MY heading is a bit misleading, but there are certain things you need to know before taking to the roads here. Of course, there are rules. It's not complete chaos - like driving in India or Cairo. But at times it feels like it. Actually, most of the time.
It doesn't help most of the roads are so narrow and full of holes and that there are scores of motorbikes, most of which overtake without hesitation on the inside and out. Near-misses are a daily occurrence. Jamie refuses to drive here.
At least the Balinese mostly wear helmets (which isn't the case in Chiang Mai, for instance). But you see three or four people to a bike and sometimes a parent carrying a small child who is fast asleep!
But driving in this charming town is made a little harder because our cheap car rental doesn't have much oomph. Just the other day it conked out going up a steep hill. I had to yank up the handbrake and start it up again with a long line of impatient traffic behind me. Even in first gear and with plenty of gas, it choked its way up.
Much of the time our Suzuki feels like a tank. It's not quite swift enough to dodge the barking mutts out in the street, some of whom just laze in the road and don't even move as you approach, which doesn't help when you need to swerve around it and a vehicle is approaching from the opposite direction. Then there are all the chickens, roosters, the pedestrians, children, people carrying large loads…you really need to have your wits about you.
If you get out of town, you might encounter cattle and pigs along the road, too. We've found the signposting in some more remote areas out of town almost non-existent. It's really a case of knowing your geography, having a map and asking directions. But I've been advised to always get a second opinion. Balinese are polite people, so will give you any direction rather than say they don't know.
At major junctions it is not clear who has the right of way. I really couldn't figure it out. In the end, I just forced my way out. Then I read an article from a local trying to make sense of it. She said it's about eye contact! That didn't help me, seeing most cars have tinted windows and motorcyclists helmets. Big trucks and buses usually won't take their turn, so beware!
If a car flashes you in England, it usually means the car is letting you pass. But here it signals the opposite. I got caught out a few times and it's hairy.
And if a car puts on its hazard lights at a junction it usually means the vehicle is going straight and not that it has a problem.
Be careful not to go too far to the side on the small side streets, because they all have deep gutters (used for burning litter). Once you're in there, you're not coming out - without the help of a tow truck. I've seen a few motorbikes being fished out.
And in the centre of town, where it's really busy, parking is harder. In some areas if you find a spot (not too difficult early in the day), the chances are you will be charged, though the fee is minimal. Don't bother trying to argue because there are no signs saying you must pay to park.
However, I did complain when parking at the Monkey Forest for that very reason. Someone just turned up as we left and demanded payment. I told him he needed to inform me in advance and not when I had finished.
But that's how things work around here. If they can extract another 1,000 rupees from you they will.
The alternative is taking taxis and, as visitors, we've been overcharged several times. Bargain hard with them. Everyone here seems to be a taxi driver.
Although I prefer to walk when I can, it isn't always an easy option, particularly in heat and with young children. In places there are no pavements and where there are, often they are horribly uneven.
The Balinese people aren't so aggressive, though. In fact, they are on the whole very friendly. And even on the roads, it's more a case of volume of traffic and disorder and worn road surfaces than terrible driving which makes getting around feel so perilous. However, my wife isn't convinced about how capable the Balinese are of controlling their vehicles.