Often, western tourists are not really prepared for the style of road use and traffic conditions in Bali. Indeed, many are quite worried during their first trip in the more crowded areas. There is a veritable sandstorm of motorbikes zigzagging in and out of the traffic with the greatest of comfort and ease, even when they are carrying a family of 5 and a mile high pile of temple offerings plus a chicken. The second most numerous vehicles are small 4 WD-type cars, which are delivering or waiting for hire.The drivers of these rental cars are the ones who continually repeat the call, ‘Transport Boss?’
Traffic speed is generally quite slow, 10 – 15 km ph. being quite common at busy times. Vehicles drive almost nose to tail, even through corners, and merging traffic fits into spaces that pedestrian wouldn’t try to walk through.There is no visible road rage or impatience on the island. A honk or two on the horn is always taken as a ‘Please excuse me’ signal.
Here is a small example of approximate trip times between popular tourist centers for 4 people in an average car.
From the airport to Kuta it is 4 km and it will take about 20 minutes, very roughly, by Taxi.
From Legian to Bedugul it is 58 km and the trip will take about 2 hours by car in average conditions.
From Sanur to Amed it is 110 km and the journey will take about 3 and 1/4 hours.
From Gilimanuk to Kerobokan it is 145 km and this trip will take about 2 hours.
Airport to Ubud is about 2 hours.
Kuta to Uluwatu, a bit less than an hour.
Seminyak to Tanah Lot – Half an hour.
Seminyak to Mount Batur – 2.5 hours.
Ubud to Amed – 3 hours.
Ubud to Mount Batur – 1.5 hours.
Ubud to Lovina 2.5 hours.
But… don’t forget times can easily double at peak hours, in rain, where the road is under repair, if the army is using the road, if a security guard has stopped the traffic to allow a tourist or two to cross, if a dog has priority or a flock of ducks is being taken across the road to a new rice paddy. When two or more of these things concur there is no point in trying to hurry. This is a time to enjoy ‘jam karet’ – ‘Bali time’, which is often no time at all.
Urban dictionary says… “rubber time” (Indonesian) Meaning: Time waiting patiently or expected, rather than wasted. Makes life easier to bear. Sounds fair.
I was caught in traffic this morning and delayed…Ah, jam karet.
Time has a different dimension here. Indonesian people live a flowing life like a calm river carrying everything along. No stress caused by time or schedule. Indonesian live in rubber time – jam karet.
When someone said he would come to your house at 10 o’clock, it means “about 10 o’clock or approximately”. If they attempt to be punctual, they will state jam 10 pas or jam 10 tepat – 10 o’clock sharp.
The elastic form would stretch from minutes to hours! But for them in business sphere, high society and educated folks, punctuality is important. If you are late for an appointment, they think you are disorganized and unreliable.
Well, each culture has their approach to time. Indonesian life is not driven by time. Harmonious interaction with other people is more important. Being polite is important. Most of the things are done in a spontaneous and flexible way. You need to slow down and develop your social skills once you live in Indonesia.