The craziness on Balinese roads is the time to apply Bali’s spiritual traffic rules for peace and calm!
Bali traffic is crazy and totally different from driving in anywhere else in the world! This beautiful country with it’s calm, tranquil and spiritual lifestyle relies on an equally calming set of spiritual traffic rules when using their roads.
Bali’s Spiritual Traffic Rules are the key to survival
- Relax, be calm
- Don’t get angry
- Don’t take anything too seriously
- No need to rush things
- Anything can happen anytime
- Let things flow naturally
- Don’t be pushy
- Accept others how they are
- Feel, sense, anticipate
- Stay respectful
- Always be alert and aware
Tourists and locals alike scoot around on motorbikes as economical go-anywhere transport.
Despite the congestion in all areas of Bali, traffic flow is surprisingly patient. I’ve seen similar road gymnastics in other Asian cities and have on many occasions wondered how there aren’t more serious accidents or scrapes.
Visual chaos is the best way to describe it, but I have to admit that I’ve noticed a level of consideration that each driver has for the other as they try to avoid accidents.
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Crazy Bali Traffic Road Code
Bali has a simple code for safe driving on their roads but there are a few essential tips which will help keep you safe.
Traffic flow is rarely faster than 40 kilometres per hour, don’t be impatient.
It is likely that you will share the roads with dogs, chickens and cows. Don’t be impatient, wait for them to pass before going on your way. Be mindful that nothing in Bali, ever happens in a hurry! Enjoy the view!
Watch the processions
Roads often get closed off without notice for processions, ceremonies & festivities. Follow the other vehicles for the way around or wait patiently for the procession to pass.
Good Balance is vital
Good balance is obviously essential as motorbikes are often used as the primary transporter of everything imaginable in Bali. Motorbikes transform from school commuter vehicles into courier vehicles, mobile food stalls and many are used to carry tools of trade for their owners … loaded to the hilt!
School drop-off times are crazy
Mums’ & Dads’ doing school drop-offs often have 3 or 4 of their children hugging onto them, stacked closely together on a scooter. Almost as if a fashion statement was needed, the coolest young ones stand proudly on the front wearing brightly coloured sunglasses.
Beware of Surfers
Golden haired surfers juggle the busy roads on their scooter with one arm wrapped around their surfboard as they head down to catch the waves at Uluwatu and other popular surf beaches.
Drive on the Left
Standard road rules are that all traffic keeps to the left as with most other Asian countries.
Whatever is in front of you is your responsibility
A motorbike driver cutting in front of you believes that you will notice him and that you will make space or slow down. Have faith that someone will make space for you.
Give way & Stop Signs
There are generally no give-way signs and very few stop signs. If you see one, most likely it will be ignored!
Centre-lines mean very little and vehicles merge and flow through lanes without indicating other than a light beep of their horn.
Beep your Horn
Always beep your horn when overtaking. If you want to overtake somebody, you MUST use your horn so they know you are coming, otherwise they might move right or left unexpectedly.
Everyone uses their horn as a ‘I’m right beside you’ .. rather than the ‘get out of my way’ road rage that we see so often at home.
The roads are not always in good condition and you need to be alert for hazards. When Balinese renovate, often sand, stones and building material will be delivered on the street edge. Navigate around the pile.
When it starts to rain (and remember, it rains often) a large drop-sheet is produced to drape over everyone leaving the driver peeping out of the top while maneuvering through jam-packed peak hour traffic.
Wear a helmet
Road safety helmets are not often worn, and if they are it’s usually the adults wearing them, not the children! If your helmet does not have a visor, make sure you wear sunglasses for eye protection.
If you get stopped by police without a license, for speeding, or riding without a helmet. Always stay calm and friendly. Explain to the police you did not know and you are sorry. They will sometimes charge you a fee and let you go. Expect to pay between 10 – 30 USD.
Never drive barefoot
Wear closed in shoes. Avoid wearing thongs when driving a scooter in Bali as they won’t give you much protection if in an accident. Apparently no one takes any notice of this!
Make sure you check the tyre pressure, brakes and that the lights are working.
Expect the Unexpected
People WILL pull out in front of you. Anybody can, and will enter a main road at anytime without looking.
Often roads become very slippery when it begins to rain. In the tropics, it rains often.
Don’t drink and drive
It can be tempting to drink a few Bintang beers, and drive back home on your scooter in the middle of the night to save on the taxi fee. Don’t risk it!
You will need an International Driver’s Licence
You need an international driving license to rent a motor vehicle or scooter. Apply for your international license in your home country before you start your travels. Its important to carry both your “real” drivers license as well as the international license when driving internationally as they are only valid together.
If you haven’t applied before you started your travels, apply for a temporary Balinese driving license (tourist driver’s license) from the police station in Denpasar. It should be approved within a day.
Take care on Bali Roads
Driving a scooter is the best way to get around in Bali. If you want to go to the beach, do some shopping, visit some restaurants then a scooter does really make it easy to get around.
It is important to be cautious. If you have never driven scooter or motorbike in Bali or other cities in Asia then take advice, it’s not as easy as it looks. Riding a scooter can be quite dangerous if you are not an experienced road user or familiar with a motorbike or scooter. Accidents with scooters and motorbikes happen often.
It is worth noting that if you do have an accident in Bali the liability sits with the largest vehicle. If a tourist is involved, almost always the tourist is liable for all damage.
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