Since you were a child, everybody kept on telling you that a dog is the best human's friend, right? Later on you might came to the conclusion that is rather your bed or maybe a fridge, eventually... It's all good, but remember that while in Indonesia, there is yet another thing worth to familiarize yourself with and there is a big chance that it will result in a long-lasting and and very fruitful relation. It's a MOTORBIKE, known locally as sepeda motor or just motor.
Indonesia is one of the four largest motorcycle markets in the world, together with China, India and Vietnam. According to the Indonesian Association of Financial Services only last year more than 8 million motorbikes were sold across Indonesia. The global trends show that while in the Western world motorbike is nowadays a sign of an extra luxury and a certain lifestyle symbol, in the East it still serves much more practical purposes. In Indonesia is no different – motorcycle is easier to afford than a car plus it's more handy, user-friendly and effective in the Indonesian environment.
Riding a motorbike in Indonesia gives you the possibility to explore many places, much harder to access otherwise. Yet another reason is the great amount of freedom coming together with the own vehicle as the public transportation system doesn't work perfectly here (to put it mildly). Moving around on two wheels is the cheapest way to travel longer distances as well for the day-to-day use in the city (one liter of gasoline costs as little as Rp. 6.500 = 0.50$).
Convinced to rent a motorbike yet? Well, the good news is that to rent a motorbike is very easy and affordable across the archipelago. The usual monthly rent cost is between Rp 600.000 and Rp. 1.000,000 (60$ - 100$). When renting a bike, remember to ask for the vehicle registration (called STNK), and to get yourself a solid helmet with a tinted visor (sun & wind protection). The official regulation claims that to be able to ride a motorcycle you need the international driving license, in practice anyone can rent it, even if has never ridden one before.
The regulations on the road at first might seem a bit shocking for a person coming from the Western countries. Aside the left-sided traffic, there is a lot of non-written agreements and custom principles. The right-of-way for vehicles coming from your right side on the intersection doesn't apply here. The general rule is to be extremely observant as the other drivers (i.e. just entering the traffic) count on the ones already driving down the road to be on the lookout for them. Another thing is, that in case of the accident the larger vehicle is always responsible and must pay damages. As a result, people tend to be careful on the road and don't drive too fast. It's also important to have your lights turn on all the time and always use the turn signals, as it's the only way other drivers will know where do you plan on going. The common practice here is to use your horn a lot, all the time...everywhere. And it's not because Indonesians like the sound of it so much, as it may seems when observing the local traffic jam for the very first time. It's to be more visible and noticeable for other people on the road and it's considered respective to do so. Horn is used always while passing another vehicle or a person on the road on your side, while flashing with your lights is usually a message for the vehicle coming from the opposite direction, as simple as: 'you'd better get out of the way because I cannot'. And the last thing, you better know how to name directions in Bahasa Indonesia, because it can save you from wandering in the wilderness on less tourisitc routes (here you go: terus/jalan terus – straight, keep going; kiri – left, kanan – right).
Riding a motorbike in Indonesia is a lot of fun and a great adventure most of all! We encourage you to try this option out, but also to get some practice on riding a bike before coming here and to keep a common sense approach while in Indonesia! The rest is just about pure freedom and the wind in your hair! (under the helmet).