Drive Safely in Bali

Tips for Guests, Tips for Travellers

How to Drive Safely in Bali

18 Jul , 2016  

I’ve heard too many stories of scooter accidents here in Bali and witnessed far too many. News sites almost report such occasions on weekly or daily basis. So let’s consider this post as a way to try to put an end to this “endemic” issue.

Read and share it to everyone you know living or vacaying here in Bali. Use #drivesafebali to share this post and let’s make it a norm to drive safely in Bali.

#drivesafebali Use this hashtag to share and spearhead a campaign to drive safely in Bali

Use this hashtag to share and spearhead a campaign to drive safely in Bali

First things first, a lot of serious motorbike accidents happened with a silly start.

Showing off is one. What? You want to impress your lady friend by pulling some tricks with your bike? Dude, before you go with that plan, consider this: asphalt is a solid substance/matter once dried. It’s rock hard with rough surface.

Factor that with gravity–you know, something a guy named Newton discovered hundreds of years ago while daydreaming under an apple tree–and also the velocity of your bike. You don’t have to be a master in physics to know what’s going to happen when you lose your balance while those two forces working on you. Your body will kinetically hit that asphalt. The “end-result” may vary, depending on the angle, velocity and gravity forces at work.

From bruised and teared up skins (Ouch!). Broken bones (Double ouch!). Broken pride (Ouch!). You name it.

But it promises you this: Pain. Excruciating pain.

Is it worth the attention you may or may not get? So scratch that showing off, buy her beers instead in Old Man’s and be a gentleman through the night. That’s definitely more impressive than eating dirt on your way down from your bike (or the shameful feeling that surely will follow).

That being said, the following are the least of the things you can do to stay safe while driving your bike/scooter/moped around Bali.

1. Don’t drink and drive

Don't drink and drive in Bali (or everywhere else)

Don’t drink and drive in Bali (or everywhere else)

Oh boy. This ones never gets old. Been there, done that. Luckily for me, nothing’s happened. Some people aren’t that lucky though.

Drinking and driving may seems like fun, but it’s the same like panicking really: the more you think it’s time to panic, the more it’s time to stay calm. Of course, I’m talking about that urge that you feel when you’re driving while intoxicated…you know, the voice in your head that makes speeding up sounds like a good idea? Most likely, it then lead you to an “Aha!” moment to speed off.

It is not a good idea after all.

Trust me. It’s not. So, the moment that urge hits you, it’s best to stay on a slower, safer, speed. It’s maybe counter-intuitive to do so, but doing that saves a lot of lives. Especially when you start seeing Elvis on your bike dashboard instead of the usual speedometer. Usually, that is a good sign for you to goddamn slow down.

Don’t take my word for it. Ask those who survive all the DUI-related accidents. Because you can’t ask those who don’t, can you?

Drinking and driving. If it’s something you won’t do back home, don’t even start to do it here.

2. Those funny looking scooters aren’t toy bikes


They may look harmless and have funny names, but don’t be mistaken, they’re fully functional real vehicle. They are no sport cars nor the fastest things on this Earth. However, an average scooter can take you up to 80 km/hour or even more. No toy bike can give you such speed. When something that fast suddenly stops, the force it generates is enough to throw and knock you out cold, smash the thing you hit to pieces, and even kill a human being. Troubles start when you underestimate it as a mere motorised toy. Stop that, and do treat it like you would a car or “real bike”. It starts with the way you drive it. No fooling around.

3. Watch it when you turn

Turn left go ahead

Familiar road sign in Indonesia

Water (if it’s raining) or sands taken by the wind (or spill off of construction vehicles) can cause the turn to be slippery. Keep your eyes open for things like that, including bumps and holes. And oh yeah, when you see a sign like the one above, you’re allowed to turn left without stopping at the traffic stop.

4. Don’t drive too close to gang’s exit/entrance

*Gang: Small alley

You never know what will come out of it. It can be a rabid dog (chasing you out of nowhere) or a cat crossing down the street. It can be a big construction truck that you know is impossible to go in there in the first place. It can be a child running. All of those are accident prone, but the most dangerous award and the thing I hate the most goes to motorbike drivers who, once they’re out of the gang, speed off to the same direction as you, directly, without stopping first (as they should). They do tend to stop first if they’re going in the opposite direction, but don’t hope too much. This is done in total abandon whether there are bikes (including yours) that need to avoid their dangerous maneuver including, but not limited to, by falling down.

Five in ten occasions like this, it resulted in accidents. Whether your bikes crashing each other, or you falling down in an attempt to avoid crashing (while the culprit keeps speeding off as if nothing happens, as if your falling down has nothing to do with how he drives).

Knowing how dangerous it could be, the same message goes for you when you drive out of a gang. Do us a favor here: Don’t. Be. That. Kind. Of. Jerk. Driver. Ever.

Always stop first and look before you turn from a gang or junction.

5. Signal

This is so easy. Too easy that people keep forgetting about it aaalll the tiiime…:

  1. Always remember to signal when you are going to turn.
  2. And, no less important, don’t forget to turn the signal off afterward
  3. Never signal to the left when you’re going to the right and vice versa.

Number 3 sounds silly, right? But it happens. It happens often. It happens to the best of us. And if something this silly can lead to a serious accident, maybe it’s time to take this matter more seriously.

6. Be Patient

This one is totally, utterly, avoidable. Getting all worked up over the traffic is one thing, but to go overboard that you abandon all the safety measure for you and others so that your bike can move through the traffic is another thing.

Keep your cool. Stay calm. If you’re late/in a hurry remember, this is Bali. Things slow down here. Everything can wait. (I wish you good luck trying to explain that to a Bali noob). Or, if all your attempts to keep your cool fail, always remember that yelling at a taxi driver who blocks your way can still be done by keeping watch on your side mirror to avoid someone running to you from the back while driving past him.

7. Don’t be distracted

focus while driving in Bali

Nuff said

Driving side by side, talking to each other; talking, texting and swiping on the phone while driving (WTF!?), those are dangerous stunts to pull. Why? First of all, Bali roads are not made for the easily distracted. The roads are peppered with holes, bumps, dead snakes and God knows what else. The surface is uneven in some parts. Some roads are simply too narrow to drive abreast without clogging the road.

Stop first before checking on your phone. Don’t let yourself distracted when wolf-whistling all those beauties walking down the road. And take your earphones off! Seriously.

Do this like you do yoga. It’s a good practice to focus your mind, I kid you not. I call this iryackrika yoga.

8. Wear Your Effin Helmet

"Nuh-uh" Wear your helmet (and your shirt).

“Nuh-uh” Via


A helmet is your first line of defense against all threats to your head and face. They’re designed for one purpose and one purpose only, and it is not to make you look good…or better. So deal with it.

Think helmet as a condom. You may not need it. But you’ll be glad you wore it when you need it.

Ha! Now you see what I mean.

9. Hone your scooter-riding skill

Indonesian Motorcycle

Got skill? You’re still a Padawan compared to this guy. Via Aiyepblog

Remember that most accidents can be avoided with better driving skills. As a skill, it gets better with more practice. So there’s no other way. Practice! Practice! Practice! Straight roads, bumpy roads, dirt roads, paved roads, etc… Practice on all of them till you can feel it in your scooter-riding bones. Be careful not to be too complacent though. A complacent driver is almost as accident prone as an unskilled one.

Berawa-Echo Beach Shortcut. Pic via

Berawa-Echo Beach Shortcut: The bane for all unskilled drivers. Pic via

What if shit still happened no matter how careful I was?

How many bikes need to be involved in an accident? Two? Wrong. One. Just one. So that’s a pretty high odd for every driver. Including you.

So, yes. Shit does happen. When it happens to you (God forbid) remember that:

  • Rule #1: This is what travel insurance is for
  • Rule #2: If you somehow got an accident here in Bali and don’t have a travel insurance, see Rule #1

Other than that:

  • Keep emergency numbers in your cellphone on speed dial (hospitals, clinics, police, friends, the whole seven nation’s armies).
  • Learn some Bahasa (Tolong is Indonesian for help) to better your chances of getting some quick help.

Bonus Tip

If you live in Canggu area, especially in Berawa, you get the jackpot, baby!

In Berawa, there’s one medicine man (think the late Ketut Liyer of Eat, Pray and Love‘s fame. God rest his soul) named Pak Sirkus (not Pak Circus please!) who’s famous for his ability to heal bones and muscle-related ailments. Got sprained ankle, aching joints, funny feeling on your knee? He’s the guy to go to.

Everyday in his house, Pak Sirkus the healer will attend to his patients, both local and international travellers having all sorts of complains resulted from biking, surfing accidents or pinched nerves.

Make sure you come early in the morning because it can be a really crowded queue.

A bit of a warning though, each patient is treated not in a separate/closed room but in an open bale for all other patients to see. *another incentive to come early.

Where: Jl. Pantai Berawa, Canggu (Google Map)

When: Everyday 9am-2pm (excluding ceremony days/Sunday)

How much: Donation


Do you have something to add? Have you experienced any accidents here in Bali? Share it below.

Ride safe people!

Featured Image via: @balivivere

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