How to rent motorbike and have it kited for touring Indonesia

Some people will say that you are crazy to consider riding a bike in a country like Indonesia. Most Indonesians are oblivious of the traffic laws and some don’t even bother to get a driving licence. The traffic in Indonesia is hectic and dangerous they would say, but I say screw it – riding a motorbike in Indonesia is the most natural way to getting to know the country as most locals travel by motorbike, even kids. It is not to say that you need to be a hard-core biker to ride in a country like Indonesia, but I would advise that you have your skill and confidence in check and an open mind to cope with the roads and the traffic. Once you do it’s an enormous adventure and lots of fun!

Motorbiking in Indonesia
Pack up and hit the road!

Here are some lessons we have learned that we hope will help you picking the right motorbike and gear for touring Indonesia.

Where to rent a motorbike

But I am getting off the topic. So how do you go about renting a motorbike in Indonesia? When you pick your starting point of the journey across Indonesia you may consider plane ticket prices, what you want to see and what route would be most convenient. Although if you are up to covering long distances in Indonesia by motorbike consider where you will have the biggest choice of reliable bikes that will get you around the country. The answer is – undoubtedly Bali! Bali has been a hotspot for international tourism for years and created a market for all sort of services aimed at the tourist industry. You will find the most motorbike rental shops in Bali and direct consequence of that fact – the best deals you can get.

Where to rent motorbike in Bali
Where to rent motorbike in Bali

Legal requirements for riders in Indonesia

First things first. Let’s go through boring legal stuff. International Driving Permit – you do need one in Indonesia and it has to specifically have a category A (motorbike driving licence) marked on it. If you don’t have that and you are stopped by the police you may get away with a bribe, but you never know. Another thing is a motorcycle registration document. I cannot stress that enough, you have to have an original not a copy. Most rental shops will tell you that it is okay to ride with a copy, but it is not true. Especially when you plan crossing the sea to another islands you may be asked to provide an original registration document of the bike and if the police stops you asking for it, and they will at some point particularly in Bali and Lombok, you will need to pay up or have your bike impounded for up to 30 days. So when you are looking for your best deal keep that in mind. I even requested a copy of the document confirming ownership to be on the safe side, but this is not legally required. Basically the minimum you need is a valid category A International Driving Permit and an original Indonesian registration document for the motorbike you are riding. And obviously a helmet – it is required by law!

Helmet is required in Indonesia
Be prepared. Wear a helmet!

Where to start

Denpasar, the city you are most likely to arrive at in Bali, is not a small town so you may feel confused when it comes to where to start your search for a dream machine that will take you everywhere you need to go. When you ask for a rental quote and tell the shop you want to take the bike across to other islands you may hear a simple no in reply. Rental shops are wary of allowing their bikes out of Bali as there have been cases of people calling them from Lombok asking to pick up the bike from there when they have been safe at home in Europe or America. Do not get discouraged by that. As long as you get an original registration document you are free to go wherever you want within Indonesia, but you need to respect the contract you sign and return the bike to the place you agree you would. My suggestion would be to look for a business outside main tourist areas like Kuta like Canggu, Sanur, or Ubud.

Day on the motorbike in Denpasar, Bali.
Day on the motorbike in Denpasar, Bali.

Renting vs. Buying

One thing you need to understand about riding in Asia is that bikes larger than 125cc. are hard to come by and in some cases illegal to ride. Most of Asian courtiers get by with 125cc. bikes 150cc. being considered a bigger bike. You will not find a 500cc or above easily in these parts of the world so be prepared to make the best of what you get. If you are feeling down by now consider that the standard bikes available in Asia are mostly super cheap to maintain or repair should you need to do that. The advantage of renting versus buying a bike is that you can get a lot more for your money. You can rent nearly brand new bike for about IDR 1,000,000 a month which is about GBP 50 or USD 80 and buy a used one that has been run down for a minimum of IDR 5,000,000 and you may expect to spend more on repairs especially if you press the bike hard during your adventure.

New Honda Airblade
Don’t count on anything like that for USD 300

Our bike of choice

The bike we chose was Honda Vario Techno 125cc. a 2013 model with fuel injection and liquid cooling which comes handy in the heat. Although the bike is an automatic scooter type thing it carried us and all of our luggage comfortably even along most challenging roads, hills, mountains and even across some river beds. The seat of Honda Vario Techno is one of the widest in the market and there is enough legroom to accommodate even a larger bloke or gal. I myself am 186cm/ 6ft2in. in height and felt surprisingly comfortable even during 300km days. Honda Vario Techno 125cc. has another important feature – a strong metal tail piece that will allow you to install a backpack rack or a tail box. The bikes specs say that you should not put more than 10kg of weight in the back, but we have tested it with around 50kg of luggage (two large backpacks 20kg each and a small one approx. 10kg) and it worked surprisingly well. Having said that you need to understand that such a weight puts a lot of pressure on the rear tire so I would recommend replacing it for a brand new one before you set out. We have learned it the hard way and only replaced the tire once it got misshaped after 2000km and numerous inner tube punctures. After the replacement we have suffered only one flat tire in the next 4000km we did.

Our Honda Vario Techno 125cc. fully loaded
Our Honda Vario Techno 125cc. fully loaded

Your luggage on the motorbike

How will you carry all you need during a motorbike trip is a major question for most people contemplating motorbike touring. Obviously you can ship your touring bike from home and have the advantage of all the side boxes, pillion boxes and whatever you have the bike kitted with, but this is a rather expensive option and should the bike need any repairs most likely it is going to be difficult to get spare parts not mentioning the cost of it and the delays you will be facing. We opted for kitting our Honda scoter with a backpack rack of our own design.

Scenic Flores road, bags packed and ready to go
Scenic Flores road, bags packed and ready to go

How to make a backpack rack

The question should really be where. From what we have learned touring Indonesia by motorbike is not really that popular with tourists so it is not that easy to have a proper rack made as most local people consider the idea of covering thousands of kilometres with your bags on your motorbike crazy. On the other hand in Bali a prime surfing destination we saw scores of people riding bikes with surfboard racks that looked quite sturdy. That gave us an idea of finding a surf rack shop and have them make a backpack rack for us. It again is not as straightforward as you think due to the language barrier. Having talked to several motorbike rental shops in north-western Denpasar we have been recommended a reliable surf rack shop. Once we got there and talked to the owner, or rather used our sign language and hoped he understood English with few Indonesian words in between, it appeared he wasn’t interested in making a rack for us saying it was not possible or too difficult. It took us an hour to convince him that we believe in his abilities and explaining our vision of the finished project before he reluctantly agreed to make it for us and made an appointment in two days’ time.

Getting the backpack rack installed
Getting the backpack rack installed

We brought our bike as agreed as the rack was custom made to fit it and spend a full day literally showing our vision to the man with a welding skill for him to make it a reality. The process required some creativity and persistence on our part, but at the end of the day we had a backpack rack that ideally fitted our bike, would carry our luggage across Indonesia and hopefully other countries we plan to visit.

Coverring long distances with passenger and luggage

Seriously, we were so happy with the rack the man made for us that we took it with us to Malaysia and now Vietnam. This piece of equipment carried our bags for 6000km in Indonesia and is now carrying two 20 kilo backpacks in Vietnam on a different model of Honda – Airblade. Having setup like that will allow you to ride a motorbike with passenger, two large backpacks and a samller bag or backpack across pretty much any country you think of touring. Safe and adventurous journey!

Riding motorbike on a tropical beach
Me and my partner in crime

Useful information

We have rented our bike in Canggu from Benny’s Motorcycle Rental (tel. +62 831 1997 6032) the establishment I can highly recommend. Their bikes are new and reliable and they present an unprecedented level of customer service.

Our rack was made by Bengkel Las. Adress: Jl Merdeka Raya no. 75B, Kuta-Bali, tel. 0817 975 20 77. The shop makes surf racks for many rental companies. English is limited, but a great welder, metal worker.

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11 comments on “How to rent motorbike and have it kited for touring Indonesia

  1. Very interesting post! On previous trips to Indonesia I ended up on the back of a bike but your post has made me confident that I should drive it myself next time 🙂

  2. Hey! Interesting read. My partner and I are heading to Jakarta soon and we are trying to decide if we should buy one or just rent. Planning on riding it from Jakarta all the way to flores, etc. We will be using one bike because I can’t drive a bike so your bag rack is ingenious! How far did you make it driving around?

    1. We did around 6000 kms in Indonesia from Bali to Rote off Timor hopping from island to island in between and back and then explored Eastern Java. Enjoy although note that ferry service past Lombok can sometimes be quite erratic. Enjoy your trip.

  3. another accurate post; however, i would say the risk of renting is similar to that of buying, unless you indeed rent one that is evidently new one. we bought two bikes in kerobotan, close to canggu, and have travelled over 3500km without issues, though we do service them regularly. today, for example, i paid 7USD for a full service, including oil change, at the honda dealer. the upside we see to buying is not having to go back to bali to return them. concerning the documents, i agree with the international license comments, though I only have an ordinary mexican one, but concerning the copy of the registration, a friend who rented and is travelling with us even managed to cross it over to timor leste with a copy. by the way, his scooter was not brand new and has had to change both tires and had the breaks adjusted. you are obviously safer if you have the original, but if you’ve left the shop and realized you have a copy, don’t be discouraged and do the kms you sought out to do! though not as detailed and serious, we invite you to have a look at our own blog (in spanish): http://www.goingnow.wordpress.com we are happy to share tips and will try to post any as we move along the indonesian archipielago

  4. Hi.
    Me and friends have already booked a trip to bali for a week. And we decide to explore bali by scooters.
    One thing is, 2 of our mates doesnt have license. We are aware of the police and the “fines” or bribes.

    We will be riding out of denpasar. So im just wondering how often will we be stopped by the police?

    1. Hi John,

      Sorry for replying so late. We are travelling and I missed your question.

      In Denpasar you may expect to be stopped occasionally. If you travel out you will be ok in most cases. As you are aware the police who will give you a hard time are mostly after a bribe.

      Enjoy your travels.

      Milo

  5. Great article! Very informative. I’m planning a trip to Java and was wondering if it was possible to make a deal with rentals to take a bike from one city to another without having to make a loop back? I know you mentioned this briefly in your article too, I would just like to clarify what you meant!

    1. There are some companies that would deliver deliver or pick up a bike from a specified location in Bali, but I know of no one that would pick up a bike from Flores for example. Sorry I think the loop is the only way for a longer trip.

  6. Hi Milo,

    I am planning a similar trip around lndonesia and l came accross with your article. Thank you very much for sharing this useful information! I wanted to ask you about the driving licence. I dont really have an international motorcycle licence, l could only get a car internarional licence. Have you ever been asked for it?
    The place where you rented the bike, is it in Kuta?
    Thank you!

    1. Hi. The place I rented a bike is in North Kuta. The neighbourhood is called Canggu and has very little to do with Kuta. I would not rent a bike in Kuta (tried). Hardly any rental place will be willing to provide original papers for the bike. Without it it is going to be difficult do the ferry crossings between islands. The place I rented from (tel no in the article) gave me original papers and a copy of ownership document so I could travel wherever I wanted as if the bike was mine. When it comes to the licence, a car licence is no substitute for a motorbike licence. I was only asked to show the licence in Bali. I would say that east of Lombok tourist on bikes are such a novelty that checking the licence is not a priority. Hope that helps.

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