If you’re backpacking in Bali it is important to note that there is no proper public transport system, something you can take for granted as a backpacker. In other parts of the world it is easy to catch a tube, a bus, a tram or a train to get to where you want to go, but transport in Bali is a little bit different. That doesn’t mean that getting around Bali is difficult- in fact you will often hear locals shouting “Transport?!” wherever you go. In Bali your main options are renting a car or a bike, or getting in a taxi. Whilst some guides mention hailing a bemo- a minibus that ferries locals from place to place in quite cramped conditions- it is very rare to see tourists on them or in fact to see a bemo at all.
The Balinese people usually travel by scooter or motorbike and you will see many tourists using them too. If you’re a surfer you will want to carry a board with you, so the Balinese have developed racks to fit onto your scooter. Scooters are the cheapest way to travel, and if you’re using one for an entire month, you’re looking at about 500,000 Rupiah for a Honda Vario automatic, which is around 50 US dollars. In Bali there are ‘rent motorbike’ signs wherever you go, with dozens of bikes ready for the picking.
Whilst you are supposed to carry an International Driving Permit as well as your driving licence, some rental companies won’t check either of them and if you’re stopped by the police, often you can get away with a fine of around 50,000 Rupiah which is 5 US dollars.
If you’re confident in using a scooter than this can be a cheap option and a great way to see the island. Not only is it fun, it’s quicker than getting stuck in traffic in a car. What you have to weigh up is whether you’re confident enough to ride one and whether you’re prepared for the risks. Every year tourists go home with lasting injuries from scooter accidents in Bali.
As in any country, you should be careful on scooters. In Bali the road surfaces are often bumpy, and there are potholes so you should take care and always wear something to cover your arms and legs as well as a helmet.
It seems obvious that you should wear a helmet, but many tourists ignore this rule and the police will be on the look out for any tourist breaking the law. Usually they will try to pull you over and ask for money, but you can negotiate on the fine. Tourists have been known to pay around 100,000 Rupiah which is 10 US dollars for not wearing a helmet.
Traffic in Bali can be chaotic and there are far fewer rules. On the roads in Bali you’ll be negotiating your way through traffic, avoiding ditches and dodging stray dogs. There are barely any traffic lights and road signals except on the major highways, and these are sometimes turned off late at night. In Bali red signals are there only as a ‘suggestion’ and drivers will often cut in front of you without indicating. Beeping your horn is not considered rude or aggressive, it is simply a way to make sure people know you are there. Be prepared to get lost, as places aren’t always that well signposted!
If you’re going for a night out in Kuta and Seminyak, you are likely to hop in a taxi. In these two areas it is extremely easy to flag a taxi down and a taxi fare usually starts at 5,000 Rupiah, with an additional 4,000Rupiah per kilometre. For short distances this is great and the most reputable company is Bali Taxi, which can be recognised by the blue cars and the logo ‘Bluebird Group’ on the windscreen. Some taxis claim the meter is broken and will try to charge you a higher fare, so it’s good to get a rough idea of how much your journey should cost.
The advantages of traveling by taxi are that you don’t have to worry about rental cars or the safety issue on motorbikes, but the downside is it can get pricey if you want to travel further afield.
Renting a car in Bali is not like renting a car from one of the major rental brands. Whilst companies like Hertz do exist in Bali, you would be paying prices far above the odds. Do not book any sort of car rental package before you get to Bali, instead, shop around when you get there for a car. There are signs everywhere for “Rent Car” and it is possible to get a small jeep or a little Suzuki Karimun for around 100,000 Rupiah per day. The bigger and newer the car, the higher the price. Usually you’ll be expected to return it to the place where you hired it, but sometimes they will come and pick it up for you.
When you’re renting a car, check it over before you agree to rent it and check if it has air conditioning- something you are going to want in the scorching heat. Renting a car in Bali is a very informal process; usually they will make you fill in a bit of paper with your driving licence number but not always. The Balinese are are often very flexible with returns. If you would like to extend your rental, give them a call and see what they can do. Generally speaking, the longer you rent the car for, the better the price you can negotiate.
Perama offer tours and travel in Bali designed for tourists. Tourist shuttle buses offer a safe and convenient way to get to the major sights, but they don’t venture far off the tourist trail. They still aren’t operating buses to places like Uluwatu or Bingin, but maybe that’s a good thing. Parama shuttle buses will take you to Sanur, Ubud, Lovina, Padang Bai, Candi Dasa or Mataram Senggigi and Parama also operates a fast boat to the Gili Islands. There are buses every day linking these tourist stops but are not direct, with stop-offs along the way. Shuttle buses leave from the Parama offices, although you can arrange a pick-up or drop off to your accommodation for 10,000 Rupiah. Carrying a surf board will cost you 15,000 Rupiah extra. You can also take a shuttle bus from Kuta, Sanur or Ubud to Nusa Lembongan, Bedegul and Kintamani.