getting in an accident about 2 minutes into the ride. Even the shortest lesson just driving around the front of your hotel or Airbnb could make a world of difference. Make sure you know where the brakes are, how to turn on the bike, how to park, etc.
And last, but the most obvious:
12. NEVER DRIVE DRUNK
This really should be obvious, but since we’ve lived here two Australians have died while driving scooters in Bali… and guess what? Alcohol played a role in both of them! We don’t drink, so that’s about the only advice I can give you on that subject
Renting a scooter in Bali is a huge part of the experience itself. As long as you are smart and very careful, it will be a highlight of your trip!
Choose your Bali Scooter rental carefully, check out this guide for tips.
If you are looking for a place to rent from, we rented from Edy’s Tour (it’s about 10 steps away from the Google Maps location and is called “Edy’s Tour”, not “Rent Bikes”) for $35 per month (you may have to haggle to get this price).
UPDATE: Edy’s Tour is no longer in business. The best way to go about renting a scooter safely is by talking to your Airbnb host to put you in contact with someone. The price might not be as cheap as if you did it yourself, but it will be much more convenient.
Of course, when you rent monthly the price will be a lot lower than if you are renting daily or weekly.
Well, hopefully, this post helps you stay safe in Bali! Comment if you have any questions or worry about riding a scooter in Bali or elsewhere in Asia! (:
If you want to learn more about our time in Bali read this post about How 6 Months Rent in Bali Cost Us Less Than $2,000.
MORE POSTS ABOUT BALI THAT YOU SHOULD READ BEFORE YOUR TRIP:
- Should You Move to Bali?
- The Cheapest Restaurants in Bali (Under $5 per Meal)
- How to Get from Bali to the Gili Islands
- The Famous Instagram Bali Swing For Cheap
- How to Get to Komodo Island from Bali
- The Best Bali Private Drivers
- 10 Amazingly Cheap Villas in Bali for Under $100
Remember to be safe! Pin these for your next trip to Bali or Southeast Asia!