The Motorcycle Diaries


Pretty much everyone who lives in Bali gets around by motorbike or scooter. I’ve ben here nearly 5 years and I’ve been intending to ‘learn’ how to ride a motorbike for almost as long. I say ‘learn’ because there’s really no learning to be done – most of the bikes are automatic and it’s more a case of just having the confidence to get out on the road.

Actually I did learn several years ago in Nusa Lembongan – a little island with no cars. I was perfectly happy pootling around the little dirt tracks of the island but as soon as we got back to the mainland, I lost my confidence again.


The traffic in Bali is crazy. It’s basically every man for himself (or woman, whatever) and there are no rules. Very few people have an actual license and those that do just buy it – there’s no official test.

I’m not so scared of the driving itself; it’s more the other people on the road. I’ve seen so many near misses while I’ve been here and at least one person dead on the road (from trying to undertake a truck on the inside lane by the looks of it).

As well as the general insane craziness of the driving there are also little kids driving motorbikes to school and tourists who jump on their bikes the first day of their holiday and drive probably more dangerously than anyone else. I also suspect that few of these tourists have travel insurance or realise that driving without a license will void their insurance.

It seems like every week I’m hearing about somebody killed or injured on a motorbike. Just this morning I read about an 11-year-old boy who attended the international school in our village, killed on a day out on a motorbike with his older brother.

So you may be wondering why I’m even contemplating going out on a motorbike when it’s so dangerous. One word: freedom.

motorcyclediaries4I’m somewhat isolated in the village here and I rely on Made to drive me whenever I want to go anywhere. There’s not much of interest within walking distance – a couple of mini marts and a swimming pool.

Learning to drive a motorbike and getting out on my own would open up a whole new world to me. I’d be able to pop into Ubud for a coffee, meet up with my friends without needing Made to pick me up and drop me off and drive to the supermarket whenever we ran out of bread or milk.

I’d also like to get out and about with the kids more. When Maya was going to playgroup, Made would drop her off and pick her up so I was very uninvolved – which is definitely not what I want.

However, risking my own life on a motorbike is one thing but taking my kids is another thing altogether. I’m not sure I’ll ever feel confident enough on a bike to take them, even like most Balinese kids they’ve ridden on the back of a scooter almost from birth.



We do have a car and learning to drive it would also be an option but I’m not even considering this. I think driving a car in Bali is a million times harder than a bike and while technically safer for you, there are so many accidents involving motorbikes and cars. You really have to be looking everywhere at once and it’s totally common for bikes to be overtaking on both sides at once.

So I’ve been saying I’m going to learn pretty much from arriving here (I remember sending Made an email from Australia when I’d only been here a month saying I was going to learn as soon as I got back). I’ve had being pregnant and not being able to go out for long with a small infant as an excuse for a long time but that excuse is no longer valid.

We even bought a new bike last year that is light and easy to drive and won’t break down.

My excuses are running out. I must get on that bike. Call this my public accountability ☺

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4 Responses to “The Motorcycle Diaries”

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  1. It’s like provinces in the philippines where bikes are used a lot more. but sometimes it also causes traffic because no one really follows the law. lol seriously every man for himself!

  2. Jane Oswald says:

    Just do it Rach! Being on a bike is all about confidence, drive like you are in a car – position yourself in the middle of the lane, no driving in the gutter, that way you are much safer. Once you have learnt to ride a bike you will find learning to drive that car so much easier. I honest think everyone in the UK should have to learn to drive a bike before they get in a car as it makes you a safer driver and gives you much more road awareness.
    Good luck hun – I look forward to your next blog with pics of you out on the road 🙂 x

  3. Kaho says:

    I agree with you that the bike is better. I was very surprised by the incredibly congested traffic in Bali. Be careful on the road though!

  4. Rachel says:

    Hey Jane, you are totally right and you are one of the most confident drivers I know so I will definitely try and follow your advice 🙂 only you can’t go in the middle of the lane here as cars will wipe you out trying to overtake. I didn’t know you drove a motorbike?! Hope your new job is going well!