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Bali Driving Checklist

Do the right thing

I want to share this as a word of warning to any visitors to Bali who might be considering driving themselves around the island – particularly on a cheap and convenient scooter or motorbike.

I was once stopped by the police during a routine roadblock where they check your documents are in order. I showed them my UK driver's licence, but it turns out that's not enough – you need an INTERNATIONAL DRIVER'S LICENCE to be allowed to drive in Indonesia.

So the policeman took me over to the little booth they had set up and told me I had to "go to justice" because I didn't have the right paperwork. I played dumb and told him I didn't understand what he meant by "go to justice", but he just kept repeating it.

The Indonesian police are notoriously corrupt and I'd heard plenty of stories of police offering to "help" people in this situation by letting them settle the matter in cash. However in this case, the guy didn't seem to be offering me this option and anyway, I didn't have any cash on me.

I think I was lucky to be able to talk myself out of the situation in the end, by apologising and explaining that I thought my UK licence was sufficient. Perhaps they just got bored with me in the end and could see that I wasn't going to offer them a bribe.

Anyway, the lesson is to do your research and make sure you have all the right documents before driving abroad.

You need to get your international driver's licence sorted in your own country (well, it is possible to pay someone in Bali to "make" one for you, but that's beside the point). It's valid for a year, and may only allow you to drive vehicles of a certain type and engine size, so double-check any restrictions.

This ties in to the area of insurance too – another thing you need to be really careful with, because insurers will do anything to wriggle out of having to pay. You're usually only insured to drive a bike if you're wearing a helmet and have a valid licence, and again your insurance may stipulate a maximum engine size (I know people who have been caught out because they had an accident on a 125cc bike – standard here – but when they went to claim they found out their insurance only covered up to 50cc). The same rules may apply even if you're a passenger, i.e. they will only cover you if the DRIVER has the correct licence – make sure you find this out before you take a trip.

Also, it should go without saying that you should WEAR A HELMET at all times when on a bike, even if it's just a short trip around the corner. You may be there most careful driver in the world but it's the other road users that you can't control. Just don't take the risk, even if you think you can get away with it.

Sorry if this turned into a bit of a lecture, but I believe this is all important information that travellers to Bali need to know about! Be safe, and enjoy the experience.

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