Exploring Bali can be difficult to do on someone else's schedule; if you're seeing Bali as part of a tour group, you can't make a detour or change your mind about your destination. But if you have an international driving license, you can circumvent these difficulties by renting your own car when in Bali.
If you're taking friends or family along, and if you're a very experienced driver, renting your own car may be preferable.
If you've planned your own itinerary in Bali, you can use your self-drive to play tour-guide to your friends or family and see the sights on your own time.
Requirements for Renting Self-Drive Cars in Bali
When renting a car, you'll need to show an international driver's license. If you don't have one, you can get a tourist driving license at the police station at Denpasar. The license is valid for one month's use.
Cars for rent in Bali usually have manual transmissions, and are always right-hand drive, as left-hand traffic prevails in Indonesia.
Car rentals do not always include insurance in the package. You should always check with the rental agency about the insurance coverage they provide; often this will be charged as an additional item over the hire fee.
Some other tips you should remember before you commit to renting a self-drive car:
- Check the car for damage or any other problems before you sign on the dotted line. The rental agency might blame you for any pre-existing damage to the car if you drive away without bringing it to the agency's attention.
- Test-drive your rented car before paying up. You'll want to make sure the brake, handbrake, and clutch pedal all work as specified!
- Gas is not usually included in the price.
Driving Conditions in Bali
Driving in Bali is nowhere near the same experience as it is in the U.S. or Europe. Motorists on the road tend to follow their own rules; in fact, it almost seems as if no rules are in effect.
Roads may be arbitrarily closed to give way to ceremonial processions, especially during holiday seasons like Galungan. Motorists don't recognize the usual rules of right-of-way, often giving way only if their vehicles are smaller than yours. And motorcycles swerving into your lane without warning will happen far too often.
The road network can be quite confusing if you're not used to the Balinese road network. Signs are at best unclear, at worst nonexistent. Wide roads may gradually squeeze into narrow streets. One-way, one-lane roads are common, necessitating driving a long way to return to a given location.
And that's not accounting for other obstructions, like food carts that block traffic, or potholes the size of Kansas. All told, you need exceptional skill and patience to drive safely in Bali, so you better give the matter a good deal of thought before committing to that self-drive rental. If you're a relatively new driver, do not rent a self-drive; get a car with a driver to shuttle you around.
Driving in Bali - Tips
- Exercise caution when approaching intersections. Drivers from side streets might not look when joining your road, and some drivers even consider traffic light signals to be mere suggestions.
- In Bali, the larger vehicle has right of way.
- Honk your horn when going around blind curves; many drivers drive in the middle of the road.
- Watch out for price rigging at smaller gas stations. Foreign drivers may be overcharged. Stick to refueling at major fuel stations, where prices are standardized and prominently displayed.