Information you need to know about means of transports inside Bali island to help you getting around Bali with ease.
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Larger minibuses play the longer routes, particularly on routes linking Denpasar, Singaraja and Gilimanuk. They operate out of the same terminals as the bemo. Buses are faster than bemo (explanation below) because they don’t make as many stops along the way, however with more and more locals riding their own motorbikes, there have been reports of long delays waiting for buses to fill up at terminals before departing.
Shuttle buses are quicker, more comfortable and more convenient than public transport. They are popular with budget and midrange travellers. If you’re with a group of three or more people (or sometimes even two), it will probably be cheaper to charter a vehicle.
Perama (www.peramatour.com) has a near monopoly on this service in Bali. It has offices or agents in Kuta, Sanur, Ubud, Lovina, Padangbai and Candidasa. At least one bus a day links these Bali tourist centres with more frequent services to the airport. There are also services to Kintamani and along the east coast from Lovina to/from Candidasa via Amed by demand.
Fares are reasonable (for example, Kuta to Lovina is Rp 100,000 – 2013). Be sure to book your trip at least a day ahead in order to confirm schedules. It is also important to understand where Perama buses will pick you up and drop you off as you may need to pay an extra Rp 5000 to get to/from your hotel.
Note that shuttle buses often do not provide a direct service – those from Kuta to Candidasa may stop en route at Sanur, Ubud and Padangbai, and maybe other towns on request. And like the bemo, the service is ossified, resolutely sticking to the routes it ran years ago and not recognizing the emergence of new destinations such as the Uluwatu area or even Seminyak (e.g. a run from Seminyak to Ubud would be packed out daily).
If you are part of a very large group and taken around Bali using a large bus, you may end up at some place called Central Park before heading to Kuta Beach. Large bus are forbidden to enter Kuta area, therefore the local government provide a dedicated terminal for Kuta Beach visitors.
From Central Park, you will ride a semi-open minibus to Kuta Beach. The ride is about 15 to 30 minutes depending on many things:
- On certain days, local people hold ceremony by the street that will cause roadside parking space overflow and in turn disrupting the traffic.
- Most visitor come to Kuta for the sunset, so high volume of traffic is to be expected when the clock is past 4pm local time.
- On weekends – and especially long weekends – the traffic will be a lot more heavier. Usually because domestic tourists from neighboring islands want to spend their holiday in Bali.
To get back to Central Park, you will be picked-up by the same kind of minibus.
Trans Sarbagita is a bus rapid transit (BRT) system in Denpasar, Indonesia. The system began its operations on 18 August 2011. It was designed to rebuild Bali’s public Transport system. As of 2014, the buses carried 5,000 passengers per day with 25 Buses in operation. The buses currently run in 4 routes:
– Batubulan > Nusa Dua vv
– Denpasar Kota > Garuda Wisnu Kencana vv
– Tabanan > Mengwi bus terminal > Ngurah Rai airport vv
– Jl. Mahendradata (near Kerobokan) > Sanur > Lebih beach vv
The ticket prices is 3,500 IDR for adults and 2,500 IDR for students. There are 13 more planned routes. For more information, please read the Wikipedia entry here.
Renting a car or motorcycle (almost always a lightweight motorbike) can open up Bali and Lombok for exploration and can also leave you counting the minutes until you return it. It gives you the freedom to explore the myriad of back roads and lets you set your own schedule. Most people don’t rent a car for their entire visit but rather get one for a few days of wandering. In Bali, it’s common to get a car in the south or Ubud and circumnavigate at least part of the island.
If you plan to drive a car, you’re supposed to have an International Driving Permit (IDP). You can obtain one from your national motoring organization if you have a normal driving license. Bring your home license as well – it’s supposed to be carried in conjunction with the IDP. If you don’t have an IDP, add 50,000Rp to any fine you’ll have to pay if stopped by the police (although you’ll have to pay this a lot to exceed the cost and hassle of getting an IDP).
If you have a motorcycle license at home, get your IDP endorsed for motorcycles too. If you have an IDP endorsed for motorcycles you will have no problems, which is when an IDP is really useful as otherwise you have to obtain a local license – something of an adventure.
The person renting the bike may not check your license or IDP, and the cop who stops you may be happy with a non-endorsed IDP or bribe. You might get away without a motorcycle endorsement, but you should have an IDP or local license. Officially, there’s a two million rupiah fine for riding without a proper license, and the motorcycle can be impounded – unofficially, the cop may expect a substantial ‘on-the-spot’ payment (50,000Rp seems average). And, if you have an accident without a license, your insurance company might refuse coverage.
To get a local motorcycle license in Bali, go independently (or have the rental agency/owner take you) to the Poltabes Denpasar (Police Station; 0361-427352; Jl Gunung Sanhyang; 8am-1pm Mon-Sat) for a permit, which is valid for one year. When you arrive you’ll see a mobbed main hall filled with jostling permit-seekers. However, step around to the back of the parking lot and look for a building with a sign reading ‘Pemohon Sim Asing/Foreigner License Applicant’ outside a second-floor office. Here you will find cheery English-speaking officials who, for a sum of 250,000Rp, will give you the required written test (in English with the answers provided on a sample test) and issue the permit. Sure it costs more than in the hall of chaos, but who can argue with the service? Just be sure to bring your passport, a photocopy of same and a passport photo (although at times the office will help you with that too!).
Fuel & Spareparts
Bensin (petrol) is sold by the government-owned Pertamina Company, and currently costs about Rp 6450 per liter. Bali has scads of petrol stations. In remote areas, look for little roadside fuel shops that fill your tank from a glass bottle or plastic container (the same as the ones they use for arak – fitting). On Lombok, there are stations in major towns. Petrol pumps usually have a meter, which records the liters and a table that shows how much to pay for various amounts. Make sure to check that the pump is reset to zero before the attendant starts to put petrol in your vehicle, and check the total amount that goes in before the pump is reset for the next customer. Regular unleaded fuel for vehicles which labeled Premium (usually has Yellow hose nozzle) is no longer distributed though you might find the last stock of it in some gas stations; medium-tier fuel is called Pertalite (white nozzle); top-tier petrol labeled Pertamax & Pertamax Turbo (blue & red nozzle respectively); Diesel is labeled Solar (Green nozzle). Tire repair services can be found in almost every town; just look for a “sign” in form of bike tire hung on a wood post, or small shack with a medium-sized compressor painted in orange color. Nowadays, there are tire repair services in most gas stations.
By far the most popular rental vehicle is a small jeep – they’re compact, have good ground clearance and the low gear ratio is well suited to exploring back roads, although the bench seats at the back are uncomfortable on a long trip. The main alternative is the larger Toyota Avanza – or its twin: Daihatsu Xenia – which seats up to six to eight people. Automatic transmissions is getting more popular in Indonesia, but usually they cost more.
Rental and travel agencies at all tourist centers rent vehicles quite cheaply. A Suzuki jeep costs about 150,000Rp per day, with unlimited kilometers and very limited insurance. A Toyota Avanza costs from around 180,000Rp per day. These costs will vary considerably according to demand, the condition of the vehicle, length of hire, whether you ask for a driver, and your bargaining talents. It’s common for extra days to cost much less than the first day.
There’s no reason to book rental cars in advance over the Internet or with a tour package, and it will almost certainly cost more than arranging it locally. Any place you stay can set you up with a car, as will the ever-present touts in the street.
Shop around for a good deal, and check the car carefully before you sign up. The rental staff usually carry a sheet of paper with records of current dents of the car’s body so check both the car & the list before you receive the key. Rental cars usually have to be returned to the place from where they are rented – you can’t do a one-way rental, but some operators will let you leave a car at the airport.
Big international rental operators in Bali have a presence, but are seldom used.
Motorbikes are a popular way of getting around Bali and Lombok – locals ride pillion on a sepeda motor (motorcycle) almost from birth. Motorcycling is just as convenient and as flexible as driving and the environmental impact and the cost are much less.
Motorcycles are ideal for Lombok’s tiny, rough roads, which may be difficult or impassable by car. And, once you get out of the main centers there’s not much traffic, apart from people, dogs and water buffalo.
But think carefully before renting a motorcycle. It is dangerous and every year a number of visitors go home with lasting damage – Bali and Lombok are no places to learn to ride a motorbike. You may see some locals drive recklessly without getting into an accident, but they are not to be imitated.
Motorcycles for rent in Bali and on Lombok are almost all between 90cc and 200cc, with 125cc the usual size. You really don’t need anything bigger, as the distances are short and the roads are rarely suitable for traveling fast. In beach areas, many come equipped with a rack on the side for a surfboard.
Rental charges vary with the motorcycle and the period of rental – bigger, newer motorcycles cost more, while longer rental periods attract lower rates. A new-ish 125cc Honda in good condition might cost 50,000Rp to 75,000Rp a day, but for a week or more you might get the same motorcycle for as little as 40,000Rp per day. This should include minimal insurance for the motorcycle (probably with a US$100 excess), but not for any other person or property.
Individual owners rent out the majority of motorcycles. Like cars, it is easy to find a motorbike or one will find you.
Check the motorbike over before riding off – some are in very bad condition. You must carry the motorbike’s registration papers with you while riding. Make sure the agency/owner gives them to you before you head off.
Helmets are compulsory and this requirement is enforced in tourist areas, but less so in the countryside. You can even be stopped for not having the chin-strap fastened – a favourite of policemen on the lookout for some extra cash. The law states that the helmet should also covers your cheek and has an SNI (Indonesian National Standard) emblem on it. Since the helmets you get with rental bikes are pretty lightweight, you may want to bring something more substantial from home or buy one locally. Shops in south Bali sell helmets with Viking horns, spikes, skull, and other fun decor. They just might not be that crash-worthy and mostly, they don’t comply the safety and law’s standard so you will most likely be awarded with a ticket by the Police if you wear those kind of helmets.
Despite the tropical climate, it’s still wise to dress properly for motorcycling. Thongs, shorts and a T-shirt are poor protection. When it rains in Bali, it really rains. A poncho is handy, but it’s best to get off the road and sit out the storm.
Rental agencies and owners usually insist that the vehicle itself is insured, and minimal insurance should be included in the basic rental deal – often with an excess of as much as US$100 for a motorcycle and US$500 for a car (ie the customer pays the first US$100/500 of any claim). The more formal motorcycle and car-hire agencies may offer additional insurance to reduce the level of the excess, and cover damage to other people or their property, ie ‘third-party’ or ‘liability’ cover.
Especially with cars, the owner’s main concern is insuring the vehicle. In some cases, a policy might cover the car for 30 million rupiah, but provide for only 10 million rupiah third-party cover. Your travel insurance may provide some additional protection, although liability for motor accidents is specifically excluded from many policies. The third-party cover might seem inadequate, but if you do cause damage or injury, it’s usually enough for your consulate to get you out of jail.
A private owner renting a motorbike may not offer any insurance at all. Ensure that your personal travel insurance covers injuries incurred while motorcycling. Some policies specifically exclude coverage for motorcycle riding, or have special conditions.
Bali traffic can be horrendous in the south, around Denpasar and up to Ubud, and is usually quite heavy as far as Padangbai to the east and Tabanan to the west. Finding your way around the main tourist sites can be a challenge, as roads are only sometimes signposted and maps are often fanciful at best. Off the main routes, roads can be rough, but they are usually surfaced – there are few dirt roads on Bali. Driving is most difficult in the large towns, where streets are congested, traffic can be awful, and one-way streets are infuriating.
Roads in Lombok are often very rough but traffic is lighter than Bali.
Avoid driving at night or at dusk. Many bicycles, carts and horse-drawn vehicles do not have proper lights, and street lighting is limited.
Most part of South Bali (Denpasar, Kuta, Jimbaran, and Nusa Dua) is covered by Google Street View since 2013 and updated annually at most. It can be quite helpful especially during your first visit to Bali. Most Indonesian phone carriers already have LTE coverage in certain area of Denpasar & around the airport. Although they often fall back to 3G but it is more than enough for turn-by-turn navigation on your smartphone. A dedicated GPS device can always provide a more reliable service than a smartphone, especially if you are planning to go to the other parts of Bali where phone signal is weak. In the cities, a smartphone is enough to provide reliable and mostly accurate route suggestions with ETA to your destination. Though be aware that there are a lot of ‘motorcycle only’ roads especially in Southern Bali, so make sure the route you will take is possible for your vehicle.
Visiting drivers commonly complain about crazy Balinese drivers, but often it’s because the visitors don’t understand the local conventions of road use. For instance the constant use of horns here doesn’t mean ‘get the £*&%# out of my way!’, rather it is a very Balinese way of saying ‘hi, I’m coming through’. The following rules are useful:
- Watch your front. It’s your responsibility to avoid anything that gets in front of your vehicle. A car, motorcycle or anything else pulling out in front of you, in effect, has the right of way. Often drivers won’t even look to see what’s coming when they turn left at a junction – they listen for the horn.
- Use your horn to warn anything in front that you’re there, especially if you’re about to overtake or turning at a blank-spot corners.
- Drive on the left side of the road, although it’s often a case of driving on whatever side of the road is available.
- Cars in Indonesia built with steering wheel on the right side. Make sure to get used to the panels arrangement before you drive.
- Use seat belts in the car’s front seat and make sure you have set your helmet strap if you ride a motorcycle.
To/from the Airport
Bali’s Ngurah Rai Airport is immediately south of Tuban and Kuta. From the official counters, just outside the terminals, there are supposedly fixed price taxis. However, efforts may be made to charge you at the high end of each range (eg. you’re going to the part of Seminyak that is supposed to cost 70,000Rp, and they charge you 100,000Rp), and if you say you don’t have a room booking, there will be heavy pressure to go to a commission-paying hotel.
If you have a surfboard, you’ll be charged at least 35,000Rp extra, depending on its size. Ignore any touts that aren’t part of the official scheme. Many hotels will offer to pick you up at the airport, however there’s no need to use this service if it costs more than a taxi.
The thrifty can walk from the international and domestic terminals across the airport car park to the right (northeast) and continue a couple of hundred metres through the vehicle exit to the airport road (ignoring any touts along the way), where you can hail a regular cab for about half the fare.
If you’re really traveling light, Kuta Beach is less than a 30 minute-walk north.
The main form of public transport in Bali and on Lombok is the Bemo. A generic term for any vehicle used as public transport, it’s normally a minibus or van with a row of low seats down each side. Bemo usually hold about 12 people in very cramped conditions.
Riding bemo can be part of your Bali adventure or a major nightmare depending on your outlook at that moment in time. You can certainly expect journeys to be rather lengthy and you’ll find that getting to many places is both time-consuming and inconvenient. It’s uncommon to see visitors on bemo in Bali.
Bemo operate on a standard route for a set (but unwritten) fare. Unless you get on at a regular starting point, and get off at a regular finishing point, the fares are likely to be fuzzy. The cost per kilometre is pretty variable, but is cheaper on longer trips. The minimum fare is about 4000Rp.
Make sure you know where you’re going, and accept that the bemo normally won’t leave until it’s full and will usually take a roundabout route to collect and deliver as many passengers as possible. If you get into an empty bemo, always make it clear that you do not want to charter it. (All drivers understand the word ‘charter’).
Terminals & Routes
Every town has at least one terminal (terminal bis) for all forms of public transport. There are often several terminals in larger towns, according to the direction the bus or bemo is heading. For example, Denpasar, the hub of Bali’s transport system, has four main bus/bemo terminals and three minor ones. Terminals can be confusing, but most bemo and buses have signs and, if in doubt, you will be told where to go by a bemo jockey or driver anyway.
To go from one part of Bali to another, it is often necessary to go via one or more of the terminals in Denpasar, or via a terminal in one of the other larger regional towns. For example, to get from Sanur to Ubud by public bemo, you go to the Kereneng terminal in Denpasar, transfer to the Batubulan terminal, and then take a third bemo to Ubud. This is circuitous and time-consuming, so many visitors prefer the tourist shuttle buses, a driver or a taxi.
Metered taxis are common in South Bali and Denpasar (but not Ubud). They are essential for getting around Kuta and Seminyak, where you can easily flag one down. Elsewhere, they’re often a lot less hassle than haggling with bemo jockeys and charter drivers.
The usual rate for a taxi is 5000Rp flag fall and 4000Rp per kilometre, but the rate is higher in the evening. If you phone for a taxi, the minimum charge is 10,000Rp. Any driver that claims meter problems or who won’t use it should be avoided.
By far the most reputable taxi agency is Bali Taxi (0361-701111; www.bluebirdgroup.com), which uses distinctive blue vehicles with the words ‘Bluebird Group’ over the windshield (watch out for fakes). Drivers speak reasonable English, won’t offer you illicit opportunities and use the meter at all times. There’s even a number to call with complaints (0361-701621). Many expats will use no other firm and the drivers are often fascinating conversationalists.
After Bali Taxi, standards decline rapidly. Some are acceptable, although you may have a hassle getting the driver to use the meter after dark. Others may claim that their meters are often ‘broken’ or nonexistent, and negotiated fees can be over the odds (all the more reason to tip Bali Taxi drivers about 10%). Recently we saw one taxi driver insist on a fee of 70,000Rp for a trip that would have cost 7000Rp in a Bali Taxi.
Taxis can be annoying with their constant honking to attract patrons. And men, especially single men, will find that some taxi drivers may promote a ‘complete massage’ at a ‘spa’. Drivers will enthusiastically pantomime some of the activities that this entails. At the very least, insist that they keep their hands on the wheel.
Ojek / Go-Jek & Grab / Uber
Ojek is a common term in Indonesia for motorcycle Taxi. Instead of a car, they use motorcycle to transport people and/or goods. Traditional Ojek usually gathers near public places such as a market or school, waiting for customers. The fare is decided based on the distance and the customer’s bargaining skill. The number of traditional Ojek decreasing rapidly within the last 10 years since people can easily buy their own motorcycle through installment payment system.
However, the booming of smartphone sales recently opened up new ways to use the Ojek services. Individual & small companies set up a system where you can call Ojek anytime by phone. Eventually, some larger company like Go-Jek see this opportunity and develop a more convenient way to use Ojek services by using smartphone application.
Though heavily protested by local transportation providers, Grab & Uber made their way to Bali, and provide more alternatives (usually cheaper) than a Taxi. Just make sure that when you reserve a Grab or Uber, you are not in places like bus terminal or mall where there are some regular Taxi available. Some regions like Canggu are strict to these online taxi services and only allow them to drop a passenger, not pick one up. The Bali airport is yet to ban online taxis so you can get one easily. But since the transport service competition is quite high, you may need to do some walk to reach them.