When you go to Bali, you’ll find that the easiest and cheapest way to get around is by renting a scooter. There are no buses, trains, or metros. Some places have banned Gojek and Grab (the Asian version of Uber), leaving you with no other option than to take taxis or hire a private driver. This is not ideal if you’re traveling on a budget, and is even worse if you’re traveling solo, since you don’t get to split the cost with anyone.
The good news is, in countries like Indonesia, Thailand, and Vietnam, you can usually get away with renting a scooter or motorbike without having a licence. But if you’ve never driven one before, doing it for the first time in Bali can be scary because:
- The traffic is crazy.
- Most of the other motorcyclists on the road are locals who have learned to ride scooters since they were barely out of kindergarten.
Scooter Lesson with A Local
In my own country, scooters/motorbikes are not that uncommon, but I
was too lazy never got a chance to learn to drive one because I would either have to take an expensive course at a driving school or find someone who can let me borrow their scooter.
So, I was pleasantly surprised to find out that in Bali, there are locals who provide basic scooter lessons for very reasonable rates. Ronaldio (Dio) gives 2-hour-long scooter lessons in Canggu for only about USD 18! He is a photographer by profession and does this as a side hustle. Having learned to ride a bicycle when he was 7 and a scooter when he was 15, he really knows his stuff!
How to Book
The lesson is available every day except Fridays because of Friday prayers. But Dio’s time is pretty flexible, so if you can’t find your preferred time slot, you can contact him to make a special request. You can also add extra hours for Rp50k (USD 3.60) per hour.
What to Expect
If you’re staying in Canggu, most likely Dio will pick you up himself. If you’re in Kuta, Seminyak, or other nearby regions, he will order a Grab Bike/Gojek for you. The journey from Kuta will take about 30 minutes — on a motorbike. If you’re not used to riding a motorbike for that long, be prepared to get a stiff back. This will be a good warmup for the scooter lesson.
Throughout the lesson, you will be equipped with:
- A helmet
- Elbow pads
- Knee pads
It might feel a little ridiculous to be all decked up in the safety gear, considering that some local kids from as young as 10 years old can be seen riding a motorbike without even a shirt on. But hey, better safe than sorry.
The first part of the lesson will take place on an empty parking lot next to a field. You will start with an electric bike. It’s basically just like a normal bike, but electric-powered. So, instead of pedalling, you simply control the accelerator in your hand. It’s great for transitioning from a normal bicycle to a scooter.
Dio will make you do a few turns on the electric bike and go through some obstacles to test your skill. If he’s satisfied, you will proceed with the scooter. The scooter is heavier and can go faster than the electric bike, so you’ve got to be very careful in controlling the speed. Because it’s heavier, it’s also more difficult to steer.
You will go through the same obstacle course, first on your own and then with him sitting at the back. If you’re a total beginner, he will let you ride pillion first and watch him demonstrate.
Once you have passed that initial stage, he will take you to an empty road where you will apply all the skills you have learned, as well as some basic knowledge of the traffic rules. By ’empty’, he means relatively less traffic than the other roads in the city. It will take you past rice fields and the countryside.
If I wasn’t so nervous, I think I would have really enjoyed the scenery. The whole route is pretty straight with only about 5 junctions where you need to turn (all of which I failed miserably). It should take you around 20 minutes, depending on how fast you go.
After the lesson, Dio will order a Gojek to send you back to your hotel.
Things You Need to Know
- This is a scooter lesson, not a motorbike lesson. Yup, for the uninitiated, those two are different. Motorbikes are faster and heavier. They have a clutch and multiple gears. With a scooter, you only need to learn how to start, accelerate, brake, and steer. Do not expect to be able to drive a motorcycle upon completion of this lesson.
- This scooter lesson is suitable for total beginners, but it would help tremendously if you already know how to ride a bicycle. If you have experience cycling on busy roads, that would be even better. Surprisingly, there are people joining this class who have never been on a bicycle!
- Bali can be really hot. Bring sunscreen or a lightweight jacket/scarf to cover yourself from the sun. I went in January, which was supposed to be the rainy season, but it was about 35 degrees Celcius with not even a drop of rain during my entire stay.
- No matter how good you are, accidents can happen to anyone at any time. Make sure you have a travel insurance. And make sure that your travel insurance covers motorcycle accidents. Some companies only cover you if you’re riding as a pillion rider, not as a driver, so always check the fine print. Check out World Nomads for the most comprehensive travel insurance in the market.
Let me be frank — I’m not the easiest person to teach. But Dio was very patient. What I like the most about the class was how prepared he was for slow learners like me (with the electric bike, safety gear and everything).
I’m proud to say that at the end of the lesson, I was comfortable enough to drive the scooter on a straight road for about 20 minutes — while carrying a rider behind me. But I will definitely need more practice before I would be confident enough to actually rent a scooter in Bali.
For now, the fact that I got through the 2 hours without getting anyone killed was enough of an achievement.