Crazy Bali Traffic – check the spiritual traffic rules!

Crazy Bali traffic

The craziness on Balinese roads is the time to apply Bali’s ‘spiritual traffic rules’ for peace and calm!

Bali traffic is crazy and totally different from driving in anywhere else in the world! This beautiful country with it’s calm, tranquil and spiritual lifestyle relies on an equally calming set of spiritual traffic rules when using their roads.

Despite the congestion in all areas of Bali, traffic flow is surprisingly patient.  I’ve seen similar road gymnastics in other Asian cities and have on many occasions wondered how there aren’t more serious accidents or scrapes.

Bali’s Spiritual Traffic Rules must be the key! 
  • Relax, be calm
  • Don’t get angry
  • Don’t take anything too seriously
  • No need to rush things
  • Anything can happen anytime
  • Let things flow naturally
  • Don’t be pushy
  • Accept others how they are
  • Feel, sense, anticipate
  • Stay respectful
  • Always be alert, aware and fully conscious

Renting a Scooter in Bali

You do need to be aware that it can be quite dangerous if you are not an experienced road user or familiar with a motorbike or scooter.

The traffic in Bali is a bit crazy.

If you intend to rent a scooter, you need to be careful and alert to keep safe. We gathered a few tips for you that should help you to avoid getting injured whilst you’re away from home.

Take care on Bali Roads

Driving a scooter is the best way to get around in Bali. If you want to go to the beach, do some shopping, visit some restaurants etc then a scooter does really make things very easy and convenient.

It’s important to be cautious.  Accidents with scooters and motorbikes happen often. Sadly, some of them are fatal. Most accidents with tourists happen because they are not used to driving motorbikes, drink and/or take drugs, speed or don’t understand how the traffic works on Bali.

Don’t drink and drive:  It can be tempting to drink a few Bintang beers, and drive back home on your scooter in the middle of the night to save on the taxi fee.  Don’t risk it!

You will need an International Driver’s Licence

You need an international driving license which you have to apply for in your home country. It is only valid together with your “real” driving license, so you need to bring both with you.

You can get a temporary Balinese driving license (tourist driver’s license) from the police station in Denpasar within a day.

Getting stopped by the police without license or without helmet:  If you get caught without a license, or speeding, or without helmet. Always stay calm and friendly. Explain to the police you did not know and you are sorry. They will sometimes charge you a fee and let you go. Expect to pay between 10 – 30 USD.

Good Balance is vital

Pack it on

Good balance is obviously essential as these motorbikes are used as the primary transporter of everything imaginable in Bali. Motorbikes transform from school commuter vehicles into courier vehicles, mobile food stalls and many are used to carry tools of trade for their owners .. loaded to the hilt!

Tourists and locals alike scoot around on rented motorbikes as an economical form of ‘go anywhere’ transport.  Fascinated with the extensive use of scooters and motorbikes, we  took to photographing those loaded up with children, equipment, food stalls and other bits and pieces.

Golden haired surfers juggle the busy roads on their scooter with one arm wrapped around their surfboard as they head down to catch the waves at Uluwatu and other popular surf beaches.

Crazy Bali Traffic

School drop-off times are crazy!  Mums’ & Dads’ often have 3 or 4 of their children hugging onto them, stacked closely together on a scooter.

DSCN0418When it starts to rain, a large drop-sheet is produced to drape over everyone leaving the driver peeping out of the top while maneuvering through jam-packed peak hour traffic.

Road safety helmets are not often worn, and if they are it’s usually the adults wearing them, not the children!

Almost as if a fashion statement was needed, the coolest young ones stand proudly on the front wearing brightly coloured sunglasses.

Simple Road Code

Bali has a simple code for safe driving on their roads.  There are a few  essential tips which will help keep you safe.

Meals on wheels

Anybody can, and does enter a main road at anytime
without looking.

Everyone uses their horn as a ‘I’m right beside you’ .. rather than the ‘get out of my way’ road rage that we see so often at home.

It is likely that you will share the roads with dogs, chickens, cows.  Don’t be impatient, wait for them to pass before going on your way.

Roads often get closed off without notice for processions, ceremonies & festivities.  Follow the other vehicles for the way around or wait patiently for the procession to pass.

Traffic flow is rarely faster than 40 kilometres per hour, don’t be impatient.  Enjoy the view!

Visual chaos is the best way to describe it, but I have to admit that I’ve noticed on visits to Asia there is a level of consideration that each driver has for the other as they try to avoid accidents.

Basic Heads Up for Road Use in Bali

Crazy Bali Traffic

  • Left-Hand drive:  Standard road rules are that all traffic keeps to the left as with most other Asian countries.
  • Whatever is in front of you is your responsibility:  A motorbike driver cutting in front of you believes that you will notice him and that you will make space or slow down.
  • Give way & Stop Signs:  There are generally no ‘give way’ signs and very few ‘stop’ signs.  If you see one, most likely it will be ignored!
  • Road lines:   Centre lines mean very little and vehicles merge and flow through lanes without indication other than a light beep of their horn.
  • Beep your Horn:  Always beep your horn when overtaking.  If you want to overtake somebody you MUST use your horn, so they know you are coming, otherwise they might move right or left unexpectedly.
  • Safety:  Always wear a helmet with a strap.  Protect your eyes with a visor or at least sunglasses.
  • Road hazards and rain:  The roads are often not in good condition and you need to be aware of hazards.  When Balinese renovate, often sand, stones and building material will be delivered on the street edge. Most people navigate around this pile.
  • Wear a helmet:  If your helmet does not have a visor, wear sunglasses for eye protection.
  • Never drive barefoot:  Wear closed in shoes.  Avoid wearing thongs when driving a scooter in Bali as they won’t give you much protection if in an accident.
  • Bike Safety Checks:  Check the tyre pressure, brakes and lights.
  • Expect the Unexpected:  People WILL pull out in front of you.
  • Don’t speed:  Often roads become very slippery when it begins to rain.
  • Take out Travel Insurance:  Be prepared for the worst.

If you have never driven scooter or motorbike in Bali or other cities in Asia then take advice, it’s not as easy as it looks.

When visiting Bali next, should we hire a scooter and join the bike riding crowd?  What do you do when you visit Bali?