Governor of Bali wants to ban foreign tourists from driving or renting motorbikes

The governor of Bali announced foreign tourists would no longer be allowed to drive or rent vehicles on the island on their own.

man on a motorbike in Bali
Man on a motorbike in Bali, Indonesia | © Marco De Hevia

The governor of Bali, Wayan Koster, at a press conference on March 12 said that foreign tourists would no longer be allowed to rent or drive motorized vehicles on the island because of their misbehaviors on the road.

The governor told local media that he took the decision because of the “disorder and misconduct” of tourists visiting the island. He justified that many international tourists violate traffic rules, drive without wearing a helmet or a shirt, or don’t have valid driver’s licenses when renting a vehicle.

Consequently, foreign tourists will have to engage the services of a Bali travel agent to secure local transportation. They won’t be allowed to drive or rent cars, scooters or motorbikes by themselves.

Bali’s police traffic unit on a day in February issued 367 traffic tickets, of which 167 were to foreign nationals. They were mainly driving rented motorbikes. Fines were issued mostly because people didn’t wear a helmet or the registration plate was invalid.

It is still unclear how the ban will be enforced, but the government plans to change Bali’s local legislation.

Bali is one of the preferred tourism destinations in the country, as one third of international tourists visiting Indonesia come to Bali.

But on an island that lacks public transportation and where the road traffic can be messy anyway, local tourism industry players such as vehicle renters consider this detrimental to a business starting to recover from the COVID-19 pandemic.

According to the regional government tourism office statistics, only 51 international travelers went to Bali in 2021 and 2.1 million in 2022. In 2019, 6.3 million international tourists visited Bali.

Nyoman Sukma Arida, an Indonesian scholar expert in tourism, told BBC News Indonesia that this measure could affect the image of Bali in attracting tourists from other countries. He considers traffic rules should be better enforced and added that it would be inappropriate to react this way because of a viral video.

The governor’s announcement comes a few days after a viral video showed a foreign woman driving a scooter in the village of Canggu arguing with the police, which stopped her because she was driving the wrong way. The governor defended that the announcement was not related to the video.

But Bali police also recorded increased traffic accidents involving foreigners, with 68 cases in 2022. Six cases were already recorded in January 2023. In January, two tourists died after a collision with motorcycles. Last month, an alcoholized Russian tourist hit a local motorcyclist.

Mr. Koster asked the Indonesian ministry of Law and Human Rights for support by removing visas for tourists driving without a license or committing other offenses.

The governor also said he wrote to the ministry of Law and Human Rights and the ministry of Tourism asking to revoke the Visa on Arrival to Russian and Ukrainian tourists. Visa on Arrival is a quick procedure granting a stay in Indonesia for 30 days. This tourist visa is available for citizens from 87 countries who can buy it online before or upon arrival.

Russian visitors accounted for 2.69 percent of international tourists in Bali in 2022 (2.28 percent in 2019). Ukrainians accounted for 0.35 percent of international visitors in 2022 (0.47 percent in 2019). Traffic offenses come a lot more from Russian tourists than Ukrainians, according to CNBC Indonesia.

Mr. Koster said he received reports about tourists from the two countries abusing their tourist visas to find a job in Bali. A Russian citizen was recently deported for working illegally in Bali.

In December, while adultery and extramarital sex became a crime punishable by up to one year in prison under the new Indonesian criminal code, the governor of Bali wanted to reassure foreign tourists that authorities would not check the marital status of people checking in at tourist accommodations to see if they comply with Indonesian law. People could only be prosecuted for sex outside of marriage following a complaint by a parent, spouse or child, he said.

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