Getting around Bali

When you visit Bali for the first time it’s not uncommon for visitors to be concerned about how to get around the island.

Firstly, when you arrive at the airport if you haven’t arranged a transfer to your hotel then just head to the taxi counter.  If you know which in which are you will be staying, you pay a set fare and will be issued with a voucher, and you will be assigned a cab that will take you to your hotel.  There is no extra fee to pay the driver and tipping is not expected.

If you do have a transfer arranged, as soon as you exit the airport a group of people will be standing facing the door holding the names of the passengers they are there to meet.

Getting around Bali is very easy.  Firstly, there are plenty of cabs available anywhere in the main tourist areas.  The most reliable cabs are called Bluebird because they have meters and they use them, so you don’t get ripped off.  Beware though, some other cab companies copy the Bluebird colour scheme and their drivers may not switch on their meters and try to negotiate a price with you upon arrival.  If you notice that the driver hasn’t switched the meter on, insist that they do so or ask them to stop and get out – you won’t have to wait long for an honest driver.

It used to be that the cheapest way to get around was by bemo, these are usually small bongo vans that are painted green and are equipped with bench seats for passengers.  You still see some around, but they are nowhere as numerous as they used to.  They can be uncomfortable, but they are cheap.

They are other local buses, which are also cheap, but you need to know some Bahasa Indonesia (the Indonesian language) to be able to read the signage and speak to the drivers.

It doesn’t matter where you are in Bali, you will always get approached by local drivers offering to drive you around.  The price for a ride is by negotiation, and the price you pay depends on how far you want to travel, and how long you use the driver for.  If you want to do sightseeing, or just go shopping in different areas, it often works out better to use a local driver, particularly as they will wait for you, and if you have shopping of valuables with you, leave them in their cars and they will look after them for you.  I have drivers in different areas of Bali that I use whenever I visit.  If you find a driver that is safe, helpful, and reasonably priced then I’ve found that it’s best to stick with them.  Build up a relationship and you will find the experience worthwhile.

Bali traffic is comprised mainly of small motorbikes, and it’s not uncommon to see a family of three or four on a bike going about their business.  There are many motorbike drivers who will gladly drive you around for a fee.  They are the cheapest form of transport, but the traffic is chaotic, and your safety cannot be guaranteed, but if you are a thrill seeker then getting around by this method may be just the thing for you.

The other way to go is to hire a car of a bike and drive yourself.  It is possible to hire a car for as little as $10 per day, but don’t expect all the mod cons you could generally expect from an international rental service, plus the car will probably be an Indonesian brand, such as Kijang, and will not overwhelm you with its grunt as they tend to lack horsepower.  Once you get the hang of the traffic in Bali, driving is not difficult, but you do need to keep your wits about you, particularly as road rules seem to be non-existent and the unexpected movement from another vehicle is a common occurrence.  Most of the roads in Bali are very narrow, and motorbike riders sometimes tend to ignore basic rules, such as keeping to their side of the road, and they can surprise you by driving at you on the wrong side of the road.  By the way, in Indonesia, as in much of South East Asia, they drive on the left.  If you are used to driving on the right, you may find your controls are reversed and may continually turn on your windscreen wipers when trying to use your vehicle’s indicators. You can also hire motor bikes for even less.  Quite often visitors make the mistake of thinking they are indestructible and ride their motorbikes n a rather heroic fashion which often results in mishap. There is nothing inherently wrong with driving or riding yourself, just use common sense and be extra vigilant when driving – self-preservation is a wonderful thing and could save you an unwanted visit to hospital, or worse.

Finally, you can always play it safe and book yourself onto a tour.  Check around to see what is available as some do offer good value, and you have the advantage of being picked up and dropped off at your hotel, and you pay a fixed price so you won’t be in for any surprises.

I haven’t mentioned prices because they do change.  It will take you a day or two to work out how much you should fairly pay.  Apart from the fixed prices in Bluebird cabs, bemos and tours, everything else is negotiable – you’ll know that you’ve gone too low when service is refused.

If you are into cycling you can hire bikes, in which case, if you wish to go solo, you should also invest in a funeral plan as the motorized traffic is so unpredictable and the riders and drivers don’t respect personal space.  However, there are also some excellent bike tours available which carry you up into the hills by vehicle, which then follows you as you cycle downhill all the way.  You have a guide with you, the cycling isn’t strenuous, and it is a great way to see some spectacular scenery.

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