I am often asked – why on earth did you learn driving in Bali and not let’s say within a more “regulated” environment like in Dubai?

Well, there were certainly different reasons. But now I am in Bali, so let’s give it a shot!

“Basically Kian, there is just one traffic rule here in Bali”, a friend and expat here in Bali tells me – the strongest wins.

With these three words I am somehow excited…or maybe afraid? I don’t know yet, matter of fact, I AM BLOODY CURIOUS !

I am curious about my ability to drive!

I am curious about how to manage a conversation with my teacher!

I am curious about locals reacting towards a foreigner, trying to learn to drive in their country!

But let me answer one questions before:

“You’re 26 – why not earlier ??”

First, by the age of 17 ( the time when everyone starts running to the driving school in Germany ), I didn’t had money. When I turned 18, I moved to the fantastic city of Cologne for my studies and though I finally had money, Cologne gave me a great public transportation system.

“But you could have done your driving license, at least you have it and know how to drive.”

That was actually never a valid point for me. “If I have a driving license, I want to own and drive a car!”, I told myself. But unfortunately Germany doesn’t make it quiet affordable for a young man to own a car. A driving license about 10 years back was on average at 1500 Euro. Used cars were cheap and I could have buy a good one, let’s say Honda Civic like, for about 1000 Euro. But then I would have paid taxes on the car, a heavy insurance, fuel at Euro 1.50 / litre, everywhere parking fees, traffic jams ( means waking up earlier ), occasional visits to a mechanic, you get the picture. Income ? – Around Euro 1000 after taxes, but before apartment rental, water, electricity and the whole stuff you need for living.

Then, I left Cologne in 2009 and moved to the Maldives. Do I have to say that it is completely useless to drive a car in the Maldives?

Dubai, end of 2010: I am getting interested. I’m asking friends and colleagues, surprisingly lots of folks doing their driving license in the U.A.E. Price – around Euro 2000. I am also getting to know that apparently many driving teachers will let the students purposely fail, just to repeat ( and re-pay ) again. No big deal for me. Fuel for a couple of cents, cheap used cars, why not ? But I knew I would not really stay for a long term in Dubai, I am not getting warm with the environment.

Back to Maldives end of 2011 – well, you know it already.

BALI 2013:

The time has finally arrived. I am at a place where I have basically no choice: no real public transportation system, no employer who is providing any sort of transport. Well, I could make a motorbike driving license because it is more practical driving a motorbike through Bali’s main areas in the south and we already own a scooter, but my thoughts are clear –


We did some research and compared prices and reputation and stumbled upon a driving school close by:

–          10 lessons of driving at IDR 450K ( ca. 45 $ )

–          Driving license valid for 12 months ( requirement is your residential visa for Indonesia ) – another 45 $ for the required            paperwork and the physical license from the police

–          No theoretical (!) lessons

–          Teacher picks me up at home


TOTAL COST:  $90      TOTAL TIME: 2 weeks

“Any hidden charges, ‘cause you know, you’re European (=$) and so on ?”

Absolutely not! And I might even say it could not have been a better driving school. My teacher Made has been throughout the training a cool dude, relaxed and PATIENT ( he teaches 10-12 students day in –and out ), blended with Balinese friendliness. And I have been his first foreign student! No sign of being “lost in translation” either; his English was slightly better than my Indonesian (means not much) – and guess what? I didn’t cause any damages ( yeaaah, driving two and half years golf buggies in the Maldives finally paid off !! ) and passed the final test drive after only 10 hours.  

IMG_20120212_080931NEW                                            Golf carts are the usual method of getting around within resorts in the Maldives


“How was the traffic for you?”

Let’s start with the positive points: learning how to drive in Bali really sharped my senses; I mean there is really no way around – EYES AND EARS OPEN !  FOCUS ! Because every second, a dog might run in front of your car, children who do not have a playground running behind their balls without any sense of knowing the danger of cars and motorbikes, a motorbike driver cuts your way or this all happens to the driver in front of you and you need to suddenly break down!

On another note, lots of car drivers are extremely pushy, even though the car is clearly marked up with plenty of stickers as driving school car, they still drive up too close behind you and horn like shit, using light signals to make you drive faster – and now imagine me: getting more and more nervous, in fact I am boiling inside of me already.…”shall I hit the accelerator? Okay let’s get a bit faster”, I thought. Of course Made pushed the speed immediately down and told me not to worry about those other drivers, “ Let them just overtake us”. Yes, imagine most of the people’s faces while overtaking us plus to see a foreigner behind the steering wheel, learning how to drive in Bali ?! Believe me, those faces haven’t been the nicest I have seen in Bali- and of course, it made me not really more comfortable while driving…

Driving School Indonesia© Valentino Group (not my school)


“Tidak apa, just relax,”

Made told me, “Haha, of course; I am relaxed ! Hey, I’m German. The most relaxed nation on earth !! *$%#^&* !!!!!!” Okay, no problem – it’s all about adapting, right? So, let’s make it happen!

And after 10 hours of driving I finally got the little precious card. Almost 9 years and 4 countries later, I had both, time and reason to do it.

“One more thing: You said you want to own a car once done, what happened to that?”

Oh ya, I almost forgot that point, thanks for reminding!! I already told you guys that I learned driving with a 2012 Daihatsu Xenia. Cool thing, spacious, easy to handle and so on. But I needed to have the coolest mode of transport in Bali: a 1976 Volkswagen Thing aka Volkswagen Safari. Can you imagine riding all of a sudden a car which is 26 years older than the one I used to learn with and absolutely nothing is automatic and I mean nothing!! Hard steering, flashers and horn working from time to time only, you need leg muscles like a horse to push the pedals, plus I’m a completely newbie when it comes to driving. However, once the roof is down and I’m sitting behind the steering wheel, I feel like the coolest dude around.


VWSafariGermanFlagbrandnewThe technician helped me to fix some parts – and he is obsessed with German football: he named his son “Klose”…NO JOKE!!


P.S.: I sold my “Blue Baby” to a nice hotel owner, so maybe you might even drive with it once you visit Bali.

I am cusious! Where did you learn driving? What was your first car? Leave your comments below!

My Indonesian driving license:








Smart Travels,


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