Renting a Scooter in Bali
The first scooter Buddy and I rented in Bali was a shit show.
We were both very responsible before we left the States. We read that getting pulled over in Bali without an International Drivers Permit can be a headache and almost always requires you to bribe the police to let you off. We both stopped at AAA and got our permits before we left.
A few days after arriving at Balian Beach, we rented a bike, strapped on helmets, and hit the road. Our first scooter ride was down an insanely busy highway to go to the nearest city, Tabanan. Let me just say…there are *zero* rules on the road in Bali. I really don’t even know how to describe it in a few sentences, so I’ll just tell you it’s probably the second most terrifying thing I’ve ever done in my life. (bussing into the Sacred Valley still claims first!) Two way traffic speeds sporatically down two lanes that are the width of one of our lanes in the states. People are constantly passing each other in oncoming traffic, sometimes on the left, sometimes on the right. Every vehicle is within inches of one another. It’s about 25% trucks, 25% SUVs, and 50% scooters and motorcycles. This combined with the fact that you are on a scooter with zero protection is…a bit nerve racking.
Buddy drove the scooter (his first time on a motorbike). In hindsight, perhaps we should have taken a mellow drive into the mountains to get the feel of the bike first, as opposed to jumping directly onto one of the busiest highways of Bali. He did really well though and picked up the feel for the bike quite quickly.
Our First Run-In with the Bali Police
By some miracle, we made it to Tabanan alive. We ride into town and smack dab in the center (in the middle of a roundabout actually) we get stopped at a police checkpoint. After a few communication struggles, we hand them our permits. Then they order us to open the seat of the motorbike where the registration is always kept. We do. They looked at it puzzled and said “This is fake.” Huh?! We tell them this is what the bike rental company gave us and that we don’t understand what’s “fake” about it. Buddy asks to see a “real” one and they show us. It’s supposed to be laminated, ours was a photocopy. OH…and it’s also not supposed to be 2 years expired. ?
The bike company screwed us. We signed a little contract, and we were referred to them by a resident Canadian who uses them herself, but they screwed us. Our registration was both expired and fake and the police said they were going to take the bike from us.
We had a crowd of police around us in the middle of the bustling street. I showed them the photo of the rental contract I had taken on my phone. I said we could call them–and then I corrected myself as I have no way to call a Bali phone–and in an slightly smart ass tone I said “Well, YOU can call them.” They all paused and stared at me. Apparently, this is not an appropriate demand of the police here. After a second they looked at each other, shook their heads and laughed at me. Phew…At least they weren’t pissed.
If they took our bike, we were stranded in the city AND had to explain the missing bike when we got back. The police agreed that the company was wrong, but they said we were also wrong. We simply did not know this was a thing we had to check. They sympathized, but not much. They then offered us a “solution” to our problem. We accept a ticket, pay them a 100,000 rupiah penalty on the spot (really, a bribe, as they wouldn’t let me keep the ticket), and they let us keep the bike.
One of the clear things I read during my prior research was that if you get into it with police—just pay the bribe—and move on. Justice is not worth it in the case of the Bali police. So we paid them. We got our bike back.
It’s also worth stating here that 100,000 rupiah only equates to about $8ish US dollars. NOT a big deal, BUT to give you an idea of how much money that is in Bali, the scooter rental only cost us 50,000 per day, and we had already paid the company. What if we had already done our grocery shopping and we no longer had a spare 100,000 on us? Luckily that wasn’t the case.
The police told me to take a photo of the ticket and take it to the scooter rental company to recoup our penalty. He also assured me (I asked several times) that if we were stopped again, we would not have had to pay the fine a second time to keep the bike. I half believed him…but I had no choice, so I snapped a photo of the ticket, took a subtle step back to secretly snap a photo of a uniformed policeman holding the ticket, then they let us jump back on the bike and continue on our way.
Later that night, the owner of the scooter company returned to our house to pick up the bike. We showed him the photo, explained the situation several times (to avoid miscommunication due to language barrier) and asked that they reimburse us for the 100,000 penalty. The bike owner refused. He said if we had stayed in the little beach town, the police would not have been a problem. Why would we rent a motorbike if all we wanted to do was stay in little Balian Beach, where you can easily walk anywere?! Not to mention, it wasn’t like we had driven to the other side of the island, we had never even left the region.
He asked for the key and said he would “go get” 50,000 rupiah and come back. He said “You pay half, I pay half.” Keep in mind it’s night time and well after dark. We had little-to-no confidence that he would return, and we weren’t too thrilled about him only offering us 50,000. We said we would give him the key when this issue was resolved. Then he decided to fake-call the police on us. His performance wouldn’t have fooled a 15 year old kid. We were actually thrilled by this threat, and encouraged that he call them. When we asked to speak to the police ourselves, he stopped the charade.
At this point, Buddy and I were prepared for the fact that we would not see the 100,000 again…but it was the principle of the whole thing. We felt like they were majorly taking advantage of us, when they were clearly in the wrong.
The owner took off on his own scooter, pissed, and without his key. 10 minutes later, we heard him come take the bike (with a spare key) and they were both gone. We got a 150,000 rupiah scooter rental and a headache.
Everyone we spoke to about it was appalled. They also all agreed that this type of behavior was very bad for the town’s tourist economy. Under the advice of the Canadian woman who recommended the rental and the owner of the house we were renting, we spoke to the “chief” of the village the next day.
At the end of the day, the company owner gave us 50,000 rupiah back, basically refunding us the cost of the rental, and left us to pay the penalty without reimbursement. Between our language barriers, and the fact that we were foreigners, we felt pretty powerless. We wrote it off. We called it a 100,000 rupiah lesson to always check your bikes registration beforehand.
Also…if you’re ever in Balian Beach and in the market for a scooter, don’t ever rent from a company called Gede Rent.