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Indonesian Government to Ban Tourists From Riding Motorcycles in Bali

Plans to ban foreign nationals from riding motorcycles has been met with criticism from locals as the island continues to revive its tourism industry

by Fergus Cole

March 15, 2023

Photo: Courtesy of Jeremy Bishop / Unsplash

Authorities on the Indonesian island of Bali have proposed to ban foreign visitors from renting and riding motorbikes following a string of cases of tourists breaking traffic laws.

According to figures provided by local police, more than 171 foreigners violated traffic rules in Bali between late February and early March, including tourists driving without a valid license or using fake license plates. In response, the Governor of Bali has announced its plans to prevent foreign tourists from riding motorcycles on the island, instead using cars provided by local travel agents.

“Tourists must behave like tourists and use vehicles provided by travel agents,” said the Governor of Bali, I Wayan Koster. “Tourists must not self-drive or drive a motorcycle without wearing a shirt or helmet. What’s more, they do not have valid driver’s licenses, which are serious law violations.”

Using motorbikes is extremely popular in Bali, as it is among foreign visitors and locals in much of South East Asia. One of the reasons for this is the relative lack of infrastructure on the island and its poor public transport network. Renting motorcycles also allows tourists to explore the beautiful island at their own pace, beating notoriously bad traffic in urban areas while saving on car rentals.

Photo: Bali, Indonesia. Courtesy of Ern Gan / Unsplash

Under the new proposals, the ban would come into force sometime later this year, although an official date has yet to be confirmed. It also needs to be made clear how the law would be enforced, and the penalties for tourists caught riding a motorcycle.

“Further study is needed, we will then correct the wrongs,” said Tjok Oka Artha Ardhana Sukawati, the deputy governor of Bali. “All this time, seeing the riders that I have observed on the ground, they can rent without having a license, which then leads to troubles.”

Residents and foreign holidaymakers have criticized the plans. Bali has strongly relied on tourism for decades, with around 6.2 million tourists visiting the island in 2019 and contributing about 60% of its GDP. However, the island’s economy suffered greatly during the COVID pandemic, with Indonesia enforcing a strict lockdown and the island of Bali effectively shutting its borders to foreign tourists for around 18 months. In addition, critics have said banning foreigners from using motorcycles will further damage the island’s recovery from the pandemic.

Dedek Warjana, chairman of Bali’s motorbike rental association, told the BBC that any ban on foreign tourists using motorcycles would only cause further congestion issues on the island, damaging the local environment and exacerbating noise pollution. He suggested that the authorities focus on enforcing individual traffic violations instead of imposing a blanket ban and introducing new regulations, such as the requirement to hold a valid license and taking more decisive action against those violating the law.