First arriving in Asia in 2004 I noticed that nobody uses cars on the remote islands, they are too big for the roads and often licence requirements mean its not an option. Hence the motorbike. For most, first time riders are easy to spot in the evenings, like a scene from a war movie they can be seen limping and hobbling between the bars and restaurants of the islands.
In Thailand we used to call these injuries “Koh Tao tattoos”, and many a doctors office, nurse dressing station can be easily found to piece a rider back together, whilst most islanders sporting a couple of “bike tats” themselves. Thankfully most injuries are not so serious, exhaust burns and scrapes following a spill. Even competent riders have to deal with other road users, animals, and as a friend of mine experienced – falling coconuts! With so many drivers intoxicated or not legal its a 50-50 chance of the “other guy” stopping if you have a crunch caused by them. This happened to me on more than one occasion with the culprit rapidly riding off into the sunset, or sunrise, and leaving me in the road to sort myself out!
When it comes to driving in Asia unfortunately you will find the police of little use if you are involved in an accident or a dispute, more likely you will find yourself having to pay the police for attending or writing you a report to claim from your travel insurance.
Renting in Bali Indonesia is cheap and simple, roads are relatively safe and as long as you have some small notes, around IRP 50,000 – about 4 euros to pay the police their “cigarette money” at the inevitable traffic stop. Local cops will set up random checks and you can be sure that even if you have helmet, licence, registration all in place they will find some reason for you to be fined, so having some small money will speed up the process. Heini was pulled over in Bali and fined for stopping with the front tire being over the pedestrian crossing. I’m sure their motto is “whatever you say, your gonna pay!”
As a final thing to beware of – most travel insures have specific clauses on the size of engine allowed to be rented, and will not pay if they can prove your riding a larger engined bike, also renters usually will take your passport until the bike is returned. This may seem reasonable, but ensure you check the bike over before you rent as you may be charged for any scratches or damage that occurs whilst your rent. A good tip is to take photos of the bike before, also the helmet for scratches and damage. And for gods sake make sure all the breaks and lights work BEFORE you take off at 50kph down the dirt road, and finally don’t check your fuel tank to see if its empty with a lighter as one customer tried leaving him with a $2000 bill for the days rental!
On the whole thousands of travellers find renting a bike on their trip provides them the freedom they require, just be sure your aware of the pitfalls before you rent.