There’s a campaign in Ubud to stop the tourist coaches coming into town and clogging the narrow streets up. Of course this being Bali where organization, foresight and planning are low down on the list of priorities nothing changes. The buses continue to belch their way into town to deposit their tourists outside the market so they can buy penis bottle openers and over-priced wooden Buddha statues.

There are seemingly no rules to the road in Bali whatsoever. If you like you can drive on the left. I’ve never seen a bike pause at a stop sign and look both ways before pulling straight out into traffic – they always just pull straight out. It’s like they’re born to play Russian Roulette and have no care whatsoever that they might DIE. I can’t figure it. As a driver you have to be totally on your toes. It’s like playing space invaders. 3 people a DAY die on the roads in Bali. 3.

The one rule that is pretty much always observed (other than don’t wear a helmet) is that if your side of the road is blocked by a car or other obstacle you have to give way to oncoming traffic until the road is clear to overtake.

So I’m driving up the hill into town. On the other side of the road is a long row of parked cars and bikes. By rights anything at the top of the hill has to wait for me to pass before it can go. And then I see the FO sized coach at the top of the hill. I narrow my eyes and think to myself ‘don’t you dare you fucker’ but does he telepathically hear me or does he just think…I’m going to crush you sucker?

Yeah, he thinks the latter.

He comes steaming towards me. Seeing that there is no way in God’s universe a Coach – a fricking coach – can pass me without crushing the car whole I slam on the brakes.

I ram the car into reverse, checking my mirrors. A woman on a bike is staring blankly at me, as I beep her to get off my bumper and back up. She doesn’t move. I honk again. She stays staring gormlessly as the coach descends on us. I reverse so I’m touching her wheel. She still doesn’t move. By which point there are now about fifty bikes and three cars all up my arse …THERE’S A FRICKING COACH IN THE WAY – I’m yelling at them all. None of them seem to figure it out.  BACK THE HELL UP!

They all start trying to overtake me instead. Of course they do. This is Bali.

I sigh and put the handbrake on and let the coach meet me face to face.

Now what? I think. I can’t go back and he can’t go back. I can’t climb the curb as it’s about a foot high. And he has parked cars and bikes on his side.

This is when the six men with whistles come flying down the hill, arms waving, cheeks puffing. I roll my eyes heavenward. If you read my blog regularly, you’ll know how much I love these traffic guys. I mean how on earth would I know which way to turn the wheel without them to show me?

And now they start in earnest. They’re a swarm. All I can see is flaying arms and agitated faces. A man on a bicycle joins in. A western tourist starts taking photos. A motorbike tries to mount the curb to overtake me. Three men start banging my bonnet and telling me to turn the wheel – one this way, one that way, another man at the front tells me to back up. Yet another starts screaming at me to come forward. A fifth man tells me to stay put.

I wind the windows down.

‘Can you all shut the hell up?’ I shout. ‘You’re all telling me different bloody things! YOU’RE NOT HELPING.’

This sets them to cursing out each other.

I wind the window back up. And then the coach starts moving forward.

‘What the fuck?’ I think to myself. There is just no way that coach is getting past without taking off the side of the car. I watch it bear down thinking that this just cannot be happening.

I close my eyes.

It squeezes by me leaving not a millimeter to spare. And then it gets stuck by the wheel arch. Really? You don’t say. That was UNEXPECTED.

The coach driver doesn’t give a crap about my car. It just cares about getting its coachload of tourists out of Ubud and back to Kuta. I want to get out the car, smash down the driver’s door, grab hold of one of the wooden penis bottle openers no doubt on board and do serious damage to him with it but unfortunately you can’t even slide a piece of paper between my car and the coach. I am wedged quite literally inside.

Eventually ignoring the gesticulating whistle blowers I slam my car up the curb, jumping it about a foot and the coach scrapes my wheel arches and then thunders off.


Sodding, sodding coaches.


4 thoughts on “I am so done with driving in this town

  1. Carol says:

    This is no exaggeration! I was there! Well done sarah! What a load of idiots on the road in Bali!!

  2. Francesca says:

    you poor thing. sounds horrendous.
    Bet you needed a strong drink after that

  3. Desiree E. says:

    This is hilarious…my husband and I are heading to Bali very soon, and I have heard so many stories about the crazy driving! oh dear, wish us luck! LOL.

    1. Sarah says:

      Here are some handy tips
      1. IGNORE all men (including policemen or men in sarongs) that blow whistles and wave you into traffic or into a parking space. There is no surer way of crashing your car. Trust only your OWN judgement.
      2. NEVER hand over your vehicle registration, passport or license to any policeman. Never let it out of your hand. Once they are holding it they have you over a barrel and you have to pay a ‘fine’.
      3. Threaten to call the tourist police or take a photo of any policeman on your phone if they pull you over for a ‘fine’. Unless of course you did actually commit an infraction.
      4. Do not expect anyone to indicate.
      5. Do not expect anyone turning out of a side street into the flow of traffic to even pause, let alone look first. Bikes just fly into the road without stopping. So approach any junction with caution.
      6. Flashing headlights is not, as in Europe, a signal that the person is giving way and for you to move forwards but the opposite. It means BACK UP I”M COMING THROUGH.
      7. Hazard lights are used when you are crossing straight over at an intersection.
      8. If you get hit don’t expect whoever hit you to stop. You will have to pay for any damage.
      9. If you hit someone, even a scratch, expect to pay up. Things like scratches only cost about $20 to repair but it’s not uncommon for locals to ask for up to $200 (this has happened to our friends).
      10. Still want to drive?

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