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How to avoid motorcycle fines in Bali

I drive or cycle through a major intersection in Sanur most days. It’s where the bypass meets Jalan Danau Buyan, but most people, tourists and locals alike, know it more as McDonalds corner as there is a very prominent McDonalds on the southeast corner.

On the northwest corner is a police box.

At least once or twice a week I see the police booking foreign tourists on motorbikes at this corner. It’s the main throughfare from Kuta to Ubud and fertile grounds for the men in uniform.

Indonesian motorbike license

Indonesian motorbike license

Here are a few tips to avoid being booked:

  1. Have an International Riding License. Note Riding, not Driving. You’ll need to get this in your home country and this is a basic requirement for riding in Indonesia.
  2. Have a local Tourist Riding License. You’ll need (1) or a license from your home country to get this, and you’ll have to spend an hour or so at the licensing centre in Kerobokan to get one (get a cab there, as it is in the middle of nowhere). It is valid for one month.

If you’re not willing or able to do either of those, then you’re going to be riding illegally, in which case you’re best to try and avoid being noticed, or if you are seen, you want them to assume you must be an expat and so will already have a license and not be worth stopping. This means you should:

  1. Wear a helmet.
  2. Wear a shirt. (Riding shirtless is a dead giveaway that you’re a tourist.)
  3. Don’t wear a bikini (see 2).
  4. Obey the road rules — that is, drive or ride sensibly

If you are pulled over and are breaking the law, expect to be hit up for an on the spot fine. 50,000 rupiah is pretty standard, but the unwary get taken for a lot more — we’ve heard of people handing over up to 300,000 rupiah! Always ride with a 50,000 rupiah note in your pocket (for quick handing over). If at all possible, don’t get your wallet out.

At all times conduct yourself in good humour. You have broken the law and are in the wrong. You can kick up a hue and cry about it, but if you’re riding around unlicensed, or without a helmet, you do deserve to be fined.

Get it over and done with and get on with your holiday. Better still, get a license, wear a helmet and avoid the whole problem.

About the author:
Stuart McDonald co-founded Travelfish.org with Samantha Brown in 2004. He has lived in Thailand, Cambodia and Indonesia, where he worked as an under-paid, under-skilled language teacher, an embassy staffer, a newspaper web-site developer, freelancing and various other stuff. His favourite read is The Art of Travel by Alain de Botton.
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