Although it's not recommended, it is naive to tell people not to rent scooters in Bali. I mean we did it, so why wouldn't you?! Rather than take a negative approach, I would like to share some facts and tips to make this experience easier and more importantly safer for you! I will begin by mentioning that Thom has been riding motorbikes for his whole life, so I was confident that he knew how to ride safely and was comfortable riding a bike. I would never have gotten on one of those scooters by myself.
If you're comparing scooter rental to hiring a car for the day, you can immediately see why they are so popular. The price for a full day car hire was approximately $66 AUD whilst to rent a scooter it only cost $7.50 AUD for the whole day. In all honesty, I actually really loved getting around Bali by scooter for the day, but there's no doubt that they can be dangerous, with thousands of people getting into accidents on Bali roads each year. If you're thinking about renting a scooter I would suggest following these guidelines so that you're not the next strike on the ever increasing road toll.
You should always..
1. Have some experience with scooters or motorbikes. To be honest, if you haven't been on one I don't think this is the time to start. There are almost no road rules in Bali, and even if you're not driving you can see how crazy the traffic can get. It is not the place to learn and be hesitant amongst hundreds of other bikes.
2. Wear a helmet! Never ever get on a bike without a helmet. Even if you do all the right things, you can never 100% guarantee that you're not going to get into an accident, and it's better to be safe than sorry.
3. Before you leave the rental place make sure that everything is working, including break lights and the horn.
4. Carry your licence on you. As an Australian you are not required to have an international drivers permit to rent or drive a scooter in Bali but it is always a good idea to carry your regular licence on you, in case you do get pulled over.
5. Follow the locals. If you're not sure how to do something, like how to get through a traffic jam or which way you're meant to turn a corner, copy the locals and the way they're getting around. They are the experts and navigate these streets everyday.
6. Use your indicators. Even if nobody around you is choosing to use them, it is always a good idea to give people an idea of what you're doing.
7. Stay calm! This is not the place to be nervous or have a panic attack. If you're getting flustered maybe pull over for a little bit until you're calm and can continue.
You should never..
1. Ride without a helmet. Enough said.
2. Drink and drive. You can't do it in Australia and you shouldn't do it in Bali. You're still impaired when you've been drinking, so don't risk it.
3. Ride without experience. It will not end well.
4. Wear your bag over your shoulder. There have been many reports of bag snatching from the street which could also result in an accident if you lose your balance. Put all your important belongings in the scooter's compartment or a backpack.
5. Drive too fast. People stop quickly and unexpectedly and if you're not prepared you could smash right into the back of them. Take a calm relaxing pace and enjoy the experience instead of tearing through the streets.
6. Venture too far our of the Seminyak/Legian/Kuta area. We were advised that if you get too far out of these areas (specifically, we were thinking of riding down to Uluwatu) you are much more likely to get picked up by the police. They pretty much target tourists and are just looking for money, and they will take whatever you have on you. Only travel around with a couple of 100,000 Rp in your wallet, hide the rest in the seat cavity or on your body, but only take what you need and keep the rest in the hotel.
7. Expect the unexpected. Riders are crazy and the move freely through the traffic without looking or adhering to any type of road rules. Be careful and know what's going on around you.
8. Assume that your travel insurance covers you for riding a scooter. Most travel insurance policies do not include cover for this, so make sure you are aware of what you are and are not covered for and think about what you're going to do if something does go wrong.
If you're unsure or don't feel completely comfortable reconsider renting a scooter. While they can be fun there is no doubt that Bali is one of the most dangerous places to drive them, so be sure of yourself before you get going.