Indonesia By Motorcycle: How, Why, Where, Advice & Tips

Indonesia is an amazingly vast and impressive country. When I first arrived here I thought one month would be enough. HA! How wrong I was. Six months later and I am still exploring this diverse country. Doing almost all of it by motorcycle, as well.

Many Westerns are scared or worried about navigating the wild and unpredictable streets of Indonesia — or any nation in Southeast Asia for that matter. Audrey of That Backpacker wrote a post about it several months back that further reinforced peoples’ fears. However I’m here to tell you it’s not as bad as you might think.

Motorcycling Sumatra with my friend Riyanni Djangkaru
Riyanni and I caught motorcycling around an elephant sanctuary in Siak during filming

  Benefits Of Traveling Indonesia By Motorcycle

There are many upsides to renting a motorcycle while abroad, especially in Southeast Asia. It is really inexpensive. Ridiculously cheap, in fact. Throughout most of Indonesia prices are $5/day, $20-25/week, or $60-100/month. That’s an absolute bargain. Fuel costs even less than that.

For example, I traveled 400km from Jogja to Surabaya in 7hrs using less than $5 worth of fuel. By contrast a train ticket would have cost me $20 and taken only a mere two hours less — but then I wouldn’t have met any cool locals along the way.

Cloudy morning sunrise over Borobudur Temple in Indonesia, a world famous UNESCO site
With your own motorcycle, you are free to make your own schedule. One morning I randomly decided to drive to Borobudur Temple, a world famous UNESCO site, to catch the sunrise…simply because I could

Beyond the financial issue there is also the added bonus of being able to set your own schedule and go where you want, when you want. Renting a motorcycle allows you to avoid a multitude of things such as tour groups, waiting on buses/trains, and being stuck with crowds of foreign tourists. This is especially beneficial when your hotel or hostel tries to get you to join a group to see those stereotypical tourist attractions, like Borobudur or Mount Ijen. “Tidak perlu, saya punya motor.” (“No need, I have a motorcycle.”) But hey, if you want to travel halfway around the world just to hang out with foreigners, that’s your choice. However I must at least try and encourage you to interact with locals more, to live the local way of life. It’s much more educational and rewarding. Plus when (or if) you ever return home then you will have a lot more to be thankful for.

  Accident Liability
In Indonesia the larger vehicle is always responsible and must pay damages (e.g. if a car hits a motorcyclist, its the car’s fault; if a motorcyclist hits a pedestrian, it is the motorcyclist’s fault). As such, you’ll find that vehicles on the road here usually tend to be very careful to avoid hitting anyone on two wheels. I’ve done dangerous and some might even argue stupid stuff on the roads here but because of this I always scrap through unscathed.

  Downsides Of Exploring Indonesia By Motorcycle

That having been said, there are a few downsides to traveling by motorcycle in Indonesia. First there is obviously the traffic in the big cities and of course the condition of some of the roads, which are not quite the smooth and orderly roads we find in North America and Europe. Potholes, sinkholes and unexpected bumps in the pavement do occur frequently, especially in places like Sumatra where the roads are notoriously dangerous for those very reasons.

Traffic In Jakarta
Jakarta one evening. Please pardon the rough quality of the photo. It was taken by phone while driving my motorcycle one-handed through — yes, you guessed it — traffic!

There is also a general state of madness on the roads in Southeast Asia, at least from a Western standpoint. As one of my local Indonesian friends put it: “I thought roads here are normal. But after two years at university in UK, wow, can see why bule [caucasians] are shocked.” However they are not as bad as other countries like the India where “Here everyone drives crazy. So you just have to drive crazier!”

From cars suddenly stopping in the middle of highways to people crossing the street to motorcycles zigging and zagging around seemingly everywhere at once, the roads in this corner of the world are far from what Westerns would call “organized.” There is however an organized chaos to it all and if you go into it with an open mind — and a few heads-up pointers — then you’ll see that you really have nothing to be afraid of. Well, almost nothing. Here are a few pointers to help reduce your learning curve:

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Just a normal road in Jogja
Just an ordinary day on the road in Jogja

  Road-Trip Across Indonesia By Motorcycle: How, Why, Where, Advice & Tips

International Drivers License is NOT required

This may be a bad piece of advice to start with but its the truth. Anyone can rent a bike in Indonesia, even those who have never driven one before. Of course this is both a good thing and a bad thing. One of the things I mentioned frequently on the road was “I’m not afraid of the locals — I’m afraid of the tourist who just learned how to drive five minutes ago in the parking lot.”

What about the police, you may ask. Not a problem. During my first extended two month road-trip I hit everywhere in Java, circled Bali, and circled Lombok. Not once was I ever pulled over or questioned by the police. However, when taking a motorcycle onto a ferry you do have to show your proof of insurance, which comes with all rental bikes. In Padangbai, a city in east Bali, the police officer at the port also asked to see my International Drivers License. “Oops, I forgot it.” The officer rolled his eyes at me, stuck out his hand and said “Limapuluh ribu,” which means 50,000 IDR. That’s less than $5USD. And simple as that I was on the ferry.

Drive with your lights on 24/hrs a day and ALWAYS use your turn signals

Often times at night you’ll see locals driving around without their lights. I’ve done the same thing myself several times after having a few beers. The easiest way to avoid this is — no, not to skip the beer with dinner — is rather to turn your headlights on when you first get the bike and never turn them off. They shut off automatically when the motorcycle is off so don’t worry about draining the battery.

Always remember to use your turn signals as well. When bikes are weaving in and out of each other and people are driving every which way, that turn signal is the only way people around you know what you are thinking and where you plan on going. Proper driving etiquette here in SEA is to pay attention to everyone around you. The locals will assume that you are also doing the same to them.

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Don’t be afraid to use your horn

In other parts of the world honking your horn at another driver is disrespectful. Not here in Indonesia. It is actually quite the opposite. It’s considered courteous and respective to do so, especially if you think the other driver might not see you. Use it when passing cars, trucks, buses, bicycles, becaks, even people walking alongside the road. Just as a warning, so they know you are coming. You also want to do it when approaching any free-for-all intersections or running red lights. That brings me to my next item…

Drive as the locals do

This includes running red lights, driving down sidewalks or the wrong way down a one-way street, even making illegal u-turns. All of this is standard driving practice in Indonesia and will make it look like you have been in the country a lot longer than you have. With the exception of the southern part of Bali (Kuta, Sanur, Uluwatu) the police do not care the slightest about any of these tactics. In Indonesia it is first come, first serve. Even at convenience stores, where locals frequently skip the queue and just cut in front of others, especially foreigners.

Indonesia by motorcycle. Get used to traffic.
Just an ordinary day on two wheels in Indonesia

Also, if you start to notice that many other motorcyclists around you have their raincovers on already despite the fact that it has yet to start raining, you might want to pull over and put yours on real fast. Chances are that the rain is only a few minutes away.

Slow down before bridges and railroad crossings

Most of these are bumpy, especially the railroad tracks. Large gaps several centimeters across in between the pavement and the rail are commonplace. Combine that with the lumps in the pavement and it’s easy to go flying. One time I hit a railroad crossing at 100km/h and I literally flew out of my seat, completely lifted up into the air. Luckily my front tire was pointed straight forward and I had a tight grip on the handlebars.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Lots of railroad crossings on the island of Java
This railroad crossing isn’t bad but some of the others are more holes than pavement

Bridges are not as bad. Some of these are quite smooth actually. But many have a rough bump and the beginning and ending, where the bridge meets the roadway. Just to be on the safe side you want to slow down for these as well, especially if you see the other drivers around you doing the same thing.

Be aware of potholes, sinkholes, and gaps in the pavement

These occasionally occur in the big cities but are more frequent on the long stretches of road in between cities. For the most part Java is not that bad. Other islands like Sumatra are a completely different story. Just keep your eyes focused ahead and you’ll be fine. If you’re really worried then just drive a little bit slower.

Be observant when others flash their brights at you

This occurs both during the daytime and the nighttime. At night fast-moving cars will often flash their brights as they are coming up from behind to inform you that they are about to pass. However as cars frequently drive on the wrong side of the road when passing slow-moving trucks or buses, you will also see oncoming cars do this as well. In this case you want to move as far to the left as possible, to give them room to pass.

During the daytime it’s a little different. If you see an oncoming car flashing their brights at you it usually means “you’d better get out of the way because I cannot!” In this situation it is wise to slow down as well as scoot as far to the left shoulder as possible.

There are no official speed limits in Indonesia, only “suggested” speed limits

Being pulled over for going to fast or too slow in this corner of the world is a fear you do not need have. I regularly hit triple digits in quiet neighborhoods and places where the signs say 30 or 40 but the police don’t even bat an eye at me. However, if you are going to drive really fast, be sure to keep an eye out for people trying to cross the street and cars or motorcycles entering the roadway.

  In Indonesia the idea of stopping when you reach an intersection and looking before you turn just doesn’t exist. People just pull out and hug the shoulder, rather than swinging out into the center of the lane, but they never look. They count on the ones already driving down the road to be on the lookout for them. Remember that. This is also one reason I advocate driving on the right side of the road, nearer to the center lane — except when traffic is trying to pass, of course.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Another traffic jam
Why are there no official speed limits in Indonesia? Because of traffic.

Learn basic directions in bahasa

These will become priceless whether driving in city or through the countryside. After all GPS in SEA is not quite as reliable — or up to date — as it is in the Western world. Knowing a few words like kiri (left), kanan (right), and terus (straight / keep going) will become invaluable. Other good words to know are dimana (where) and bensin (gasoline). “Dimana bensin?”

Indonesia By Motorcycle: No Helmet Needed!
Took and tweeted this selfie
while driving at 80km/hr

Get a helmet with a tinted visor

These are very helpful when driving into the rising or setting sun as even closing your eyes for a few seconds can be disastrous. They also help keep you from being blinded by oncoming lights when driving at night. Some of the vehicles here in Indonesia have crazy bright lights. In additional many of the trucks and buses have colored lights hanging on the edges, so that others drivers (particularly motorcyclists) can avoid them…often by mere centimeters.

Helmets are only necessary in the big cities

If you are like me and have been riding motorcycles for years then you know there is nothing more enjoyable then feeling the breeze through your hair. But if the police see anyone without a helmet in the big cities, even locals, they will pull them over and issue them a ticket. This is very true for tourists, especially in Bali. However once you get outside of the city and are driving through countryside and small villages feel free to take your helmet off and enjoy the wind.

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  Long Distance Motorcycle Travel Tips

Pay attention to the green road signs

You don’t need GPS or smart phone maps to travel long distances in Indonesia — I spent my first two months essentially driving blind, only following the green road signs. They will list the upcoming cities and point you left right or straight. Just keep driving straight until you see the next one and have no fear.

Don’t be afraid to drive at night

Many locals initially cautioned me against driving at night, warning that I might be stopped and robbed by some unscrupulous individuals. However in six months that has yet to happen. In fact I found night driving to be more enjoyable for a variety of reasons. Not only is there less traffic on the road but also less surprises, such as people crossing the street or unexpectedly slamming on their brakes.

I would suggest however that you not drive over 100km/hr at night. That way you still have enough time to see and avoid any potholes in the road.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Karanganya
Karanganya, home to several temples that foreigners never visit

Keep your gas tank full

The national gasoline chain in Indonesia is Pertamina. They are located everywhere in the big metropolises and at key locations in between smaller cities. Even in the middle of nowhere there is usually a Pertamina every 75-100/km, at least on Java; However they are less sporadic on Sumatra and Sulawesi. Once your gas tank gets down to 1/4 full I recommend stopping at the next Pertamina you see and topping up.

Not all Pertaminas are open 24 hours a day, especially in the more remote areas. If driving long distances at night then I recommend filling up your tank whenever it gets down to the halfway mark.

Purchasing roadside gasoline

Throughout Indonesia there are small family-owned shops that sell bensin. You will recognize these places because they always have the gasoline stored in glass bottles and displayed near the roadside in wooden shelves. They charge a tiny bit more than Pertamina (7-8,000IDR/liter versus 6,000IDR) but come in handy when your fuel is running low and there is not a Pertamina in sight.

Indonesia By Motorcycle: Roadside gasoline vendors
Pertamina can often have long lines, especially in the evenings. As such sometimes its worth paying 1,000IDR ($0.10USD) extra a litre just for the sheer convenience of roadside gasoline.

  In Bali, especially the southern, more touristy parts of the island like Kuta and Sanur, do not trust these vendors. They water down their gasoline so much that you can literally watch your gas gauge dropping as you drive. They also charge 10,000IDR a liter, nearly twice the normal price. Do not purchase gasoline from them unless you have already run out and are pushing your bike.

Follow the person in front of you

When traveling long distances through unfamiliar areas it is a good idea to follow the person in front of you. The locals know where the bumps and dips in the road are and they tend to follow the smoothest path. Follow behind them and you will have an easier ride.

Trust Indomaret, not Alfamart

Indomaret and Alfamart are the two competing convenience store chains in the country. Although most of their prices are the same, anytime they weren’t it was always Indomaret that was less expensive. They also will let you use the restroom if you need it. The few times I asked the Alfamart staff to use their bathroom I was always denied.

Well, that about sums it up. These are the most important tips and tricks I’ve learned from my time on the road here. Hopefully they help make your motorcycle experience in Indonesia a smooth and enjoyable one!

Have Any Questions Or Additional Suggestions?

Or did this information scare you into not wanting to motorcycle while in Indonesia?

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About Derek Freal

"Some people eat, others try therapy. I travel." Β  Cultural enthusiast. Adrenaline junkie. Eater of strange foods. Chasing unique and offbeat adventures around the world since 2008. Derek loves going to new destinations where he does not speak a word of the local language and must communicate with hand gestures, or places where he is forced to squat awkwardly to poo -- supposedly its healthier and more efficient. For more information (about Derek, not squat pooing) including popular posts and videos, check out his bio.

204 thoughts on “Indonesia By Motorcycle: How, Why, Where, Advice & Tips”

  1. I have ridden on the m/cycle once when I was in Phuket. It was fun actually [though I don’t have a m/cycle licence], riding a m/cycle enabled me and my friend to explore the island and to go to a lot of places where the road is narrow. But as in Thailand they rent the scooter, it was hard when ascending a hill without the gear. Haha

    • Yes, they rent those scooters here as well in Indonesia — especially in the tourist districts where locals just assume that foreigners won’t know how to shift gears. I tried one of those for a couple months too. It was nice not having to worry about shifting in traffic but yeah, you’re right — the steep hills can be a little tricky when you have the extra weight of a second person on back.

  2. Good point that you have to drive like the locals do. The one time I rented a motorbike in Vietnam taught me that being overly cautious and timid actually puts you in more danger than just going for it like a pro!

  3. Wow, Jogja to Surabaya is a long trip to do on a scooter! I’m impressed, and at the same time feel the urge to shake my head as I echo Adam’s comment: “bule gila”. I can confirm that the e in indomaret is not silent; the “maret” part is pronounced like the word for the month March. By the way, I know someone who planned to spend 1 year to explore Southeast Asia and he’s been living in Indonesia for more than 15 years now, so beware. πŸ˜€

    • Thanks Deia. Yeah I really need to update that section of the post to remove my silent ‘e’ comment LOL. What city does your friend call home? I’ve met several expats here and they are always a wealth of information. Indonesia is a very interesting country indeed. I’ve also been wanting to add a third language to my verbal repertoire for quite some time now and looks like that will be Bahasa Indonesia. Been tweeting in bahasa a lot recently and hopefully by January or February I can write my first post in bhs πŸ™‚

  4. Great post! What an amazing adventure. I cycled the full length of Vietnam and I know what you are talking about. I agree with driving as locals do. Hanoi was crazy and I was following the locals who looked like they were going to kill someone!

    • Hanoi is a crazy motorcycle city indeed. I’ll be there this February to visit a good friend and have been debating doing the whole motorcycle Hanoi to HCMC thing. We’ll see if time allows it though. Did you find any hidden gems along your cycle trek through Vietnam that you would recommend I be sure not to miss?

  5. After riding on the back of a scooter through Jakarta with you dude, it’s clear you know the ropes. I’m good on a dirt bike and rode a scooter back home, but never through madness like this. But I can’t let that scare me from doing this. I’ve always dreamed of a motorcycle trip through Southeast Asia, and maybe it’ll be here in Indonesia.

    • Thanks for the vote of confidence bro — through the years there have been a couple westerners that were a bit fearful when riding with me. But I personally love the rush and pure unpredictability of the roads here in SE Asia, especially Indonesia. That and it’s a helluva lotta fun driving down sidewalks and on the wrong side of the road…but I’m sure you’ll discover that for yourself soon enough πŸ˜‰

  6. Awesome Adventure, I so wanna do the same type of adventure around Java. Anyone know of a place to hire a scooter in Jakarta?

    • Glad to hear Markie! I have a lot of friends in Jakarta so I never had to worry about renting one from there. However if you seriously need a place or two in Jakarta as a suggestion, just reply back again and I’ll ask my buddies for ya.

  7. I think it would be fun to travel by motorcycle! But Tim has a ton of experience with riding a motorcycle since he owns one. Maybe not the best idea for someone with no experience.

  8. I’m finally getting around to reading your post! These are great tips for riding in Southeast Asia. When I lived in Thailand, I rented a motorbike as well, and I completely agree that it’s the best way to see the country, with all the freedom in the world to explore little known roads and stop wherever you please. I particularly like the advice to follow the person in front of you, and I would add to trust the other drivers are following you. When I rode a motorbike in Vietnam, which from the sounds of it is just as crazy as Indonesia, I learned that nobody worries much about who’s behind them; they simply trust everybody is watching out for the person in front. And it works! It was much less daunting than it appeared from the sidelines.

    Great post!

    • Glad to hear you agree πŸ™‚ And thanks for the kind words. You are also dead on with everything you said about freedom of exploration and watching out for the people in front of you. It is all so true! Here in southeast Asia that just works, much to the bewilderment of Westerners getting their first taste of this corner of the world.

      I’m in Vietnam now actually, staying in Hanoi but taking various motorcycle trips around the country. So far I haven’t found the traffic here to be that bad but then again I’ve been a lot of places. Back in Indonesia it’s much more of a “first come, first serve” type policy with everyone racing around. Malaysia and Thailand are much easier. The Philippines can be a little daunting, especially in Manila, but in general people there drive a lot slower and don’t mind slowing/stopping to let you pull out into traffic or pass them by. NO ONE does that in Indonesia. In fact the big thing there is that every parking lot — whether it be for a mall, convenience store, or even a tiny warung (street restaurant) — has a jukir (parking lot attendant) to help you pull back out onto the road. Without them you would literally never leave that parking lot. People on the road in Indonesia just don’t stop and don’t slow down. The best you can expect from them is to weave around you.

      • Wow that’s very interesting to note. I believe Hanoi is known for the worst traffic in Vietnam, so if you don’t think that’s bad in comparison to Indonesia…I might continue with my plans to avoid Indonesia for a while! I used to be extremely interested in going, but have lost interest after SEA for some reason πŸ™

      • Hey man! Thanks for your blog! It has been really helpfull and inspirational. Just a couple of questions: I’ll go in indonesia in september and I’ll stay there for 2 months. My plans are to rent (or buy if it’s possible) a motorbike in bali and drive up till sumatra. Do you think it will be possible to buy one or do you think that once I’ll rent it there’re companies that would allow me to drop it somewhere else? Cheers πŸ™‚

        • Hey Nico, my apologies for the late response…been on the road and slammed with work. Anyway first off thanks for the kind words, really appreciate it. Am glad that I can be both helpful and inspirational. And secondly cheers, I admire your plan — that’s the real way to see Indonesia. On two wheels and stopping at random villages and making friends along the way.

          As for as purchasing a motorcycle, I’m not sure about this. Several people have asked me about buying motorcycles but Indonesia isn’t like Vietnam and Laos and some of those other countries, where everybody has an old motorcycle they are willing to sell for a couple hundred dollars. In all my time there the only bikes I ever saw for sale were brand new and at stores. And then even if you do buy one, selling it at the end of your journey will be a lot harder. However there are rentals everywhere. Most have to be returned to the same location but you might consider taking a look at They will let you take the bike as far as Jakarta but not onto Sumatra. I have never used them personally however, so if you do go with them then please let me know how the experience was, so that I can pass updated information on to others.

          The roads in Bali, especially the tourist part, are pretty nice. Java has a mix of good and bad roads but Sumatra, well Sumatra is a whole different story. The roads up there are downright horrible! Often times you will have to drive painfully slow just to avoid eating pavement. Maybe you might consider doing those last couple weeks of your adventure via bus. Or if you find a different rental company that covers Sumatra then definitely give them a shot and go for it bro! πŸ˜€

          Best of luck on your adventure, let me know how it goes. Shame I’m not in Indonesia right now or I’d buy ya a beer.

  9. Hi,
    Awesome reading material. Thank you for posting. I’m heading to Surabaya and have 9 days to tour East and Central Java. Loved riding in Hanoi, like being part of a school of fish.
    Can you recommend a motorbike rental company in Surabaya? I’m tall and would like something at least a little larger than a scooter. The only one I found only rents combined with a tour package…
    No thanks to that. A 250+ cc would be great. Thanks

  10. We are looking to rent on Java for about a week, can you perhaps tell me a few places to rent from; I’ve had no luck finding places online.

    Much appreciated.


    • Are you looking to rent one for use in the city or to use to travel from one side of Java to the other? Every city has motorcycles for rent (look for “sewa motor”). You can take these out of the city — just don’t tell the person renting it to you — but ultimately they all have to be returned to the same place you rented it from. I only know of one place that allows you to rent in Jakarta and return in Bali, and that is IndoCampers. A couple of big rental companies in Jogja such as Pamitran can be found online, however their bikes are often always rented out to other tourists unless booked way in advance. None of the smaller rental places have web sites but I assure you, they exist in every city big or small.

  11. Hi there,

    I am hoping to get some recommendation on a rental place in South Kuta, Badang, Bali. We are staying near Uluwatu beach.

    Any advice will be great advice. Thanks folks

    • Hey Ida,

      There are tons of mom and pop rental places around there, just look for the signs in the alleys that say “sewa motor” (rent motorcycle) or ask a local “dimana aku sewa motor?” (where can I rent a motorcycle?)

      However I also have the address of one bigger place, but it is in nearby Denpasar rather than Kuta. However if all else fails, give them a shout:

      Indo Campers
      Perumahan Nuansa Tukad Balian C/3
      Jalan Tukad Balian, Sidakarya
      Denpasar, Bali, Indonesia 80224

      Hope this helps. Standard tourist rate is 50,000IDR/day but because there are so many tourists in Bali many people try to charge more than that. Don’t be afraid to haggle or start to walk away. And of course let me know if you have any more questions. Have fun!!

  12. Well… wet season is here again in Bali. This means not so many long trips for me until about May next year, when the dry season creeps back in. I’m planning a motorcycle jaunt from Bali to Flores and back — hopefully avoiding main roads, and definitely taking many a detour. My little bike, a KLX150 likes to drink higher octane fuel, though (Pertamax), and I think this is going to be a bit of a problem — it’s hard enough trying to find the stuff in North Bali sometimes. So, some criss-crossing of main roads may be required in order to find the ‘good stuff’ for my bike. Does anyone know where I can find a map of Pertamax-selling stations from Lombok to Flores?

    And on a different note, one good way of saving the pennies while travelling is to camp. And a better alternative to a normal tent is a hammock tent. Sometimes, finding a free camping pitch is tricky, but there are always trees not far from the roads in indonesia. Also, you can sneak in without permission if necessary and stay hidden from view. With the right setup, I’ve seen a hammock tent ‘erected’ in 30~60 seconds! I’d stumbled upon Hennessy Hammock tents on line, but they are a few hundred dollars each. So, a bit of searching later and I discovered a great little place here in Denpasar that also makes hammock tents at a fraction of the cost. The company is and they seem to be one of the only companies that makes them from parachute silk — strong stuff, and packs down to a small, light-weight little bundle. I’m going to pop round to their factory before the dry season and get one customised: to include a zip-on/off mosquito net. Maybe I’ll also post a blog like this of my journey.

    • Hmmmm unfortunately I don’t know of any PertaMax map. Let us know how your journey goes. I need to invest in a quality hammock at some point…would come in handy for sure…maybe I can get them to sponsor my next motorcycle trip πŸ˜‰

      • I hear that Black cigarettes sponsor riders in Indonesia. It’s one of the many clubs you see around. All you need to do is have a black bike (plenty of those around) to join the group; get a “Black” sticker on your bike, suggest a ride, get paid for it, then publish a ride report. That’s what I heard. Not sure if it has to be written in Indonesian or not — I’ll find out and let you know. Yet, it depends on whether or not you to be promoting tobacco.

      • Any idea on how to get a bike from indo to Malaysia? EN route now after buying a bike in Bali, just hoping to not have to sell it when I head across to Malaysia… Thanks!

  13. I own a 250 Honda enduro in Bangkok with Thai plate and I like to go by my own bike from Malaysia with ferry to Sumatra. Maybe Melaka to Dumai.
    Do you know if this is possible?

    • Unfortunately I do not know if this is possible Eddy. I wanted to go the opposite direction, from Indonesia up to either Singapore preferably or maybe Malaysia as a backup, but in researching it online and asking locals I found that between ferry routes/limitations/misinformation and potential costs on bringing in a foreign motorcycle, even only temporary, just wasn’t worth all the hassle and bureaucratic hurdles.

      Then again, that’s provided any of the ferries will even let you take it aboard. The international ferries are not like the domestic ferries in Indonesia, where bringing a motorcycle is a painless, common practice that only costs a few rupiah more. They are newer boats geared more for passengers than cargo.

      There is of course the option of shipping it via cargo ship, however that will be quite pricey just in shipping costs alone. I can also say firsthand that Indonesia has a crazy high foreign import tariff and this applies to everything from clothing to electronics to yes, motorcycles as well. I know expats who live in Indonesia that have had to go through hell to get their motorcycles into the country. It might be easier as a temporary tourist and not a foreigner living in the country, or it could be more difficult.

      Do let me know if you have any more questions and update me on how this all works out, if you don’t mind. BTW I’m actually relaxing in Melaka right now πŸ˜‰

    • Here you go …, not sure if bikes are allowed on passenger ferries , and you may have to ship here is a link for further info …, …, heres a blog of a guy who had already come from Malaysia to Indonesia on a non indonesian registered bike – It cost him $1000 US (incl $500 mafia corruption at the Indonesian end which he was forced to pay in order to claim his bike) . All the complicated official procedures are in his blog…, …, PS guys ; DO NOT offer suggestions like “you can get this ferry as long as your paperwork is in order blah blah blah unless you know the facts involved and whats exactly involved .., as it just makes you look like a know it all twat that is talking out of your arsehole.

  14. @ Eddy,
    Nice bike!
    To take a bike from one country to another will usually require you to have a CARNET DE PASSAGES .
    Thailand doesn’t usually require these but Indonesia does, and you need to do your research first, and carefully — some ports in Indonesia accept vehicles with Carnet de Passages, while other ports will impound your bike for some “imaginary infringement of rules” and demand money.
    A friend of mine recently brought her CRF250L into Indonesia from Singapore to (I think) Dumai with no problems, but check the latest news before you head for the port.
    You usually need some kind of ‘deposit’ or guarantee in order to get a Carnet de Passages, so it’s up to you to decide if it will be cheaper to hire a bike here, rather than bring your own.

    Good luck!

  15. Mate, Great post!

    I have a question for you.. i am travelling to indonesia in march, arriving in Bali and my plan is to go up until Sumatra..

    I am going with my gf and we are both surfers. We want to explore the most of the coast and we think that a motorbike would really allow us to do that.

    What I am a bit lost is about the rental, like, if we start renting it in Bali, and we are going up, we wouldn’t be able to deliver it back to bali.. Is it better if we rent for long term and then i dont know how bring it back, is there like drop off points from companies? And would it be easy to find a motorbike with surfboards hacks?

    Appreciate the post and possible answer, cheers.

    • Hey Felipe, thanks for the kind words. Yes, a scooter or motorcycle is a much better way to get around Indonesia — especially because some of the best beaches in the country don’t have public transportation to and fro. However I only know of one company that rents bikes in Bali and allows you to return them in Jakarta: IndoCampers. Of course that is only useful if you plan on heading west from Bali off through Java. I am not certain if they have any bikes with surfboard racks but I would assume so. They are common throughout Bali.

      Hope this helps. Let me know if any more questions. Have a great trip!

  16. Hi, I am planning on backpacking in indonesia this summer and I was wondering if you have to take the bike or scooter back to the same place you rented it from? I’m planning on traveling within indonesia on a scooter or bike and it would be a pain to have to go back to exactly the same place! Thanks!

    • Hey Max, great decision! Unfortunately most motorcycle rental places in Indo are mom & pop owned or small local establishments, meaning that you have to rent and return from the same location. However there is one company that I know of and refer people to often that does bike rentals between Jakarta and Bali. In other words you can rent at one and return to the other. Check out IndoCampers, they should be able to help you out.

      The alternative is to rent a bike somewhere central, like Jogja, motorcycle east/west or wherever you please, and then drop the bike off at the Jogja airport. I did this several times with different companies and never encountered any issues — other than locals in Lombok freaking out about my Jogja plates, so shocked that I had driven so far on a motorcycle. But hey that is a helluva conversation starter πŸ˜‰

  17. Hi can any one provide me your inputs on –
    1. What is like parking the scooter and leaving it when you visit some place? Will it be safe enough to leave? what precautions are required?

    2. What do you give as a gurantee when you hire the scooter?


    • Hi Kabi. In answer to your questions:

      1. Parking the scooter at attractions/sights/restaurants/stores/etc within the cities is perfectly fine and will be safe. Most places have a jukir (which translates as a parking guru or parking lot attendant to watch over motorbikes and stop traffic so that people can safely pull out onto the street if it’s busy) but you have to tip him 2,000 rupiah. Sometimes it’s only 1,000 but that’s rare and only in small, remote places. The point is, no worries your bike will be safe around town. If you plan on taking a ferry and NOT taking the motorbike with you, be sure to park it in a big parking lot with hundreds of other bikes, and not on the side of the road by itself — because then it may be stolen and you will have to pay the rental company for a new one.

      2. Most rental places are family owned and as such they don’t ask any questions except for the name of your hotel/hostel and maybe your passport number. One big company did ask for a photocopy of my passport too, but that was only once. You will never have to pay a deposit or leave your passport behind, so no worries.

      Let me know if you have any other questions and thanks for reading πŸ™‚

      • Hi Derek4Real,

        Thanks for the quick response.

        1. For a short trip of 6-7 days, do we pay by international credit cards or keep cash in Rupiah? Any idea about the charges for withdrawing cash using international credit cards at ATMs?

        2. How hygenic is the local food from health point of view? How to locate restaurants offering good food at low prices.

        3. And likely cost for a normal food in such restaurants?


        • 1. Lots of places do not accept credit cards so take rupiah out at the ATM and use it everywhere. My bank doesn’t charge me any fees for withdrawing cash in a different currency but yours may be different. Most ATMs only charge a small fee, 10,000 or 20,000 rupiah. To avoid these simply take out the maximum each withdrawl — usually 1,200,000. Most ATMs also only dispense 50,000 bills but some banks with large ATM banks will have a couple extra ATMs on one side that dispense 100,000 notes. However most places do not like it when you pay with these large bills, so stick to the 50,000 machines and always try to keep lots of small bills on you (such as 10,000 or 20,000 notes) as these are very useful when paying street vendors.

          2. The local food, especially the street food, is surprisingly hygienic — even if it doesn’t look so. I spent a year traveling the country and the only place I ever got sick at was a Pizza Hut, believe it or not.

          3. In small local restaurants you can eat well for 20,000 or 30,000 rupiah but the bigger, fancier restaurants or international chain restaurants quickly get MUCH more expensive. However with street vendors a good meal will cost you between 7,000 and 12,000 rupiah. Soto, nasi goreng and gado-gado are three especially delicious dishes than can be found on nearly every street in the country.

  18. Hi Derek4Real,

    Thanks for informative response. What about the language of communication with the people? Can one manage with English in Jagarta, Yogyakarta and Bali and the places around them which one normally visits?


    • Yes, you can manage English in all those places, no worries there. I eventually learned the language (because I spent so much time traveling the country) but even before than I had no problems getting around.

      When doing long motorcycle trips though, it is helpful to know a few keys words in Bahasa Indonesia — as I mentioned in the post.

  19. Hi , my friend and I are wanting to travel by scooter from Jakarta to Bali. Can you suggest any scooter rental company’s that can offer that request ? And is that possible to do ?

    • Hey Justin,
      Yes, this is most definitely possible. I’ve spoken with the owners of before and they provide this service. Although I have yet to use it myself (I always rent my motorcycles in Jogja and then several months later returned them there) I’ve referred quite a few other travelers there. Give them a shout, they can help πŸ™‚

        • No worries brother, happy to help. Hell I’d still be in Indonesia if they didn’t deport me (speaking of, do not drop the f-bomb on Twitter against the government or they will lock you up…I spent 16 wonderful days behind bars there last year) I’d still be there, motorcycling around the country. In Malaysia now doing a housesit but it’s back to Indonesia after this! Woo-fucking-hoo hahaha πŸ˜‰

  20. There’s a lot of astute observations about the riding culture in Indonesia but there’s also some advice that I would flatly reject and I’m surprised that an experienced rider, such as yourself, would so flippantly hand it out. I’m talking about riding without a helmet and riding at night, Yes, I have ridden without a helmet but ONLY in my immediate neighborhood, which I know like the back of my hand and I NEVER travel at speed if riding sans helmet. I would never ride at night in an area I wasn’t intimately familiar with. My impression is that a lot of inexperienced, young people are following this blog. Too many probably consider themselves bullet-proof already. Imbuing them with an even greater level of misplaced confidence does not seem too smart to me. Caveat emptor.

    • I completely agree with you about riding without a helmet — not the smartest of things if you’re going long distances. Although that is common practice by locals, especially outside of the big cities where there are no police, most of them aren’t driving more than 15-20km. Besides, I wasn’t saying to drive your whole bloody road trip without a helmet; just that when in the countryside or doing short couple hour day trips without all my gear, I prefer feeling the wind in my hair. (Furthermore this blog is a small section of, my personal corner where I’m free to drop the f bomb as much as I want and talk about smoking weed in every country I’ve visited these last six years as a permanent nomad. What you get here is pure unadulterated honesty, even if it isn’t the wisest of material.)

      However, I see absolutely nothing wrong with riding at night. I do it in nearly every country I motorcycle and I personally prefer it. Not only is it not balls hot but there is also less traffic and far fewer — if any — pedestrians and animals wandering out into the road. I make the best time and feel the most at home while driving at night. It allows me to clear my mind and refresh myself, instead of dodging shit every two seconds and arriving at my destination more exhausted than when I left.

      Of course at the end of the day, to each their own. The most important thing we must all remember when motorcycling — especially abroad — is to never do anything that you are not comfortable with or feel unsafe doing.

  21. Totally agree with what you wrote and regarding the driving experience especially. Me and my bf spent over 2 months touring Indonesia (Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Timor and Rote) and it was not enough, there is so much more to see there. Since then we motorbiked through Vietnam, Cambodia, Laos, Thailand (now preparing to do island hopping in the Philipines) and so far Indonesia is my favourite. Police in the areas east of Bali was great. Engaging in conversation, joking etc. and definitely not looking to get money out of tourists. Once when we got a puncture and didn’t make it to our next destination during daylight, local policeman escorted us to our hotel but earlier invited us to have a coffee with his family : D People in less touristy islands of Indonesia are very much interested in foreigners and if they know English or not they will try to communicate even just to ask where you are heading πŸ™‚ As both of us travel on one scooter with our backpacks on its sides ( we have got custom made rack) it draws attention too πŸ˜€ To anyone that is thinking of travelling this way in Indonesia – go for it!

    • Hey Aleks, glad to hear that y’all had an awesome time motorcycling Indonesia! I completely agree with everything you said — Indonesia gets exponentially better the further east of Bali you go πŸ˜‰ These less tourists the better and more authentic the trip.

      Read the information in your post about where you got your custom rack, smart idea. Well I mean I guess you kind of have to with two on one.

      I’ve started writing additional guides on how to motorcycle the rest of SEA — except for Malaysia because it is impossible to find bikes for rent outside of Penang and Langkawi, and Singapore because, well, who the hell cares about motorcycling Singapore πŸ˜‰

      Anyway, thanks for stopping by and sharing your experiences. Cheers to whatever your next adventure brings!

    • You are most welcome Terry. Thank you for tweeting the article and best wishes on your upcoming trip. Let me know if you need anything further advice or translations πŸ™‚

      • Well, there is one thing that’s vexing me, Derek: rain management. Here in Bali I’ve learned that I will get caught in the rain every day, so I have to be prepared. But I don’t have any fancy waterproof bags to protect my electronics and laptop I insist on carrying with me everywhere. The best thing I can think to do is just wrap everything in garbage bags. But is there something better I could pick up here in Kuta?

  22. Hi Derek! Nice post by the way!
    I’m in bali now, and i’m planning to do a trip with a motorbike or scooter, jumping to the right side islands with ferries until flores and then come back again to bali with a direct ferry. My question is: can I put the motorbike into the ferry and move to other island only with the priginal documents of the vehicle? (Some people told me something about a blue card license)
    Thanks for your attention and I hope you can help me!
    Best regards!

    • Thanks Oriol, glad you liked it. And yes, you totally can take a rental bike on ferries — just make sure you have the insurance card they give you. Oh and Padangbai was the only ferry port I encountered in all my travels where they also asked to see my international driver’s license. When I said I didn’t have it with me the cop merely rolled his eyes, stuck out his hand and said “lima puluh ribu” hahaha Indonesia πŸ˜‰

  23. Nice experience Derek4Real…I think better prepare an international driver license before you do the trip to avoid “lima puluh ribu” πŸ˜€

  24. Hi Derek,

    What a nice website you have. I’m planning on a route trip from Jakarta to Bali (and back). I would love to do that by motor. I’ve seen the picture on the top of the page and I have to say i love the look of those two. On al the websites I can only find a kind of decent looking type.
    Could you give me some advise on where to rent a nice looking bike? Is it much more expensive?
    Also I’ve never driven a motorcycle or any kind of bike before (only cars) would you think it’s doable?

    Thank you so Much!

    • Hey Anne, my deepest apolloogies apologies for the late response…been busy in Nepal with quake relief work work. Anyway, the bikes in that photo actually belonged to a friend in Pekanbaru. And you’re right, most places will rent either the cheap scooters for 50,000 IDR/day or some basic manual motorcycles for a few rupiah more. In Bali however you can definitely find places that rent nicer bikes for not too much more — if you haggle with them for a discount since you’ll be renting it for so long. Just don’t tell them you’ll be taking it off the island. Not like it matters, legally or otherwise, but they will be less likely to haggle if they know you want it for a road trip. Say you are there for a relaxing vacation or research project or something πŸ˜‰

  25. Nice info. motorcycle is one of accommodation of transportation for the trip at a cost-effective and excellent durabilitiy. especially with the highway traffic is quite dense, motorcycle extremely unreliable. may often be a problem is the equipment driving license. I do not know how, but of course you know how the behavior of officials in Bali. wow I really like the bike you use, it look likes RETRO. nice share.

  26. I’m in Bali. My plan is to buy a scooter here, ride it across Java, then sell–probably at a loss–in Jakarta.

    I’m currently on a rented scooter. Under the saddle there’s the customary plastic sleeve with 2 documents in:

    SURAT TANDA NOMOR KENDARAAN BERMOTOR (Google translate: SIGNS LETTER NUMBER OF MOTOR VEHICLES, which I guess means registration certificate) and

    i.e. there’s no proof of insurance, which you mention above.

    My question is, do I really need this proof of insurance, or is that actually one of the two documents under the saddle?

    Many thanks for your response. I don’t want to get a scooter impounded.

    • Hey Adam, my apologies, the use of the phrase “proof of insurance” was just the western in me. Those two documents are all you need. I covered everywhere from Sumatra to Flores on a rented bike over the course of a year with just those papers, nothing else — not even an international driver’s license — and had no problems

      • Great. So funny, all the ex-pats I met in Sanur have told me that what I’m doing is so mental that I might as well jump off a cliff.

        Tuning into the locals’ intuitive awarenesss of what’s around them while riding took a while, but once I had it, crossing a junction against a red light, weaving past stray dogs, a zillion other scooterists and countless pedestrians feels like the most natural thing in the world.

        Thanks for your quick response and great blog!


        • Yup, as soon as you tap into it it’s the most natural thing in the world. After having motorcycled Indonesia, India, Vietnam and other chaotic countries like that, driving a motorcycle in a western country has become so boring. Any, appreciate your comments and kind words — it’s a work in progress. One I came to Nepal to work on only found myself in an earthquake and now been doing relief work instead of updating and improving my blog. But I’m happy to help, the people here need it. Anyway, sorry for rambling on…cheers!

          Oh and BTW, if you haven’t heard it yet, get ready to hear “bule gila” a lot as you get further and further from Bali. The alphabetic prefix at the beginning of license plates denotes where the vehicle (or bike) was registered, so people will know where you are coming from and be shocked.

  27. Hi Derek,
    Some great tips – thank you & very much appreciated. Derek, would you mind if I asked you a quick qn. I’m travelling to Seminyak (from Sydney) and was contemplating arriving 3 few days earlier and hiring a motorcycle to ride there. I would prefer to avoid freeways and take the country roads (if possible). Ideally, I would also like to leave the motorcycle in Seminyak as well. I’m not entirely sure how many kilometres I should aim to travel in any given day, but my thoughts are not more than approximately 300 – 400kms. Would you be able to offer any advice on where I might start my journey? I was thinking Jakarta, but I’m not sure whether or not it is too far and whether or not i’d be able to hire a motorbike there and leave in Seminyak?
    Any assistance much appreciated.

    • Hey Marco, my deepest apologies…somehow I accidentally overlooked your comment, so sorry! Before I answer all your questions though, are you still planning your trip? Or am I too late? Please advise and I’ll do my best to help you. Once again, my apologies for the late response….been rather busy in Nepal doing quake relief work.

    • Do you want to rent and return in JKT or drive them one-way somewhere else? Rental places in JKT are not as common as other Indonesian cities, mainly because there isn’t a big demand for tourist rentals there. But after a bit of searching I was able to find a place in south Jakarta close to where I was living… What part of town will you be in?

      • Hi Derek,

        I am looking at renting a motorcycle in Jakarta however I have no idea where to start looking.

        Any suggestions? I will be picking up and dropping off in Jakarta over approximately 3 weeks.


        • Hey John, unfortunately in Jakarta I was never able to find a rental agency. The problem is all the rental places in Indonesia are geared towards foreigners, not locals. And most foreigners are too scared of Jakarta traffic to want to rent a bike. In Jakarta if I didn’t arrive with a bike, I always had to borrow one from a local friend while I was in town. If you do find a place, let me know!

          Another option is to arrive in Jakarta and rent your bike in Bogor.

          • Hey Simon, sorry, unfortunately not an official store. Apologize for my late response but if you are still in Bogor, start asking locals. People there are friendly and always looking to make a few bucks, often you can just find a family to rent from if you ask a few people. Best of luck πŸ™‚

  28. Hi semua

    I’m traveling every year trough Tanah airku for lima minggu. Last year with a scooter from JKT to Semarang, Jogja, Cilacap, Bandung and back to JKT, but I’m a bit tired of the scooter and I’m really looking for a bigger bike this year for rent. I was asking all my Indo teman already, but no one could help me to find someone who rent “real” enduro bikes like a BMW R 800 gs adventure or something similar πŸ™ I don’t care where to pick it up, if Bali or JKT, it doesn’t matter.
    Could anyone help? Terimah kasih ya πŸ™‚
    Btw. I need it in August this year for mungkin dua minggu πŸ™‚

  29. Hey! Great information so far..just a few questions! My partner and I are heading to indo in a week and we are keen in exploring it using a bike. Landing in Jakarta then will be working our way down to bali all the way to flores, etc. Would you recommend buying a bike or renting one? How easy would it to sell afterwards? We will be traveling with one backpack and 2 people on a bike since I can’t drive. If we are going for the rental route, can you recommend a place to get it from in Jakarta? Thanks!

    • Hey Anna, so sorry for the late response! Been busy doing quake relief work in Nepal. Are you still in Indonesia? Have any more questions or anything? Hope all is going well on your journey πŸ™‚

  30. Hi !
    Thank’s for your advices !
    Do you know if it is possible to ride a motorcyle all along the way from Jakarta to Bali, isn’t it too hot on this season ?
    It looks like it is possible to rent a motorcyle on a one-way trip, pick up the bike somewhere and let it elsewhere. Could you advice me a shop like that ?
    Thank’s a lot !
    [email protected]

    • Hey Remi,

      I’ve done that exact same trip several times and I didn’t find this time of year too hot. There plenty of nice roads in between where you can get up to speed and really enjoy the wind and the scenery flying by. And yes, I do know of a place where you can rent one-way motorcycles — the only company doing so. Will send you an email in a few minutes. Best of luck on your trip!

    • Hi Derek! Could u send me an email too regarding the companies that i can rent a bike that can do one-way too? Thank you! πŸ™‚

      • SO SO sorry about the late response Kayla, feel guilty. Are you already in Indonesia? Anyway, the company I used to recommend never paid me my commissions, so I don’t trust them anymore. But there should be others, let me check….

  31. Hi Derek:

    Me and my friend we travel in Indonesia, now in Bandung.
    We were trying to rent a motorbike and biking in this country by ourself. But almost every locals told us it’s impossible for foreigner except in Bali island, if we do that, will definitely get troubles from polices over the country, and we got none useful informations about that from locals here.

    So we want know about your renting motorbike experience, like how and where to rent it, just try to make it clear; we don’t need any International drive licence?
    and how can we sending the motorbike back to the owner if we ending our trip at far away destination in this country.

    Tks & Brs!

    Trick Yang & Myriam Bachtold

    • No worries Trick & Myriam, the locals told me that too. And to carry a stick or metal pole with me so that if anyone stopped me, I could whack them and drive off.

      But in the end I spent over a year motorcycling around Indonesia and had absolutely ZERO issues, other than an occasional flat tire. (I got four flat tires over the course of a year, all four while passing through Klaten, a small city in between Jogja and Solo. Mechanics there apparently throw nails in the road to keep up business.)

      You also DO NOT need an international driver’s license. The only place you will ever be asked for one is on Bali, most commonly at the Padangbai port as you attempt to board the ferry to Lombok with your motorcycle. When I said I didn’t have a license, the guard just rolled his eyes and said “limapuluh ribu” as he stuck out his hand. 50,000 IDR…around $4 USD.

      However, things get tricky with one-way rentals. There is only one company that does that and they usually ship the bikes to either Jakarta or Jogja, so people can travel via motorcycle all the way to Bali and return the bike in person. I know these guys and they might be able to ship a bike to Bandung for ya, or have one waiting in Jogja. Will send you an email with all the details today πŸ™‚

        • SO SO sorry about the late response Kayla, feel guilty. Are you already in Indonesia? Anyway, the company I used to recommend never paid me my commissions, so I don’t trust them anymore. But there should be others, let me check….

  32. Great post, thanks! One question, so what did you do with you luggage? Side bags? As I will be climbing / trekking up some mountains I am bringing a full trekking backpack.

    • Great question! Actually side bags are very uncommon in Indonesia as most people drive scooters or very low 100-125cc motorcycles. Of course you’ll see lots of side racks for boards in Bali and other surfing spots, but never any really bags.

      What I did, since I always had to return the motorcycle to the same place, was leave half my stuff in storage and just take the minimal amount in one backpack. I’d be gone anywhere from a week to a month before ending back up in the city I began at. With one bag it’s easy to watch over and doesn’t get in the way when fueling. (Most motorcycles in Indonesia, especially rentals, require lifting up the seat to gain access to the tank, so strapping your bag down with bungees also does not work on long trips.)

      Of course that won’t work if you are going one-way and want to do some trekking, as you mentioned. Then you’ll have to go one-way rental with a good company — they should have saddle bags. Hmmm guess I should have thought of that before I rambled on so much….oops πŸ˜‰

  33. hey i only have owned a yamaha r6 here in hawaii. not that i want that fast of a bike due to traffic but is it possible to get one faster than 125cc?

    • Hahaha you sound like me — used to have an ’03 back when I lived in the States. Anyway, the most powerful I’ve ever seen for rent in Indonesia are some low 200s, nothing fancy. There are definitely locals and expats who own more powerful bikes, so they’re in the country…but as far as them being available for rent, I never recall seeing any at the usual rental places, or seeing any specialty or high-end bike rental spots.

      Another option is to check out some of Indonesia’s motorcycle enthusiast clubs while there, like Let’s Motor Jogja in Yogyakarta. Those groups are always comprised of locals and expats, many of whom own multiple bikes. Renting something with a bit more power from them — or hell even borrowing, depending on how quickly you make friends — is possible as well. They are also a great way to find other people to ride with and make the road more fun.

  34. Hi Derek.

    I’m planning to do a tour of Java Island my motorbike in the end of September, but there is something that it’s really driving me insane: speed.

    Google Maps seems to imply that average speed on Java’s roads is 37 km/h
    Indocampers (where I’ll rent the bike) says 40 km/h
    Locals I contacted says that 100km A DAY should be remarkable goal
    An Italian guy with the same bike than I’ll rent has a report this year on the same roads at a really good pace (4k km in 16 days)

    And you? What do you think could be a realistic average?

    • Yes, and locals in Java also told me to take a club or stick with me so that if I was stopped by anyone with bad intentions, I could just whap them and drive away real fast. Point is, the locals don’t always know as much about traveling around their country as they like to think.

      Some of the roads are new and smooth and you can easily ride at triple digits — as long as you have fast reflexes and are aware of what to watch out for in countries such as this. Then again, there are also roads that are utter shit, full of potholes, construction and other obstacles.

      That all having been said, you can easily do 400km a day if you were in a rush or have a particularly long ride scheduled for that day. I used to drive back and forth between Jogja and Surabaya on a regular basis (420km, give or take) and that usually took me 7-8 hours.

      So no worries, if you want to travel long distances by day so that you can spend a few days at each destination, relaxing and exploring the local sights/food, that is totally doable. Make sure not to miss Bandung, Jogja, or Manang. (Can give you other recommendations as well, if you need them.)

      • Ok, thx, this sounds more reasonable. I’m obviously not expecting to drive in the same nearly perfect conditions of roads here in Europe (where I usually travel easily above 100 km/h on a secondary road to go to work), but the locals claiming an average speed of 10-20 km/h and that I’ll die in a matter of seconds…well, I’was beginning to think their problem is just their way of driving. And, even more probably, the quality of the local bikes.

        Thats said, I’m going to travel a bit on the wild side of life: I’ve got no exact plans, no reservations, nothing but the flight ticket to go back to Europe and just an idea of what to do based on the way I like to travel. For example, the first part of the holiday will surely be a trip with a rented motorbike (not a scooter), from Jakarta to Ketapang in (hopefully) no more than 4 days.

        Currently I’m planning:
        Day 1: a “long” leg from Jakarta to Pekalongan
        Day 2: a short leg between Pekalongan and anywhere around Klaten, passing through the Dien Plateau, Borodur and Prambanan
        Day 3: Malang
        Day 4: Ketapang -> ferry -> Denpasar

        Now the only thing I’m trying to understand is if I should stay on the north road or go as soon as possible for the south road, as someone said me the south one has better sight and nearly no traffic, while the north one is heavily congestioned. What do you think on the matter?

  35. Hey mate, good read. I’m travelling for 5 weeks over December/January. Is there some sort of pick up-drop off scheme which allows you to rent a motorbike from one city and drop it off in another. I’m looking into riding from Bandung to either Surabaya or maybe even Bali if I can take it on a ferry. I rode through Vietnam a couple years ago but this seems like a pretty big step-up from that. Cheers!

    • Glad this article helped answer some of your questions. Starting in Bandung is a great place, and yes, you can take it on the ferry from Banguwangi to Bali. Its just a quick 30-minute ferry ride and all you need to get the motorcycle on board is the insurance/ownership card that comes with the bike. They never even bothered to check if I had an international drivers license — although the police will ask for that if you try to take the bike on the ferry from Bali to Lombok. Its a 50,000 IDR bribe though, like $4 USD, so not expensive at all.

      Will send you an email in a few minutes with more motorcycle info.

  36. Hi Derek,
    In Labuan Bajo at the moment and just returned from a 2 day 1 night trip to Ruteng to see the hobbit cave. Hired a Honda Tiger for 150k a day and had a blast. Did around 300ks round trip, took about 4 hours to Ruteng but hooked up with a couple of locals on 110cc step throughs on the return trip and did it in 3 hours. Road was great with long stretches of new bitumen, no cops, no rules (other than to survive) and not much traffic, although what there was was often on my side. Just adds to the experience. We were two up on the Honda and it handled it well. Road is very winding with many tight bends so our top speed was only 80kph but lots of nice flowing bends. The bigger bikes can be hard to find to hire but we stayed at Bayview Gardens in Labuan Banjo and Hubert at the hotel was able to source one for us.

  37. I am now in Jakarta and have a little problem. I want to rent a scooter with an surfreck. But some locals tells me its forbidden (Over lagguage!) Its just allowed to have a backpack between your legs and at the back. Is that true ? Because… i was the last 2 month in Bali and Lombok and it was not a problem to travel like this.. What should i do now ?

    • Well a bike with a surfboard rig might be a bit tricky to find in Jakarta, but it certainly isn’t illegal to have bags on your bike. I know the guys with a cycle club and they all have big bikes with nice luggage setups. But its a very, very small market for those things — and mostly they are for purchase. I cannot think of any place that rents bikes with racks and I called Jakarta home for several months last year. But either way, it certainly isn’t illegal. My best advice would be to look for a motorcycle enthusiasts club in Jakarta and inquire there.

  38. Guys just a quick question.
    is it difficult to buy and sell a motor in indonesia? and is it possible to take the motor on the ferry to another island?

    I drove 4 weeks in vietnam and it was one of the best things i did. i bought a Honda there for 180 dollars so I hope in Indonesia ill have the same luck!

    Thank you

    • Hey Roel,
      Slightly difficult to buy but much more difficult to sell. There is just no market for sales to foreigners — only leases to locals. Now you might be able to buy an old used bike from some random local (although I’m not 100% sure about the process/legal requirements of a foreigner owning a vehicle in Indo) but you will never be able to sell it for more than a fraction of what you paid. Not like Vietnam at all, where you can sell the bike for the same thing you paid, or maybe a few bucks less.

      On the plus side, you can take your bike island to island via ferries. The bike fee varies but is not much more than the price of a (human) ferry ticket.

  39. ΒΏWhat company or place to rent a bike do you recommend? other than indocampers
    ΒΏWhere did you get the price of 60-80 usd a month?
    Amazing blog by the way
    you motivated my to travel to indonesia this summer

    • Hey Mauricio, if not them I recommend using a small family-owned place. They will give you the best rates, but most are tricky to find because they are not advertised online and hidden in remote or obscure parts of town. Don’t get me wrong, you can always find some bikes for rent along the main drag of most any tourist destination in Indonesia. But sometimes they won’t even haggle down to $5USD/day unless you know some Bahasa. What you do is ask a local (not at your hotel) where to rent a bike. Ask him where he rents his bike. Go to that random spot (perhaps with an Indonesian friend) and there you can get a bike for less than $100/month EASY.

  40. Hi just want to check with you where did you rent your bike? My friend and I are thinking of renting 2 at surabaya airport, any recommendations and idea if there’s a website for us to check the price list?

    • Hey Neal, I’ve never seen any bike rental places at any airport in Indonesia. There is no Hertz Rent-A-Bike or anything like that. You will have to go out around town and find a spot. Most rental places are small, family-owned operations, but some cities have bigger operations that advertise online and target foreigners more than locals. Can’t recall any in Surabaya though. I have been there three times but always arrived with my own wheels, so never had to hunt for a rental place there. About $5USD/day is the normal tourist price, or less if you can speak some Bahasa or negotiate a discount by renting it for an extended period. The majority of rental bikes are 100cc scooters but they also have some 100-125cc manual motorcycles. Never saw any Harleys or Enfields for rent like in other countries, just basic bikes. Let me know if you find out otherwise though. It has been a full year since I stopped calling Indonesia home…

  41. Derek4Real – you rule. The information on this page is priceless. After reading all the comments and your patient replies to the myriad of questions (including many repeats of the same question), I feel like I now have a clue about what I’ll do on my Indo adventure. Thank you!!

  42. hey Derek, thanks for the tip! Stumbled upon your blog while looking for tips riding around Java.

    I’m planning to ride from Jogja – Malang alone to meet some friends and back. According to Google Maps, it’s about 8hours ride to Malang, and another 8 hours back. Was planning to leave Jogja in the morning and possibly arrive before dusk. Do you think it’s poss?

    Thanks, greatly appreciate your help!

    • Hey Sally, happy to help. But unfortunately Jogja to Malang is not any easy or quick motorcycle route. In order to do it in 7-8 hours, you’ll have to drive fast. And your bike factors in as well, obviously. If you have (somewhat) powerful motorcycles it is a lot easier than with those little 100/125cc rental scooters.

      Either way, I definitely recommend leaving at first light. Start early, have a big breakfast at your hotel, at hit the road shortly after sunrise. You’ll avoid the heat of the day and hopefully make it in by late afternoon. The signs are fairly easy to see, you just have to always be keeping an eye out for them. Don’t want to accidentally stray off the path and have to lose a lot of time backtracking πŸ™‚

    • I rented my motorcycle from a little shop in Jogja. There are several rental places scattered around town. Unfortunately since the rental places are all family-owned businesses, not chains, it is not possible to return the bikes elsewhere. There is one company I know of thought that will ship a bike to you. Say for example you want to ride from Jakarta to Bali, a bike will be waiting for you in Jakarta and then you can return it in person in Bali. Let me know that sounds like something you might be interested in.

  43. Hi Derek, great blog and info. I read on another blog that you would recommend 10 days in Sumatra above elsewhere when considering trips to Indonesia. I was thinking of going to Flores as it seemed to get high praise and would be well suited to some motorbiking as well. Just wondering, where in particular in Sumatra would you recommend, even if it didn’t involve biking but just traveling to? Thanks πŸ™‚

    • Flores is great Lachlan, don’t get me wrong — but less people visit Sumatra, and that was one of the reasons I liked it best. (After being a nomad for seven years, I’m really tired of tourist traps and touts.) Medan and Lake Toba are a must. Everyone always talks about the orangutan sanctuary in Bukit Lawang, however I didn’t make it there. Aceh is really interesting if you want to see the more Muslim side of Indonesia where Sharia Law exists — and also strangely enough where they grow all their marijuana. Western Sumatra has some great spicy food, especially Bukittinggi. Riau is more undeveloped and home to an elephant reserve that I had a good time in…although the name escapes me. Oh and there are some great beaches on the islands of Bangka and Belitung, just off the southeast coast of Sumatra. My apologies for the late response Lachlan, but hopefully this will give you a few ideas. Let me know if you have any more questions πŸ™‚

  44. Hi Derek, you alluded to a company allowing one-way trips in many of your comments. I’d really like some more information regarding the fees and conditions!
    Thanks for the stories and tips,now I wouldn’t travel Indonesia any other way.

  45. Hey man! Your post helped me a lot with making the decision to buy a motorbike in Indonesia! Took me 3 days in Jakarta but now I own a Honda Tiger (200cc), super stoked!

    The only question Inhave is, howndid you handled your luggage? First I thought to just wear my 75L backpack on the back, but now I’m thinking of getting some sort of luggage rack welded on or something. What did you do?



    • Hey Sil, happy to hear I helped…at least a bit πŸ˜‰ People ask questions all the time but such a limited minority actually say thanks. Appreciate it.

      I spent a year in Indo and I used Jogja as my base. I left the bulk of my luggage there and would take 2-8 week trips around the country on bike, ferry it up, explore it up, live it up, explore it up, then return to Jogja. Rest a week and repeat.

      How long are you planing on being there and what is your rough itinerary? Happy to help you make the most of your trip πŸ™‚

      • Hey man, sounds like a solid way to travel! I like your style. I’ll do it a bit diferently. Will stay here for 4 months, from which two with my girlfriend. Together we will cruise from java (Jakarta) to bali to lombok, and back. I myself want to take a ship from jakarta to sulawesi afterwards and explore some more over there. But this is just an idea at the moment. I’ll get a luggage rack (share 1 backpack) and take the missess on the back, together only 60kg so should be allright.

        Drove from jakarta to bogor to cimaja the last days, already loving it πŸ™‚

        • Nice — it only gets better the further east you head. Since you have longer than most, no reason to stress over having a plan. Just go with the flow and have fun! Cheers πŸ˜€

  46. @Derek4Real
    very interesting.
    how realistic is it to rent a motorcycle in bali and take to lombok, sumbawa, flores (island hop by ferry).

    • Very realistic Gene. I did the same thing but coming from Java. Just make sure to have your int’l drivers license on you when hopping on the ferry from Bali to Lombok because the police do check there. Of course it’s only a 50,000 Rupiah “fine” (like $4 USD) if you don’t have one. From there east it’s smooth sailing. The only thing to be aware of is that unless you work out a special deal with the rental company, you will have to bring the bike back from Bali. Let me know if you need any rental recommendations or other advice. Cheers! πŸ™‚

  47. Hey there,

    thanks for the great article.
    I know its a few years old but wanted t ask nevertheless.

    We are coming to Jakarta and want to head to Bali. It would be great to do it on two wheels but we dont want to buy a machine and one-way rental seems uncommon.
    Have you ever heard of one-way rentals or do you have any other advice?


  48. Hi, thanks for all the great info. I will be in Indo for diving and have 5 days for exploring, based out of Bali. Is it worth exploring Java with a bike from Bali or better to fly to Sumatra, get one there, and explore that island? Could I also get the name of the one way rental place between Bali and Jakarta?


  49. Hi, could I also get the name of the one way motorcycle rental place?

    I will have 5 days to explore by motorbike starting in Bali. Would you recommend Java or Sumatra?

    Thanks for the great info.

    • Hey Trevor, sorry for the late reply, been sick. Definitely Java, especially since you are short on time. Lots of great cities: Bandung, Jogja, Malang, etc. Will email you later today with more info. Cheers!

  50. Hello,
    Where do you suggest to rent a motorbike? I want to take it at the otherside of the country.
    Travelling from north Sumatra in Direction of Bali.
    Are there companies who take it back on the other side. ?
    Do you think a semi-automatic will do it for the mountains? or should you go for a Honda Win?

    Thank you in advance!

    • While Honda Wins are all over Vietnam, I don’t recall seeing any in Indonesia. They have a few random 125cc and 225cc manuals scattered in some of the bigger cities around the country. Most rental places will have 1 manual for every 10 or so scooters — in other words, much less common, and more likely to already be in use by someone else. The type of tourists who come to Bali (and Indonesia as a whole) are a lot different than the “motorcycle the Ho Chi Minh Trail” crowd. Here tourists all driver scooters — and they still wreck them!

      Anyway, I did see a few clutch-less semi-automatic bikes in Sumatra, but not really anywhere else. Maybe that was just my strange luck, who knows. But either way my point is this: although it can be harder to find a semi-auto or full manual motorcycle, it is definitely worth it. That will be good enough to get you anywhere that you want to go.

      What I did to get around with always having to return my motorcycle was to plan my route in a circle. Start in Jogjakarta, circle Java and come back to Jogja. Or head up one side of Sumatra and back down the other. That way the bike gets returned without having to pay crazy shipping or some local to drive it back, and you get to see a lot more.

  51. Hi there,
    Great blog by the way. Hope you can help me. I am landing in Jakarta this weekend (12 Aug 2016) and really wanna explore the city on a scooter/bike. I understand it can be hard to find rental places but was hoping you could help out.

    thanks !

    • Hey Vagen, unfortunately I never found any rental places in Jakarta, as there is basically zero market for rentals to foreigners and all the locals buy their own. Maybe try connecting with some expats who live there, but otherwise unless you have the time to hang around and meet some local friends who can point you in the right direction, it might be tough….just a warning

    • And thank you for the positive feedback Brandy, glad you found this guide useful. Hopefully this response will leave you with the same level of satisfaction hehehe πŸ˜‰ So I spent about a year in Indonesia altogether, 3-6 weeks on a motorcycle trip, a week or two resting/blogging, visa run, and then repeat all over. Sure, there were a few times where I was couchsurfing or staying with a friend or Twitter follower or blog reader or even with a random person I just met, and in those instances I would wheel my bike into their driveway before they closed the gate at night. Why not, right, since they always offered. You’ll notice that most Indonesians are more concerned about your safety than you are hahaha. I actually had one local guy tell me that if I drove at night to carry a big stick or crowbar so if anyone tried to f with me I could just whap ’em once and speed off into the night. (In the end I found night driving to be better — less chaos and traffic on the road plus much higher speeds shortened drive time.)

      Anyway most nights the bike just sat out on the edge of the road. No problems at all. Well, actually I had my motorcycle helmet stolen once. I parked at the train station in Jogja, was gone for one night and came back the next day. Bike was right where I left it in the motorcycle lot but my nice new helmet was gone. (My fault for not clipping it under the seat but I was running late and they had literally delayed the train a couple minutes just for me.) There have been a few other big parking lots where I’ve temporarily ditched my bike — airport, beach, pier. Every time I have returned 2-3-4 days later and it is always still where I left it. Not saying that no bikes get stolen in Indonesia, but there are over 120 million registered motorcycles in the country. Those bikes make up around 85% of all vehicles on the road and have an annual growth rate of around 12%. I know that’s a lot of numbers to be throwing around, but the point of it all is that the odds that your rental bike would get stolen are about one in a million. Now Cambodia or Vietnam, that is a different story. But Indonesia is safe — just be careful with your helmet πŸ˜‰

      Most people just use the traditional bike lock function where you turn the handlebar all the way to one side and lock it in place, so anyone who tries to wheel your bike away will just be pushing it in circles. All that having been said, rental motorcycles usually come with a chain lock in the storage compartment under the seat already. Check before leaving and if not, just ask the family/shop renting it and they will have one which you can use for free. After all, they don’t want their bike stolen while it’s in your possession any more than you do.

      Let me know if you have any more questions, cheers — and have fun! πŸ˜€

  52. Salemat siang.
    Tomorrow a new trip start on bike true Java or to yogya. Start in Bali, will try to go over Bromo, the Rain washed the road away in january, so i ended up eating apple in Malang after a trip to Tulungagung and popoh. So this time i try from North and drive over Bromo. Will stay in interstate 3, less traffic. Got some Nice waterproof sidebags, so this time i dont need to sit naked in a room somewere and drye my cloth, and order roomservice. Been to yogia and buru…before,what else you recomend on this trip? Have my own bike, but no blog. No time to set it up, or maybe i am to stupid to now how πŸ˜‰
    Hope you have Nice dayz in India or werever you fly

    • Hey Puthi, ‘mat malam!
      So sorry for the late response. I’ve been in a different country every week for the last 5-6 weeks and have fallen so far behind on emails and comment responses and even my beloved Twitter πŸ™ Smart move with the waterproof sidebags, I’ve definitely found myself stuck with wet clothes by not being quite as prepared as you.

      How far along are you in your journey now? You seem like you’ve already got a good plan and some smart ideas, not sure how much more I can help. But maybe I can at least recommend a new place or two for you to stop off on your journey. Let me know — and above all enjoy the open road! Cheers πŸ™‚

  53. Almost six month you visit in Indonesia, i think six month is still not enaugh to getting around Indonesia. Where place that you visit in six month ? Yeeah right, make sure you have a driving licence before you rent a motorbike in here and also don’t worry to use helmet if you driving that’s must to use for your safety. The first journey you start from where and finish at where ? when you arrive in Bali where do you stay ? for the next time if you wanna going to Bali you can rent a villa in here

    • Yup Jeny you are so right. The more you see of Indonesia the more you need to see. For every place you visit, you learn of two more that you need to visit. It’s never-ending. Spent a year traveling around the country altogether and still so many places on my list. Those first six months I spoke of, Jogja was my base. Would start there, do a big motorcycle loop from 2-8 weeks and then return back to Jogja. Rest there for a week and catch up on blogging then take off on another motorcycle trip. Anytime I went east would have to pass through Banyuwangi and Bali and Lombok. Haven’t been back since last March. Maybe we’ll cross paths one of these trips πŸ˜‰

  54. Hey man I really found your stuff helpful.

    I’m looking to rent a motorcycle in jakarta this summer and explore Java, Bali, Lombok and maybe a gili island. Ill be in indonesia for 2 months and. I finally found a company willing to work with me and rent me a motorcycle in Jakarta but i feel they are over charging me. Would it be better to just rent in each city I go to and take public transportation to each different city or island? I was hoping to have the same rental for the whole trip.

    Let me know if you can help thanks!

    • Hey Ben, renting locals bikes in each city or island is definitely an option. Another option is to rent one bike for two months (at a much cheaper $75-$100 monthly rate, instead of daily or weekly) and do a full circle, returning the bike in the city that you started from. I did this my first two months in Indonesia and worked out so well I kept coming back for more. If you rent it somewhere like Jogja (aka Jogjakarta) then you can travel the southern shore of Java, go out and hit Bali, Lombok, even as far east as Flores, then circle back towards Jogja along the north shore of Java. Two months is more than enough time to do all of that at a leisurely pace.

  55. Thank you for the advice Derek,

    Any suggestions on where to find a place to rent for the whole time which will let me take it off the island? I haven’t found a place online willing to let me take a motorcycle for that long or off the island I rent it from. Also, is it legal to drive on all the highways and such between each city I go to?
    Thanks a bunch man.

  56. Hey! Found your blog very very helpful.
    My friend and I are thinking about renting a motorbike. The itinerary would be Yogyakarta to Jepara, Jepara to Bromo and then Bromo back to Yogya. Do you know any good place located in Yogyakarta where we can rent a motorbike? We have searched online but we think that maybe it’s better to rent there.
    We also have several questions.. what are the requirements for renting? and can we go out of Yogyakarta area?

    Thank you in advance!


    • Hey Adrian, there are two good bike rental companies located just around the corner from each other in north central Jogja. One is called Pamitran but I forget the name of their competitor. Both have web sites. However both might ask to keep your official passport, instead of just a copy (as they used to). So check with them and also check with any hotels you’ll be staying at to see if it’s possible to check in using a photocopy of your passport. Alternatively, you can try leaving a drivers license from your home country in lieu of a passport, so as not to complicate hotel check-in. There are also lots of mom-and-pop places renting bikes along Jalan Sosrowijayan, but might they charge 10-20,000 rupiah more than the bigger places (unless you can haggle them down).

      Taking the bikes out of the city is not an issue. I’ve taken bikes from Jogja as far as Sumatra and Flores. However you might not want to mention how far you’ll be going when renting the bike. That can only hurt, never helps. Just say Borobudur and Pramabanan and Parangtritis πŸ˜‰

  57. Did indo years ago and several time on motorbike, always take care especially if you are inexperience, i rode all over Java, Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa, Flores, Sumba, Sulawesi etc, and recently Aceh…..was always awesome….but be careful of road conditions….cheers…..i mostly camped in remote places

  58. Very nice blog, tips that are going to be usefull.

    I was wondering if you had any suggestions for a good route to take for a two day (would take more days but, we have a certain time constraint) motorcycle road trip, departuring from Bali? I was maybe thinking going to Banyuwangi from Bali, taking the north route.



    • Hey Guillaume, yes, definitely take the northern route. But do not stick 100% to the coast road because that is not the fastest route. (Unless some of those roads have been improved since I was last there.) The route I would suggest from Banguwangi is to towards Surabaya — but not into city. Instead cut west through Mojokerto and then continue west in the direction of Jogja (Jogjakarta) — but again, not all the way to the town. Head up to Serembang and follow the shore road up to Cirebon then cut over to Jakarta. All these roads are nicely paved and its relatively easy to get up to triple digits (depending upon traffic and whether or not you catch the lights, obviously). They are also all safe for night driving, if it comes to that. That’s actually how I used to make the best time and keep from roasting my balls off in the heat when caught at red lights — night riding. If you do that, just make sure to top up your tank whenever you get to halfway as there are a couple of stretches where you might not pass a Pertamina for a minute, or they could be closed for the night. Not all are 24/7.

      Either way, have fun and be sure to let me know how it goes πŸ™‚ What type of bike will you will be on?

  59. Sweet blog!
    with a lot of good advice. I was unsure if i could get a bike without a license, but after reading through yours it seems that wont be a problem πŸ™‚

    My girl and I are going to explore Indonesia. the trip stars in Jakarta and then a month later we have a plane home form Bali, with plans of seeing as much as possible along the ways. initially we thought of renting in one city, and handing in, in another, is this at all possible or is there something else you would suggest?

  60. Before you get on a highway, know your exit by name and number, and watch the signs as you near the off-ramp. Drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit often cause accidents. Thanks!

    • Thanks but it’s not so much the drivers that we here in Southeast Asia worry about, it is the kids and dogs and countless other animals that love to stumble and/or sleep in the middle of the roads. Oh and the potholes. Fear of other “drivers making unexpected lane changes to exit” is like 27th on the list of things to worry about while driving a motorcycle in SEA πŸ˜‰

  61. Well I can appreciate renagade & free spirit & like to live on the wild side myself.

    Tho burying my mom last year gives me even less appreciation for u encouraging drinking & driving, & bragging about posting photos @ 80 kph & driving thru residences @ over 100!

    Where I live in kauai the local would like to catch your assistance & bust it for being so disrespectful in the strwets where their children play.

    Apparently u are still young & feel immortal & invincable.

    That’s what the 18 year old who killed my mom & her best friend thought as he was spwedding thru a Scholls zone @ 3pm.

    Even if u were invincable it may be considerate to be respectful to others who are not!

    I appreciate a lot a what u shared tho will take it all with a grain of salt, landing straight in the wounds, considering the reckless indications of the sourse.

    I do wish u well on your journey, & all u leave in your wake!

    • I’m not invincible. And I don’t pretend to be. Laid down a bike six months ago with no helmet on and still got a nice scar on my face to prove it. But I still have an insatiable thirst for adrenaline. Appreciate you looking out though, aloha!

  62. Hi Derek,

    Thanks for your post. Like many others, I’m thinking of traveling by bike through Java, my girlfriend on the back (bike with 2 people). Arriving in Jakarta, traveling to Bali.

    Can you clarify a few things for me? I appreciate all your advice.

    – I arrive in Jakarta, but should travel to Bandung first to rent a bike and avoid Jakarta traffic, correct?
    – Traveling through Java, I can only rent with, correct?
    – I’m not a regular biker and I’d like to bike for around 3 days. Is the route Bandung-Bali good for me (time and road quality) or can you propose an alternative?
    – I don’t have a biker license, so is there any reason I want/should take the bike on the Bali ferry?

    • Hey Kevin, sounds like fun, motorcycle trips are always more enjoyable with someone else. To answer your questions:

      1) Yes, get out of Jakarta first. If you are experienced driving in chaos then driving in Jakarta is not bad, just not fun because of the traffic. However what seals the deal is that the highway/tollway to Bandung doesn’t allow motorcycles.
      2) For one-way rentals? As far as I know, yes. However despite referring countless people they never provided any commission as promised, so I no longer actively promote them. Alternatively, if you plan on flying in/out of the same city, there is no reason why you cannot just rent a bike from a local and do a giant circle around Java. Can take the ferry from Banyuwangi to Bali, even continue further East to Lombok and beyond if you have the time. Plus when locals see the your license plate and realize how far you’ve traveled, they get friendly and curious.
      3) Well after Jogja you can either take the northern route through Solo (Surakarta on maps but 99% of the time referred to as Solo by locals) and Surabaya, or the southern route past Bromo. I personally prefer the northern route. There are some rough patches of road, especially in Solo, but plenty of stretches of smooth flat pavement that you can cruise in triple digits without worrying. For example, I’ve made it from Jogja to Surabaya in 5 hours on two wheels — faster even than the train. That having been said, I strongly urge you to spend more than 3 days to cover that entire distance. It’s doable, sure, but wouldn’t be fun and you’d miss out on a lot of places that you need a full day to explore — primarily Jogja. Oh and watch out when driving through Klaten in between Jogja and Solo — mechanics there have a habit of leaving nails in the roads to cause flats. One year, thousands of kilometres and all four flat tires I got during that time were in Klaten — once even got two flats within 4-5km, one in each tire. Klaten!
      4) Although I have an international license now, I did not during all my motorcycle trips around Indo. No problems whatsoever EXCEPT in Bali. Bali police love to shake a few bucks off foreigners so make sure to always use your turn signals, wear your helmets, and obey the other common sense rules. The only place I was ever asked to show my license was the pier at Padangbai (northeast Bali) by an officer right after I purchased ferry tickets to Lombok. I said no, he rolled his eyes, stuck out his hand and said “limapuluh ribu” which means 50,000 rupiah, or around $5 USD at the time. (Given how much the rupiah’s value has dropped the last couple of years, the standard bribe is now probably 100,000 or so.) No one asked or cared when going from Banyuwangi to Bali, or Lombok back to Bali, it’s just on Bali itself from my experience.

      In closing, if you choose the northern route through Surabaya then you’ll also pass through Sidoarjo, home to one of the most bizarre sights you will ever see — the world’s largest mud volcano. All the details are here, plus a few extra ideas for strange sights you’ll be passing by, like the Chicken Church in Jogja hahaha — The Ultimate Unique & Offbeat Indonesia Travel Guide

      • Derek,

        Thanks for the fast reply. I’m blown away by your info and knowledge. It’s a great help β€” thanks.

        So based on your answers, I have like three questions more. They’re easy, promise. If you will ..

        – So is possible to a relaxed drive in five days instead, seeing most there is to see? (I’m thinking 400km each day)
        – I know you don’t want to talk about indocampers, so I’ll keep it short: you know of a way how I contact them? Their site seems to be.. weird. I’d hate to have to wait until I’m actually there.
        – By plane, I’m arriving in Jakarta and leaving from Bali, so a round trip would not work. Would there be any possibility to shorten the distance and still dropping the bike off in a different city? (e.g. bike from Banding – Yog, or Yog – Bali)

        Thanks mate.


        • Crap man, sorry to follow up my fast response with a super late one. You commented the same day I took off into the mountains for a digital detox — which clearly I am cheating on right now, but that is beside the point.

          – 400km/day average is doable, and it definitely gets easier (and faster) the further west you go. I mentioned Jogja-Surabaya in my last comment and believe that is a 400 or 420km drive, so yes, no worries there. You will want the extra couple of days, trust me.
          – Sorry, no idea anymore. Didn’t bother to save any contact info after our falling out.
          – Possibly. You could pay a local guy in Bali to drive the motorcycle back to Jogja, plus give him a little extra for a bus ticket back home to Bali, obviously. But you would have to ask the people that you rent the motorcycle from IF they have anyone they trust in Bali….obviously you cannot just hand your bike keys off to a stranger. (I actually did that once in a pinch but got lucky and only had to pay for the extra week that the guy was joy-riding around before he returned the bike, but at least he returned it. Either way, I would not recommend this.)

          Hope you get this response comes in time. Let me know how it goes, I’ll be here. Cheers and have fun!

          • Hey Derek,

            I get the detox man. We’re in time because we’re still early. I’ll be starting my trip April and will be in Jakarta in June. What mountains are/were you at? And how was it?

            I’m deciding on the things to visit/see in Indonesia; also checked out a few of your guides. What would be the #1 thing to see? I got another tip to also visit Karimunjawa, but it is so far away from all and I couldn’t see more than just a basic relax ‘no-so-touristic’ island.

            I did some more research, but I find it growing more difficult to organize the motorcycle trip. I think most of it you can organize/know only when you’re actually there. So I’m thinking to switch to trains and a bus and motorcycling as plan B. I might do Yog – Bali by motorcycle. Can’t help it β€” I’m more of a ‘better safe than sorry’ type of guy.

            Thanks again for your info.

  63. Great Article. I’m not afraid of driving but I’m curious about theft. How much of a concern is it in Indonesia? If I walk into a market to get a drink, do I have to work about my pack being stolen off my motorbike, or worse yet the whole motorbike stolen? I’m heading there in July. Thanks again for all the great info!!

    • Theft is a big concern. Do not leave your motorcycle out overnight, always bring it inside and lock it up. All the decent hotels/hostels will have parking and security (or even a fence and gate they lock at night). Make sure your saddlebags are firmly secured and locked. During the daytime things are fine, especially if the area is not completely deserted, but leaving them unlocked is just asking for someone to take advantage. People here live off a lot less money than you or I. Heard reports of whole bikes being picked up and thrown in the bed of trucks because they were left out unsecured overnight.

  64. Hi mate.. great post..
    Looking for a rental from Jakarta to bali ( one way)
    Do you know any agency that provides this service..

    Thank you for your help

  65. Hi mate thanks for the great info ..
    Can you please send me an e-mail too ? Regarding the one way rental..
    Your help is much appreciated..

    Thanks again..

  66. Hi Derek,
    Your post is amazing. I’m planning a motorbike trip too in Feb 2019. I will rent the motorbike in Bali and really want to drive to Bromo from Bali (with a night at Probolong) Do you know if it is possible to bring a rental bike to the ferry Bali-Java? And is this possible to drive to Bromo without a tour?

    • Hey Vincii, my apologies for the late comment response — I spent a month in the hospital after a fire burned the right half of my body. Anyway, to answer your questions, yes and yes. You can take your bike on any of the ferries on Bali, including the one at Banyuwangi that leads to Java. Just be sure to have your motorcycle paperwork AND your international drivers license. Bali police LOVE checking for IDLs. If you don’t have one it is just a small bribe, nothing to worry about. I spent an entire year of motorcycling back and forth around Bali and only had to pay one bribe to the cop checking before the ferry from Bali – Lombok. Anyway, have a great trip and my apologies again for the late response. Let me know if you have any more questions πŸ™‚

      Oh and yes

  67. What about when you park the bike to walk around? Does it need to be locked up or chained? When you go to some site seeing spots, are the parking places free and how is the safety of the bike?
    I am moving to Indonesia in the fall of 2019.

    • Hey Jim, my apologies for the late response — spent a month in the hospital after a fire burned the right half of my body. Finally got discharged and am now playing catch up on comments and emails while I heal. Anyway, enough rambling, on to your questions. In most all places it is safe for you to park your bike unchained, just be sure to 1) lock your handlebars; and 2) put your helmet in the seat/saddle or loop the strings into the hold so that no one can steal your helmet. That is MUCH more likely to happen than the bike being stolen, especially if you leave the helmet just siting on the mirror or seat. Just do not leave your motorbike out overnight, especially in the beaches or crowded areas around Bali.

      Service stations, restaurants, malls, hotels and most decent businesses have a guy to helping with parking, watch over the motorcycles/vehicles, and pause traffic for you to pull out onto the road if necessary. You’ll notice them because of the vest — their name translates as “parking guru” lol. 2,000 rupiah used to be their standard fee but that may have changed due to the dramatic drop in the value of the rupiah.

      Where in Indonesia will you be moving, do you know yet? It varies a lot, not just island to island but even city to city.

      • I’m moving to Bandung in Sept 2019. Will be teaching English part-time so should have lots of time to see the sites. Sorry about your accident, hope you heal well and quickly. Maybe we’ll meet up sometime. I’m hoping to get to Cambodia, Thailand and Vietnam after/during my Bandung adventure.

  68. Hi Derek,
    Wow this blog is super informative. I can’t find much information on motorbiking through Indonesia so this is a great resource! I’m trying to ride through as many islands as I can between Bali and end in East Timor. Do you think this is a doable feat? I can of course cheat by skipping major sections.

    I’m a single female. Do you expect I might run into any trouble on this solo journey as far as safety? What are the most challenging aspects of biking around Indonesia? Any places I shouldn’t miss between Bali and East Timor? Anywhere I should avoid? I’m having trouble finding advice on routes to take. If you’ve been this way, do you have any useful advice? Thanks in advance!

    • Hey Jamie, thanks so much for the kind words, much appreciated πŸ™‚ My apologies for the late response — I was in the hospital for a month after a fire at an Airbnb I was renting burned half of my body and am still recovering.

      Happy to answer your questions and help with your trip, Indonesia is an amazing country to motorbike. However before I ramble on too much please let me know if you are still planning on going.

  69. Hey Derek

    Awesome post. Im spending a month from May 2019 motorcycling from Bali with my 18 year old boy who is on his gap year. We want a bit of surf, a bit of snorkelling, mountains and a wee bit of partying but mainly just being on the road travelling ! Where would you choose to go? We will return to Bali at the end of our trip. Its been 30 years since I did any adventuring so totally looking forward to it…

    • Hey Jem, sounds awesome. My apologies for the late response, been in the hospital. Starting and ending in Bali does make motorcycle rental easier, as opposed to traveling one way, but wow, so many nearby destinations….where to start?

      Java is a must. Located just a short 45-minute ferry ride west of Bali, crossing at Banyuwangi on motorcycle is quick and easy. Java is home to a variety of obligatory destinations, from Jogja to Mount Bromo to several strange, unique and offbeat sights you’ll never see elsewhere — like the world’s largest mud volcano and the abandoned chicken church.

      East of Bali there are even more amazing destinations that are all accessible on motorcycle via ferries between the islands. Lombok is too close not to visit, and even if you do not have the time to trek Rinjani, you can totally motorcycle up to the last village on the mountainside (where all the trekkers start from) and stay in a homestay for a night or two before continuing on. However it is the famous Komodo National Park is the real gem in this part of Indonesia πŸ˜‰

      If I was in your shoes, with only a month to see as much as possible, here is my proposed route:
      Head west through Java as far as Jogja along the southern highway route then double back via the northern route back to Banyuwangi (and passing through Surabaya, perhaps seeing that mud volcano after all). Cross back over to Bali, don’t even stay the night, just head straight on to Lombok. It will be night when you arrive but from the port it is just a short motorcycle drive to find a place to stay. After Lombok continue on east and explore the islands of Nusa Tenggara until you have to eventually return to Bali.

      Hope that helps. Let me know if you need any more specific tips or have any questions. Best wishes, and have fun!

  70. I’d like some advice on buying a motorcycle to ride across Indonesia. Where can I buy one? I’ve read it’s difficult to do this legally. Will I be able to buy a motorcycle and take it to other islands on a ferry? What do I need to do this? Will I be able to sell it when I’m done in a different city? Do you think I would be able to take the bike into East Timor?

    Any insight is greatly appreciated! Thanks!


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