Clicky

badge

Thursday, October 13, 2016

Exploring Bali on 2 wheels! Bike Rental: Experience and feedback

As I was planning my first trip to Bali, I had not ironed out the details till last minute. Many friends had provided lots of tips and suggestions but I hadn’t fine-tuned my itinerary- what places to visit and how. Unlike most cities, Bali doesn’t have a reliable public transportation network of trains and buses, so getting around in budget was a concern.  Bali is not small place like Macau where everything can be covered on foot. From north to south and east to west, Bali Island is about 100 kms by 150 kms-pretty large area with places of interest spread all around the island. Hiring taxi is an option which most tourists do, but taxis cost lot of money. I was wondering what would be the best way to move around, without having to spend a fortune. Regular readers of my blog would know that I am a regular user of self-drive rental. I love it when I can drive to the destination myself. With public transport non-existent, taxis being too expensive, I had to explore the next viable alternative- rent a vehicle and drive myself.

Driving in a foreign country has its own risks-
-    We should rent from a highly reputed/reliable agency. There will be many roadside operators who offer vehicles at cheap rates, but often take passport as security and on return try to extort large sum of money under silly excuses. A reputed agency with clear policy on accidents, damage, fuel and other aspects is very critical for a peaceful experience.
-    You need to satisfy all local regulations. Thankfully there are several countries where one can drive with Indian driving license- Thailand and Indonesia are two of them. An international driver’s permit is highly recommended but not mandatory. (Problem with International Driver’s permit is that it is issued for short duration- one year, so we need to keep reapplying every year)
-    If driving style (left side/right side), culture of drivers and traffic rules are conflicting, it will be tough to adjust and can result in accidents/road rages/problem with police.

Thankfully Indian Driver License is good enough to drive in Indonesia, they drive on the left side of the road just like we do and driving style is pretty similar- lots of two wheelers and cars. I felt that driving around on my own is the best way out, so started looking for options. Google search revealed several popular options, I settled with Bali Bike Rentals because of following reasons
-    Their rental rates were one of the cheapest
-    Bali Bike Rental chat support was very responsive- they cleared my doubts and helped with booking process
-    Few sites that compared bike rental options in Bali rated BaliBikeRentals very high.

Having decided the agency, I had to choose a bike. I could choose between a Yamaha R15, Honda Scoopy or a dirt bike. Dirt bike was not impressive- ok for a half day trial, not good for full 4 days of city and highway use, so I ruled it out. Next I had to decide between the Yamaha R15 bike and Honda Scoopy Scooter. After much deliberation, I zeroed in on the Scoopy, because of following reasons
-    It was 50 % cheaper than Yamaha
-    Scoopy scored very high on utilitarian value- storage space under the seat, in front, easy to park etc. Bikes won’t have much storage space, so I will have to carry everything
-    If I am to ever face a situation where I have to push the bike or lift it, Scoopy will be a lot easier than Yamaha, which is two times heavier.
-    Wasn’t sure if I can ride at high speed on Yamaha- If there is a speed limit or roads on which we can’t go fast, then what is the point of having an expensive bike? ( I was right on first 3 points, but wrong on this last one)

Thus I booked Scoopy, for about 9 USD per day, without insurance. Paid by card
BaliBikeRental mailed me about their policy that I should either buy an insurance at extra 4 USD per day or pay USD 950 as security deposit. Once I opted to pay the insurance, they automatically charged my card, without me having to enter any OTP etc- this part was worrying to me, but more about it later.
My booking was confirmed and some 24 hours before start time 95 USD was charged to my card again as security deposit, again without any OTP or CVV.

The pickup:
Bali Bike Rentals have free delivery and pickup around Kuta and Bali airport. My original plan was to ask them to deliver at hotel next day morning, but once I realized that I can pick it up at airport itself, the prospect of saving on airport taxi kicked in, so I had given pickup address at Bali airport itself. My flight ETA was 6.40 PM, I kept some buffer for airport formalities and gave pickup time as 7.30 PM

However when I came out of airport there were no one from Bali Bike Rental waiting for me. Several taxi drivers surrounded me without letting me think or figure out what to do. I wasn’t given name and number of the person coming to deliver the bike- only instruction I had was staff will be waiting with Red colour T shirt with BaliBikeRental logo. I searched for every red t shirt person and checked if he is holding my name- there was no one (all janitors in Denpasar Airport also wear Red shirts, adding to my confusion). I went to information counter and on my request they made an announcement for anyone from BaliBikeRental to turn up. Result was negative.

Luckily I had just activated a local sim, but the call centre number given in booking email didn’t work. I connected to internet, went to Balibikerental’s website and initiated chat window. Lady who received my chat request coordinated with their ground staff- I was told he is waiting in Domestic arrival (which is stupid, as I had clearly stated I am arriving from Kuala Lumpur). After a few minutes the staff arrived- he said he was stuck in traffic. (story not adding up). Overall I had about 20 minute delay in collecting the bike- I will term it as minor incident as we could resolve it in short time. In the 20 minutes I waited, at least a dozen taxi drivers tried to convince me that no one will turn up and they are my sole saviors that night.

But rest of the process went well- I was briefed about the vehicle, shown first aid kit, fuel tank was opened and shown to me that it is full to the brim and I was good to go. All existing scratches were well documented. Very simple paperwork. I put my hotel on the map and got started. Hotel was about 5 km away and it was dark, but all thanks to Google maps, I navigated my way to the hotel without having to stop anywhere (except when I spotted coconut though)
Next 4 days I logged 820 kms with the Scoopy. This was largely because almost every day I ended up going to places in North Bali (like Git Git waterfalls, Mount Batur, Water Palace etc) from my hotel in Kuta. If I had planned slightly better and stayed in Ubud area for say 2 nights and fined tuned my itinerary further, I might have saved about 200-300 kms and several precious hours in travel. But when I realized that it was too late to change hotel bookings. Despite this drawback, I am pleased with overall outcome. I would leave very early in the morning, to go some places of interest in north bali, start exploring one place after another and reach Kuta by evening.

Scoopy’s high utilitarian value was a plus-I could keep a 2 litre water bottle and more stuff in the pouch in front. BaliBikeRental had added a mobile pouch, which was great- I can place my phone and refer the map on the go, without having to stop to check directions. My phone was slightly bigger than the pouch, which is fine.
Honda Scoopy comes with a 108 cc engine which can reach top speed of 80 kmph. It has a 3.5 litre fuel tank which gives a range of about 150-200 kms (about 45-55 kmpl). I have a separate post planned on this scooter, sharing dozens of pictures I have clicked. Scoopy proved to be a reliable partner- didn’t complain on steep climbs or long rides. Fuel gauge is little unreliable- can go from full to half in a matter of minutes- as the gauge is mechanical and not very precise. We should keep an eye on the odometer and fill up frequently if going away from city. Many shops sell fuel in bottles by the roadside- but these could be adulterated, expensive or both. Always fill up at proper fuel station or in case of emergency at designated resellers like below.
On one of the days, I met a friend (Raja Selvam), so wanted to borrow second helmet. I was asked to go to their office in Kuta and pickup one. I was told I can’t go to their Office in Nusa Dua- didn’t understand why. On my last day, I stopped at their office in Nusa Dua, went inside, said hi to staff, took some pictures.

All over Bali there are hundreds of shops offering cars and bikes on rental, but it is little risky to deal with shops which do not have English speaking staff, which don’t have clear policies and a reputation to protect. If anyone is asking for your original passport as security, stay away- just not worth the risk and hassle. If bikes are not new or well maintained, you will have more trouble to deal with than the convenience, so it is good to rent from reputed agencies.

Please note that there are a few drawbacks/limitations of riding around in a bike in Indonesia that you should be aware of.
-    Exposed to heat and rain- can get harsh at times. I had to buy a raincoat to safeguard against rains. Got tanned a lot due to prolonged riding in hot sun. Not the most comfortable way to travel
-    Expect a parking fee of about 2000 to 5000 IDR in most places, toll road bike fee is IDR 4500 one way.
-    Be careful about strong crosswinds. Heavy wind can toss you off the road- particularly true on the Mandara toll road. If wind is too strong, either stop and wait or ride in a group/along with other riders, so that someone will notice if you lose balance.
-    Roads are 95% nice and smooth, but be prepared for occasional potholes, bad batches or sudden obstacles. Don’t take the road for granted, maintain vigil. It is very tempting to speed up on the hills and the highways, but risk of accident also increases exponentially- you should know what speed is safe in what conditions. Always stay on the safer limit. The risk of a damaged vehicle and an accident/injury is not worth the thrill of a few extra kmph.
-    Space is limited, so you’ve to carry your stuff with you. I found it is pretty safe to leave the helmet and water bottle on the bike unguarded- no one took it away. But still caution is advised.
-    No charger in bikes as in cars- your phone battery will dry out in hours if you use internet and google maps non-stop. Carry couple of powerbanks. Without Google maps it is hard to manage navigation
-    Though I didn’t face any flat tyre issue or a breakdown, be prepared for the risk- particularly when you are exploring northern part in the hills without too many shops/people around
-    Most riders obey rules and are careful, but occasionally expect some biker trying to squeeze through a tight spot or overtaking from wrong side

Economics:
My 4 day Scoopy rental cost me about 36 USD in rental + 16 USD in insurance + about 120000 IDR in fuel + about 50000 IDR in toll, parking etc- that is about INR 5000 total airport to airport for 820 kms in 4 days-airport to airport. Not a single rupiah spent on taxi. I consider this pretty good savings. If I had to rent a car it would have costed millions and millions of rupiah. Even bike taxis cost about 20000 IDR for 5 kms, whereas for 20000 IDR I could fill about 3 litres of fuel and cover 150 km.

Above: At the Bali Bike rental's Nusa Dua office- They kept a scoopy on Demo. Scoopy seems to be the most popular two wheeler in Indonesia

The return:
Returned Scoopy into careful hands of Bali bike rental staff at the airport. Staff was on time and process was smooth. One can return at their hotel as well. The 95 USD deposit was released in about 12 hours. Overall it was great experience and I should thank BBR for making my first trip to Indonesia affordable and memorable.

Overall Summary
What I liked:
  • New bikes
  • Cheap rentals
  • Very efficient chat support- All chats are communicated via email for record keeping
  • Clear policies and simple paperwork
  • On time pickup and collection (I will write off the 20 min delay since everything else has been great experience)

Possible Improvements
  1. Communicate name and number of the staff coming to pick-up/drop- makes it lot easier to contact
  2. They have a minimum rental period of 3 Days. If this criteria was relaxed, I would have probably booked a Scoopy for 2 days and Yamaha for remaining 2 days. But then, I think they have their economic reasons for this restriction
  3. The fact that they can keep charging our credit card without explicit consent is worrying. Of course BaliBikeRental guys were decent and didn’t charge me extra, but if say someone else with whom you transacted once online charges you again, it will be near impossible to recover. This is the fault with the banking system rather than rental agency. Banks shouldn’t allow a transaction without CVV and OTP. If I have made one transaction with a company that doesn’t mean company can keep charging me whatever amount it feels like (In this case the charges were legitimate, my point is this loophole in international credit card transactions is viable to abuse and banks/VISA should fix this. I am not complaining about balibikerental here. Same thing happened with my transaction with Tigerair Australia last year.
  4. Will be good if they can give a printout detailing key traffic rules/signages- I spotted red markings on the road at some intersections-didn’t know what it is, similarly there were many Yellow colour exclamation marks on the streets, indicating some instruction- I couldn’t understand what it is. In some bridges and airport entry, two wheelers have a separate road- if we follow the car road we will get stuck. Google maps couldn't help. These critical information if provided in a handout, it will be great.
  5. I could never connect to their call centre- not sure what was the fault. (But thankfully chat support came to rescue, so I was fine)
Notice that Bali Bike Rental office timing is 9 AM till 6 PM, chat support is available for slightly longer (from 8 AM till 10PM I guess- not sure). Outside of these hours getting help will be difficult. Don’t venture out too far from city late in the night. There is a 24x7 hotline, somehow I couldn’t connect when I called that number on two different occasions- once upon arrival, 7.30 PM and once early morning 7 AM. Not sure if it is issue with my phone or the helpline.

Bali Bike Rental offers several add-ons at extra cost- such as GoPro, Pocket WiFi, side bags, etc- I didn’t avail any of these as I didn’t need them.

Next time when you visit Bali, try exploring it the way I did- rent a bike or car. It will give you lots of freedom, save lots of money and will make your trip lot more adventurous and memorable.

Similar: Bike Rental in Bengaluru  * Ride Thailand- riding big bikes in Northern Thailand * Harley Davidson Street 750 review * Road Trip- Bike vs car- which is better?* Royal brothers bike rental review *

11 comments :

Madhavan said...

Superb article!

Madhavan said...

Please share your Bali itinerary also!

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Madhavan. Yes, itinerary coming up in future posts

rupam sarma said...

Great, Thanks for the informative post :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

Thanks Rupam

Ami said...

Scoopy is too cute. Thanks for all the useful tips. Will definitely be passing those on.

Dipanwita said...

I love the color of the bike. And it's pretty looking little thing. A big dose of information here. As usual. Thanks for sharing :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Ami- yes it is very cute.

@Dipanwita- You are welcome

satish said...

Excellent post.Such facilities are lacking in Indian tourist spots.

shutterbugruts said...

The best way to see a city is throught a bike I feel. Glad you actually Shri make so much effort always :)

Shrinidhi Hande said...

@Satish- thanks. We do have bike rentals in many cities, but needed in other places. Goa had them since decades

@Rutavi- thanks