Should I Drive a Car in Bali?
Driving a car in Bali, with its swarm of motorbikes and unique traffic norms, can be a daunting task for foreigners, even those familiar with bustling cities like Jakarta.
Bali’s narrow, winding roads and unpredictable traffic behaviors make it challenging for newcomers.
Instead, hiring a professional driver is advised, offering both local knowledge and often cheaper rates compared to car rentals. Other alternatives include renting a motorbike for those confident in their driving skills or using Gojek, Indonesia’s local ride-sharing service, for convenient short trips.
Ah, the allure of Bali – with its mesmerizing beaches, lush rice terraces, and vibrant culture, it’s no wonder so many of us are drawn to this paradise. As an expat living in Bali for quite some time now, one question that consistently pops up among newcomers and visitors is, “Should I drive a car in Bali?” Having navigated the intricacies of Balinese roads and traffic, my short answer is: No. Here’s why.
The Unpredictability of Bali Traffic
While you might think that driving in Jakarta or any other bustling city around the world has prepared you for Bali – think again. In Bali, the majority of vehicles on the road are motorbikes, which makes the traffic dynamics vastly different. The swarm of motorbikes weaving in and out can be overwhelming for a newcomer, and the road rules are more like “guidelines” than actual rules.
Narrow, Winding Roads
The postcard images of Bali’s scenic routes are real, but so are the incredibly narrow roads. Many streets, especially in the more rural or undeveloped areas, are essentially one-lane roads, requiring a special kind of skill and patience to navigate, especially when you meet a vehicle coming from the opposite direction.
Different Traffic Norms
If you’re used to strict road rules and orderly driving, Bali can be a shock. Overtaking can happen from any direction, and the horn is used more as a friendly “here I am” signal than as a warning. It’s a unique language of the road that takes a while to understand and even longer to master.
So, What’s the Alternative?
Thankfully, you have some excellent alternatives that will not only save you stress but also potentially money:
Hire a Professional Driver: This is, by far, the most relaxed way to explore Bali. You’ll find plenty of professional drivers offering their services, usually with a car included. The daily rates are reasonable, often comparable to or even cheaper than renting a car yourself. Plus, you’ll benefit from local knowledge, from shortcuts and hidden gems to places to avoid during rush hour.
Rent a Motorbike: If you’re confident in your driving skills and want a more independent and agile means of transportation, renting a motorbike might be for you. It’s a popular choice among both locals and expats, but do remember to always wear a helmet and familiarize yourself with local customs before hitting the road.
Use Gojek: Gojek is Indonesia’s answer to ride-sharing. It’s affordable, efficient, and offers a range of services from motorbike rides to car transports. It’s a great option for short trips or when you’re not in the mood to haggle with taxi drivers.
In conclusion, while the idea of driving around Bali in your own car might seem appealing, the practicalities of it make it a less than ideal choice. For a more relaxed, safer, and arguably more authentic Balinese experience, consider the alternatives. After all, the journey is just as important as the destination, especially in Bali. Safe travels!