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Driving a motorbike in Bali

Staying safe, having fun and traffic tips

Motorbikes are by far the most popular and economical way to get around Bali. Most Indonesian families own several and you'll sometimes see children ride on them to the market, school or visit friends. Motorbikes are incredibly versatile. You can park them anywhere, they cost very little to rent (usually around Rp 60,000/day. That's about $5 USD), and use almost no gas (less than 2 litres a day. About $2 worth of petrol).  However, one should be very careful and observe local traffic customs. 
Benefits of Motorbike travel
My family and I rent a motorbike whenever we travel within the region.  Not just Indonesia, but South East Asia. If you've learned how to ride a motorbike here, then you can effectively travel to Vietnam, Cambodia, Thailand, Malaysia and Burma. It's almost as useful as speaking the local language in each country. Here's why motorbikes are awesome. 
  • They are cheap to rent. I've never paid more than $6 USD/day for a motorbike rental anywhere in Bali.
  • Fuel is everywhere and cheap. $2 USD/day and you're able to travel more than a few 100 kms. 
  • You can park them anywhere. They're so compact. Typically parking is free for motorbikes.
  • You can go on really rough trails and bumpy roads. 
  • Repair shops are fairly ubiquitous. If you catch a flat tire, usually you're only a few kilometers from the nearest repair shop. Ask a local for some help. Tell them you need to find a "bengkel". 
Parking is pretty easy to find anywhere in Bali. It's usually free.
Fuel is readily found sold on the side of the road. Just look for the wooden racks with metal roofs. 
Things to keep in mind on a motorbike
Motorbike travel is fast, cheap and easy. However there's a few things to keep in mind to stay safe and happy on the road. The traffic situation might seem a bit chaotic to the first-time driver on Balinese roads. However, keep these tips in mind when travelling and you'll have a much easier time. 
Refueling is easy. There's a small gas shack within every kilo-meter or so of paved road in Bali. 
  • The only main rule is: don't hit anything in front of you. The person / object in front of your vehicle always have right of way. Doesn't matter if they cut you off, fell from the sky or jumped over your bike. 
  • Use your blinkers when you turn. People behind you need to know if you're turning or they might be trying to pass you on the right or left. If you're hit and you didn't use the blinkers, it's like 50% your fault. 
  • Always wear a helmet. It's not absolutely required on rural roads, but definitely have one on the highways. Good rule of thumb is if you see more than 10 bikes around you, wear a helmet. 
  • Cops might stop you. I don't know why but first time riders are easy to single out by the Bali police. They will pull you over, take your license and make you listen to how you could be fined up to $200 USD and pick up your bike in a courthouse. Then they wait for you to make an offer. I sometimes pay Rp 50,000, sometimes nothing. But a first timer, I suppose you might need to pay between Rp 150-200,000. 
Fuel is easily found on the sides of streets in Bali. Usually there's a shop attendant that will come out, take a bottle off the rack and fill your take. Prices are between Rp 8,000-10,000 (as of Sept 2015).
In some areas of Bali, like Canggu, you can rent customised vintage motorcycles. Custom bikes have taken off in Bali since the popularisation of Deus Ex Machina, a surf-bike brand based in Australia, with a rising acclaim in Bali.
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