Riding a scooter in Bali

Riding a scooter in Bali, and what to do if you are pulled over by a policeman.

This blog is primarily about the Bali Islands, Nusa Lembongan, Nusa Ceningan and Nusa Penida. But if you are visiting the islands for any length of time chances are you will either ride on the front or the back of a scooter as larger vehicles are scarce. Police are also scarce on the islands but that is not the case in Bali itself.

I would like to point out that I am not suggesting anyone bribe a member of the local constabulary in this article. What I am suggesting is that it’s hot being a policeman in the tropics, and maybe these  nice people need a drink or a snack on occasion.

Here are a few tips on what to do if you encounter a policeman in Bali while you’re riding a scooter.

Smile, be polite and address the policeman with respect

Photo Credit Jakarta Post

It is always wise to be polite to any policeman that stops you in Bali. Indonesians do not like to lose face and policemen in Bali expect to be treated with a certain level of respect. Address a Balinese policeman as Pak or sir and always smile, it will go a long way to reducing your fine.

Have cash in a separate pocket than your wallet or purse

Policemen in Bali have the eyesight of predator birds and they are hungry and thirsty.  They are always watching for wallets brimming with tourist dollars so they can buy a drink or a snack. Anyone riding a scooter should always carry a small amount of cash in a separate pocket to help them out.

Only carry small denominations.

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Make sure that the lunch money cash you have is in small denominations and be visible handing it over. They won’t want to be seen counting the money and as long as there looks like there is enough for a cold drink they wont be too concerned.

Do not be bullied into paying too much

If you are pulled over you may be threatened with court, a large fine or confiscation of the vehicle. It is important to remember that in Bali most problems can be solved with the offer of a cold drink and a bit of a snack. Remain calm, non-confrontational and remember it’s all about the experience and the holiday.

Wear a motorcycle helmet

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Bali Boys

You will see a number of locals riding without helmets, if you are a tourist in Bali the same rules do not apply. Policemen in Bali love nothing more than pulling over tourists without helmets.

The surfers are great at getting caught with this one. Do they really think the police won’t notice that big bushy blonde hairdo in a sea of dark haired Indonesians?

Recognize where the policemen are stationed

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Policemen in Bali do not move around a lot and Bali is a rabbit warren of small roads that lead to the place you are heading. Make a mental note of where the police are stationed and then use the back roads and alleys to get to your destination.

Obtain an international drivers license

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Solve all problems by purchasing an international driver’s license in your home country. They are not expensive, they are recognized and they will save you a great deal of hassle and cash.


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