The Unwritten Bali Traffic Rules

by Oct 20, 2022

Last week I was on holiday in Bali, Indonesia.

The traffic there looks chaotic and dangerous. There seems to be a lot of friction.

But when you learn to drive like a local it becomes much easier.

The unwritten traffic rules in Bali:

✅ Whatever you can see in front of you is your responsibility
Anybody can and does enter a main road at any time without looking. So, a motorbike driver cutting into your main road believes that you will notice him and that you will make space or slow down.

✅ You MUST use your horn 📢
If you want to overtake somebody you must use your horn, so they know you are coming; otherwise, they might move right or left unexpectedly. Also here, the unwritten rule applies, that you need to notice and adapt to what is or appears in front of you. It’s like a language to them. Honking is not a sign of aggression!

✅ Safe following distances
You’re joking, right? Every gap you leave is an option to cut in. Changing lines without using the indicator is normal, expect anybody to change lane anytime.

✅ Drive aggressively
Don’t be polite and wait till somebody allows you to cross or to cut you in. You will wait forever. You demand your place on the road, by pushing your motor or car in between. They will not hold a grudge.

✅ Don’t take yourself too seriously
The most important rule. Don’t get angry or offended by other drivers. It’s not all about you. No need to rush things. Let things flow naturally. Driving conditions are more chaotic compared to your home country, so if you accept this as the norm in Bali, you’ll have a much more enjoyable trip. 

These may all seem like a recipe for chaos, but this results in a surprising level of order and removal of friction. Balinese drivers do know their place on the road, and instinctively know when to drive aggressively and when to give way.

My advice if you go to Bali for a short trip: Always hire a car with a driver! Don’t drive yourself 😉.

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