The traffic in Bali is a perfect example of a place being a victim of its own success. It’s bad but not that bad. That being said, despite the vehicular congestion, it’s still a bonafide paradise.

As an American expat living in the lush paradise of Bali, I’ve embraced the island’s vibrant culture, breathtaking landscapes, and mouth-watering cuisine. However, there’s one aspect of life here that can prove to be a constant challenge: the chaotic traffic.

This is my experiences navigating Bali’s hectic roads, both on my trusty motorbike and behind the wheel of a car. Prepare for a rollercoaster ride through the heart of this beautiful island.

Motorbike Madness

The motorbike is the vehicle of choice for many Balinese locals and expats alike. It offers an unparalleled sense of freedom as you zip through narrow streets and winding roads, taking in the sights and sounds of the island. However, this freedom comes at a price: navigating the unpredictable and often perilous traffic.

Bali’s roads are notorious for their congestion, with motorbikes weaving in and out of traffic, darting around cars and trucks, and occasionally mounting sidewalks to bypass gridlock. While this may seem like a thrilling adventure at first, it can quickly become a nerve-wracking experience for those unaccustomed to such chaos. But you save time, lots of time. If it takes you 10 minutes by motorbike in Bali, it can take as much as 40 minutes by a car.

As a motorbike rider, it’s essential to stay hyper-vigilant and anticipate the unexpected. From sudden stops to swerving vehicles, you must always be prepared for the road’s surprises. And don’t forget about the stray dogs, chickens, and pedestrians that may unexpectedly cross your path.

Traffic in Bali

Car Confusion

For those who prefer the perceived safety of a car, the traffic situation in Bali can still be an ordeal. While you may feel more secure surrounded by metal and airbags, driving a car on the island presents its own set of challenges.

First, there’s the matter of size. Bali’s roads are often narrow and lined with parked motorbikes, making it difficult to maneuver a larger vehicle. Plus, with the influx of cars and trucks on the island, finding parking can be a Herculean task. I used to live in Manhattan where street parking is often impossible, in Bali it’s often impossibler.

Then there’s the issue of navigation. GPS systems and apps like Google Maps can be unreliable in Bali, leading you down dead-end roads or into the middle of a rice paddy. Moreover, road signs are often scarce or nonexistent, which can make getting from point A to point B a frustrating experience.

Finally, there’s the matter of adapting to local driving customs. In Bali, honking is a frequent form of communication, used to signal a multitude of intentions, such as warning of an impending pass or simply to say “hello.” It’s essential to learn the local “language” of the road to avoid misunderstandings and potential accidents.

Canggu Traffic in Bali

The Canggu Traffic Shortcut

As an American expat living in the tropical paradise of Bali, I’ve grown accustomed to the laid-back island vibes and the warm embrace of the sun. However, there’s one aspect of island life that tests my patience and sense of humor on a daily basis: the infamous Bali traffic.

Let me take you on an exhilarating ride from Seminyak to Canggu, my daily commute, and introduce you to the notorious “Canggu Shortcut.”

My journey begins as I hop on my trusty motorbike, affectionately named “Bali Betty.” Together, we navigate the winding roads, dodging unsuspecting tourists and street dogs. The trip from Seminyak to Canggu should only take 20 minutes, but there’s a catch: the Canggu Shortcut. This deceptively named road is a true test of courage and motorbike maneuvering skills.

As I approach the Shortcut, my heart races. It’s the ultimate game of chance, and I can’t help but wonder if today will be the day when Bali Betty and I meet our match. The road narrows, lined with rice paddies on either side, as if to taunt us with the serenity that lies just out of reach. A single wrong move and Bali Betty and I could take an unexpected plunge into the muddy waters.

At the entrance of the Shortcut, we’re greeted by a cacophony of horns, a chorus of confusion. Motorbikes, trucks, and cars jostle for position, each driver believing they have the right of way. I take a deep breath and plunge headfirst into the chaos.

Canggu Short Car Accident in Rice Field

I weave through the traffic, dodging potholes and narrowly avoiding collisions. Bali Betty and I are like partners in an adrenaline-fueled dance, swaying to the rhythm of our own survival. At one point, we’re nearly sideswiped by a truck carrying a precarious load of chickens. The driver looks at me with a shrug, as if to say, “Welcome to Bali, mate!”

The Shortcut is also a prime spot for socializing. With traffic at a near standstill, conversations erupt between stranded commuters. I find myself chatting with a Balinese grandmother about her grandson’s upcoming tooth filing ceremony while an Australian surfer regales us with tales of the perfect wave he caught earlier that day.

As we inch closer to our destination, the Shortcut throws one last curveball our way: a sudden downpour. The rain falls in sheets, creating a slippery gauntlet for Bali Betty and me to navigate. But as we’ve proven time and time again, we’re not ones to back down from a challenge.

Finally, after what feels like an eternity, we emerge from the Shortcut triumphant, our clothes soaked but our spirits high. As I park Bali Betty outside my favorite café in Canggu, I can’t help but chuckle at the absurdity of it all. The Canggu Shortcut may be a source of frustration and chaos, but it’s also a testament to the unpredictable charm that makes Bali the unique and unforgettable place that it is.

So, dear reader, if you ever find yourself in Bali, I encourage you to take the Canggu Shortcut – not as a quicker route, but as an adventure, a rite of passage, and a story you’ll be able to tell for years to come. And remember, it’s not about the destination, but the hilarious journey along the way.

Motorbiking through a ricefield in Bali

Finding Zen Amid the Chaos

Despite the daily challenges presented by Bali’s traffic, there’s a silver lining: the opportunity to develop patience, adaptability, and a sense of humor. Embracing the chaos, rather than fighting against it, can lead to a more enjoyable and authentic experience on the island. Besides, once you make it to outside of central Bali, you’ll be blessed with some of the most beautiful and drivable landscapes in the world.

Whether you choose to tackle Bali’s roads on a motorbike or in a car, always remember to drive defensively, respect the local customs, and keep an open mind. With the right attitude, navigating Bali’s traffic can become a memorable part of your expat experience, rather than a source of constant frustration.


The Bali Guide