Driving in Indonesia
Indonesians drive on the left-hand side of the road. For most of us the traffic itself is probably quite chaotic and frightening at first. Motorbikes and scooters are very common and their multi-functionality (or people’s creativity using them) seems to be endless. You can see motorcycles being used to move houses, get around with a 4-member family (and dogs), carry building materials (of course incl. steel rebars and roofing sheets) or in more boring cases just to go to work. Foreigners must have an international driving permit in order to ride a motorbike or drive a car in Indonesia.
The easiest and most hassle free way is to contact your local transportation or road administration office and get a proper license before your trip. International driving permit looks like a little booklet, that is usually issued based on a valid “regular” driving license. At least in Europe the permit is valid for several years, so you can also keep using it on your future trips. The application procedure and fees probably depend on your country, but In Estonia it’s pretty straightforward, you only need your ID, photo and 26€.
TIP: bring a document photo printed on matte paper, as stamp ink might not cure very well on glossy photo paper. Mine ended up all around the place.
As an alternative, you can apply for a temporary tourist scooter license in Indonesia. It’s called “SIM C” and it’s valid for 30 days. Please note that it gives you the right to ride only a scooter. You can apply for a SIM C at a local police office, which is issuing driving licenses. The procedure and requirements might vary in different provinces or cities (and be “flexible”), from document requirements to the need of taking theory and/or practical test. The applicant must be at least 17 years old, but usually a foreign license isn’t needed. The prices may differ depending on which documents you are asked for and whether you apply yourself, use an “express service” counter or an agent / bike owner is helping you out. The price should be anywhere between 100 000 – 400 000 IDR (ca. 7-25€).
We highly recommend the first option – get the international driving permit before your trip. The procedure is probably more straightforward and you can use your permit for many years over several holidays. Spend your holiday discovering beautiful place, not queuing and taking tests in police office.
Indonesians drive on the left-hand side of the road and the traffic might seem pretty chaotic at first. Most of the roads are narrow, there are lots of motorbikes (on the left / right and in the opposite direction), drivers don’t always follow the traffic lines, no speed limits and turn signal lights are often forgotten on or just not used. BUT compared to some other Asian countries, the situation isn’t too bad :).
If you don’t have much experience (or any) in that kind of traffic, please re-think if it’s the right place to sit behind the steering wheel or handlebar. All these aforementioned mentioned things happening around you might be a bit too much. Be especially careful, if you are going to ride a scooter, but don’t feel very confident on a 2-wheeler. Try to avoid areas with busy traffic and do your first rides in some smaller towns or villages.
When riding a motorcycle in Indonesia:
- It’s mandatory to wear a helmet
- Your scooter must have 2 rear view mirrors
- You must have an international driving permit (or SIM C)
- You must have your bike’s registration documents
The registration document (STNK) looks like this:
Definitely check the existence of these things and ask for them if something is missing. Otherwise you might have problems with police and get yourself into “flexible” negotiations. The same goes for driving a car, but you can leave your helmet to your hotel room.
It’s prohibited to drive while being drunk or intoxicated. The police doesn’t conduct regular road raids on that matter, but in case of an accident, the consequences will probably be very sad (even, if your only fault was having a beer or two in your bloodstream). Sadly, traffic accidents involving tourists aren’t rear.
NB! If you’re planning to ride a motorbike or drive a car in Indonesia (or anywhere else while travelling), make sure your travel insurance covers traffic accidents.
At the moment you can rent a scooter for a day for about 50-70 thousand rupiah (ca. 4€). 24-hour car rent starts from 200-300 thousand Rp (ca. 15-20€) for the common cars you can see on Indonesian roads. A liter of petrol costs arount 6500-7500 Rp (ca. 0.5€).
Let’s repeat the most important things once again. Make sure you have all the required documents, be careful and pay attention. Go for your first ride in more remote areas with lighter traffic. We recommend getting the international driving permit before your trip.
Good luck with the paperwork!