Bali is a tourist’s mecca, with beautiful beaches and rainforests, plenty of shopping and friendly locals. Although the infrastructure here is definitely not up to the standards you’ll be used to at home, there are still plenty of ways to get around easily and at little expense to your travel budget.
Key travel considerations for Bali
Download maps and apps
Although most people speak some English in Bali, it’s better to assume that you will need to show your driver where you’re going on a map, or with instructions written in Balinese. Check out our phrase book to get you started with the basics. Make it a little easier to find your way around by looking online at the places you want to visit and the best way to get there, before you head out.
Download maps for the public transport and tourist spots before you leave, but be careful as some ‘roads’ listed on maps aren’t really what you’d expect! We recommend Maps with Me, which works both offline and online. Google Maps also allows you to save maps to your device so you can access them offline to save on data roaming.
Taxis are by far the most popular transport option in Bali and there are many around. However, as with many aspects of travelling, you need to be aware of those looking to take advantage of tourists and protect yourself from scams.
When travelling via taxi, we recommend you:
- Keep your most valuable possessions with you when you are in a taxi, not in the boot.
- Avoid taxis without a working meter on display. If there isn’t one that you can see, change taxis and find one that has a working meter. It also pays to ask airport or hotel staff what a fair rate is for your destination before you depart, because taxis in Bali are notorious for overcharging tourists.
- Always wear your seatbelt.
- Have the driver put your luggage in the boot so that they can’t drive away with your stuff, leaving you behind. Watch your luggage go in and make sure the boot is securely closed before you get in the vehicle.
- Make sure you exit the taxi after the driver and via the door furthest away from the street. When doing this, leave your door open, which prevents the driver from taking off before you unload all of your bags.
At some point you’ll no doubt encounter locals pulling up on motorcycles offering you a ride. These are called ‘Ojeks’ and we strongly recommend you avoid them, because they’re every bit as dubious as they sound! More importantly, they’re classed as private vehicles so you won’t be covered if anything should happen to you or your gear while travelling on one.
Avoid local minibuses known as ‘Bemos’ – they’re small, cramped minibuses that fit approximately 12 passengers. They may be cheap but there’s no guarantee you’ll get to your destination any time in the next few days. They’re notoriously unreliable and don’t work to any time schedule at all!
There are tourist buses in Bali and they’re a cheap way to get around different areas. You’ll find stops located around shopping malls and major hotels in popular resort areas and the routes service all the main tourist areas of Bali. These buses can save you plenty if you have the time to spare, plus they have air conditioning! Just make sure you check the routes and timetables to ensure the pickup point is the same as where you get off.
Buses can have their drawbacks though and stops are sometimes quite far away from the centre of the town you’re heading to. They may also work out to be more expensive than a taxi if there are three or more in your group. If you’re trying to get to a more remote area away from a larger centre, or you’re working to a schedule, it might be better to consider a taxi.
Driving, rental cars and scooter hire
If you plan on renting a car or scooter, make sure:
- You’re familiar with and obey the local driving laws
- You hire the vehicle from a licensed rental vehicle agency
- You comply with the terms of the rental vehicle agreement
- You drive on a formed or paved roadway or carpark
Drivers in Bali are known to be unpredictable and road quality can be dubious, so keep your eyes peeled. Tooting is very common with Balinese, so don’t be put off. It’s not a sign of aggression but a friendly warning that they’re coming. Rental cars are largely manual transmission, so brush up on your stick driving before you go!
With its unpredictable traffic and road rules that are vastly different from home, Bali isn’t the place to try riding a scooter for the first time. If you don’t have prior experience, we recommend avoiding them. They might be popular with tourists, but accidents are common, so think twice before you hire a scooter.
If you’re planning on driving or riding, you will need to get an International Driving Permit (IDP) before you leave home. Remember to take your driver’s licence, as well as the IDP with you, and keep them both on you whenever you’re driving. Police in Bali are known to be very strict with tourists who don’t have a licence and you’ll be lumped with a heavy fine if you don’t have one.
Most importantly, use your common sense. If you’re in a taxi, always put your seat belt on. We’d rather see a claim for bruised ribs than have to arrange specialist medical care for head injuries or worse.
Drive in daylight
Avoid driving at night or at dusk. Many bicycles, carts and vehicles do not have proper lights, and street lighting is limited. Combine this with roads that can be potholed or uneven and you’ve got a recipe for disaster!
Check for damage
Bali is infamous for its rental scams, but they can be avoided. When hiring a car or scooter, always ensure you inspect the vehicle thoroughly and take five minutes at the beginning to photograph any damage it may already have. Do the same at the end and make sure it is inspected while you wait.
Helmets and clothing
It is illegal to ride a scooter or a moped without a helmet and police can pull you over and issue an on-the-spot fine. Not to mention the safety aspect! Never ride without a helmet. We also strongly recommend closed in shoes and clothing that covers your arms and legs. Those little stones and bugs can hit very hard when you’re moving!
Bali is a beautiful, tropical island and walking at night is common. However, always be careful and use a torch as many areas don’t have street lights and some footpaths have deep pot holes or uncovered drains nearby. A few other things to ensure your safety when walking around the island:
- Stay away from poorly lit streets or areas where there are not many other people.
- Try not to walk around alone, especially at night. If you’re in a group, don’t get isolated and stick to public areas where there are others around whenever possible.
- Keep an eye on your valuables and conceal them when you can.
- Watch out for uncovered drains or man holes.
Although scooters are popular with tourists, they also cause a lot of injuries. Whether it’s a minor burn from the exhaust, a scrape from a low hanging branch, or a major accident, scooters carry many risks. If you haven’t had practice on a scooter before, we recommend avoiding this form of transport, or getting some practice at home before you leave.
If you do hire a scooter, always hire from a licensed rental vehicle agency and ensure the engine capacity is 200cc or less, wear your helmet and adequate clothing, follow local driving laws or rules, ensure you have a valid international drivers permit with you at all times. You must also ensure you comply with the terms of the rental vehicle agreement at all times and only drive on formed or paved roadways or car parks.
We see a lot of claims for lost items that have been accidentally left behind in taxis or on public transport. A good way to avoid this is to always check your seat whenever you get out of your taxi, or off the bus. Five minutes before you disembark, do a check for all your important items – keys, wallet, passport, phone – to make sure they’re all where they should be.
Unfortunately, pickpocketing is common in Bali and using public transport is one of the times when you’re at a high risk. If you’re travelling in a taxi or bus, always keep your gear close to you and within eyesight – if you have a backpack, wear it on your front. Keep a hand over the zipper wherever possible and ensure your bag is attached to you. If you want a bit more peace of mind, there are some brands of travel bags you can use to be more secure, like Pacsafe, which feature lockable zips and slash proof pockets and straps.