Bali is a wonderful place on earth, but even when it looks like a small island somewhere between Borneo and Australia, it is way too big to travel every distance by foot. Because of the vastness of the island tourists and residents depend on transport vehicles. For buses and cars some roads seem pretty narrow and also traffic jams are inevitable, thus riding scooter is the fastest way from A to B. For all conventional scooter drivers, who strictly stick to the rules, Taiwan is chaotic. For all Taiwanese, Bali is chaotic, I assume. But with these 5 Tips to Survive a Scooter Ride in Bali you will look like the East-Asian Valentino Rossi.
When you pack your travel bag there are some things you should take with you. First of all, have a travel bag. I know, tan lines caused by backpacks are shitty, but do you know what else is shitty – being burnt by the sun. And my dear friend, the Balinese sun will burn you without mercy. So the first item packed into my rucksack is sunscreen. For the opposite weather occasions also take a raincoat and a jacket with you. To not lose track of your well planned trip, use online or offline cards by Google Maps to guide you through the jungle of narrow roads. For longer rides take an external battery with you for your phone and water to recharge your energy. And just in case of rain, a plastic bag for all your valuable belongings is beneficial. I promise, you will need it in the case of rain, like I would have needed one!
The streets of Bali are chaotic. Scooter drivers surpass cars and other scooters left and right, waiting in line for a traffic light is more of a fight about pole position and it is left traffic. For some of you it does not really mean anything chaotic, but as educated right-hand driver, I am not sure how many laws I broke by not yielding. But hey, you don’t have to. For me it seemed like disobeying the traffic laws is fine, as long as you don’t endanger others. Balinese people, especially in traffic, are very aware of their surroundings, so even if you do a mistake, the drivers mostly will anticipate your lack of driving skills. If not, there are still the good old loud annoying honks, which you can still hear after you lay in bed – like an Indonesian traffic tinnitus.
This survival tip should rather be named “be conscious”, but due to the fact that unconsciousness is hardly ever good in traffic the term of cautious fits too. As stated about the awareness of the Balinese, you also have to be conscious about the world around you. Driving at a speed of 60 km/h on a narrow road with other six to ten scooter driver trying to surpass a slow driving car is a lot of work for your brain. Every situation has to be judged, new members of the traffic near you analyzed and every move of your front driver anticipated. Loosing focus can lead to scratched arms and legs – as in our case – or to more harmful scenarios.
Being confident while being alerted all the time opens new paths you can go – literally. Instead of waiting in line with peasant car drivers you can find easy ways to reach your goal at time. Is surpassing on the right side impossible due to heavy traffic and is the road too narrow on the left, just use to otherwise unused pavement to make some meter. For sure you won’t be alone with choosing the alternative “street”, but it is in your responsibility, when to drive back on the normal road. Due to numerous constructions on sidewalks I often had to jump the gap of level back to the concrete of the street – that’s a rhyme. Also one or two times we went in one-ways the wrong direction to get faster to our desired place. Here also reigns the rule: Drive as you want, unless you cause harm to others.
The last tip can be seen as a bit of contrast to the last three. While the others show the traffic on the tropical island as chaotic and dangerous this tip appraises the systematic of driving in Bali. The reason there are so few accidents in this traffic jungle is because everyone is polite like I never had seen in any other country. As driver you care for others, create space, so they can get in when necessary and best of all you will be treated the same way. Yielding and driving functions as a clockwork on this little paradise on earth, so be polite and responsible too.