Top Tips for Traveling Around Bali, Indonesia

A costumed dancer riding a motorbike home at night in Ubud, Bali
John W Banagan / Getty Images

Transportation in Bali comes in plenty of flavors, some more tourist-friendly than the others. If you're not relying on your hotel to get you around—not that there's anything wrong with that—you can get around town on foot, on rented bike or motorbike, or via bemo.

If you're seeking to go between towns, you can catch a ride on a public bemo (bus), a private bemo, a taxi, a car/driver rental package, or rent a car to drive.

Due to its large and spottily-regulated tourist industry, Bali hosts an endless number of short- and long-distance transport entrepreneurs, each jostling to get your business. Some of them are honest brokers; some are not. Follow our tips to ensure you don't get ripped off by unscrupulous Balinese transportation providers.

Taxis

Riding a taxi in Bali works the same way it does everywhere else: you hail a taxi from the curb; a taxi stops to pick you up; and off you go.

Unfortunately, some taxi drivers are dishonest. Two favorite tricks are claiming to have a broken meter or taking the long way around. The blue taxis marked "Bali Taxi" (known as Blue Bird Taxis) are the most honest, so much so that other taxi operators try to make trouble for these guys.

  • Range: Limited to within South Bali and Ubud
  • Cost: Flag-down rate of IDR 5,000 (about fifty cents in U.S. currency), then IDR 2,500 (about a quarter) for every added kilometer
  • Pros: Best way to get around South Bali—fast and available everywhere
  • Cons: Limited mostly to South Bali, so, if you're planning to go to Kintamani or somewhere similarly distant, you're out of luck

Car Rentals

If you have cash to spare, you can hire a car in Bali, with the option to drive it yourself. If you rent from a reputable car company, you can have the benefit of driving your own vehicle to Bali's less-traveled destinations, with your range being limited only by your gas budget.

Don't bother, though, if you're not used to driving a right-hand-drive car or panic easily when other motorists break the road rules. Bali's traffic is both chaotic and dangerous. Get a car with a driver if you're not up to it.

  • Range: Anywhere in Bali you can drive a car through, as far as your gas budget will permit.
  • Cost: Daily rates range from about $20 for a small car to about $60 for a large van, gas not included.
  • Pros: Great way to explore Bali on your own; allows you to create your own itinerary and bring your friends/loved ones along for the ride
  • Cons: Expensive way of getting around; only right-hand-drive vehicles available; not recommended for newbie car drivers unused to Bali's chaotic driving conditions

Motorcycle & Scooter Rentals

We've mentioned Bali's notoriously bad roads before, which should give you pause before you consider striking out on your own with a rented motorcycle or scooter. If you're a really good rider, then by all means rent a motorbike and try riding through Bali's roads. However, be a very defensive driver, make sure you have travel insurance, and be very, very careful out there.

  • Range: Anywhere in Bali, as far as your gas budget will permit
  • Cost: Daily rates range from about $4 to $10 depending on the engine displacement, gas not included
  • Pros: Great way to explore Bali on your own; allows you to create your own itinerary and explore the roads less-traveled at your own pace
  • Cons: Bali's dangerous roads make this option absolutely not recommended for newbie scooter or motorcycle riders.

Bicycle Rentals

Rent a bicycle if you want to see Bali in the most earth-friendly way possible. If you choose to ride independently, you can see the Balinese countryside first-hand on your own schedule. Bali's bike tracks come in many forms, from paved roads to off-road tracks.

Organized bike tours of Bali are also available, catering to all types of bikers of all ages. Tour packages usually include meals, safety gear, and return trips to and from your hotel.

  • Range: Generally limited to country roads in and around Ubud and Lovina—stay off of the highways in the south to be safe
  • Cost: Tour operators may rent out bikes for about $2.50, or IDR 25,000 a day; package costs for day tours of certain Bali areas may cost more
  • Pros: Biking is an environmentally-friendly way of exploring Bali, with greater range than just walking around
  • Cons: Bali's main roads are too dangerous to visit; inclement weather may also get in the way

Tourist Shuttle Buses

Bus travel is not very well developed in Bali; most of the buses you'll see belong to bus charters set aside for tourist groups jaunting to places like Uluwatu. Bus options are not entirely absent, though.

The relatively new Kura-Kura Bus Shuttle service radiates out from its hub at the Duty Free DFS bus terminal at Jalan Bypass Ngurah Rai to destinations like Kuta, Seminyak, and Ubud. The daily bus service operates in cutely decorated buses with a turtle design motif outside and WiFi and voiceover guide inside. 

Tourist shuttle bus services allow tourists to travel from point to point with the least amount of expense and hassle. Perama Shuttle is one of the most established on the island, with bus and ferry services that reach across Bali from Kuta to Ubud to the North and East and beyond. Perama ferries ship tourists off to Nusa Penida and Lombok or back across the strait to Java.

Public Transport: Bemo

To get around Bali with the least expense, try riding one of the minibuses called bemo that run on set routes around the island. Despite the low prices, drivers will still charge more for foreigners, so break out your haggling skills.

  • Range: Everywhere in Bali
  • Cost: Starts at about IDR 5,000 for short distances, but you'll be charged more if the driver knows you're not from around town
  • Pros: Cheapest way to get around
  • Cons: Hot, dusty, open to the elements, and can be a hard slog between towns if you're riding long distances