Bali Transport. It was a constant item of discussion with travellers I met across the island when I was driving around doing research for the Travelfish Bali guide. Many independent travellers in Southeast Asia become accustomed to utilising public buses and tourist shuttles to visit the must-see destinations within a country and expect the same transport arrangements to be in place in Indonesia and more particularly Bali.
Unfortunately for travellers, the paradigm in Bali is different because of the way transport infrastructure evolved which was based around the needs of the local people — connecting large towns and cities through transport hubs and servicing smaller towns out of these hubs. Many of the tourist towns in Bali were historically small villages and therefore were offshoots to the main hubs. To this day, they are serviced quite poorly by public transport when compared with other Asian countries — the alternatives are as follows:
Tourist shuttles are a mainstay of the tourist infrastructure in many Asian countries and Bali is only slightly different. The main tourist destinations are serviced by a number of companies, but the most popular is Perama which charges about 50,000 rupiah (US$5) between the main towns. The problem with tourist shuttles throughout Bali is that they only service the main tourist towns and skip what I would consider some of the best areas of the island.
Car and Driver
For more flexibility, many people choose to do day trips from the main tourist towns with a car and driver. Drivers line the main roads of the major tourist towns touting for business and most will jump at the opportunity to take you on a tour around the island on a day trip. The usual cost is around 400,000 rupiah (US$40) for a full day trip involving a long drive, but most will quote enormous prices and fierce negotiation is required. The big tip here is to have your own itinerary otherwise you might be taken to all sorts of tourist traps and shops where the driver gets commissions.
Ojek is the term given to motorcycle taxis in Indonesia. In the main tourist areas, it’s easy to find ojeks on the side of the road and most of the time they will find you. They’re usually looking to transport customers short distances around town, but are happy to take people on full day trips which usually cost about 100,000 rupiah (US$10), dependent on distance. The problem with ojeks is that you get wet when it rains and carrying big backpacks is a bit of a pain. But they are perfect when traffic is a problem or you want to go somewhere without a lot of luggage.
Many people in Asia choose to rent a motorbike and it’s possible to do the same in Bali. A licence is not necessary, but riding without one is illegal and bribing the police when you are pulled over is par for the course — the fee is 50,000 rupiah (US$5) after ruthless negotiation and threats to take you to jail. Motorbikes can be rented for anywhere between 25,000 and 50,000 rupiah (US$2.50-$5) per day dependent on the length of the rental and the quality of the bike. It’s a great way to see the island, but it can be dangerous (as it can be throughout Asia) and some might want to stump up an extra few dollars to get a car instead.
My favourite way to travel Bali is with a hire car. It sounds like something that a grandma and granddad might do when visiting a place for a week away from home, but the cost of hiring a car in Bali is so low that it makes sense for budget travellers as well. You can get a Suzuki Jimny for 80,000 rupiah (US$8) per day or something better for the same price if you hire it for a month. It gives you the best freedom in Bali and shields you from the regular tropical downpours that tend to creep up on you while you’re out amongst the ricefields or up in the mountains. The freedom that a car provides is brilliant when visiting such places as Pemuteran (the best snorkelling in Bali) or Yeh Gangga — you can just hop in the car, rain hail or shine, and find food, visit off-the-beaten track places and experience parts of Bali that most don’t have the opportunity to experience.
So the moral of the story in Bali is that public transport is only for the patient. Use the shuttles for the major tourist towns and get a car or motorbike to get out and about. It enhances the experience to levels that most visitors don’t experience — absolutely fantastic!