This was one of the first questions I started looking for an answer on before my first trip to Bali many moons ago.
We all see photos of friends of friends in Bali riding the damn things, but we never really know how, when, where, how much, etc.
Well this article is here to allay all the queries, concerns, and intrigues you may have about getting on the 2 wheeler in Australia’s playground.
Time for a FAQ session on riding a scooter in Bali:
1. Is it safe to ride a scooter without experience?
My first time riding a scooter was actually in Ubud of all places.
I’d had a few motorbike lessons when I was 19. But that is as close as I had ever come.
I was pretty nervous when my friend and I first contemplated renting a scooter for the day to head out to the Holy Temples about 30minutes ride away.
The roads are one and a half cars wide at the best of times, often in need of resurfacing, lined with deep open drains on either side, windy, hilly, and just generally packed with other scooters, cars, dogs, pedestrians, and the odd chicken crossing the road (literally!).
So whether you are experienced or not, operating a scooter and feeling confident and safe about doing so, is quite challenging at times in Bali.
Nevertheless, under the alternative of a $60 return taxi fare, we decided to hire a scooter, set caution to the wind, live while we’re young and all that jazz, and just have a crack, knowing all the risks we were taking.
Hey, if a 10-year-old local can take her 4-year-old sister on one, so could we.
But in all honesty, after having zero prior experience on a scooter coupled with a busy road and a 50kg passenger behind me, it took me a couple of practice runs up and down our hotel driveway before I was set.
If you can ride a bicycle, you can ride a scooter.
The secret: just don’t be a dickhead.
In all of the chaos and lack of road rules, the roads of Bali can actually seem much safer than back home. People use horns as courtesy calls rather than road rage tools, filling a lane with more than one or two vehicles is totally cool, people generally drive slower because of the lack of certainty, scooters rule the roost on the road, and everyone is paying much closer attention as a general function of the system.
So should you worry about safety when contemplating hiring a scooter?
Should it stop you?
2. Do you need a special license?
The official answer: yes
The straight answer: no.
There really is no one properly regulating the system of driving or leasing vehicles in Bali.
Because of this, the nice people on the side of the road trying to hire a scooter out to you really don’t care whether you can ride it or not.
They just wants to make sure they have your details so they can follow you up if you damage it. They’ll ask to hold your passport, but will take anything from a photocopy to a Pizza Hut loyalty card.
To be fair, I’ve never met a more trusting and courteous culture than the Balinese. So often I have been reminded of the good in society when a Balinese man leases out his scooter with no request of money until return or an old lady hands me my scooter keys when I drop them in the markets.
4. How much does it cost?
By the way, compare this to the cost of taxis in Bali (which is still ridiculously cheap compared to the rest of the world), and you’ve found the perfect way to keep your ‘per day’ costs right down whilst maximizing your adventure possibilities.
5. Where do I get petrol?
There are two types of places where you can refuel: One is at a conventional station, which are few and far between. The petrol company is called Pertamina, and has red branding.
The second option is the little old lady every couple of kilometres along the road with the yellow-ey premium petrol inside Absolut Vodka bottles.
To be honest, I’ve tried both many times and never had any issues.
If you are filling up by the vodka bottle, you generally want to pay about 10,000 Rupiahs per liter. 2 liters will give you about three-quarters of a tank; enough to get you around for a whole day of riding.
6. What happens if I crash?
Riding a scooter is an ever-present risk to the good fortune of your holiday. If a truck pulls out at the last second, a car clips you, a car squeezes you off the road, you lose concentration and take a bend to wide, or you just stuff up and drop the bike, you will ALWAYS be the one found at fault because you are a foreigner.
Because of this, you’ll be the one to cough up. And if your insurance policy doesn’t cover scooter damage, you could be up for a few thousand bucks.
Additionally, if you don’t actually have an international scooter license, you’ll automatically be voiding your insurance.
Compared to the safety and confidence of a taxi, this is the trade-off of the ultimate freedom the scooter offers.
7. Will I be insured if I get injured?
This is the critical one.
If you have a valid license and your policy covers injury caused by you on a scooter, then fingers crossed.
However, if you don’t have that license, you can kiss your coverage goodbye and wait for the exorbitant hospital fees to roll in.
8. Is it even the best way to get round or just for fun?
This is the crux of it.
Riding a scooter in Bali is by far the best, cheapest, most efficient method of getting around EVER.
90% of traffic is scooters, you’ll have no issues with theft, and you’ll have that much more of an immersive ‘stop anywhere, go anywhere’ experience.
If you’ve got a level head and are prepared to take it easy in order to maximize your experience in Bali, I highly recommend getting yourself a scooter.
9. What if the cops pull me over?
This could very possibly happen.
I have found that the further you get away from Kuta, the less likely an officer will pull you over.
Hell! I’ve actually had times in Sanur and Ubud where a police officer has stared at me, walked over to me, and just assisted me with directions.
Generally, I have found the behaviour of police officers in Bali to be much better than is publicised.
However, this isn’t to say they are all clean.
I have been pulled over by corrupt cops before. They will chase you down, circle you and ask you for your license.
When they point out that it isn’t the correct license, they will give you the option of paying a 1,000,000 Rupiah fine in court or paying a ‘fine’ to him.
Hint: he’s asking for a bribe.
The solution: If an officer pulls you over, start talking in another language, make it hard for him.
Then if he suggests a bribe, get angry with him and take your phone out to record him.
They know they are doing the wrong thing and won’t risk their jobs over the hassle.
After that, they will send you on your way quick smart.
So that’s what I have to say on that…
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- Anyone else got any tips?
- Or maybe a few funny stories?