‘Hati Hati’ means ‘watch out’, ‘be careful’, ‘watch your heart’ in Bahasa Indonesian and that is exactly what you need to do when you drive in Bali!
We came to Bali with an International Drivers Licence but have never used it. Early on we decided we wouldn’t drive and 11 months into living here we are convinced that we made the right choice!
The road rules are so different than back in Australia, I don’t know where to begin! Or should I say any rules?! Everything that we are used to back at home doesn’t exist here. For example: talking/texting while driving, parking illegal, not wearing a seat belt, not indicating and going through an intersection or red light are just SOME!
We often drive in areas where the traffic lights haven’t been working for years and lanes are just a rough guide but you can go across them whenever you want.
Sometimes you will see Police standing in the middle of road directing traffic but otherwise it is a game of who can do an intersting merge and go in front first.
One good thing is that people do drive slowly here and your horn is used more for a please notice me sign. There are many unwritten rules and when you drive you are taking a big risk but the Balinese have a very philosophical attitude about the crazy, crowded, potholed roads — just go slow and go with the flow.
Bali has upwards of two million motorbikes and it is the quickest way to get around the island.
The mass of motorbikes, often with three or four people and a chicken or two on board, move in one big swerving swoop along the winding roads that crisscross the island. Everyday you can see a family of four on a motorbike and often the baby is held in a sling on the side. These families have their children drinking milk bottles or are fast asleep in their parents arms while driving along.
It is common to see boys as young as 9 years old driving on motorbikes with no helmets. The law is meant to be 16 years old but they borrow the family motorbike to get around at a very young age.
Everything you can imagine will fit on a motorbike. Yesterday I saw two guys carrying a huge mattress and trying to see and drive at the same time!
Petrol is very reasonably priced in Bali and you actually get service at a petrol station! (I do vaguely remember those days when I was in primary school!) If you ride a motorbike you can always fill up petrol from little shops on the side of the road who all store the petrol in absolute vodka bottles. It doesn’t matter where you are on the island, everyone stocks petrol the same way – in Abolut Vodka bottles!
Businesses on wheels
Love how motorbikes are also make-shift businesses on wheels – food carts, toys shops, household items – you name it. One newish business on motorbikes is called Go Jek and we are big fans! Basically there are hundreds of Go Jek motorbike drivers ready to deliver and pick up anything you want. Simply order what you want via their app and it will cost about $1 delivery fee. It is SO handy! We use it nearly everyday! It doesn’t matter how big or small, it can be delivered to your door. They keep expanding their offerings but some of their services are Go – Food, Go – Clean, Go-Mart, G0-Ride, Go-Box, Go-Send, Go-Tix and Go-Med. Imagine having that service back home!
Considering the traffic, we are lucky to say it takes us about 15 mins to get to school in the morning and afternoon. However when it comes to going other places it is often hard to predict how long it will take. Lets just say we are used to long drives in the car now! The Balinese are Hindus and everyday are busy with religious ceremonies which can change the traffic conditions on a daily basis. For example, there might be a cremation, new home or business blessing or wedding ceremony that might slow things down, you just never know. It is beautiful to watch but not when you are stuck in the traffic!
Rice field shortcuts
Cars and motorbikes like to drive through the rice field shortcuts (uneven, very bumpy, unpaved and unsafe roads) to save a LOT of time. You are meant to give way to those first driving and know if it is one way but that doesn’t always happen and often a Mexican stand off can occur. Nearly everyday you hear about cars that end up falling into the rice field!