On Bali renting a scooter is the best way to get around. Although it is easy to rent one, unlike other Asian countries you definitely need a driver’s license here. I will explain you in this post how to get an Indonesian driver’s license.
There is hardly public transportation on Bali. The options to get around is limited to taxis, private drivers or organized tours. If you want to travel independently the best way to get transportation on Bali is to get your own scooter.
Getting around with a scooter
With a scooter you are independent on where you go and when you go there. You can discover much more and you will meet more people along the road. You will get to know Bali much better especially when you drive through non-tourist areas which are still existing.
The traffic in the towns, especially Denpensar and Kuta, can seem a little bit crazy.
- For everyone who has already experiences in participating in the traffic in Asia, Bali will be no challenge.
- For everyone with no or just a bit experience it can be a bit intimidating at the beginning, but you will get used to it fast.
Outside of the towns the traffic is not an issue, most of the roads are in good shape beside some holes from time to time. When you drive to the remote areas this can change but I have driven on much worse roads the bad ones on Bali.
You should be careful when driving by night as there are no street lamps or anything to lighten up the roads on Bali. As there are not much transportation options to get you back to your hostel in the night I have seen a lot of travelers driving drunk. Most of the accidents with a scooter on Bali are happening while people are driving by night without a proper light and/or drunk.
Driving without a license
When you want to rent a scooter on Bali, bring your international driver’s license with you.
“WHY?!?” you will ask now and I was also surprised as I haven’t needed a driver’s license anywhere else in Asia for a scooter rental so far. Renting the scooter without a license is also not the problem but the law and even more the corrupt police on Bali is.
As Indonesia is not part of the 1949 Geneva Convention on Road Traffic the license from your home country is not valid. The police can stop drivers anywhere along the road and if you cannot present them a valid driver’s license they will charge you with a penalty.
For sure this fines are not standardized and it can be everything from 10$ to 100$. I met a guy who got stopped twice in a week and paid every time 75$. There are defined laws, which you can read about later in this article. But as the police doesn’t want much struggles, same as you probably, they will tell you to pay a certain amount of money. This money will flow into their own pockets and nobody will notice your illegal action.
Also with most of the scooter rentals you will not get an insurance with the scooter. So check your travel insurance to avoid any surprises. Even if they don’t cover anything at least you know what you get yourself into.
If you are like me, not prepared for this and without a license there is the option to get an Indonesian driver license. It was said that tourists with a tourist visa will no longer get the Indonesian driver license since 2016. Apparently this is not valid for touristic areas such as Bali and Jakarta.
How to get an Indonesian license
To get your license you will have to go through the following steps (I will explain all steps detailed below):
1) The driver’s license is called SIM (Surat Ijin Mengemudi) in Indonesia
2) You have to be minimum 17 years old
3)You will need to go to:
Jl. Gunung Sanghyang No.110,
Denpasar Barat 80117
4) Bring the following documents
– Copy of your passport
– Copy of your Visa
– Health certificate
– Copy of your valid foreigner driver’s license
5) Theory Exam
6) Practical Exam
8) Getting your SIM
The driver’s license is called SIM (Surat Ijin Mengemudi) in Indonesia. There are four different categories for different vehicle types:
- A – Four wheel, private passenger car or cargo vehicle with weight under 3500 kg
- B1 – Private passenger or cargo vehicle with weight over 3500 kg
- B2 – Heavy vehicles with trailers
- C – Motorcycles
You need to do a license for each category. Means if you want to have a license for a motorcycle and a car you have to get one SIM for category C and one SIM for category A.
“Health certificate?! If I am not prepared to bring an international driver’s license with me, how shall I have a health certificate in my backpack?!” Will you ask yourself now 😃😃
No problem, there is a doctor practicing next door to the supermarket. He has a little office on the parking lot. He will test your eyes, your pulse and your blood pressure and hand you out the certificate for the police. The document will charge you 2$.
There is also a doctor’s office close to the police station, but he sometimes refuses to perform the medical tests for the SIM.
After you have all the required documents you can go to the first counter when entering the police station and register yourself for the exams. You will be asked to perform two exams, one theoretical and one practical.
The theoretical exam will be 30 multiply choice questions which are to be answered in 30 minutes on the computer. They have the exam available in English and Indonesian. You must answer 21 questions correct.
I heard different things about the practical Exam. Some with a valid foreigner license didn`t need to perform a practical test, some had to do it anyway.
You will get provided the vehicle for which you want to do the license or you can bring your own. If you already have one, I would suggest to bring it with you. You will feel more comfortable than on a stranger’s vehicle. For a motorbike you will be asked to drive a narrow 8 for 2 times and slalom through traffic cones.
When you have passed the tests successfully they will ask you to pay the fee. For a license for motorbike/scooter it will be 7$.
After receiving the payment receipt, you have to go back to the police registration counter.
They will tell you to wait until they call your name. This can take a lot of time.
After calling your name you will get a queuing number. On the TV-Screens in the waiting area you will see when your number is next. When calling your number, they will also tell you in which police office you have to go.
Getting your SIM
In the office an officer will asked your personal data and your address on Bali. When you are not having a permanent address, just tell them the address of the hostel you are currently staying in. They will also shoot a photo of you and take your finger prints.
After that you will have to sign the papers and get your driver license.
Depending on how much is going on at the police station and how motivated the officers are this can take between 1 hour and a few hours.
When you cannot perform the regular tests
Well this would be the elegant way to handle this issue. I was a very lucky one and when I arrived in Bali there was a holiday and they told me at the police station, they will not perform any license tests for the next 3 days. Trust me I had zero intention to wait 3 more days. Patience is not one my strengths.
What to do now?!
I ask a guy from the scooter rental how to solve this issue. He told me that he knows someone at the police station but it will costs me a bit more. Welcome to this part of the world – connections are key and money can solve every issue.
He drove me back to the police station where I have already been. I paid 20$ + 5$ commission for the guy and got an Indonesian driver’s license. No health certificate needed, no exams needed. It took me 30 minutes. For sure not the most elegant way and as long as you have the change to go the official way, you should follow the rules.
You should definitely carry a driver’s license with you on Bali. First of all, it will prevent you von paying corrupt police men and second it will also prevent you from the official penalties. The law is allowing to put someone into prison for a month if a driver does not have a valid license.
Get lost, but don`t get hurt.