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!
14 replies on “Transport in Bali”
We can definitely recommend the car and driver option, particularly if you’re a bit put-off by the crazy Balinese drivers!
A self-drive motorbike will be a part of our next itinerary. Will a international car license suffice in Bali, or will a bribe still be required without a motorcycle license?
Unfortunately an international driver’s licence only certifies you for the licences you have at home. So if you don’t have a motorbike licence at home, you don’t have one in Bali. The police know all the rules and you can’t bluff your way out of it. You can, however, pay. The price you pay is very much dependent on how you approach the negotiation and once the cop sees wads of notes in your wallet, you’re gone! Best to keep a separate stash if you’re into the bribing game.
We would never have rented a car in Bali if you hadn’t told us how cheap it was. Lucky for me, I didn’t have to drive- traffic seemed a bit stressful there in crowded areas. But, it really was the best way to see Bali on a budget! Excellent advice. The only thing we would do differently is probably secure an Int’l DL in advance so we don’t have to fool with the cops next time 😉
Yes. Good advice. 🙂 I got pulled over by the cops, but had no problems because I had the international driver’s licence. Not sure too many people hire cars in Bali unfortunately.
As a kid, sometimes my family went to Bali, and we drove our own car. Maybe that’s the best way to explore the island. But then, the driver in the car, which is my dad, is one of those “crazy Indonesian driver” 😉
Heh. I’m a safe driver in Oz. In Indonesia, I put in my Asian brain and things seem to work out. Overtaking on blind corners, flashing headlights, driving the wrong way along one-way streets. It’s all beautiful.
Btw, I love that header picture 🙂
And I include a link to your blog from my newest post, the part that saying non-Indonesian travelers that much more well traveled in Indonesia than I am, an Indonesian 🙂
Yes, I saw that. Thanks very much for the link. 🙂
I always hire a car+driver, with my usual driver who I thought was cheap already with IDR200 per day! I want your contact with USD80! 😀
Anyway, all these times it has always been with friends so it makes sense to hire a car and driver, but the last time I was there, I was by myself for a day and drove the car myself, and I love the freedom of it. I’m a little jittery about having to drive by myself all over the island, but I think that’s probably the best way to do it yeah?
PS: Any chance of you emailing me your contacts for the car?
@Miss Lai Lai – The 80,000 rupiah deal is for self-drive only. 200,000 for car and driver for a day is a bargain! I don’t have the deets of the guy that rented me the car, but it was in Kuta. Note that in that time I got a flat tyre and a mirror fell off somewhere in Amed. Probably driving too fast. Even in Ubud you can get a well-maintained Suzuki Jimny for 100,000rp per day. Those things are really easy to drive and if you have a bad accident, at least you won’t have to pay much to have it fixed (they claim there is insurance, but I doubt it).
The best way to see Bali is to get your own car and drive. Motorbike is great too, but bad if you have luggage and if it rains. With a driver, it is also good, but you lose the independence of just stopping whenever you want, changing plans on a whim, etc.
hi Adam, i will be visiting Bali for the first time next month. so i was thinking of renting a car and self drive around Bali. however i have heard that you will be pull over and get shakedown randomly, is it true? btw i am an indonesian 😀
do you have any tips for those who are driving in bali for the first time?
@John – OK, begini. If you don’t break the law, the police leave you alone. But they will often pull over bules because many bules don’t have the correct licence with them. So they have to try and figure out what the correct bribe to pay is… Of course, some people pay more than others, but 50,000rp is the correct rate for a bule in Bali. As for local people, I don’t think you will be shaken down… My only tip for driving for the first time in Bali is to be aware of google maps. 🙂 I drove on a lot of “roads” indicated on google maps that turned into goat tracks on the side of steep mountains… very scary moments in the rain, bald tyres and having to reverse backwards down the muddy goat track that was supposed to be a through road. Maybe for motorbikes on a sunny day… not for cars. This mainly happened in the north and west of the island. Other than that, it’s easy to drive in Bali. The traffic is only bad in the Kuta area really. Even in Denpasar it’s usually not too bad. Oh, and the road between Denpasar and Gilimanuk (where the ferry to Java departs from) is deadly. Many many crashes and many many people driving like men possessed. Needless to say, drive slowly and sabar…
One last tip… do try and take some back roads. There are some truly magical scenes – both landscape and cultural. Hit the road and be free……………
well, motorbike still the most convenient transportation in Bali, if you want an adventure. and i still can’t drive a car yet 🙁
@Fahmi – true. Driving a car is easy though. 🙂 Give it a try one time.