Bali Blog

Tourists Riding a motorbike in Bali

Although it may not seem like it when you first arrive in Bali, we do have driving laws here.


Years ago when you wished to hire a motorbike you went to a licensed hirer, gave them your passport to hold as security and they had to witness your motorcycle license, they gave you a rental agreement, copy of insurance papers and registration and off you went to explore the Island.

Back then large vehicles had to pay a high tax to get on the ferry to the Island so we did not have many trucks on the Island and the large tourist buses you see today were only seen in movies. It was a great way to explore the Island safely on a motorbike.

Little white vans were everywhere, this was the normal mode of transport for tourists, they were poorly maintained had no AC and were driven by friendly but crazy Balinese drivers. It was an experience in itself, especially if that’s what you were picked up in from the airport late at night on your way to your hotel you were holding on for dear life and hoping the small pick up that was following somewhere in the darkness, that had your suitcase in it, was also coming to the same hotel.

Every local was on a motorbike, the highways did not exist and the pace was slow and friendly, if you bumped into each other or a white van, you did it with a giggle and went to find a bandaid to cover the small scrapes.

I remember when they first built the highway to Nusa Dua, many locals told me it was a waste of money and no-one would use it, 20 years later there was a need for the new toll road just to deal with all the traffic, and many vehicles have become giants on the road next to the small motorbikes.

So, back to motorbikes and the laws, oh, and Insurance.

Lets start with the big one first INSURANCE :

You may find travel insurance to cover you from your home country (you can pay an extra premium). The terms (conditions) will generally be quite simple and may read as follows:
1. You are wearing a helmet, 
2. The motorcycle has an engine capacity of 200cc or less and whilst in control, 
3. You hold a licence valid in the relevant country.
a. Lets discuss the HELMET for a minute. In Indoneisa we have a Indonesian National Standard (SNI) for helmets, so riding around with a leather helmet with horns on it not only is illegal here, I’d say that would be grounds for your insurer to deny a claim.
b. Engine capacity: Most of our “scooters” are a minimum of 125 cc, so you are covered there IF you have a motorcyle license. In Control? Well here’s some wording straight out of an Australian policy: Conditions: claims involving self inflicted injury or condition, stress, travel exhaustion, any conduct engaged in whilst under the influence or effect of alcohol….
c. LICENCE, valid here, you can use an international license here in Bali, you cannot use the license from your own country (although sometimes you may be asked to show both). So, you take your motorcycle license to the relevant licensing body in your home country and apply for an International license.
(If you don’t have a motorcycle license in your home country your International License will be marked for a car only and you cannot ride a “scooter” here). In Australia for example a scooter is considered 50cc or under and the engine is not capable of a speed higher than 50kph.

Now, on to the LAWS
1. Have a license for a motorbike over 125cc (we do not have any 50cc motorbikes in Bali)
2. Anyone will rent you a motorbike these days, but you still need the rental agreement, insurance and rego papers or you may find even though you have done nothing wrong your bike will be taken away and you will be paying for a taxi back to the bike owner to explain he has to go pick it up (if he is the owner).
3. Wear a SNI helmet as per above
4. Road rules, there are many, you should really learn them before driving here, such as when to use lights, who gives way to who, how many passengers, not stopping over the white line at traffic lights etc etc etc etc

Penalties:. Well how many times do I read on facebook “just slip them a 50K or just carry a 50K note and don’t tell them you have any more money”. This is a bribe, bribery is illegal pure and simple, it does not matter that it has been done by others, it is illegal. Illegal activities can mean further fines, deportation or even jail time.

There are official fees Section 281 Any person driving a motor vehicle on the road that does not possess a drivers license per Article 77 paragraph (1) shall be punished with imprisonment for a maximum of 4 (four) months or fined Rp1,000,000 (one million Rupiah). **(replaces previous penalty of Rp2,000,000 or imprisonment of 2 (two) months Article 59 - (1) of 1969)

If you try to “bribe” the wrong police officer, you may find yourself in a lot of trouble as many police now are actually being watched by “anti corruption police”.

If you follow all the rules and licensed you will not pay anything, you will be given a friendly smile and sent away, one cheeky police officer may ask for cigarette money just laugh politely and tell him smoking is bad for you.

ROAD FATALITIES: Now, you really are quite lucky if you actually die in some cases as the need here for a crowd to gather and give the body a bit of a kick to make sure they are dead or take selfies with the body just makes the whole idea of waiting for an ambulance, did I say ambulance, in this traffic; you are sometimes better off being thrown on the back of a bike to get through traffic. Watch out if you are unconscious, it is common to roll you over, straighten you up, pull off your helmet, slap your face a bit and then decide who will take you to hospital (no-one wants to pay your bill or be blamed for it so the getting to hospital but can be difficult)

Ambulance, that little bus with flashing lights that in a Western Country you must get out of the way for. Well, over here a lot of people are still used to an ambulance only being used to transport the dead to the morgue, so what’s the hurry, why should we get out of way, there’s no way they are in a hurry, they are already dead.
FATALITIES, the figure thrown around at the end of last year was nearly 3000 people died on the roads in Bali last year, we saw 3 separate motorcycle fatalities in 35 minutes one morning so I can see how this figure may have came about. That’s dead people, not maimed, not accidents, people who actually died, now if you did have an accident and successfully make it to hospital, then back to the question, do you have insurance?

HOSPITALS The good international hospitals here will not treat you until you can prove insurance or pay cash up front. What if they can’t treat you here and you need to be airlifted to the nearest hospital that can?….well, I’ve heard figures starting at $80,0000 up to $125,000 depending on the patients needs during flight.

It’s quite obvious when a tourist does not have a license, you stand out like a sore thumb, that wobble gives it away.

Happy safe, licensed, respectful, insured riding.


NOTE; Thank you for those that raised the issue of a Pillion Passenger. I have looked into many travel insurance policies and they state: "as the driver or pillion passenger" so with this wording you will not be covered as a passenger on a motorbike unless you have paid the extra premium (and, the wording is ambiguous as it lists the conditions as having a license etc).

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