Should You Ride a Motorbike on Nusa Penida?

by Jackie
Overview of Kelingking Beach

Nusa Penida is a dreamy paradise to visit when you’re in Bali, Indonesia. How can you resist the neverending beauty of the blue waters, cliffside landscapes, waterfalls, endless beaches, and fewer crowds on this island?

While spending at least 2 days in Nusa Penida is the perfect amount of time to relax and lounge around, you have to think about how you’ll travel around the island.

The best way to get around Nusa Penida is by riding a motorbike and only if you have the experience to drive one! This is key! The island is larger at 202.8 km2 compared to the neighboring two Nusa Islands – Nusa Lembongan and Nusa Ceningan. (It’s much easier to drive in Lembongan and Ceningan.) Certain areas in Nusa Penida are bumpy and filled with potholes so they can get quite sketchy.

If you’re thinking about renting a motorbike on Nusa Penida, we’re sharing with you information on:

  • Things to consider if you want to drive a motorbike,
  • Where to rent a motorbike,
  • Helpful safety tips on what to expect with driving on Nusa Penida roads,
  • All about our accident. (Yup, we had one on the first day.)

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How to Decide to Go Motorbiking on Nusa Penida

Even though Nusa Penida is a tourist destination, it doesn’t have any public transportation. Nor are there bicycle rentals. Many of Nusa Penida’s attractions are spread across the island so it’s best to ride a motorbike to get to your destination.

Driving a motorbike is a necessary skill to know when you’re in Southeast Asia. You’ll have more freedom with where you want to go and can spend as little or as much time at your destination.

While driving a motorbike is mostly safe on Nusa Penida, here are some things to consider:

  1. Do you have experience driving/riding a motorbike, especially on steep and rough terrain such as bumpy and loose gravel roads?
  2. If there are two people, will both of you share a motorbike? Can the driver handle riding with an extra person? Is the passenger comfortable with riding a motorbike? Or, will each rider have his/her own bike?
  3. Are you able to ride long distances such as over 2 hours?
  4. Do you have travel insurance which covers medical support in case you get into a major accident? If you don’t have insurance, are you ok with the risk?
Cars and motorbikes must share the roads on Nusa Penida. The roads aren't wide and filled with deep potholes.

One of the experiences about riding a motorbike on Nusa Penida is sharing the road with cars and avoiding the deep potholes.

If you don’t satisfy either of these items, it’s recommended to hire a private driver. The cost of the driver is between 650,000-700,000 IDR ($46-$50 USD) per day. You can customize which places you want to visit each day.

Or, reserve one of these incredible Nusa Penida tours and not have to worry about transportation!

As with our experience, Justin knows how to ride a motorbike, while I do not. Therefore, we shared a motorbike on Nusa Penda. Even though we’ve been in Vietnam for over a year, I still feel uneasy on motorbikes, let alone driving one, especially after our scooter accident on Easter Island. Justin takes the reigns when whizzing through the perilous streets of Ho Chi Minh City.


Where to Rent a Motorbike on Nusa Penida

It’s easy to rent one. Most visitors depart from Nusa Lembongan via speedboat to arrive in Nusa Penida at the Toya Pakeh harbor. Several men will approach you and offer their motorbike to rent. No need to share a license or put in a deposit as you’ll pay in full once you get your bike. Ensure that you have the contact information of the person you’re renting from in case something happens.

Since we stayed in Nusa Penida for two days, our rental came with one helmet and a full tank of petrol. Originally it was 180,000 IDR ($12.75 USD) but we negotiated the price to 150,000 IDR ($10.60 USD), so it’s 75,000 IDR ($5.30 USD) per day. This was the same price as our motorbike rental on Nusa Lembongan.

Your guesthouse may also offer motorbike rental, however, you’ll need to arrange transportation to get to your guesthouse first. It may not be as convenient.  

As with returning the motorbike, we returned it in the same area along the Toya Pakeh harbor. The person we rented from wasn’t available to meet us. As requested, we dropped the keys in the cup holder and sent a photo of the bike location with a thank you message over WhatsApp.


Things to Know About Driving a Motorbike on Nusa Penida

Here are some helpful safety tips to ride a motorbike and prevent crashing. 

1. Drive SLOWLY!

While the main downtown area and the north side is easy with smooth roads, heading southwest is a potholed mess. Most of the roads in this area are BAD and super steep when you’re headed to Nusa Penida’s main attractions such as Kelingking Beach, Angel’s Beach, Billabong Beach, Broken Beach, and Seganging Waterfall. With loose gravel and potholes, it’s easy to slip and skid on the road.

If you’re headed to the east side of the island, the roads are not as bad to Atul and Diamond Beach but still had potholes.

When you're in the main downtown harbor area of Nusa Penida, the roads are very smooth and flat.

Wouldn’t it be fabulous if all of the roads were this smooth?

Potholes and loose gravel is the norm when driving on Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia. Be careful and drive slowly when driving a motorbike to prevent an accident.

Most of the time the roads are this bad. Drive your motorbike slowly!!!

Whenever there is ever a time where you don’t feel comfortable driving, don’t feel pressured to take the road. Follow your gut. It’s okay if you park your motorbike somewhere and reach your destination on foot.

You also need to consider the road conditions when it rains. Luckily it didn’t rain during our stay in February but we were told that it would normally rain during the time of year.

Our amazing driver in Bali was shocked to hear that we planned to rent a motorbike. It should have been a warning sign if he, a well-seasoned rider, also hired a driver for the island. He said that the roads were terrible and windy just like heading to Sekumpul Waterfall. He was right too.

2. Parking is easy.

Each of the attractions has plenty of parking. As long as you lock up your bike, you don’t need to worry about your bike getting stolen. Plus, some of the spots require a parking fee for extra “security.”

3. Wear helmets.

Helmets aren’t mandatory on the island, yet it’s best to wear one in case something happens.

4. Prepare for long driving times, sometimes 1-2 hours at a time.

It can take over an hour from the main downtown area to other parts of Nusa Penida so it can get tiring to drive a motorbike. You can take breaks or reach your destination and take a break.

It was exhausting for Justin to drive with the heat and especially when going down the hills. He had to use the brakes a lot when going downhill and balance the bike when carrying both of us.

The roads on Nusa Penida are terrible so you may need to walk to reach your destination. It's not a problem if you don't feel comfortable with driving a motorbike.

Sometimes you have to walk to reach your destination if the roads are too sketchy to drive on.

5. If you crash the motorbike, there isn’t any auto insurance.

Not crashing and not having an accident on the motorbike is like winning the NASCAR auto racing.

Unfortunately, crashes happen. Most of the motorbike rentals will take place via cash and without any signed contract, so you’ll need to pay for damages to the owners if they occur. Account for extra travel budget on major damages to the vehicle.


Our Unfortunate Motorbike Accident

On the day of our arrival, we headed straight to Crystal Bay Beach and Kelingking Beach from our guesthouse. Crystal Bay Beach was a nice and relaxing place to get some sunshine and calm waters.

However, the roads from Crystal Bay Beach to Kelingking Beach was quite treacherous. We had to take the drive cautiously as we shared the roads with cars. During the ride, you may loathe the cars as they were even slower than the motorbikes as they tried to avoid the potholes. Sometimes, it was too slow to stay behind a car so we calculated when to be aggressive and pass them on the road.

The visit to Kelingking Beach is well worth the trouble as the waters and the views from the peak are beautiful. It’s quite stunning to see the iconic viewpoint of the cascading landscapes. Most people tend to stay in the peak area as the route down to Kelingking Beach requires some trekking.

We're along the cliff side admiring the ocean and beach landscape of Kelingking Beach in Nusa Penida, off of Bali, Indonesia

Kelingking Beach has stunning landscapes. It’s well worth the sketchy drive to get here!

Even though Angel’s Billabong and Broken Beach is in the same direction as Kelingking Beach, we decided to hold off on visiting these places. Our guesthouse owner said that it’s best to visit during the sunset.

Instead, we headed to Seganging Waterfall. We followed a sign that pointed to the waterfall from the main road. Was it the correct way to follow when using Google Maps? Not sure, yet we trusted the sign. That was when things started to go wrong.

The roads had more loose gravel and rocks than what we were used to. During certain areas, I got off the bike so Justin could drive to an easier part of the road. It was a constant hop-on-off motorbike ride.  

We were halfway to the waterfall when the bike suddenly lost control. It skidded on the gravel and slowly fell to its side. An extremely low speed fall as we were going 5-10 kph. We were in utter shock that we had an accident and it was only the first day at Nusa Penida!

Luckily there weren’t any major injuries with blood or needing medical attention. Justin didn’t have any external injuries but had some persistent shoulder pain lasting months when we returned from the trip. He tried to hold the bike up as it fell over. The bike had some light scratches on its side yet they blended with other scratches from previous renter spills.

I, on the other hand, remember feeling like my calf was on fire as a patch of 2 inches x 4 inches of skin burned off. Our hypothesis is that my calf touched the back wheel as it was still spinning and falling down at the same time. *Sigh* The wound didn’t hurt but it was disappointing to see that I had yet another motorbike injury during our travels.

Two gentlemen on their bikes who passed by. Although they didn’t speak a word to us, they knew what happened after I showed them my calf. One person got off the bike and ripped up some mountainside leaves to put on my wound. The leaf didn’t do much but it was the nice gesture that counted. He also helped Justin bring the bike up. They went on their way as we spent the next 30 minutes heading back to the guesthouse to tend to the wound.

We didn’t go to the medical clinic as the wound didn’t look too bad. Our guesthouse owner was sympathetic and had extra bandages for us to use. He offered us his aloe vera plant which we used on the wound.

Wound from a motorbike accident on Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia

Hopefully, it’s not too graphic for you, but here is my wound. Luckily it wasn’t bloody or required stitches.

Over the next few days, I kept the wound clean and covered to avoid any infections. We like to go at a moderately fast pace when exploring but had to slow down as my calf area ached with the skin starting to heal.

It was challenging when we went into the ocean to transfer between our speedboat from Nusa Penida – Nusa Lembongan – Sanur harbor (on Bali). I tried to hold my calf up and hopped my way out of the ocean. Sometimes the water splashed on the wound and it stung like crazy.

Flash forward to the present time. It’s been two months since the accident and the wound is better. I finally have a nice layer of skin but the area still looks “meaty” with a dark red color. It’s getting smaller day by day. Hopefully, the area will be back to my regular leg color by the end of the year.

As with Justin, he went to the chiropractor several times to tend to his shoulder and has about 90% mobility.


Final Thoughts

While we’re not here to scare you and prevent you from driving a motorbike, think about what you’re most comfortable with doing on your vacation. Nusa Penida is such a beauty and has plenty of relaxing and adventurous activities to keep you occupied.

What are your thoughts about motorbiking through Nusa Penida? If you have any questions regarding our experience, as in the comment section below.

If you’re headed to Nusa Penida, save this post in your Indonesia Pinterest board.

A couple on a motorbike driving through Nusa Penida, Indonesia. Post contains things to know about driving a motorbike on Nusa Penida. If you want to rent a motorbike on Nusa Penida, Bali, Indonesia, read this post to learn more about the road conditions, safety, and whether you should rent a motorbike or not.

Pin #1 photo credit: Tiaan Moggee via Scopio Photos
Pin #2 photo credit: Bernard Hermant via Unsplash

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4 comments

Gina Race June 13, 2019 - 10:34 am

Wow you guys are very brave to ride there! My palms were sweaty just from watching other people riding. Those were the worst roads I had ever experienced. I read the warnings ahead of time, but even then I was still very surprised by how bumpy it actually was. I was very grateful we decided to hire a driver. It was nice to not have to worry about directions and be able to rest in some AC in-between places since it was super hot! Good to hear both your injuries are healing well.

Reply
Jackie June 13, 2019 - 10:58 am

Thanks Gina. Thinking about the potholed roads in Nusa Penida gives me the shivers. We can’t imagine how the roads are during the rainy season. We’ll hire a car when we return back to the island.

Reply
MikeMcD September 23, 2019 - 8:00 am

I have at least a quarter million miles on a motorcycle over the past 25 years. I still managed to crash on Nusa Penida. My only advice is to be careful and to check your rental scooter very carefully. Our brakes faded quickly while driving back from Atuh beach. Driving down to the coastal road, I couldn’t get us slowed down enough to navigate one of the last turns and drove off the road. Don’t count on engine braking and don’t count on your brakes.

Reply
Jackie September 24, 2019 - 11:18 am

Hi Mike. Thanks for sharing your experience about checking the brakes before you commit to your motorbike rental. We never considered the possibility of brake failure but it doesn’t surprise us with the brake pads wearing out due to all of the hills.

Reply

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