Think Volunteer

An ultimate guide for western volunteers to riding a scooter in Indonesia

Riding a scooter is a part of life in Indonesia. Scooters in Indonesia offer a unique, up close, and personal connection to the culture and history of the country. Being a volunteer and riding a scooter in Indonesia can be a valuable and enjoyable experience. 

Western volunteers across the globe usually want to ride a scooter in Indonesia as they have become one of the most popular modes of transport. Some of them have experience riding scooters or no experience in driving. It can be dangerous for someone who has no experience, and they could easily be in a situation they are not prepared for. While many western volunteers simply take advantage of lax riding laws, the fact that foreigners can ride scooters in some areas isn’t always a good thing.

Think: Do I want to learn how to ride?

Give it some serious thought if you want to learn how to ride. Considering how risky this is, especially if you’ve never done it before. Indonesian locals have witnessed numerous instances of foreigners renting scooters and crashing them on the first day. 

If you can rely on your friends with riding experience or have their own scooters, then that would be a better choice. Traffic in Indonesia is intense and chaotic, and it can be quite overwhelming for someone who hasn’t been exposed to this kind of traffic before. 

There are several options to choose from when it comes to traveling around Indonesia. Gojek, Grab, InDriver or Uber are great options if you are looking for an affordable, safe, and quick mode of transport. They are very popular ride-hailing services that include bike, car, and even grocery delivery. Taking their services is a safe and affordable way to get around Indonesia, and you can save money if you order through the app. 

Regardless, as a western volunteer riding a scooter in Indonesia can be a unique experience. In this article you can find everything you need to know about riding a scooter in Indonesia, therefore you can be safe and prepared for your adventurous and volunteer trip. 

Tips for western volunteers to ride a scooter in Indonesia

1. Driver license

Actually, you do not need a license to ride or rent a scooter in Indonesia. But, failing to present a driver’s license when pulled over by a policeman or taking your scooter onto a ferry is an offense that can result in receiving a fine. Riding scooters in Indonesia are relaxed, but some do require an International Driver’s License. 

Getting a scooter license from your home country is not always enough to avoid a fine, as different countries may require an International Driver’s License with the same designation. To legally ride a scooter in Indonesia, you must be licensed in both your home country and Indonesia. 

2. Selecting a scooter 

For scooter types, you can get specialized easy scooters such as Beat, Vario, and NMax or you can also choose Scoopy which is designed like a Piaggio Vespa. If you borrow a scooter from a friend, you will almost certainly use it in its current condition. Many scooters come with optional safety features such as helmets, lights, mirrors, and reflectors. However, depending on the scooter that is lent, if it is fully equipped, then you are ready to go!

On the other hand, if one of the pieces of equipment is missing, such as a scooter mirror, it will be extremely risky for us to drive as foreigners. Many Indonesians opt to remove the mirrors from their scooters. This enables us to struggle with turning and crossing the street. Without the mirrors, riders cannot see oncoming vehicles and must be extra vigilant when turning. 

black motorcycle in closeup photography3. Wear a helmet

It is crucial to always wear a helmet and other protective gear when operating a scooter, to minimize the risk of injury should an accident occur. Indonesian traffic is heavy, and passengers fly past you on their scooters. Some drunken foreigners are taking the plunge and there has been a drastic increase in accidents. Additionally, failing to wear a helmet is another justification for the police to stop you and issue a fine.

man in white shirt riding red motor scooter on road during daytime

4. Keep your gas full

In Indonesia, there are numerous petrol stations where you can fill it up. But the most common place to refuel is with the vendors who sell petrol on the side of the streets in old vodka bottles. They are everywhere! These vendors offer a convenient and cost-effective way of refueling, as their prices tend to be lower than the petrol stations.

a car is parked at a gas station

5. Obey traffic light

Because Indonesians frequently disregard traffic laws, there are numerous accidents. This is what causes a traffic light to stay on. However, foreigners who have just witnessed this should never try to imitate it. Even if the road is quiet or no drivers or pedestrians are crossing, traffic regulations must be followed. 

Foreigners must understand that just because Indonesians do not follow traffic rules does not mean it is acceptable for them to do so. Imitating traffic violations can result in serious consequences such as expensive fines and even incarceration. Sometimes, some drivers ignore traffic lights, stop signs, and intersections, blow the horns, and keep moving on even if the road seems blocked. Finding a gap in traffic usually requires finding it early and then driving on the wrong side of the road until you reach a corner! 

This is a normal thing that happens in Indonesia. As a westerner volunteer, this is completely the opposite of most “western” countries, where you obey traffic signals, stop to turn, and keep an eye on the traffic behind you.

6. Use your signal and horn

Showing when you turn is important, as it helps ensure the safety of both you and your passenger. When somebody sits on the back of your scooter, he/she can also shake their hand to indicate your direction.

People behind you will start honking if you are waiting for a traffic light and it turns orange. Do not be concerned, this is simply an indication that the light is orange. Driving down the highway, it is expected that one would honk to alert other drivers. To do this, you usually just give a brief honk, so that the driver in front of you can be aware of your presence.

7. Scooter lesson with a local

It is preferable to have someone who can teach you how to ride a scooter. Getting a scooter riding instructor to teach you would be the best option for learning how to ride a scooter, as they will be able to provide individualized advice and guidance. With the help of an instructor, you can learn the basics of how to maneuver your scooter safely and efficiently. 

8. Travel insurance

Accidents can be unpredictable and life-altering, so it is important to take the necessary precautions to protect yourself. When it comes to planning a trip, travel insurance is one of the most important things to consider. Some companies only cover you if you’re riding as a pillion rider, not as a driver, so always make sure to read the fine print of your insurance policy and clarify any points that may be unclear. As a western volunteer, you can start your search for the best Indonesian travel insurance for your upcoming trip to the gorgeous Asian islands using InsureMyTrip’s .

Riding tips for your first ride:

Ultimately, there are a few fundamental things you should be aware of before embarking on your first scooter ride in Indonesia such as don’t carry a passenger and taking your time while driving. Don’t hesitate, be sure to always follow the rules of the road and remain aware of your surroundings. Don’t drink and drive (obviously!). It is also important to take your first test drive on well-maintained roads in an area with little traffic. Riding a scooter in Bali should be a good experience but stay safe and informed before your trip begins!

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