Handling Traffic in Ubud Bali
Traffic in Bali
Driving in Bali is very different than driving in Europe, Australia, USA, Japan etc. In South-East Asia traffic is something you need to get used to. Bali is no exception. You might need some time to adapt if you have never driven a car or scooter in Bali or cities like Jakarta, Bangkok. It’s not as easy as it seems.
In Bali you drive on the left side. People frequently use their horn to say: “Please notice me!”. There are many narrow roads, but not many signs. You have to share the streets with dogs, chickens, cows and other animals. To change the line without using a signal is normal. Road conditions can be very bad. If there are processions the roads get closed. Don’t expect to be able to go faster than 40km/h. On the main roads, you can expect to go with a maximum speed of 60-70km/h.
Be prepared that anybody can and will enter the main road at any time without looking. You should keep one rule in mind: Whatever you can see in front of you is your responsibility. A motorbike driver cutting into the main road believes you will notice him and expects you to make space or slow down. If you want to overtake you have to use your horn, so the person in front knows that you are coming. The unofficial rule applies that you have to notice and adapt to what is or appears ahead of you.
It is better to drive too slowly than too fast. Never drink and drive!
Driving a scooter or motorbike
Anything on two wheels with an engine is called scooter or motorbike in Bali.
Usually, when you rent a bike, you will get one with 125cc. Often, they are automatic, so you don’t need to take care of gears. They are easy to drive and can go up to 100km/h, yet it is not advisable to go that fast.
- Wear a helmet with a strap – always!
- Protect your eyes with the helmet or sunglasses
- Wear closed shoes if possible
- Before driving off check the bike (breaks, lights, tire pressure)
- Do not consume alcohol or drugs before driving
- Use the horn when you want to overtake
- Expect anything to appear at any time from anywhere
- Don’t speed
- Particularly after or during rainfall, roads can be slippery
- Watch the road for stones or holes on the road
- Watch your leg; the exhaust can be very hot
- Keep the mobile number and name of the rental company with you
- Ask the rental guys about insurance
Safety Issues when driving a scooter on Bali
Driving a scooter simply the easiest way to get around if you are not making a long trip. For going to the beach, shopping, visiting a restaurant a scooter makes things very easy and convenient. Yet, safety is an issue. The traffic itself is a challenge, and other factors create additional risks. Accidents with scooters and motorbikes are widespread. Some of them are fatal. Most accidents with tourists happen because they are overestimating themselves. They are not used to drive motorcycles, they drink and/or take drugs, go too fast and don’t understand how the traffic in Bali works.
Drive slowly in curves and use the horn before you enter it.
In the case that your helmet does not have a glass, use sunglasses. It can be dusty and dirty. Never drive barefoot.
Driving License on Bali
For driving in Bali, you need an international driving license. You have to apply for it in your home country. The international license is usually only valid in combination with your “real” driving license. So bring both with you. If you hold a KITA (long term Indonesia visa), you can get a tourist driver’s license from the police station in Denpasar. It costs about US$30 and is a way how the local police creates some extra income. You have to fill in a form, bring a passport picture and the money. Anyone between the age of 18 and 70 can get it.
If you get caught without a license or speeding, without a helmet or if you get blamed for an offence you didn’t do, police will try to scare you a bit. Always stay calm and friendly. Tell them you are sorry and that you did not know. Usually, they will charge you a fee between 10 or 30US$ and let you go.
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