Rules of the Road – Bali Style

By Amy Chavez

For The Bali Times

There are times in Bali when you will find yourself clinging to the inside of a taxi as the driver attempts to get you to some place like your hotel – a stationary object – as fast as possible, before it ups and moves to another location. The result is you get the life scared out of you without the hassle of a funeral.

It all starts when you’re walking down the street and a man standing next to his taxi yells out to you, “Transport!” You ignore him. He asks, “Where are you going?” Your answer could be “Africa” and the driver would still say, “Would you like transport?”

But most often you’re just sauntering around or maybe headed to the corner store. “Where are you going?” another next driver asks. “Nowhere,” you tell him. Never risking the chance of missing a sale, he says, “Would you like transport?” I wonder how much he would charge you to just sit in his car for an hour.

Other times you will need to take a taxi. Despite what the taxi drivers believe, you will know when you need a taxi because there is an innate sense in human beings that tells us when someplace is too far to walk.

Once inside the taxi, and inside the world of moving chaos, you may be tempted to ask the driver if people really need a driver’s license to drive in Southeast Asia. When he says yes, you think, “You mean all these drivers actually passed a driving a test?”

Of my many near-death experiences in the back of a hired car in Bali, one was when some Japanese friends were visiting and I hired a driver to take us to Kintamani.

After we had all piled into the van at their hotel, the driver drove away with such speed that our stomachs were left behind, and our bodies went on to experience a sensation similar to sitting in the back seat of a roller coaster. In just seconds we had reached exorbitant speed. From the crazed expression on the driver’s face, I deduced that we were being pursued by a giant man-eating, automobile chomping cheetah running at 110 kilometers per hour. The van’s speed seemed to increase every time the driver swung onto the shoulder of the road to pass the slower cars in front of us that had the fortune of not being chased by a cheetah. I begged the driver to slow down but no matter – he was determined to leave the cheetah in the dust. It wasn’t until we had almost reached the speed of light, and one of my Japanese friends started getting car sick, that the driver finally slowed down, did a U-turn and sped back to the hotel as swiftly as we had left.

It was a shame we had to abandon our plan of going to Kintamani, but at least we were reunited with our stomachs. Next time, I’ll hire a car, not a driver.

Should you decide to rent a car, knowing a few rules of the road will help. Here are some guidelines that, from what I have deduced, are included in the Indonesia Driver’s Handbook.

The first thing you must know is the intricate horn patterns, a type of Morse Code for moving vehicles:

Honking horn every 500 meters – this is nothing to be alarmed about. It is every driver’s way of simply saying “This is a road and I am a car.”

Honking once when passing a car in your lane means: Move over so I can pass.

Honking twice: Move over so I can pass without hitting that oncoming car.

Honking three times: Move over so we can drive three-abreast as you pass that motorcycle while I’m passing you.

Honking relentlessly: Move over before I hit those oncoming pedestrians.

No honking of horn: Car is parked for the night.

In addition, always honk under these conditions at the following intervals:

Every time you see a car attempting to turn on to the road or enter the traffic flow (about once every 1,000 meters);

When passing pedestrians (every 100 meters);

When passing cows and goats (every 50 meters);

When passing chickens (every 10 meters).

As you have learned from driving in your own country, knowing the meaning of the painted lines on the road is an integral part of driving.

Meaning of a solid yellow line: none.

Two solid yellow lines with broken white lines in the middle: none.

Broken white line: none.

White lines on shoulder of road: none.

Meaning of road signs:

Speed limit signs: none.

Dangerous curve: none.

Slow speed ahead signs: none.

Stop signs: none.

Lastly, to ensure you have a lively and exciting time on the road, keep the following two points in mind:

1)    Any two-way road can momentarily become one-way as long as there are no oncoming cars just then.

2) Always stay two coconut lengths behind the car in front of you – three if it’s raining.

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The Island

One Response to “Rules of the Road – Bali Style”

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