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Understanding and Avoiding Traffic Fines in Bali

For first-time visitors to Bali, the chaotic traffic can make it seem like there are no road rules. Drivers don’t always pay attention to signs, and you’ll often see people turning without signaling or looking. At best, you might hear a horn.

In Bali, instead of following strict traffic laws, locals abide by an informal “code” of courtesy. This set of unwritten rules is influenced by family and village customs. So, you can’t rely on international traffic rules until you get the hang of this local way of driving.

However, official rules do exist, and you can face fines and penalties for breaking them. Here are the main violations that can get you fined in Bali:

1. Driving without an international driving license: Motorbike riders need an “A” license, while car drivers require a “B” license.

2. Riding a motorbike without a helmet.

3. Having more than two people on a motorbike.

4. Not wearing seat belts in a car.

5. Crossing the stop line at traffic lights.

Potential Penalties

While actual fines are often smaller in court, here are the official penalties for various infractions:

No valid license: Up to 4 months imprisonment or a 1,000,000 rupiah fine.

No registration papers: Up to 2 months imprisonment or a 500,000 rupiah fine.

No vehicle number sign: Again, up to 2 months imprisonment or a 500,000 rupiah fine.

No seat belt: Up to 1 month imprisonment or a 250,000 rupiah fine.

No helmet: Up to 1 month imprisonment or a 250,000 rupiah fine.

Riding with a helmet-less passenger: Same as above.

More than one passenger on a motorbike: Same as above.

How to Avoid Fines

The Best Strategy: Follow the Rules

Avoiding fines is mostly about following basic traffic rules:

– Always wear a helmet on a motorbike.

– Use seatbelts for all passengers in cars.

– Make sure you have the appropriate international driving license.

– Don’t have more than one passenger on a motorbike and respect traffic signals.

The “Stupid Tourist” Approach

If you find yourself facing the police:

– Smile and don’t argue, even if you understand the situation.

– Apologize sincerely and promise to follow the rules in the future.

– Stay calm, positive, and patient. This approach relies on your ability to communicate effectively and the officer’s mood. It might sometimes result in being let off with just a warning.

If You’re Issued a Fine

Violations can result in penalties, but often the worst-case scenario is just a fine:

Blue paper (surat tilang biru): You admit guilt, pay the fine at a bank, and get your documents back from the police.

Pink paper (surat tilang merah): You contest the fine in court. Even if you lose, the court-ordered fine is usually lower than the maximum.

When Fines Are Recorded

The process is similar to other countries and includes vehicle ID, personal data, violation date, court date, and fine amount.

The Bribe Caveat

Offering or accepting a bribe is illegal and not recommended. However, it’s common in Bali, and some tourists use it to avoid fines. If you choose this route:

– Keep a separate wallet with a small amount of money for bribes.

– Stay calm and patient. Don’t show your main wallet.

Conclusion

While there are ways to navigate traffic fines in Bali, the easiest and safest approach is to follow the rules. This reduces stress and helps you enjoy a trouble-free stay on the island.

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