A guide to transport in Bali
transport! You need transport? Bemo, Bemo, Bemo!" is an all too familiar catch-cry.
"No transport, saya jalan jalan!" The frustrated tourist's reply. Another bemo will pass by in a moment, and another chorus of the same song will be sung. Finding a ride is that easy!
Getting around on the tiny island is never a real problem, and there are plenty of modes of transport available to the traveller. Walking is the most basic way of getting around, and your own feet will serve you around the village, beach or resort area where you are staying. But to travel further afield, some other form of transport must be found.
Most travellers are satisfied to get about via bemo (chartered vehicles with driver), taxi (metered) or public buses (usually mini-buses, also known as bemos or colts). Whenever you are walking in Bali, you can be sure that the too familiar cry of "Bemo, bemo, bemo" or "Transport transport" will be heard emanating from almost every car that passes you by.
If the vehicle has a taxi meter, insist that it be used (unless you are very confident that you can negotiate the "best" price to your destination). Often, the driver will offer you a fixed fare, or will tell you the meter is broken. Don't believe it! The flagfall is about Rp.2,500 in meter taxi's, and a short trip across town could cost about Rp.5,000 to 10,000.
If the vehicle is a "private" bemo, and has no meter, you will have to bargain for the cost of the charter before taking the ride. This is often very daunting to those who have never haggled before, which is of course to the benefit of the driver. Some people prefer to offer a very low bid, then try to hold the driver to a small premium, while others allow the driver to open the negotiations, hoping to settle at about half the initial price.
A great benefit to the new arrival, is the sign at the airport, displaying the correct bemo fare to a number of the island's popular destinations. Use it as a guide to the fares you will pay whilst travelling between locations on Bali.
An alternative "do-it-yourself" way to get to Kuta from the airport, is to turn right when you leave the airport doors, following the path that runs alongside the international area toward the domestic terminal. Continue on through the airport gates, then about 50m down the road and cross over to the left-hand side. Simply wait around for a bemo to arrive. Public bemo's must pay a fee to enter the airport, so it is possible to save a few Rupiah by walking the first 100 or so meters yourself.
Public bemos and buses are by far the cheapest mode of transport, although the trip you take may often be via "the scenic route", and they are often very crowded. Long trips by public bus can be downright uncomfortable, and dont be surprised to be sharing the ride with all kinds of produce and livestock!
The grid below indicates the approximate distances (in kilometers) and the times taken to travel between some of Bali's major centres. Note that the distances and times will vary depending upon your chosen mode of transport and factors such as whether direct routes are available. Travelling through the mountainous central and east coast roads can be slow, even over short distances.
Note that most public bemo routes are via Denpasar, and that interchanging is usually required. There are several bus stations in Denpasar and each services an exclusive part of the island of Bali. The list below indicates the bus stations and the major centres that they service.
For example: To travel by public bemo from Kuta to Lovina, you must catch the bus from "Bemo Corner" in Kuta, and travel to Tegal bus station. Interchange from there to Ubung bus station where you may catch the bus to Singaraja. Change to the local bus at Singaraja for the Lovina beach area.
Tegal bus station (services Southern Bali)...
Ubung bus station (services Northern and Western Bali)...
Suci bus station (services the Balinese seaport of Benoa)...
Butu Bulan bus station (services East and Central Bali)...
Kereneng bus station (services the Sanur area)...
Wangaya bus station (services Sangeh)...
Interchange between the bus stations in Denpasar will cost about Rp.5,000 - 8,000.
All prices listed above are approximate, so any feedback would be appreciated to help others. Ticket prices will almost always increment in round numbers such as Rp.1,000, so allow up to that amount over the above prices to account for possible price changes.
As a rule of thumb, Rp.5,000 is the lowest fare for very short local runs, such as within a village or between nearby villages (although sometimes Rp.10,000 will be insisted upon) Longer journeys will cost more, however Rp.50,000 per person should be considered excessive for all but the very longest of trips.
Fares are generally payed to a collector, and are sometimes very "negotiable" for foreigners. You may be asked Rp.10,000 when the correct price (harga biasa) for the fare is Rp.5,000 or less. If you pay the correct amount (keep small notes for fares) you will rarely receive an argument.
Still, public busses are the way to experience places and people that you would otherwise have never seen, and if you take on the journey in the right spirit, you will find that getting to your destination is part of the fun and adventure of Asian travel!
Public bemos have set routes, and often you will find that the village you wish to get to is not connected directly via a bus route. You should try to find the best way to get to "point B" from your host before leaving your accommodation, or from a warung or bus station in the larger villages (ask for the correct price as well). Always try to double check transfers, and if necessary ask to be informed when you reach your destination.
Take care that in a crowded bus it may not be possible to keep your bags in sight, so always keep valuables such as passports, tickets, money etc. on you (in a moneybelt or hand-held bag).
The environment will thank you for using a bicycle to do your exploring. Many villages have a place where you can hire a bike for about Rp.8,000 to Rp.15,000 per day (sometimes a lower price may be negotiated, especially if the bike is old) An additional deposit may be required. Weekly rates are probably less.
Using a bike in Bali makes great sense, especially for exploring the backroads in places like Ubud and around Lovina. You can take your own time to see what you want to see.
Bring your own helmet and gloves if you feel more comfortable wearing protection.
Always check the state of the bike (brakes, chain, tyres etc.) and do not accept a faulty machine--you may be accused of breaking it when you return it later to the hirer, even if you dont do yourself any harm.
Only you can tell how viable bicycling is (hilly areas may offer no problem to the fit and healthy, but, combined with the tropical heat, may cause unfit riders to back-pedal directly into a medical emergency).
Remember also, that Balinese road conditions are not always suited to long bike rides, there are many steep hills, and the traffic can be hazardous (Avoid the main roads and their crazy drivers. Buy a good map such as the "Bali Pathfinder" which is available in Ubud, and pick routes that will take you through the smaller villages). Most important to remember: ride on the left side of the road.
Motorbikes may be the answer for the do-it-yourself traveller who can ride one. A motorbike will take you to any part of the island at your own pace, and you'll see many interesting things that you couldn't get to see any other way.
The hire rate for a motorbike is usually more than double the rate for a bicycle, they require an insurance premium, and you must have a drivers licence, so be sure to have arranged for an international licence before leaving home, otherwise, you'll have to purchase a Balinese license, which requires a written test (but no driving test). Getting a Balinese licence is a waste of valuable time.
If you intend hiring a motorbike (usually a 100cc or 125cc throbber), be sure to check its condition, and to get a good helmet in the deal. Expect to pay around Rp.50,000 and over (depending on the age and condition) plus insurance.
Note that some of the small Asian bikes are capable performers. A 125cc bike such as the Honda Dream offers performance that will surprise even experienced motorcycle riders, and will easily carry a passenger, and even a few bags (we once rode a Dream about 15Km through winding hilly roads - three-up, with all of our backpacks on board as well)!
Motorbike accidents are one of the leading causes of injury to foreign tourists on Bali, and many of the roads are dangerously narrow, with cars, busses and trucks often overtaking the underpowered bikes even when there are oncoming vehicles!
Hire cars, usually tiny Japanese 2WD's or 4WDs, are more expensive again (about Rp.250,000 and up, per day, but often less if hired for a full week). Larger more comfortable vehicles cost about Rp.400,000 and up. A hire car of course has the advantage that up to about four or five people may be carried, however as a long term hiring proposition they are probably out of the bounds of the budget traveller. Be sure to check the vehicle for damage or obvious problems before signing to hire it.
An insurance premium may be required (in addition to the hire rate), and you must have a drivers licence (minimum age conditions may also apply). The vehicles almost always have manual transmissions, and are right-hand drive (you must drive on the left).
Fuel stations in Indonesia are rarely serviced by automatic pumps. Don't be surprised if the fuel is poured into the car from coke bottles or cans. Typically, local drivers will only purchase the fuel they need for a single day (this may be wise, as it reduces the amount of fuel that can be stolen from your tank overnight!).
Beware of price rigging at fuel stations. The price for one litre of fuel is fixed at about Rp.800 to 1,000 per litre. Foreign drivers are regularly overcharged. The official price is listed at major fuel stations.
Tour buses and coaches are often unpalatable to the budget tourist except for undertaking the longest journeys, however some package tours include a complementary trip to the mountains, or to a special cultural event for instance. If they are required, tour bus tickets may be purchased at some hotels and almost any travel or tour agent in Bali at advertised fixed rates.
A car with driver is probably the favorite option of most visitors to Bali. Typically costing about Rp.250,000 or so per day, this is like having a private tour bus, with the go-anywhere flexibility of a hire car. Most drivers are budding tour guides, and are willing to explain the stories associated with the common sights. Perhaps the largest drawback is that the drivers tend to follow a well-worn circuit of popular day-trip destinations, so be prepared to plan the sites you want to visit, and discuss your plans with the driver.
A few transport companies provide a medium cost long distance travel service which are well short of the luxuries of the large coaches, but far more convenient than the crowded public buses. Keep these in mind for transferring to a village on the other side of the island for instance. All prices are listed at the travel agencies (such as Perama travel) and are fixed.
© 1994-2000 Wayne Reid. Bali: The Online Travel Guide
Contributions, including corrections, updates, new information and suggestions are welcome.
Disclaimer: All of the information available within this site is believed to be correct, however the author accepts no responsibility or liability for any outcomes that may result in using this site's contents.