While you could easily spend weeks in Bali, the island itself is pretty small and offers plenty of transportation options to get you around. If you’re planning on traveling from place to place, such as Kuta to Ubud, there are five options I recommend.
1. Rent a scooter
Scooters are the best way to travel around on your own, plus they’re a lot of fun and very inexpensive to rent at about $5 a day. If you’re driving long distances, you can rest your travel pack on your scooter between your legs or wear it on your back with the pack sitting on the seat with you to offload the weight. Two people can easily ride on one scooter if you’re packing light.
Google Maps will become your best friend. Not all roads have clear street signs and most of your directions will consist of remembering how many intersections you need to pass until you make a left. The distance can also be misleading — what might look like a short drive can take twice as long if you’re spiralling uphill and down twisty roads. Allow for plenty of time to travel.
It takes a bit to get use to the handling and speed so if it’s your first time on a scooter, I’d recommend practicing on smaller side streets until you get comfortable enough to drive on the main roads. They also drive on the left side of the road in Indonesia.
Always wear a helmet and carry an international drivers license with you at all times — the police can fine you if you’re missing either. Be liberal with sunscreen application or cover your arms and legs to avoid sunburn!
2. Private driver
If you’re traveling in a group and want convenience, a private driver is the way to go. There are plenty of drivers available in Bali – ask a local and they’ll likely know someone – but it’s always best to go off a recommendation. My friend Mallory recommends Gusti Badra in Ubud and you can find other drivers from different regions on Tripadvisor. They can take you to a specific destination (the airport, another town, etc.) or you can hire their services for the day for around $50.
3. Perama bus
The Perama bus is the most reliable and cost effective way to travel between places. The buses are comfortable, run on schedule (something that can be an issue when the locals operate on ‘island time’), and have multiple departure times throughout the day. It’s a great option for solo travellers on a budget; my one-way trip from Denpasar to Padang Bai cost less than $8!
You can reserve your ticket online and pay for it at your local Perama bus office, which is also where your bus will depart. Some destinations are direct transfers, while some will stop at another Perama office en route to pick up other passengers. You can find a full schedule at their website here.
Uber is a new and popular transportation option in Bali, and cost much less than a taxi. My Uber from Seminyak to Canggu (11km trip that took about 40 minutes) cost $12 and I was quoted three times that by a taxi company. I liked taking an Uber because there was no cash exchange and everything was billed right to my credit card.
Here are the downsides though:
– You’ll need to be in a wifi network to order an Uber or have access to data on your phone
– For whatever reason it took forever for drivers to find me, every time. I’d watch them on the app and they would take turns out of nowhere, going off the route, u-turning back around, and make a wrong turn somewhere else. It once took a driver 20 minutes to arrive when the app showed he was 6 minutes away. It’s frustrating so I don’t recommend it if you’re going to the airport to catch a flight, unless you give yourself plenty of time.
– Due to conflicts with the taxi industry, Uber is actually prohibited in certain areas and it can be a serious offence if they’re caught picking up or dropping off passengers in these zones. If the driver sees that you’re in an Uber-free zone, they will call and ask you to meet them at another location.
You will NOT have a problem finding a taxi in Bali. Get use to being hounded and honked at by taxi drivers asking if you need a lift. It honestly feels like there are 5 taxis for every tourist…they are everywhere.
If you’re strapped for time or just want the convenience of quickly getting to your destination, a taxi is your best bet. This convenience, of course, comes with a higher price which make taxis the most expensive way to get around.
It’ll help to know of a landmark or a popular attraction close to your destination in case your driver isn’t familiar with the address. You can also pull up the location on a map so he or she can take a look at the surrounding area.
Keep an eye out for scammers who claim their meter is broken and will give you an inflated flat rate price. Always ask for an approximate cost before getting in so there are no surprises and try to have small change with you so you don’t rely on the driver to break a big bill. Blue Bird Taxis is the most reputable company and are recognized by their light blue cars, although be on the lookout for knockoffs.