Got me a Bali Driving license!

We are now in Bali and we have decided to rent a motorbike for a month. We’ve got a good price and it will help us out for the times when we just need to get somewhere quickly and easily – such as the supermarket or the beach. A car was an option, but the roads around Denpasar don’t really favor the car so much – there is a lot of traffic and roads are hectic, you can get caught in a jam for ages!

In order to be fully legal to drive over here, it is advised that you obtain an International Driving License. The main reason, unfortunately, in this part of the world is because of Police corruption. They supposedly pull over tourists and make them pay a bribe to carry on their journey. In order to try and minimize the chances of this happening, we figured we should get the correct license to show on the off-chance we get pulled over. Even then, nothing is guaranteed!

So how do you get one?

Simply, go to the Police station and fill out the paper work. Fortunately for us, our host here in Bali sent us to the Police Station with his cousin, who was happy to act as my translator and point me in the right direction of any other requirements. This was invaluable help. English is spoken err, not so much!

This is how I got the license earlier today

The Police station we went to is also the driving test centre. If anybody has watched the Top Gear Special in Vietnam, keep that image in your minds. “Jeremy Clarkson….FAIL!!”.

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I turn up at the police station and walk into the courtyard. The security guard walks casually out of his light blue gate house and asks what we need? The guys I’m with explain what I need and the guard tells us to go across the courtyard to long hall, about 30 yards away.

The courtyard is jammed with mopeds – there must be over 100 crammed in. The police building towers over the courtyard and there are many officers walking about, frowning at me. Gulp! On our short walk across to the hall, a smartly dressed lady stops us and we explain again what we need. She tells us to first go to a different office and get photocopies of my passport and Visa and then join the others waiting in queue. All sounds simple enough. Putu, one of the chaps helping me, heads off to photocopy the passport and visa. I walk on into the hall and I’m greeted by a huge room full of people, all looking hot, bored and like they’d been there all day. Turns out they probably had been…

The lady from the courtyard waves us over to the far end of the room to wait. When Putu comes back with the photocopies, I pay her my IR$350,000 (£17.50) and she begins to process the forms. That was easy. I thought. We’d be out of here in but a jiffy!

As we sat at the end of the hot, sweaty hall, the sound of people’s names would be called out via a megaphone mounted to the wall. The room was laid out with offices and rooms down one side, and all the chairs faced them. At the far end was a processing counter and at the other end was a glass smoking room, measuring about  6ft x 6ft, a vending machine and a kiosk to collect your license at the end of the process.

Each office room off the main waiting room was rammed with people. The rooms were maybe 10 foot square, but each must have had 40-50 people in there. One had a small sign saying, “Simulation” another was for written driving test. The one I was soon led to was for checking details and have photo taken.

The nice, but somewhat abrupt, lady from earlier called me over and said to queue up. Now, in Britain, we are pretty good at queuing and when a line is formed, common etiquette prevails. Imagine the confusion on my face then when the lady said, “Queue here”: and the room is just full of blokes huddled like a scrum. Nobody spoke English and barging and pushing forward was clearly ‘queuing’. I reasoned then that she just meant, stand here and wait to be called by the scary general. Which I duly did.

Fast forward 40 minutes of standing still in a hot room with no aircon and a ceiling fan that was missing some blades and didn’t really spin.

Finally: “Aaronjames…Broo…..Ks?”

Ahhh, hello! Yes, yes!!

Whilst trying to act cool and blend in as a local, I ending up sounding like Basil Fawlty, doh!! I shuffled forward and sat down in front of the rather important looking policeman covered, in badges and awards (no gun that I could see), moustache perfectly groomed and a pair of thin glasses resting on the end of his nose. “Yuw speaka Balanese?”……”Errr no! But my friend does, once sec, I’ll just grab him………scuse me, sorry, scuse me.” (I shuffled to back of room, waved my good friend and translator over, and we both shuffled back). Think I got away with that!

The very serious policeman, after working out that I was who it said I was in my passport, lobbed, not passed, lobbed my file to his mate next to him. I thought, I think we’re done here then. Shuffle, shuffle, back through the throng of 50-100 other men, to back of room again, to wait for another 20 minutes.

Eventually my name is called again and after more shuffling, I then had to sign my name, have thumb fingerprints taken and also my photo. All that was left then was to hand the completed form into the small kiosk, near the vending machine. Five minutes later, my name was again broadcast to the hall and a little hand from the kiosk threw my new international driving license at me. So polite!

The other driving practical exams take place at the station but fortunately I didn’t need to complete any. One thing to note though; Yes, they looked at my passport, but they never asked or checked to see if I actually had a UK driving license. But for now I have two licenses- for 30 days at least!

I’ve since found out that I paid for the ‘express service’. The standard rate is IR$100,000 (£5). However, I think this more expensive option was money well spent. There is a lot of waiting around to do. I guess if you have the time and can speak Balanese, then cool – you might want to opt for the cheaper option. Whilst I was waiting a guy (another tourist), came up to me and asked how long I’d been waiting. It was about 20mins. He’d been there an hour and still hadn’t started the process. I directed him over to the pushy lady and I think he soon got seen after that!

Having this International Tourist License wont stop me being pulled over by the Polisi, but it demonstrates that as a tourist in their country, I am following the laws and hopefully this means if we were to be pulled over, we’ll be on our way quicker…..hopefully!

One thought on “Got me a Bali Driving license!”

  1. Ahh official business in a foreign country, always a great insight into real life. Bulgaria also has the corrupt police thing and we have spent many a holiday hour queuing/paying extra for getting stuff done. Well done Aaron , and a nice memento to have in your wallet! Safe motor biking! Xx

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