A growing number of popular tourist destinations offer great public transport – at least to some degree. However, that’s not exactly the feeling that you are left with when you arrive in Bali in Indonesia. In fact, you might be slightly confused as to how you’ll get from one place to another.
But there’s no need to worry. We spent a few weeks visiting big parts of the tropical island – and we like to think that we learned something on the way. We have tried to summarize our tips & tricks for getting around in Bali in this post. Hopefully, it’ll make you feel more prepared to tackle the transportation part of your journey.
Fasten your seatbelt – there’s much to learn!
Using a taxi is by far the most obvious means of getting around in Bali. Usually, they are easy to spot, they have plenty of room for your luggage, you are relatively safe, and most importantly; they are air-conditioned.
Roughly speaking, there are two types of taxis in Bali: Blue Bird and private taxis. The first is the biggest taxi company in Indonesia and the latter is of course privately owned (often not organized in any official way).
Whether you choose one or the other it is important to make sure that your driver knows exactly where you are going. We usually recommend that you follow the route on a map to make sure that you are headed the right way (use Google Maps if you have access to the internet or use maps.me if you are offline).
Many drivers will insist that they, unfortunately, don’t have enough change. Sometimes it might be true, often it’s not. No matter what, you will probably be better off by carrying small change. That way you can pay the exact amount, and not have to worry about not getting your change back.
If you are driven to an attraction, you might want to consider having your taxi driver wait for you. Many drivers will offer this, but if not, you can feel free to ask them. It might be hard to find taxis at some attractions, and thus it can prove to be a challenge to get back to your hotel if you don’t have a driver waiting. The cost of this will probably be just about 40.000 IDR an hour.
My Blue Bird
You’ll be able to recognize the Blue Bird taxis by their blue color and a sign on the roof that says Taksi. Usually, they are trustworthy, have decent English skills, and use a taximeter. If you insist, most drivers are willing to make a deal for a fixed price, however, the meter will more often than not be the cheapest option.
Get out of the taxi immediately and find another if you do not agree upon a price beforehand, and the driver refuses to use the taximeter. It shouldn’t be a problem to find another driver, as Blue Bird taxis are pretty much everywhere in the southern part of Bali. This makes them a comfortable, easy and cheap way to get around Seminyak, Denpasar, and Nusa Dua.
Most drivers can be convinced to drop you off in Ubud, however, they’ll disappear immediately after, and you won’t see another Blue Bird taxi until you get back to the southern part of Bali. The Blue Bird taxis are not welcome outside of the capital-area, and they are only allowed to drop people off at hotels. If they pick up new passengers, the local taxi drivers will come after them. No one really talks about this, but it is definitely an issue.
We, of course, learned this the hard way, when we tried to book a taxi from Ubud to Lovina through the My BlueBird app (as they are cheaper than the private taxis in the area). Our booking was accepted three times, however, they all got canceled after 15 – 20 minutes.
However, if you are in the capital-area you might want to download the My BlueBird app for your phone. It works very well. You just pick your pick-up point, your destination, and your preferred choice of payment. And yes, it’s possible to pay with your credit card, thus eliminating the stress of having to pay with cash. You can call for a taxi immediately or a pick-up at a later time.
You won’t be able to walk 3 steps in Bali without meeting someone, who apparently can get you anywhere in the world for a very special price, my friend. Most of them are just independent drivers, while others are more organized.
There’s usually no reason to not use a private taxi. Our recommendation is to find someone who seems trustworthy and nice. Also, don’t feel shy about haggling for a better price. Most private taxi drivers in Bali are willing to reduce their price by 30 percent or more.
When you have agreed on a price, then make sure that the driver knows exactly where you are going. Sometimes they might “accidentally” drive you to the wrong place, and then charge you extra for getting you to the right destination. As always, we recommend that you follow the route on your phone, so you can speak up if something doesn’t seem right.
The private taxi drivers might also take you on an unwilling sightseeing trip, where you stop at different attractions (both the real ones and the tourist markets, where they are paid to take you) along the route you are driving. Decide whether or not you are up for that before you get into the taxi. If not, then make sure that the driver understands this, and respects your decision to just go directly to your destination.
Grab is pretty much Uber, but for South-East Asia. It works well and is very easy to use – especially if you have ever used Uber. Parts of the app might not have been translated into English yet, but the icons should make it possible to figure out what you are doing.
The app works a lot like MyBlueBird and will generally be a cheaper alternative to getting around in Bali compared to regular taxis and private drivers. Just like Blue Bird, Grab drivers aren’t welcome in most parts of Bali. However, the cars are harder to recognize and thus you might have some luck finding a Grab-driver that will drive you to the northern part of Bali.
In the southern part of Bali, you won’t have any trouble finding a ride through Grab. They are literally everywhere – both on motorbikes and in cars. We didn’t get to use Grab a lot in Bali, however, we did use it quite a bit in Vietnam, where it worked really well.
Rental of a moped or motorbike
South-East Asia is all about riding on two wheels with the wind flowing through your hair and with rice fields all around you. That’s at least our favorite way of getting around in Bali and other parts of the South East Asian continent.
It’s dangerously easy to rent a moped or a motorbike in Bali, however, there are quite a few things that you need to know before you pick the first rental place that you stumble upon.
First of all; they aren’t really big on mopeds in Bali. Their bikes might look like mopeds, but make no mistake, most of them are in fact motorbikes (that means 125 cc or larger engines). A normal driver license in most countries does not allow you to ride on motorbikes, but only on mopeds with engines no larger than 50 cc. That means that if you want to rent and drive a motorbike legally in Bali, then you need the right license as well as an international driver’s license – otherwise you are technically breaking the law.
That being said, there’s hardly any rental places that check whether you have the correct license. And if you are stopped by the police, you will supposedly be let off with a warning if you just smile, talk a little gibberish and happen to have a little bit of cash at hand. We were never stopped by police in Bali, and our general experience was that if you drive carefully, then you won’t get into trouble.
Good to know when renting a motorbike in Bali
We strongly recommend that you find a rental place through your accommodation or with good reviews on the internet, if you do decide that Bali has to be experienced on a motorbike. Most hotels and hostels can get you a motorbike pretty much any time of the day or night.
Prices for renting a motorbike in Bali should not exceed 100.000 IDR / day, and generally, it should be possible to rent for 50.000 to 60.000 IDR / day. If you need to fill up the gas tank of your rented motorbike, it should cost approximately 20.000 IDR if you visit an authorized gas station. If you end up filling up from one of the local “gas stations” along the road, then it will probably be slightly more expensive.
A well-maintained motorbike with 2 riders should be able to go at least 80 kilometers on a full gas tank. There’s no doubt that a motorbike is the cheapest and most flexible way of getting around. Sadly, they aren’t exactly suited for carrying luggage.
Good to know when riding a motorbike in Bali
If it’s your first time on a motorbike or moped, then don’t go on your maiden voyage while in Seminyak. The traffic is hectic and very unorganized – especially for Western tourists. We recommend that you wait and rent a motorbike when you get to a smaller town instead (i.e., Ubud). That way you can take your time to get used to the bike while going up and down a small, quiet and preferably closed street.
Make sure that you get to know the motorbike. Start out by driving slowly with your feet close to the ground, and slowly pick your feet up until you feel confident. Keep driving up and down the street or the parking lot while braking, accelerating, turning etc. Do this as long as you still feel insecure on the motorbike. Then go on a small drive along some quiet streets – possibly in the evening, where the city is less busy.
When you are out and about in traffic, you’ll soon experience people honking at you. And while it might be because they think you’re a lousy driver, it’s often because they use the horn to signal their presence to you and others in traffic. It is very important that you do exactly the same. So, use your horn to make everyone aware that you are passing them or whatever you do, that might need their attention. It can be tough if you come from a culture, where honking is perceived as a negative thing – but it’s critical that you get used to it.
We could write an entire book on using a motorbike to get around in Bali, but you are probably already tired of reading this post. If there’s one thing that you need to take away from this, then it should be to use your common sense:
- Pick a motorbike or moped in good condition
- Take it slow and get used to the bike and the traffic
- Stay attentive and concentrate on driving
- Do not drive in flip-flops and with bare skin
- Use a helmet
It’s better to take it slow and drive to the far side of the street, so people can pass you, rather than to drive fast if you are still getting comfortable with your motorbike and the traffic. Also, please remember that bare skin, asphalt and 40 kph is not a good cocktail. Rather sweat and stay safe than to look cool and be severely injured if there’s a crash.
We did not see any traffic accidents during our 2 weeks in Bali, but that doesn’t mean that they don’t happen. If you are still thinking that you won’t wear a helmet and the proper clothes, then we’ll just leave you with this: No one makes way for ambulances – they have to wait in traffic like everyone else. So, if you crash, you probably will have to wait quite a while for professional help to arrive.
We would recommend experiencing Bali on a motorbike or moped any day of the week but please make sure that you heed our advice.
It is possible to rent a car in Bali, and if you are a larger family it might be the way to go. However, you should be aware that it’s not exactly an island that is big on parking spaces. And even though it might be tough to believe, it’s generally even more hectic to drive a car than a scooter in Balinese traffic.
It might actually make more economic sense to use a private driver or taxis rather than renting a car. And it’ll no doubt be better for your blood pressure if you are not the one driving the car – and not the one who has to worry about damages to the vehicle.
If you are looking for the freedom that a rental car provides, then you have a few options. As in most other countries, you’ll be able to rent a car at the airport on arrival. However, you will also be able to rent cars from the more local car- and motorbike rental places around the island. If you do end up renting a car, then we recommend that you do it from an established car rental company. That way you’ve some sort of guarantee that the car is in good condition.
The traffic gets better as soon as you leave the bigger cities. However, when planning trips using a GPS, Google Maps or the like, do not make the mistake of believing the expected time of arrival. For some reason, it is not very reliable, and you should always count on using twice as much time getting there as the GPS suggests.
We love road tripping to the point where it’s probably a little too much – because how good a way to travel is it really? Anyway, we would choose private drivers, taxis or a rented motorbike any day of the week when visiting Bali. Renting a car is just not worth the stress and the worries – in our opinion.