Hey Canggu, your girl Ayu here, bringing you a fun guide to riding motorbikes in Bali. Hati-Hati ya..
So you’ve landed in Bali, settled in your villa and are ready to explore all that’s new, hip and happening in Canggu. You’re going to want some wheels.. The best way to get around & about is naturally by motorbike or scooter. It’s convenient, efficient, quick and fun, and there are no rules in Bali so it’s just that much more exciting, right? 😉
There are thousands of deaths yearly on the roads of Bali. To us, you are more significant than that, so we’ve compiled a comprehensive traffic etiquette guide for you to follow while scooting around the Gu.
Lets do this..
1. Wear a helmet
Captain Obvious here, reporting live from the apparently helmet-free zone of Canggu! You might not think so highly of your own head, but it really is quite valuable to your well-being. Break an arm and you still have the other one, but you really only have one brain which is difficult to replace. If nothing else, save someone else the task of scrubbing your grey matter off the sidewalk.
Wear a shirt too while you’re at it, this is Bali, not Jersey Shore.
2. Have a valid drivers licence
You may get fined. You may have to partake in the famous Indonesian hospitality programme aka police corruption (though we generally advise against corruption). You may lose a lot of money. But wait… All of that comes secondary to the main reason you should really have a valid drivers licence: your insurance won’t cover you if you don’t!
3. Have travel insurance
You may not need it, but more importantly: you probably will. Make sure you know exactly what your insurance policy covers and what it doesn’t. An untreated Bali Kiss may start off as a small exhaust burn on your calf, but when your leg is infested with maggots and your brain is boiling with your infection fever, you’ll be glad that your parents won’t have to pay for your amputation; your insurance company will (hopefully)!
4. Look after yourself
Ok so you’ve had a little tumble after a Sandbar party, and your grazed knee has some gravel in it. GET IT CLEANED UP! We’re in the tropics now, and the first rule of the tropics is that anything that can get infected, will get infected. See Rule 3 for further details on infections. Did you hit your head? Get it checked up. Plenty of International hospitals around, waiting for you and your insurance claim cash.
5. What would your mother say?
So you’ve met some total babes at your hostel and they suggest riding 3+ people on one scooter. Your Snapchat followers absolutely have to see you selfie your way down the Canggu shortcut. It’s the middle of the night and you haven’t tested how fast your custom cafe racer or rental Scoopy actually goes on the Batu Bolong straight. You’ve completed the tour of Canggu Happy Hours and want to head home on your bike. You’ve just managed to get your man-bun on fleek and don’t want to wear a helmet. You think that helmets are for losers.
What would your mother say?
Listen to your mother. She knows better than you.
6. Forget the rules, this is the jungle
Oh really, did the 12-year-old Vario-superhero in front of you forget to use the indicator, causing you to swerve into a ditch? Boohoo! Traffic laws here are very different to back home. It’s more instinctive. We play by the jungle rules. If you don’t know the rules, you should play the safe game and use a taxi. Simple as that. If you are not comfortable riding a motorbike in Bali, then please don’t.
7. Honk the horn and use the indicator correctly
Turning right? Let us know. Turning left? Same thing. Going straight? Make sure you’re not indicating otherwise! Our lives depend on you using your indicator correctly.
The sound of honking horns in Bali may seem a little psychotic at times, but there’s a method to the madness. If you’re passing a pedestrian, overtaking someone, passing a temple/river/bridge/cemetery/tree, trying to wake the sleeping street dogs or just happen to see someone you know: honk away. If you’re stuck in traffic and think that the car in front of you should move when it so clearly cannot ’cause there are cars in front – don’t, that’s just annoying.
8. Don’t use your phone
Don’t text and drive. Just don’t do it. Also, don’t be the person who sits on the back holding the phone loosely, trying to make sense of why there is no road where Google Maps said there would be one. In the confusion you make yourself a target of phone theft. In a country where #thestruggleisreal and your phone costs 6 months wages for the average worker, better stay safe than sorry. (Also, Google doesn’t know everything, we learned on a recent roadtrip when the road in front of us turned into a rice field which was supposed to be the main road. F*ck you Google Maps)
9. Not Balinese? Then it’s (always) your fault
We’re not here to discuss issues of racism, justice or law; we’re giving you the facts. Did a local crash into you? It’s your fault. Did a local scratch your scooter? It’s your fault. Did a kid kick a football in front of you, causing you to crash? Your fault. This is unfortunate, but something you need to prepare for. As we said, the traffic is a jungle and it’s the jungle laws that apply. Be prepared to cover costs, apologise, be humble and move on.
10. Be cool
No, I’m not telling you to live up to the Canggu stereotype of “cool,” I’m telling you to be cool. Don’t be a dick. Don’t brake suddenly in the middle of the road when you realise you have no idea what you’re doing going the wrong way down Sunset Road. Don’t bite off more than you can chew. If you can’t handle a bike or scooter, don’t. If you can’t ride like an adult, don’t ride at all. If you can’t keep your calm in the traffic, stick to taxis. I can’t stress this enough, our lives depend on you knowing how to behave on the roads!
All in all, riding a motorbike in Bali can be the most liberating feeling in the world. With the wind in your face and endless small village roads to get lost in, there is no better way to discover the magic that is Bali. Have fun and stay sensible!