While Bali is one of Southeast Asia's top tourist destinations, so much of it remains virgin tourist territory. Why is this so? Let’s just say, Bali isn’t exactly known for its excellent public transportation. Trying to catch a bus on the island paradise is a stressful chore most tourists tend to avoid. As an alternative, a Bali road trip is a popular option for those with the gusto and the courage to give it a go on their own – just you, your friends, a roadmap, and a trusty rental car.
A Balinese road trip can be a daunting task if you don’t know what lies ahead, so I’m going to let you in on some tips that should make the ride go a whole lot smoother.
Plan Your Trip
- You should be able to rent a car for around USD 10 per day, plus USD 2.50 for insurance. Get the insurance, if only for piece of mind – you don’t want to end up with a massive bill for a smashed up car if the unspeakable happens.
- Take pictures of the car with your own camera while the owner renting the car to you is with you. Go over any damage to the car with him or her, and write everything down. Be sure to get their name, their company name, their phone number, and a copy of the insurance papers.
- Take down the car’s license plate number and store it on your phone, in your purse or take a pic with your camera.
- Bali roadmaps are available but they’re expensive and not really worth the investment, since most of the roads have different names than indicated on the map. However, it’s still a good general reference if you don’t mind spending USD 13 on something you may never use.
The windows are down, the only radio station in Bali is blaring, the traffic is crazy, and you can already hear the beaches calling your name. You’re cruising along on your Bali road trip. Here are a few things to keep in mind:
- Don’t forget that you’ll be driving on the left-hand side of the road, so those of you from North America will be slightly disoriented. It’s actually not as scary as it sounds, and you’ll get used to it quite quickly. If you have a manual car, remember that the gear shift will be on your right, otherwise you’ll be grabbing at the door handle.
- Be aware that road signs on Bali are often covered by leaves, vines, random stickers, or some other kind of obstruction. There's nothing you can do in this situation but continue and pray there will be another sign, or pull over and ask a pedestrian.
- Gas is cheap on Bali, but do make sure you aren’t the victim of a gas scam. Keep an eye on the gas meter as they're filling up your tank, and ensure the meter rises.
- Always keep a bit of cash on hand - 100,000 rupiah (about USD 10) should be enough in case of emergencies.
- Bali is quite challenging to navigate, but that's half the fun!! Keep your patience and a smile on your face, and remember that this is an adventure.
Where to Go
There are so many places to see on this beautiful island, and now you’ve got the mobility and the freedom to see them all! Here are a few that come highly recommended:
- Uluwatu, in the south, is a surfer’s heaven. But even if you don’t surf, the gorgeous beaches, gorgeous people, and not-so-touristy feel, make it worth the two-hour drive from Kuta.
- Ubud is Bali’s cultural centre, and the road signs are relatively well-marked from Kuta, which is about two hours away. Parking can be difficult to find during high season.
Lovina beach in the north, is a great place to spot dolphins and relax on the black sand beaches. It’s a bit of a couple’s escape, so best to go there if you’re on the road with your sweetheart. It takes about three hours to get here from Kuta.