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Renting a Scooter & Touring Bali, Indonesia

Posted by on September 27, 2014

People often talk about “Bali” like it’s just one place – one town. Actually, while Bali is a small island (relative to, say, Java) it’s not that small. There’s actually tons of different towns, villages and even a city, all separated by mountains, lakes and countryside, plus loads to see and do, with each coast and region offering a completely unique experience.

Sunset at Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Sunset on Kuta Beach

My Bali Highlights

After rambling around Bali for a few weeks, here are my unmissables:

  • Throw yourself into hedonistic Kuta Beach, if only for a night!
  • Get naked on Bukit’s west coast, where anything goes!
  • Rent a scooter and take in Pura Ulun Danu BratanGunung Batur and more rice terraces than you can shake a stick at.
  • Get your Eat Pray Love on in Ubud.
  • Take the fast-boat to the Gili Islands for the paradise all the backpackers are talking about.
  • If you have time, take the ferry to Java for a night climb of Kawah Ijen.
Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple on lake near Bedugul, Bali, Indonesia

Pura Ulun Danu Bratan water temple on Lake Bratan, near Bedugul

Renting Motorbikes in Bali

With mass tourism effectively killing the bemo (shared taxi) industry on Bali (it’s been practically impossible for some time now to get out of Kuta or any other tourist area by bemo…except on market days, if you’re in the right place at the right time) and with scooters for rent just about everywhere for only 50,000 rupiah (£2.50) per day (40,000 if you rent for a few days) renting a scooter is the obvious, most cost-effective choice of transport for the budget traveller, and affords infinitely more freedom. The wind in your helmet, riding amongst a convoy of fellow travellers: that’s what travelling Bali is all about!

Lake Batur by rented motorcycle in Bali, Indonesia

Stopping to pose in front of Lake Batur

We rented from Beneyasa Beach Inn I, and they didn’t even ask for anything as a deposit. Apparently they tried the scooter rental business in Java too, but for some reason all the bikes got stolen…

Bali sunset by rental scooter

Riding Bali’s back-roads

Where to Go in…

…South Bali

Southern Bali, particularly Denpasar and the bottleneck around Kuta suffers from serious traffic as a result of mass tourism. If you’re going to “Bali”, you’re probably going here.

Pool tables at Tubes bar, Poppies Lane 2, Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Playing pool in Tubes bar, down Poppies Lane II, Kuta Beach

  • Kuta Beach – one of Bali’s longest-running and biggest tourist draws – it’s one of those places you just have to experience at least once. Other than clubbing, the main excuse for a tourist attraction is the Ground Zero Monument – a memorial to the Bali bombings of 2002, which destroyed Sari club and Paddy’s Pub and killed over 200 people. A lot of people hate Kuta, but if you like getting drunk abroad, it’s for you, and if you stay in the right place, away from the main strip (Jalan Legian), it can actually be quite pleasant. My tip is to do a lot of your pre-gaming in bars like Tubes and Alleycats down Poppie’s Lanes I and II before hitting the main drag, where drinks will cost you a fortune. When you do hit the main drag, Sky Garden is the place to be, with a roof-top bar, drinks deals and too many floors to remember. Oh, and watch out for drunk Australians on scooters!
  • Legian, the next beach up, is quieter, cheaper and still retains some of the hippy feel that put this region of Bali on the travellers’ map back in the 60s and 70s.
  • Seminyak, the next beach up again, is more sophisticated (and therefore expensive). Expect many a trendy wine bar.
  • Canggu (pronounced “changgu”) is further north again and the next in line for mass development. Many expats and surfers have already moved in to stay, taking advantage of the relatively low prices and close proximity to the Kuta-Legian-Seminyak area. This is by far the quietest and most relaxed of the four…if that’s your thing.
  • Sanur, on the east coast, is a more relaxed alternative to the Kuta area, supposedly ideal for couples and older travellers.
  • Denpasar is the capital city of Bali but has more in common with Java. It is where all the locals live, has almost nothing to draw foreign visitors (besides genuinely cheap shops) and is a world apart from the beaches.
  • Ngurah Rai Airport, though officially labelled “Denpasar”, is actually so close to Kuta that you’ll watch the planes land from the beach and could walk it if you didn’t have a bag.
Ground Zero Monument Bali bombings memorial in Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

The Ground Zero Monument – a memorial to all who died in the Bali bombings on 12th October, 2002

Bali bombings ground zero car park sign at Sari club lot, Kuta Beach, Indonesia

The “Ground Zero” car park: once Sari club, now an empty lot.

Balinese offerings in Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Balinese offerings on the streets of Kuta

Surfing fake surf board at Tubes bar in Kuta Beach, Bali, Indonesia

Surfing my way into Tubes bar

Where to Stay in Kuta?

  • Beneyasa Beach Inn I (not to be confused with its shittier sister, Beneyasa Beach Inn II) has a pool, free breakfast, motorbike rental, great location and is only 175,000 (£8.75) per night for a basic ensuite double with balcony.
  • Suka Beach Inn, just a few doors further down, has better, cleaner rooms, more of a choice for breakfast and lovely Balinese architecture for only 135,000 (£6.75)! Downsides are no top-sheet or towels and the pool layout’s not as good for some reason.
Beneyasa Beach Inn I hotel accommodation in Kuta, Bali, Indonesia

Our accommodation in Kuta for only £4.37 per person per night! Why are you not here?

…The Bukit Peninsula

South of the bottleneck is the Bukit Peninsula. On its east coast is the high-end resort area of Nusa Dua, now connected to the mainland (and airport) by a 220 million (US) dollar causeway toll road. However, the oft-forgotten west coast remains relatively undeveloped and home to several hippy-come-surfer beaches, where anything goes.

Balangan Beach, Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia

Balangan Beach on the Bukit Peninsula’s less travelled, west coast

  • Jimbaran Bay, on your way down through the ‘neck, has a bunch of seafront warung (local Indonesian restaurants) where you can buy fresh seafood by weight and eat it as you watch the sun go down.
  • Balangan Beach is probably my favourite. It has the bluest water and whitest sand I’ve seen in a long time, but sadly is quite narrow as far as beaches go. It’s great for surfing, and has plenty of rustic accommodation, bars and restaurants, but not-so-great for swimming – the steep shelf and massive wave will smash you up good. Once on the peninsula, take the Ulu Watu road then turn right at the turn-off for “Cenggiling” and follow the dirt road as far as it goes (about seven kilometres). It’s 2000 for motorbike parking and entry (6 am ’til 7 pm) but just ride straight past, turn left at the beach and this will take you along the backs of the beach accommodations. Just pick one.
  • Bingin is made up of beaches, cliffs and the network of narrow paths and passages that run thereabouts. Accommodation prices can range anywhere from the budget to the ridiculous, just next door to one another. (I recommend booking Leggie’s as I was gutted they were full when we arrived.) From the Ulu Watu road, take a right at Pecatu and right again when you see the accommodation signs. It’s supposed to be 5000 to park, but we didn’t have to pay.
  • Padang Padang Beach is a spectacularly beautiful spot between Bingin and Ulu Watu. It makes a great day-trip or rest-stop, but not a good place to stay overnight.
  • Ulu Watu is the end of the road and home to both a world-renowned surf resort and the Pura Luhur Ulu Watu sea temple (open 3 am ’til 7 pm; 25,000 entry and 1000 for parking), which has stood precariously on an outcrop since the 11th century and is best photographed at sunset.
Bingin beach, Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia

Bingin beach and cliffs, Bukit Peninsula

Coffee and breakfast at Bingin beach, Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia

Coffee and breakfast at a Bingin beach cafe

Padang Padang Beach, Bukit Peninsula, Bali, Indonesia

Padang Padang Beach, Bukit Peninsula

…South-west Bali

As for Bali’s south-west coast, avoid it. It’s the main artery from Java to Denpasar and so suffers from the same pitfalls as Java: heavy traffic, pollution, over-crowding.

Roadside Indonesian gas station with petrol in glass Absolut vodka bottles

What a petrol/gas station looks like in Indonesia. Why always Absolut bottles?

…North & East Bali

The north and east coasts are relatively free from traffic and offer more low-key, local black-sand (often a nice way of saying ugly) beaches like Amed in the east or Lovina, a string of fishing villages attached to Singaraja in northern Bali. Both are in the process of going from local secret to “off-the-beaten-track” destination and offer a more relaxed, more authentically Indonesian beach experience, for those who actually like to see the culture of the places they go.

…Central Bali

Central Bali is characterised by mountain roads, lakes and jungle, rice paddies, coffee plantations and clove orchards, volcanic crater rims, picturesque temples and beautiful Balinese architecture. North of Ubud, the traffic disperses and the tourists thin out.

Lake Batur, Bali, Indonesia

Lake Batur from the crater rim road

View of Mount Gunung Batur, Bali, Indonesia

Gunung (Mount) Batur from our hotel

Sign at Pura Ulun Danu Bratan reading your attention pleace visitor entering this temple are kindly requested to be dresed neatly and properly to observe the existed derectory to stay away during your period for the ladies keep clean liness and environment conservation

I wonder how well point three is enforced.

We rode up, past Pura Ulun Danu Bratan to Lovina, then borrowed a couple of scenic rides from Lash, who knows Bali ridiculously well, and drove the mountain road up to Kintamani, along the crater rim of Gunung (Mount) Batur, then down again through little Balinese villages like Manikilyu and Lembean and on to Ubud.

Balinese country road and moped

Exploring the Balinese countryside by scooter

Selamat datang Desa Lembean Balinese gates

Welcome to Bali! Balinese gates at Desa Lebean

Ubud is one of the major settings of Eat Pray Love (and so, as is to be expected, is full of women of all ages trying to find themselves). While not the most beautiful place on earth, it’s Bali’s unique, hospitable and beautiful culture that continues to draw travellers from all over the world, and Ubud is arguably the best place to experience this. Try:

  • The Sacred Monkey Forest Sanctuary
  • Traditional Balinese music and dance, such as kecak, legong, barong and gamelan. Ask around for nightly performances at the likes of Pura Dalem Ubud and Pura Taman Saraswati (all on Jalan Raya Ubud).
  • There are several walking paths around Ubud.
Brem Balinese rice wine in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Brem – a deliciously sweet Balinese rice wine – in Ubud

Nightlife in Ubud is easy: the place to go after hours is CP Lounge. Until then it’s all about great food and the many shisha, tapas and live music bars in town. My personal favourite spot is Laughing Buddha.

Live music in Laughing Buddha tapas bar, Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Kacir live at Laughing Buddha tapas bar, my favourite spot in Ubud

Where to Stay in Ubud?

  •  Jiwa’s House, on Jalan Sandat, offers the perfect Indonesian homestay experience, with clean rooms, great breakfast, lovely, down-to-earth owners, friendly dog, good location, abundant greenery and Balinese architecture everywhere. This is the perfect place in which to experience Ubud and only 200,000 (£10), so I strongly advise booking ahead. You won’t regret it.
Jiwa's House homestay in Ubud, Bali, Indonesia

Parked up at the beautiful Jiwa’s House homestay in Ubud

Further Afield than Bali?

Take the ferry or fast-boat from the port of Padangbai – a decent backpacker town in itself – to Lombok and/or the Gili Islands (by the way, gili means “small island” in the local Sasak language of Lombok, so not only does “the Gili Islands” mean the “small island islands”, but all the islands in the region are “gilis”). You can get a door-to-door transfer from your hotel in Kuta (or Ubud) to Gili Trawangan for as low as 190,000, though that involved some serious haggling.

I also recommend taking the ferry over from Gilimanuk to Ketapang (the ferry port on Java, eight kilometres north of Banyuwangi) and tackling the volcano and crater lake at Kawah Ijen.


7 Responses to Renting a Scooter & Touring Bali, Indonesia

  1. Ingrid

    Hello, it may sound silly to ask this question. However, I will go ahead and ask anyway. Where do you park your scooter and is it safe to just leave it and park? Do the rental place provide a lock?
    Thank you,

    I’ve enjoyed reading your post ;)

    • Roy Duffield

      Hey Ingrid,
      Not stupid at all. Very good question.
      I’m pretty sure I didn’t get a lock but always parked it where I could see it. Nepal’s pretty safe but of course these things happen everywhere so I’m sure the rental place would give you (or rent you) a lock. Hearts & Tears definitely do. Otherwise bring your own.

  2. Beth

    Hey there!

    I’m currently in Canggu, and my plan was to ride from here up to Banyuwangi. I have a few questions and your insight would be extremely helpful.

    1. Is the drive from Canggu up to the ferry hectic? I found the traffic from the airport to Canggu shocking and the idea of being stuck in that for a few hours isn’t appealing…
    2. How did you bring your backpacking bag with you? Mine’s not overly large but I’m trying to figure out a way to get it on the scooter with me as I don’t want to leave it anywhere to pick up later.

    I need to organise it all tomorrow so any tips I’d be very appreciate! Thanks heaps.

    • Roy

      Hi Beth, sorry I didn’t get to this in time to help out. Yes, traffic on Java is horrific, right! How’d it go with the backpack in the end?

  3. achan

    Hello, if I get an International Driving Permit issued from U.S. for passenger car only do I still need Indonesian driver’s license to rent/drive scooter or motor bike OR will the IDP for car is okay.


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