Bali is made up of three main roads that circumnavigate the island and hundreds of smaller roads that traverse the countryside. It takes approximately 3 hours to travel the length and breadth of Bali. Road conditions on the main roads are generally good but can be heavily populated with slow traveling trucks. The conditions of the minor roads are generally determined by the weather. During the rainy season, road conditions fall foul of torrential rain and heavy traffic leaves the roads covered in potholes and debris.
Although there is a good public transport system here, journeys tend to be very long and don't take in smaller destinations.
A Note on Addresses -- The spelling and naming of most Indonesian geographical features, villages, towns, and even streets varies considerably as there is no standardized form that meets both popular and official approval. Names can be spelled many different ways, even on signboards in front of various government offices. There are three overlapping and concurrent address systems for any given location: old street name and number, new street name with new numbers, and kampung (neighborhood) name with block numbers. For instance Jalan Diponegoro (an Indonesian hero) is often referred to by its other names Jalan Gusti Ngurah Rai (from local history) or Jalan Raya Sesetan Gang II (the kampung name and alley number). To top it off, numbers do not always follow and you are just as likely to find 22 next to 133.
By Private Car & Driver
The best way of seeing the sights of Bali is by hiring a car and a driver. It gives you the freedom to explore the backwater of this picturesque country. Plenty of car-hire agencies on Bali offer day services or weekly rentals; your hotel or villa may have its own cars and drivers available for you as well. Having a driver takes away the stress of having to navigate the small roads around the island; they can also help with any translations as once you leave the main areas very few people speak any English.
Drivers on overnight stays will find their own suitable accommodation at very little cost to you. You will be expected to pay the driver's food and accommodation but the cost of the vehicle, insurance, and petrol should be included in the price. Expect to pay about Rp350,000 to Rp450,000 a day, open to negotiation.
Before hiring a car and driver make sure that they have all the relevant paperwork and insurance in place and agree on all costs ahead of the rental period. Also make sure that they have a good command of English and are knowledgeable about the island.
The Best Way to Avoid a Traffic Accident -- Any foreigners involved in even minor traffic violations or accidents may be vulnerable to exploitation. You should therefore think seriously about employing a private driver or hiring a car with a driver.
By Rental Car
To rent a car you are supposed to have an International Driving License or a locally issued tourist driving license together with a copy of your passport. However, most rental businesses will rent you a car with a copy of your home national driver's license.
One-month licenses are issued on the spot for Rp150,000 at the Foreign License Service, Jl. Gunung Sanghiang, Denpasar (tel. 0361/422323). You will also need to show a copy of your passport and your home national driver's license.
Before you drive away in your car, ensure that the car has all its registration documentation (Surat Tanda Nomor Kendaraan Bermotor or STNK, vehicle registration certificate) and copies of any insurance policies.
You must be vigilant at all times when driving in Bali. The Balinese rarely stop to check for on-coming traffic, which can often cause the driver to slam on their breaks or swerve to avoid a collision. At night, many motorcycles and cyclists rarely have lights on and street lighting is limited. Traffic lights are not always observed. Accidents are common. Vehicles are left-hand drive. The national speed limit is 70kph but you won't find many areas to do this.
Expect to pay between US$18 to US$45 a day for vehicle hire, though the bigger agencies will charge a lot more. Prices will either be in rupiah or U.S. dollars. The cheapest form of transport is a Suzuki jeep which should cost about US$18 a day; a Toyota Kijang should cost about US$22 a day; a top of the range limousine-style Suzuki costs US$45. These prices should include some insurance but always check what insurance you are getting before agreeing to a price.
International chains on the island include: Avis, Jl. Danau Tamblingan, Sanur (tel. 1800/656545 or 0361/282635; www.avis.com), and Hertz, Ngurah Rai airport (tel. 0361/768375; www.hertz.com). Local companies include: Baliwww Car Rental (tel. 0361/731520; www.baliwww.com/car_rental) in Denpasar; Bali Car Hire (tel. 08/11380699 or 0361/418381; www.balicarhire.com), also in Denpasar, a reliable company with a good variety of cars available; and CV Amertha Dana, Legian (tel. 0361/753518; www.amerthadana.com), which does not have new cars but their rates are good and service very attentive, and they rent motorcycles.
Warning: Driving Infringements -- Always ensure that you have the car documentation with you as well as your international driver's license. The police carry out regular spot checks and you'll be fined for any infringements. Not wearing a seatbelt while driving or as a passenger or not wearing a helmet on a motorcycle is also an infringement. Stay calm during all dealings with the police, do not argue with them, and do not offer them a bribe. They are less interested in whether you have committed a traffic violation and more in what you have in your wallet. A standard fine should be Rp50,000 but police will try to get as much money as they can from you. Do not flash a full wallet of cash, as you might not see it again.
The easiest, cheapest, and fastest way to get around Bali is by motorcycle. However it is also the most dangerous with daily accidents and weekly motorcycle deaths.
Plenty of companies on the streets will hire you a motorcycle if you have a driving license. It should cost you about Rp50,000 a day for a basic 110-125CC scooter, less if you are hiring long term. Surfer racks should be available at no extra cost.
Always check the motorcycle first to make sure that everything is working: brakes, indicators, and wheels; also ensure that you have the right insurance and vehicle registration documents, which you need to carry with you at all times. All motorcyclists must wear helmets and these should be supplied at the time of rental for no extra charge. Ensure the helmet fits properly. If you cannot find one that fits, buy one.
Metered taxis are the best and most convenient way of getting round southern Bali if you haven't got your own car and driver. Costs start from the initial fee of Rp5,000 for the first 2km (1 1/4 miles) and then the meter ticks up Rp5,000 per kilometer thereafter. If you want to make any stops allow for about Rp20,000 per hour waiting. To rent a taxi for the day, agree on a price ahead of time and let the driver know what you expect from him. Most of them will want to show you their friends' shops and businesses, if you don't want to do this be very clear at the outset and be firm. If you haven't hired a car for your holiday but would like to head off somewhere for the day, some taxis are happy to take you on half-day or full-day excursions. Allow Rp450,000 for a full day. Made Sueta, owner of his own Ngurah Rai Taxi (tel. 08/123947919), is a fount of knowledge and would be happy to guide you around Bali.
Taxi numbers are: Bali Taxi/Blue Bird Taxi tel. 0361/701111; Komotra Taxi tel. 0361/499449; Ngurah Rai Taxi tel. 0361/724724; Wahana Taxi tel. 0361/244555; and Golden Bird Bali tel. 0361/702000.
Blue and brown vans called bemos operate as buses in Bali. They have regular routes, but these aren't really written down and they make numerous stops. A long-distance journey will likely include at least one transfer. Most tourists save the headache and go for private transport. Bemos are better for short hops (around town, for example) than long distances. Destinations and stops are posted in the front window. Denpasar is the main transportation hub for the entire island. A typical trip costs Rp5,000 to Rp10,000. Negotiate before riding. You pay before you alight.
Perama Tours (tel. 0361/751551; www.peramatour.com) runs a shuttle bus that serves all the main towns and cities in Bali and also covers Mataram and Senggigi in Lombok (tel. 0370/635928). These are easy to catch, cheap, safe, and a comfortable way to explore. Unfortunately, they are very slow. If you need to travel between main towns they are a good mode of transport but they do not stop at small villages or well-known sights en route.
Note: This information was accurate when it was published, but can change without notice. Please be sure to confirm all rates and details directly with the companies in question before planning your trip.