Thinking of driving around Bali on a scooter? Not sure if you should? Here is a few things you might want to consider before you go.
Recently we spent a week driving around the coast of Bali to see some of its amazing sights. Driving in Bali is an amazing experience. We drove about 400 miles around the coast, see all the sights on a 125cc scooter.
1.Don’t trust turn signals
Bikes, cars and trucks will drive with turn signals flashing, in the obvious anticipation of a right turn coming up in 15 miles. Give anything with a turn signal on a cautious approach, also give anything without a turn signal on a cautious approach, simple. Always expect the unexpected especially at junctions. Often if it is a local and they have a passenger, the passenger will signal the turn with a wave of the hand, far more reliable.
Remember they drive on the left over here most of the time however every so often you will see someone coming the wrong way. Another common occurrence is the presence of a parking guy outside most establishments, he will stop traffic with his whistle and stick often just walking out in front of you to force you to stop. This is really helpful for you when you are trying to cross a busy city street after you have parked up for lunch.
Without doubt make sure to wear a helmet, firstly for your own safety and secondly the police will stop you and heavily fine you if you don’t. Bring a mask to save your lungs from the pollution (can be picked up in any Indomart or local store). You will be thankful of this the first time you are stuck behind a truck in traffic.
Make sure your bike isn’t a dud, my first rental bike in Bali could barely climb a hill and constantly would overheat, in general the newer the better. I went with a Honda Vario but maybe a Yamaha NMax might be a more comfortable ride for such a long journey. If you do go Honda Vario or similar try for the 150cc engine, a big more power for the hills.
The price of helmet and bike rental can be anything from 10 dollars to 100 dollars for a week. It obviously depends on size of bike and condition. Shop around to get the best deal, and more than likely you can bargain the rent down a bit.
A full helmet with visor is preferable, there will be some bugs about especially at sunset time. As you can imagine it is not that pleasant to have them fly into your unprotected face.
3.Expect the unexpected
Every time you hop on the bike expect the unexpected – the dogs, the fumes, the beeping, the overtaking, the potholes and of course the roosters. The main rule of the road is that biggest vehicle wins. Just stay out of its way.
On the country roads be ready to beep the horn. For the most part dogs will know not to wander on to the road but they sometimes do, chickens and roosters also love to dart out and sprint across your path. Just take it easy on these roads and you should have plenty of reaction time.
In around the heavy tourist areas, expect the biker guys to roar past you on their uber noisy attention machines usually not wearing a helmet. They usually have forgotten to wear a t-shirt or vest. Although the urge may be to be edgy and cool like this, try and resist.
4.Sunscreen or cover
Make sure to wear sunscreen if you have any parts exposed. It is just common sense, especially if you have skin like me that burns easily. It will be a grimy trip, with dirt and fumes probably caked onto your sunscreen for any parts exposed, so maybe like the locals do – wear full covering on arms and legs.
Unfortunately, there is no way around it, you will be dirty by the end of a few hours driving. The other reason to fully cover is in the event of an accident. Although you will be travelling at low speeds the clothes will help with any road burns you could get if something were to go wrong.
It is polite in Bali to cover in general, so try not ride around in swimsuits. No one will say anything to you, but it is not deemed respectable.
5.Be prepared to drive like a local
You will do some driving manoeuvres that you swore you would never do the first time you arrive. The most obvious and most important is the ’inside traffic jam weave’. Where you will sneak up the left side of stopped cars to get to the front of the traffic queue.
Overtaking is an art form here, you will say before you start you will avoid overtaking and just sit comfortably in the traffic stream. This will not happen, after 5 minutes you will need to get out of the fumes of the traffic and the frustratingly slow pace of the trucks.
In order to overtake it is difficult to find the perfect time, instead you will find the best imperfect time, maybe with only one scooter coming in the opposite direction, or maybe on a slightly open bend where you can see around the corner. Waiting too long to overtake is almost more dangerous than overtaking as the cars and bikes behind you will become impatient and they will end up overtaking you. It is much better to keep up with the general pace of the rest of the bikes, the natural flow of traffic is the safest place to be.
The most surprising thing for me has been that I will drive on the sidewalks to avoid the traffic jams. I am not sure about the moral or safety aspect of this but if you don’t do it you will be stuck in the trucks and cars traffic and you may hold up all the other bikes. A type of peer pressure exists in the scooter world where there is usually a single line queue of scooters that each one must follow like ants, if one stops the whole system fails.
We had a wonderful time traveling the island on a scooter and I can fully recommend it.