Getting Around Bali

Bali Travel Options

After our realization that walking around from place to place just wasn't going to cut it in Ubud, we had to come up with a different solution for getting from place to place. After getting a glimpse of what it would be like to drive in Bali—the streets are narrow (even more so than Tasmania), there really isn't any place to park, and the traffic is chaotic and unpredictable—we didn't really want a car, so we looked into renting a pair of scooters.

A typical Balinese driving experience.

A typical Balinese driving experience.

But it's been a few years since we used any sort of two-wheeled powered vehicle, so we were a wary about re-learning a rusty skill on the streets of Bali with a child balanced precariously behind us. But still, we had to get around somehow, so we looked into it.

Scooters and motorbikes are quite popular.

Scooters and motorbikes are quite popular.

Renting scooters would run us about 50,000 rupiah (Rp) per scooter per day. So we'd be shelling out 100,000 each day for our freedom (by comparison, a car was 200,000 Rp a day). That might seem like a big sum, but at $1 US to 12,000 Rp, renting scooters would only cost us about $8.25 a day.

The problem we ran into, though, wasn't one of funds. It was one of having the right paperwork.

International Drivers Permit

An International Drivers Permit (IDP) is a slightly larger-than-passport-sized document that translates the information on your driver's license into a number of different languages. It's accepted in something like 150 countries, is valid for one year, and is pretty simple to get from AAA or the NAC for $15 plus shipping and handling. Yet despite how easy and cheap it as to get one of these documents, we didn't have one.

Of the many things we'd been scrambling to get taken care of before we departed for this adventure back in August, obtaining an IDP was not on the list. We'd never had trouble driving overseas before (admittedly always in English-speaking countries), so we didn't even think about proper driving paperwork.

But Indonesia requires international drivers to have an IDP rated for the type of vehicle they will be operating on Indonesian roads (class A for cars, class C for motorbikes). You can easily find someone to rent you a scooter without showing an IDP, but the police are known to pull tourists over and ask to see their paperwork. If you don't have an IDP, you get fined. The reported fines seem small (between 20,000 and 56,000 Rp), but we didn't want to add to the stress of trying to safely operate a scooter through the hectic streets of Ubud by having to actively keep an eye out for the police.

Parking spaces are hard to come by in Ubud.

Parking spaces are hard to come by in Ubud.

Option 2: Hiring a Driver

So, instead of the scooters, we opted to hire a driver. The villa had a gent they recommended, and we decided to use him as our main means of transportation. There were a number of advantages to this decision:

  1. Hiring a driver would cost us 50,000 Rp to get to town (and 50,000 to come back). Since we didn't plan on going to town every day, this actually saved us money over having a pair of scooters just sitting idle for a day or two.
  2. We didn't have to worry about parking in Ubud.
  3. We didn't have to worry about traffic.
  4. In addition to a simple shuttle service, the driver also offered different organized day tours to different places for reasonable prices. He'd even customize a tour based on what we were interested in.
  5. Driving around with someone who knew the country was a lot more educational than trying to thread a scooter through Balinese traffic.

So to see the sights and make quick trips into town for dinners, we spent a fair amount of time being shuttled around in an air-conditioned (bonus!) Suzuki APV, a common sight on the streets of Bali.

Vroom.

Vroom.

Pro Tip

If you're traveling internationally for any length of time, get yourself an IDP.

is a writer of things with a strong adventurous streak. He also drinks coffee.

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Getting Around Bali
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