Visas and Borders

Here you will find more details on our experiences relating to visas, border crossings, vehicle paperwork and other administrative tasks we had to undertake on our travels. We hope this may be of use to fellow travellers, but remember that circumstances/rules/regulations can change at any time, sometimes the process can be different tomorrow! Always seek out the latest information which more often than not comes from those travelling in the opposite direction! Our route changed a few times prior to departure because of changing visa rules and new volatility issues in places.

We are dual EU/Australia citizens, but being considered Australian residents while based in Europe, creates a number of additional hurdles that we have to deal with. Our motorcycles are also UK registered. It is easier, from a paperwork perspective, to start in your country of residence if you are planning such a lengthy trip. Note that not all EU Countries are treated the same for visas and borders. Check your own countries requirements, normally through a government travel website.

For whom the road tolls (Sept 2017)

Yes I know its a play on Ernest Hemingway’s title but since I have visited his house near Havana, Cuba some years back I feel I am entitled to a little leeway. Until recently for us toll roads have been a distant mirage, in Georgia we saw completed toll booths, but sections of the road were still to be built, hence no tolls yet. I have to admit that I had given little thought to toll roads as we approached Europe, but as our experiences show, one does need to understand the toll process in each country or face the potentially expensive fines. So we have added this to Borders and Visas

We ended up by accident, no recognisable signs, on a Tollway in Turkey near Izmir entering through an electronic gate, no one in sight, when we exited the gate beeped and we realised motorbikes are not free. The Hizli Geçis Sistemi (HGS) is a toll system based having an account which is linked to a sticker on your windscreen which is read as you pass through the toll gate. Cash and credit card payments are not accepted. The sticker can be purchased at a Post Office, closed on weekends, or Petrol stations, which we found only sold car not motorcycle passes, so we were unable to obtain a pass/account before we left the country. The HGS website has English pages but they are “under development”. Failure to have a HGS toll sticker can lead to a significant fine we understand. We will have to watch the mail on that one.

Croatia was a ticket/cash card payment, so no problems there, just pay for what you use.

Slovenia however requires the purchase of a Vignette, which costs in the region of 8 euros, again something we did not know as we negotiated the silent toll gates in the early morning mist. We only had some 50 ml. / 80 km. to travel but had we been stopped without a Vignette we would have been fined between €300 and €700. We left the country without realising what could have happened. France and Italy are straightforward. France does seem to have many payment points unlike Italy where you pay only once when you leave the toll road. In France after a couple of abortive searches for the motorcycle lane, we found out that the Green arrow furthest right above a gate is the motorcycle exit.

There is a website called tolls.eu that has a comprehensive list of European countries and their toll procedures, worth looking up. We were lucky, you may not be, so it’s worth knowing the toll rules in advance to avoid being caught out.

Georgia – Turkey, Sarpi/Sarp, 8 September 2017 (French/UK Passports)

Arrived at Georgian side at around 08:00. No queues, directed by police to Georgian Immigration window in the far right hand lane, not the marked car lanes further left, possibly due to the early time. As this is a truck window, located higher up you will need to park and walk to the window. Showed Passport, Vehicle Registration Document and Driving Licence. We did need to move our motorcycles forward to allow the number plate to be seen. Passport stamped and we were on our way in 5 minutes to the Turkish side.

Here Busses, Trucks, Cars/Motorbikes and people seem to have different processing lines, which is beneficial, but this place can become very busy I suspect. Cars/Motorcycles tend to be processed in groups of 3/4 with a plain-clothed Customs officer checking vehicles before you proceed to Immigration and Customs that are co-located in a kiosk on the left hand side. If you do not have Turkish Green Card coverage, insurance coverage can be purchased just beyond the Immigration/Customs kiosk on the same side. This needs to be purchased before Immigration processing. Cost for us was €35 each for a three month minimum. Passport processing at the first window, vehicle processing at the second. Ride to the exit gate where your numberplate is checked against the computer system. Done and into Turkey.

Georgia – Turkey, Vale / Kara HD, attempted, 5 September 2017 (French/UK Passports)

Arrived at Georgian border post, rode up to kiosk, no queue at 7am, Immigration officer asked for Passport, ‘Motor Passport’ – Vehicle Registration document (V5) and driving licence. Checked vehicle registration against V5, stamped passport, done in 5 minutes.

Rode to Turkish gate, showed Passport and V5 told to ride to large two story building on right about 100 metres / 330 feet away. Parked and entered main doorway, turned right for Immigration which only required Passport and eVisa for entry. Temporary Import documentation is the second door on the right as you walk back from the immigration counter, marked ‘Visas’. Requires Insurance before being granted a Temporary Vehicle Import. Insurance is only available from 08:00, we are two hours early! We are later to learn they will only sell car insurance, not motorcycle insurance! We have a problem. Four hours later we are back in Georgia heading for the Black Sea crossing to Turkey at Sarpi where they do sell insurance for motorcycles, we hope. They do.

We were told by a contact that the Turkish insurance companies say you can get insurance at all borders, the reality is not this one today.

Armenia – Georgia, Bavra /Minotsminda, 4 September 2017 (French/UK Passports)

We parked our motorcycles near the kiosk and barrier on the right hand side. Told to take Passports, Temporary Vehicle Import Document and Vehicle Registration document to the building on the left hand side, entered left hand door, then first office. Temporary Vehicle Import document Was taken and stamped. Returned to the kiosk and handed Temporary Vehicle Import document in. Rode on to Immigration, provided Passport and Vehicle Registration document and had passport stamped. Noted sign for currency change next to Customs building, but did not investigate.

Short ride to Georgian side, new Customs/Immigration terminal under construction, ride around two buildings to old covered area, stay to left and ride to kiosk. Passport, Vehicle Registration document and Driving Licence required at Immigration. Customs check about 10 metres on, checked medication and asked for name of tablets. Cleared both sides in less than 30 minutes. No currency change or vehicle insurance available on Georgian side.

Georgia – Armenia, Sadakhlo/Baghratashen, 3 September 2017 (French/UK Passports)

Arrived at the Georgian border and rode up to an Immigration kiosk. Passports and Vehicle Registration documents checked, passport stamped and we were on our way to Armenia. No outbound Customs check.

On arrival at the Armenian side we provided our Passports and Vehicle Registration documents and had our passports stamped. We were told to park on the left, behind where bus passengers were having luggage checked. Enter the building on the left where the temporary vehicle import permit can be obtained at the window directly ahead of the entrance. No customs inspection of our luggage was done. Rode to the kiosk and showed passport and temporary vehicle import permit. Rode to the roundabout directly ahead where we obtained 10 days insurance, the minimum available for 8 Euros each. Currency exchange is about 500 metres down the road towards Yerevan on the the right in the red roofed building. Total time about 30 minutes.

Azerbaijan – Georgia, Sadakhlo/Lagobekhi, 31 August 2017 (Australian Passports out, French/UK Passports in)

Arrived at the Azerbaijan border and queued with the cars, separate from trucks. Vehicles let in in batches after noting registration and providing a process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) as I call it. Ride up to covered area and park as directed. We were initially told to open all bags and take for x-ray, this ended up being one bag removed, medication checked and no x-ray. Directed to window 4 last window on the low building between outbound and inbound lanes. Passports, vehicle registration documents and PCT handed over to Customs officer. He produces an additional small printed piece of paper with the vehicle details on it, another PCT. Move to window 2 for passport control, provide same documents as before and both PCT’s. Passport stamped and ride to exit gate. Here they wanted to see Passport, Vehicle Registration document and both PCT’s. They kept the first PCT. No one asked to see the Temporary Import Document we received when we arrived in Azerbaijan.

Azerbaijan, Alat Port, (Arrival), 26 August 2017

We arrived in the port of Alat, some 65 km. / 40 ml. south of Baku at about 9am and after a period of time, all passengers were allowed to disembark to clear Immigration, which is the small building to the left of the twin ferry jetties. The local truck drivers let us foreigners go to the front of the queue. Passports, eVisa and Vehicle Registration documents were required. Passport stamped we then passed through a Passenger Scanner, non working, left the building and returned to the ship to collect our motorcycles.

We rode off the ship and turned left at the end of the loading jetty. Rail tracks for loading wagons into the ship, watch out for those rail tracks, separate the inbound Customs lanes, left hand side from the outbound Customs lanes, right hand side.

Park at the bottom of the footbridge before the Customs booths for exit, cross the bridge and proceed straight ahead to the Customs building on the far side of the outbound Customs inspection shed. At this point you may be asked to do vehicle shipping and port payment before Customs, we were not and did ours in reverse.

Customs provided us with a Temporary Vehicle Import Document, we then returned our motorcycles and rode though the Customs exit, followed the road round to the right and were directed to a series of port-a-cabins on the right hand side, just outside the outbound customs gate. Here you will make the port payment and the ferry vehicle payment. You can walk here from the Customs office, which is about 50 m. / 160 ft. away, directly, which we would have done had we known to save stopping again.

The second port-a-cabin from the right is the ferry company. Here they will produce the paperwork for payment at the bank. It was US$100 per motorcycle for shipment. They will hold your Vehicle Registration document while you pay. Next go to the next port-a-cabin, right as you left of the shipping port-a-cabin. Here they will produce more documentation for payment at the bank, about US$10-20. They will hold your passport while you make payment. The bank where you make the 2 payments together is just beyond the ATM to the right again. Note the bank will only take cash payment, but does do currency exchange as well. Other port-a-cabins contain a shop and a cafe. Wi-Fi is available to Customers. With the payment stamp on both sets of paperwork, reverse your steps and collect your passport and Vehicle Registration document. You will receive two exit documents one from the Port Authority and one from the Ferry Company. Ride to the exit present both pieces of paperwork and you are in Azerbaijan.

Kazakhstan , Aktau Port (Departure), 25 August 2017

Having read a number of descriptions of the steps required to leave Aktau for Azerbaijan and now experienced the process for myself, I am of the opinion that each of us will have a similar, but slightly different experience and we should take those descriptions, and this one, as a rough guide only.

On arriving in Aktau, the first two steps are to register your contact details the Ferry Ticket Office and Port Office. This will allow them to contact you when the next ship’s details are known. That information only seems to become available to the Ferry Ticket and Port offices when the ship is loading in Azerbaijan for Aktau. The locations are about 9km. / 5ml. apart. We used taxis to travel between offices and stayed at a hotel close to the port.

Location details are as follows:

1. Port Office/Customs Office, (43°36′12.27″N 51°13′14.58″E). (43.603407, 51.220718) first building in the right after crossing the four rail tracks before port entry barrier. Second door from the right.

2. Ferry Ticket Office Microrayon 5, building 29. (43°38′13.46″N 51°09′26.36″E), (43.637072, 51.157321) end of building on the ground floor.

Both offices require a copy of your passport and the Port Office a copy of your vehicle registration document. You are now on the passenger and vehicle waiting list. A phone number where you can be contacted is helpful, else you will need to call daily to get an update. We had a local Kazakhstan sim card so contact was made directly with us a couple of days after we registered some 18 hours before the expected departure at 09:00.

We first went to the Port office and got our bill of lading, we did not need our motorbikes at this stage. Payment for this was 17,700 Tenge (approx US$50) payable at the bank kiosk just outside the Port Office building. Only cash is accepted, which is normal in our experience at ports and airports for cargo fees. Return with proof of payment into the Port Office and you will be given the full Bill of Lading paperwork with multiple copies. We are told to return between 23:00 and 00:00 to complete Customs and Immigration formalities.

We then travelled to the Passenger Ticket Office in town where we purchased our two tickets, 27,000 tenge / US$80 each, again paying in cash.

Arriving at 23:00 the same day we started the Customs processes, the aim of which seems to be to get four or five stamps on the Bill of Lading documentation and have one of the copies taken at each step.

Firstly we ride the motorcycles through the barrier ahead of the Customs/Port/Immigration building and park to the left. The first stamp is obtained from an officer based in a room at the back of the gatehouse building on the right and he took one copy of the documentation. He looked at our temporary import permit and returned it. The second stamp was given at the gatehouse entrance and another copy taken.

We rode our motorcycles off to the right, over the railway tracks and then left to park amongst mostly trucks and a couple of cars. Here four young Customs officials conducted a futile baggage search in the darkness as they had no torches. I think an extra stamp was added, but could not tell in the dark.

We returned to the Port Office/Customs/Immigration building and went into the Customs area to obtain the final stamp, surrender our Temporary Import Document and have copies of our Passports and Vehicle Registration Documents were taken.

A wait of a couple of hours ensued before immigration opened to outbound passengers after processing all inbound passengers first. I was questioned over my lack of a Kazakhstan visa, which was strange as I did not need one for an Australian Passport. Another Customs Officer confirmed that fact.

We then returned to our motorcycles and waited to board. On boarding we all had to provide our Bill of Lading documentation and Passports to one of the crew. We were told they would be returned on arrival. Take anything you need for the voyage as access to the vehicle deck is not normally allowed.

Uzbekistan – Kazakhstan, Karakalpakstan/Tazhen, 20 August 2017 (Australian Passports)

Arrived at lunchtime again, with a long line of cars waiting behind stop sign about 100 metres from the closed entry gate for Uzbekistan Customs and Immigration. Parked at the stop sign and walked to the closed gate. Told to come to the gate, given entry and then ride past another queue of vehicles waiting for lunch break to finish and directed to park undercover at the customs inspection bay which is between the foot passenger immigration area on the right and a number of customs kiosks on the left.

We are given a Passenger Customs Declaration form, same form as used on entry, this one was in Russian, but having the English copy from our entry into Uzbekistan it was easy to copy the information, the only changes being departure information and remaining currency.

Our passports and Vehicle documents are taken and we wait. After a period of time our documents are returned and Passenger Customs Declaration forms, both entry and exit are collected. We are given a small square of cardboard with a number written on, a process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) as I call it, and as we are blocking the customs inspection area we are told to go. We ride to the gate, hand over our PCT’s, and passports but a check reveals we have not had our passports stamped by immigration. Back to foot passenger immigration, we are asked to provide our hotel registration receipts along with our passports, Customs had lost one of the hotel receipts, but three seemed to be enough. Passports stamped and back to the exit. Guards have changed and the new ones want our PCT’s, which we gave to the last shift. Pays to hang onto the PCT until you are completely cleared. Confusion over and out we go.

Continued onto the Kazakhstan side and rode through to park next to the entrance for Immigration just short of the inbound covered customs inspection area to the right of the building.

We are given an immigration form to complete and ushered in ahead of the locals to the front of the immigration queue, which the locals say is fine as we are guests their country. We have a customs official stay with us. Immigration completed go to window 4 on the outbound side of the building with our escort and hand over passports and vehicle identification documents. Here we are given two completed, what we assume as it in Russian, Passenger Customs Declaration documents for signing. No barcode sticker was applied as in our previous two entries into Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) in Russia. Returned to motorcycles, a quick check of the top box by Customs and we are cleared to go.

Tajikistan – Uzbekistan, Bratstvo/Stariastya, 13 August 2017 (Australian Passports)

Arrived at the Tajikistan side and headed to the Customs office on the left hand side past the entrance barrier. Handed our Temporary Vehicle Import Permits and were directed to park at the end of the walking raised passageway. Go into the door up the stairs on the right of the covered area leading to Uzbekistan. Passport was stamped, no interest in the paper copy of the e-visa. Heading off into Uzbekistan, little vehicle traffic, some foot traffic. Took about 10 minutes all up.

Arrived on the Uzbekistan side and were stopped and had passports checked. Directed to the covered area on the right where there are three kiosks in a row, first signed currency exchange, second and third were blank. Told to park the motorcycles between the first and second kiosks next to the two truck bays – the very large wheeled toolkit that could dismantle anything. Immigration is back on the end of the left hand side of the bay. Immigration wanted both passport and “vehicle passport”, ie for us the UK V5 document.

Returned to Customs and proceeded to the third kiosk. Told to wait while paperwork for the two trucks on the bays, both being given a thorough search, was processed. Waited about half an hour. We competed a English language Passenger Customs Declaration, the Customs officer crossed out item 6, ‘Information on goods and means of transportation’. A second Temporary Vehicle Import document was produced for us to sign and while we pointed that the names and Passport numbers did not match, possibly entered incorrectly by immigration, we were told not to worry just sign, which we did after we raised this for the third time. Customs then took our passports and paperwork and told us to wait for inspection. We then waited 45 minutes before three Customs officers searched our panniers and top box. They asked to see iPads to search for pornography and questioned us on the use for certain medications . We then spend about 20 minutes getting everything back in order and packed. Collected passports, and import paperwork. Total time for both sides about two and a half hours. Not bad considering we waited for about an hour with no direct activity involving us.

Kyrgyzstan – Tajikistan, Batken/Isfara, 8 August 2017 (Australian Passports)

On our arrival at the border, no queues of vehicles, we were greeted by an English speaking customs officer as we parked under the covered area, he asked for our passports, vehicle registration document and Passenger Customs Declaration (PCD) from we completed when we entered the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) in Russia from Mongolia. The PCD should be returned Russia to complete the Temporary Import of the motorcycles.

We are also asked to pay and environmental fee of 500som each, about US$8. We had heard stories of this being a ‘scam’ in the region on some borders, we queried this and given the customs officers good English were told it relates to a law in his words which he wrote down “Parliament Say N285 12.05.2015 for Ekology” an official receipt was produced and we paid the fee. Will have to check with someone who knows if this is true or not.

Passport control wanted both passports and our Vehicle Registration document, which had not been asked for on entry from Kazakhstan. Stamped and we were no our way. No small blank piece of paper, which I refer to as a ‘process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) was used.

“Welcome to Tajikistan” the cheerful border guard said as we arrived on the Tajikistan side. On both sides of this border barriers were opened as we approached, a change form the usual closed gates and queues.

Immigration is a kiosk on the right as you enter the country, the border guard escorted us there and conversed with the immigration officer on our origins and status. The immigration officer asked for our passports, e-visas and vehicle registration documents. Passports and e-visa are stamped and we ride and park in the undercover customs area and join a short queue at a window on the left.

There is a single customs officer who processes our temporary vehicle import permits amongst other work so we wait for about an hour for him to finish. The only question asked was our exit point from Tajikistan, do not know if this is changeable. We are asked to pay US$10 per permit, which we do in US dollars. Back on the motorbikes, ride out through open barriers. Total time about two hours.

Kazakhstan- Kyrgyzstan, Kordai/Ak-Zhoi, 3 August 2017 (Australian Passports)

Arrived at the Kazakhstan side to the usual control gate, given a small blank piece of paper, which I refer to as a ‘process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) used to track and confirm progress through Customs and Immigration. We head into the twin lane Customs area and park, we are given a replacement PCT with a stamp and head to the immigration booth on the left just past the Customs area. You need Passport, Immigration form filled out on entry, the PCT and the vehicle registration. The PCT is stamped, Immigration form kept and back to motorcycles. No Customs inspection and PCT collected by Customs. Ride to Kyrgyzstan side.

In 40 degree celsius, we went to front of queue, urged by car driver, no problem. Waited for the gate to open. Parked under Customs shed. Customs officer took passports and was back in 5 minutes with them stamped in. No queuing with foot passengers, what service. ‘Welcome to Kyrgyzstan’ said the Customs officers, we were on our way.

Total time in crossing about 30 minutes, best ever in this region.

Turkmenistan Transit Visa Application, Almaty-Kazakhstan, 25 July 2017 (Australian Passports)

Since we could find no record of a successful transit visa application in Almaty since 2015, we thought we should at least try to get one, then advise others of our success or failure.

With the Turkmenistan Embassy in Astana, only a Consulate exists in Almaty. The Consulate can be found at улица Фурманова, 137, (43°15′03.11″N 76°56′57.7″E) go through the building, the entrance is at the back of the building. They are open from 10:00 to 13:00 Monday to Thursday and are always closed on the last day of the month. Check with caravanistan.com for the latest information.

Do arrive early, we were told there are usually two people on duty, today was only one. Detailed scrutiny of just the paperwork for each application took around 30 minutes, we were third in line and it took us two hours to reach the front of the queue.

After the long period of waiting we obtained the Turkmenistan transit visa application form and an additional information form. We completed these and were then told we needed to write a letter to the consulate explaining why we wanted to visit. We had forgotten this detail from our application three years ago, should have read our own blog entry from that time!

The Consular official had limited English but we were aided by a Turkmenistan citizen who was who happened to be there. It then turned out we had filled one of the forms in black pen, only blue is acceptable. We were able to use the same form, cross out the black and replace with blue. The documents and each passport were scrutinised for at least 15-20 minutes checking and rechecking before we were issued with a invoice to take to the bank for payment. We head straight for the bank ‘АльфА БАНК’, at улица Масанчи, 57А (43°14′57.56″N 76°55′43.86″E about 20’ walk away.

At the bank we paid our US$10 fee and returned to the Turkmenistan consulate, which did stay open past the the 13:00 closing time for us to return with proof of payment at the bank. We were told to call the following Monday, this was Tuesday and preferably have a Russian speaker make the call.

We had a Russian speaker make the call the following Monday, to be told ‘No decision, call back in a week’, another week, after further questioning we were told to call back on Tuesday, which we did, ‘No decision, call back tomorrow’ we had Russian speakers call back on the two subsequent days, ‘No decision’ was the answer each time. Then we finally got ‘no decision but probably no’. We decided at this point to abandon our attempt to obtain a Turkmenistan Transit Visa in Almaty. We do not have time to wait indefinitely with a four day waiting period to the start of the next week.

Single Entry Iranian Visa, Almaty-Kazakhstan, 21 July 2017 (Australian Passports)

We used Hossein Sheykhlou, overlandtoiran@gmail.com to secure our letter of invitation (LOI). We completed the invitation form, provided copies of our passport and passport photographs, (500kb max size). Anne’s photo had her head covered. We provided an rough day by day itinerary, which we can vary as well. We nominated Almaty, Kazakhstan as the place we wished to collect our visas. We were told that getting approval and the Iranian Authorisation notice, containing a Tracking Code, would be available in about 7 working days, although we got it much quicker than that. The cost of the LOI was US$40 each.

The Iranian Consulate in Almaty is located on ul.(street) Radlova (43°14′34.58″N 76°58′28.33″E). We found taxi is the easiest way to get there. The visa opening hours were 10:00 to 13:00 on the Friday we went. We were the only people there. We provided the Visa Grant Notice with the all important Tracking Code and were told that the cost of the visa was €100 each or €200 for same day visas. We chose the first option and then went to the bank, Pakistani Bank about 3km away at 105 Dostyk Ave in the Alatau Hotel building (43°13′33.22″N 76°57′40.13″E). Returning with the bank receipt, we were offered a Thursday pickup of the visa, based on our departure date from Almaty, we negotiated Tuesday as our collection date.

When we returned for our visas on Tuesday, we find our paperwork at the consulate was misplaced, but after 30 minutes our visas were issued with apologies.

Double Entry Uzbekistan Visa, Almaty-Kazakhstan, 20 July 2017 (Australian Passports)

We first got our Letter of Invitation (LOI) while on the road: we used StanTours again, emailed all the required information to StanTours, then made the electronic funds transfer to pay for this LOI and received the LOI’s in pdf form and printed these.

We turned up at the Uzbekistan consulate in Almaty at 4pm after arriving in the city a couple of hours earlier. A small crowd was milling around the entrance with no clear queues. A local advised us to go to the guard and inform him were are here for visas. It seems many of the people are Uzbeks looking to return home, so effectively a different queue.

The guard will let you through a gate on the left of the white counter that says “window 3”. Walk down the path, then on the right go into a small courtyard and up steps on the left. Go to the open door on the left (not the counter on the right marked windows 1 & 2 ), join the queue here.

We handed our passports, LOI, 1 photograph each. We had forgotten to bring a photocopy of our passport, the guy kindly made a copy for us and returned our passports. We waited for about 30 minutes and then received a piece of paper detailing the cost of the visas, USD170, and the bank name and account details to pay. We along with everyone else headed to the bank, a little like a scene from the ‘Amazing Race’ TV series where the contestants receive their next instructions, I digress, back on track.

Go back out of the Consulate, turn right. Go down to Gogolyan Street, the next one, turn left, the Centre Credit bank is 2 blocks down on the right, before you get to a huge flash supermarket. Get a ticket for your place in the queue, everyone else who is getting a visa will be with you. While payment information is in US dollars the bank would only accept a Tenge payment. We needed to change US dollars as part of the transaction.

We returned at 5pm with the bank receipt. We were told to leave our passports and return 1 hour later. At 6.10pm the same day, we walked away with our Uzbekistan our passports. Easy, pleasant, helpful and super efficient. 2 hours to get a visa, must be a record for us!

Russia – Kazakhstan, Veseloyarsk/Auyl 17 July 2017 (Australian Passports)

With Russia and Kazakhstan in the same Customs Union we hoped the benefits of this would be reflected in a shorter border crossing time. As we approached the border we saw a small office which sold Kazakhstan motor vehicle insurance. We stopped and obtained our one month insurance here, about 1,500 roubles each, although we paid half in Kazakhstan Tenge as we had depleted our roubles ahead of leaving. No credit card facilities were available. The Russian side of the border was closed, as we have seen in the region to control processing flow. We rode to the front of the line, which seemed acceptable given the heat and our exposure to it.

When a small group of vehicles was allowed through, we parked before the Customs area and went into the Immigration building on the left. We presented our passports, Russian Immigration document, received on entry to Russia and our vehicle registration (UK V5). As this was our second departure under our double entry visa, the visa was stamped. We returned to our motorcycles and received a short customs inspection, no paperwork to complete as we are staying in the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) namely Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, as at July 2017. Our Passenger Customs Declaration is valid until we leave the EACU.

We cross to the Kazakhstan side where a line of traffic and closed gate awaits us. We ride to the head of the queue and at the kiosk there we get a small piece of paper, which I call a ‘process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) used to track and confirm progress through Customs and Immigration and the immigration form which can be filled in while you wait. They were not too happy with us having bypassed the queue in the heat, but let us stay.

When the gate opens for half a dozen vehicles, you go through, park just before the Customs shed and walk briskly to secure your place in the queue. Immigration require passport, immigration form and the PCT. All are stamped and we understand that if the immigration form has two stamps placed on it, which ours did, that you do not have to register with the police for 30 days. Immigration completed, Customs inspection was cursory, our PCT’s signed, we headed to the exit gate handed the PCT’s in and were on our way. About one and a half hours all up which was an excellent border crossing time.

Mongolia – Russia, Tsogtsolbor/Tashanta 10 July 2017 (Australian Passports)

The border gate on the Mongolian side was closed, we assume a method of controlling the flow of traffic into the Customs/Immigration compound. We went to the small white gatehouse where we received a small piece of paper from the official inside, this is used as a ‘process confirmation tracker’ (PCT) that the required action has been completed during our exit process. (Note: one per vehicle is needed). We had heard of and saw the man, who wears a white shirt, who asks for ‘Mongolian Road Tax’ payment. He asks all visitors for this regardless of travel direction. We said we had it and then he switched to offering to change money. I do not think he has any legitimate status here, but he is in the official kiosk.

Rode through in the next batch of vehicles, parked as directed and pointed to the building on the left hand side. Upstairs to the Immigration and Customs processing. First step is to go to the furthest window on the left hand side just past the immigration booths. Here we produced passports and vehicle documents and received the first stamp on our PCT.

Then backtrack to the previous window, just past the door. Here passports and the original vehicle registration and the temporary import permit were taken. No interest was shown in our other two documents, Mongolian Customs Passenger Declaration and the oblong piece of paper with boxes for six stamps, we had three and I suspect we are now out of Mongolia in one system and still in Mongolia in the other. Our PCT now receives two additional stamps, firstly from the supervisor, then the official processing our paperwork. We can now proceed to join an immigration queue, when picking the shortest queue watch out for one person ahead of you holding multiple passports whose owners will join them at the counter.

While we are waiting for immigration a Customs officer approached us and checked our PCT for the correct stamps then added a signature. Passports processed go past the immigration kiosk, down some stairs and back to the bikes. Here the officer who had signed our PCT gave us the all clear. We rode to a gate straight ahead then handed in our PCT and we were on our way.

There is a section of dirt road to the border proper where the Russians have a closed gate. Opened for us and we are told to ride to the Customs/Immigration post with no stopping.

Arriving at the Russian Customs and Immigration Post you will join a queue. Only half a dozen vehicles are admitted at a time for processing. Trucks seem to have priority, probably due to a different processing procedure. Walk to the gate and give your passports to an immigration officer who will return them with a Russian Immigration card. This can be filled in while waiting.

When you make the move inside the compound you will be met by an official who wants to see passports and takes a note of the vehicle registration. They will direct you to park in one of two lanes. Park your motorcycle and proceed to join the queue in front of the first cabin/kiosk on the left. Here you will undertake passport control. When this has been successfully completed return to your motorcycle where an inspection by both immigration (blue uniforms) and customs officers (green uniforms) will take place. This may involve opening bags twice, once for each officer. We were reminded at this point about the ban on codeine based products in Russia for foreigners. This is based on legislation introduced in June 2016 which requires a doctor’s prescription and notarised Russian translation for use in Russia. I would check with the nearest Russian embassy/consulate to get the facts.

After we have completed Customs/Immigration baggage check, we proceed to move our motorcycles past the mobile baggage X-ray machine which is used to check all baggage from cars and vans, motorcycle panniers seem to get inspected in situ.

The process for the temporary vehicle import documentation takes place in the small cabin next to the immigration cabin where we were directed by helpful Customs staff. Here we provide our V5 (UK vehicle registration document) and passports. We complete a Passenger Customs Declaration, which was available in English, where the motorcycle is treated as one item of Accompanied luggage pieces in Section 2.1 and detailed in ‘3.3 Information on transport unit’ . At the same time, the customs officer prepared a separate document which we signed and Customs keep. The Passenger Customs Declaration is produced and the bar code stamp added. This is good for any of the countries in the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU), namely Russia, Kazakhstan, Belarus, Armenia and Kyrgyzstan, as at July 2017. We understand that this is linked to your passport by Customs/Immigration so departure from the EACU without your motorcycle may be problematic. With the Passenger Customs Declaration in hand, ride to the gate where there are two gatehouses. One each for Customs and Immigration we assume. Both require sight of your passport and Passenger Customs Declaration from to enter into their respective ledgers.

Russia – Mongolia, Kyakhta/Altanbulag 30 June 2017 (Australian Passports)

We arrived at 13:00 which coincided with staff changeover, the entry gates, showing bus/truck only are closed and we wait as a stream of officials come and go. When the gates reopen our passports were checked and we continue down the ramp towards the right hand side of the building where you will be directed to park in one of the three or four marked lanes.

You are asked to produce the Russian Temporary Import Permit and were asked to open our top boxes and show the contents. Another customs officer with sniffer dog wanted to see our collection of medicines. When this concluded we were directed into the building on our left. Go upstairs to the second floor, follow the signs with green arrows, car and ute/pickup/bakkie etc.

People place their passports and Russian Temporary Import Permit on the counter after others already there. As the documents get processed whoever is closest shuffles the paperwork forward until you reach the counter. When you have the exit stamp on the Russian Temporary Import Permit return to your motorcycle.

Ride to the point where there are inbound and outbound inspection lanes. I think originally for trucks but now used for all vehicles, normally there will be other vehicles parked ahead of you. There is a kiosk at end of the outbound lane, but this seems to only be for Mongolians and Russians. We were directed to the kiosk on inbound lane, where our passports and Russian Temporary Import Permit were reviewed and our passport stamped. Note you stand on a narrow ledge with trucks passing very close by, do not step back. Return to your motorcycle, ride down to a gate where your passport and Russian Temporary Import Permit will be checked again and you are out of Russia.

The Mongolian Immigration and Customs are straight ahead, we were given an immigration form by an officer and then had to park just after entry and return to a small kiosk that appears to be on the outbound lane. Here we presented our passports and vehicle registration documents. We received an oblong piece of paper with boxes for six stamps, three inbound, three outbound?, first box stamped. We completed our immigration forms while we waited. We then rode down a slight incline and parked in one of the undercover lanes.

We were directed into the building on the left through the doors on the left hand end when facing the building. Here we found two immigration booths where we waited for an immigration officer. We handed over our passports and completed immigration document. After processing we passed through an airport type scanner and were then directed to a door on the left next to the ATM and into room with three Customs Officers, one of whom spoke good English. Here we completed a Mongolian Customs Passenger Declaration and Mongolian Customs completed a three part document of which we were given one part. They placed a second stamp on the oblong piece of paper and then sent us to a desk back at immigration where a third stamp was applied to the oblong piece of paper.

While my paperwork was being completed, Anne went with a Customs officer to inspect the motorcycles and contents. An inspection of some bags was made. We then rode to an exit gate, paperwork and passports checked then around the corner on the left hand side is a brown building signed Insurance. We obtained our Mongolian motor insurance here. A quick and easy process. All done and into Mongolia.

Arriving Vladivostok Russia, 19 June 2017 (Australian Passports)

We had decided to use an agent, Yuri of Links-Ltd http://links-ltd.com , to facilitate the processing of the motorcycles through customs and arrange motorcycle insurance for Russia. This was based on positive reviews we found on the net and relevant forums plus the complexities of port clearances, in our experience, and our lack of Russian. We believe this was a good decision on our part given the process involved in a port, ease of working with Yuri and Svetlana and the cost. When we contacted Yuri he provided a list of copies of documents he required which were:

– Photocopy Passport Photo Page
– Photocopy of Russian visa
– Photo of VIN number
– Photo of Licence plate
– Copy of Vehicle registration document

Documents were scanned and forwarded to Yuri.

Before our arrival in Vladivostok we had been advised that we would not be able to access our motorcycles until the following day at the earliest, and, should there be a large number of vehicles being processed from the ferry, the motorcycles may not be available until two days after arrival. We were part of a group of five being handled by Links-Ltd. We are met by Svetlana who, while we are waiting for all our group to pass through customs and immigration, had us sign a number of Customs forms, all in Russian and sign all the copines of the documents we had provided by email. These are all needed for the temporary import permit.

Yuri took us the following morning to the Customs offices, which are not situated within the port complex but a short drive away. Parking is very limited so we stopped in a nearby street. Svetlana has already started processing the paperwork and our only input was to show our passports and have our identity confirmed. The processing still took over one hour for the five motorcycles and one car but we now had our temporary import permits. The most important feature of the Temporary Import document is the QR code: we photographed this and the document in case the original was damaged or lost.

We were asked by Yuri that, when we left Russia, we inform Links-Ltd of our departure. I understood the Customs officer who gives approval for the temporary import can be considered culpable if the motorcycle does not appear to have left Russia. This can happen with paperwork moving across the Customs Union boundaries, Kazakstan, Kyrgyzstan and Belarus.

We were then driven back to the port and Yuri took us to a building south of the passenger terminal where our passports were checked again, more computer data entry and then we can collect our motorcycles. They were stored in a multi story car park one block further south again. The reason to leave keys with the motorcycles, they are ridden off the ship.

Cost breakdown per motorbike as follows:

– Port charge: around USD 28 (1600 rubles)
– Link Ltd customs clearance fee: USD150
– Insurance policy (if you don’t have international insurance valid in Russia): around USD 40.
– Links-Ltd fee for insurance: USD15.00

Yuri was happy to take cash, we used USD, I think Yen and Euros would be acceptable, with one major proviso that the bills are unmarked, pencil pen etc, and undamaged. Russian banks will not change foreign currency that they consider ‘damaged’ or ‘marked’. without discounting the exchange rate. I had three of eight almost brand new USD 100 bills rejected by a Russian Bank on that basis. Yuri will be the final arbiter on that.

Departing Donghae, South Korea, 18 June 2017 (Australian Passports)

The DBS ferry for Vladivostok leaves at 14:00 on a Sunday and we have been advised to arrive at 09:00 to enable the motorbikes to clear customs and be placed on the ferry before departure. On entry into Danghue port via the Passenger Terminal entrance at 37°29′33.71″N 129°07′30.55″E (according to MapsMe) we are directed to the first building on the left around 50 metres inside the gate which is the “Cruise Ferry Tour, Logistics Support Centre” building. Staff there have a list of vehicles due to be shipped, in our case 12 motorcycles and two cars. No access to the motorbikes is allowed at sea, so you will need to remove everything you want on board and leave that in the waiting area inside. Note that you cannot take even the smallest of scissors on board as hand luggage. There appears be a staff member in the office at most times and an English speaking staff member was available.

We are provided with an invoice for shipping each motorcycle, we had Wendy Choi book the passage for us and the motorbikes. The cost is US$500 per motorcycle or the equivalent in Korean Won. We understand we can pay cash or credit card. We choose to pay US$ cash. No receipt was provided, but we had a copy of the invoice. At around 10:30 we are given directions to ride our motorcycles to the wharf which is behind the adjacent passenger terminal. We are stopped at a gate to exchange our passports for port visitor cards.

Our RORO ferry, the ‘Eastern Dream’ is berthed across from the passenger terminal. Our original two customs documents at Incheon Int. Airport, a white A4 and a yellow square card are now collected by Customs, and we wait to be called to take our motorcycles up to a baggage scanner. Some motorcycles appeared to have their VIN Numbers checked, but since all the other motorcycles were Korean registered this may be a ‘locals only’ process. Customs have two motorcycles being processed at one time. If you have non metallic detachable panniers they are removed and x-rayed, else your contents will need to be removed and scanned separately if your panniers are metal or non-detachable. Plastic baskets are provided for loose possessions.

When every bike and car has been checked and we had everything restored and secured on the motorbikes we wait for a gap in the cargo loading sequence to ride onto the ferry, park the motorbikes and leave the keys in the ignition before strapping down. If you do not leave the ignition key, and leave the steering lock on I do not know how they will remove the motorbike from the ship at Vladivostok, but remove it they will.

We have to then go in reverse through immigration and customs including the usual scanners. Exchange the wharf passes for our passports and then collect our hand luggage. The whole process took around three hours and the time is dependant on number of vehicles to be inspected and the loading sequence.

We still had to purchase our passenger tickets as we only had a reservation. This is a separate process to the motorcycle shipping. The counter in the passenger terminal did not open until after we had taken our motorbikes for customs clearance, so we were at the back of the queue.

Security check and bag X-ray follow. Leaving Korea your passport is not stamped. This change was introduced on 1 November 2016 according to the signs in the terminal. We then boarded the ship with hand luggage. The US$500 cost per motorbike was the only departure fee we incurred.

Arriving Incheon Airport (ICN) South Korea, 12-13 June 2017 (Australian Passports)

Based on information in various motorcycle travel forums, we decided to self clear the motorcycles, and use Ms Wendy Choi wendychoi2@gmail.com to facilitate the South Korean Customs temporary import insurance and motorcycle insurance for the duration of the vehicles’ stay in South Korea. Wendy Choi will provide copies of the documents to South Korean Customs ahead of your arrival along with the Airway Bill number which we provided to her. Note that each motorcycle needs to be on a separate Airway Bill, we have met a rider who had two motorcycles on one airway bill in 2013. They were not allowed to bring the motorcycles into Korea and had to transport them crated to Donghae for reexport.

We understand that the customs temporary import insurance removes the requirement for a refundable import bond, which is costed at 200% of the value of the motorcycle. This is refundable on the motorcycles departure from Korea, but can be problematic with foreign bank accounts, hence the preference for the former option by South Korean Customs.

The costs per motorcycle were as follows:

USD 160 – Temporary Import Insurance (based on engine size, ours was 798cc) (instead of charging 200% import duty and getting same back on exit)
USD 78 – Korean driving Insurance, (depends on driving dates, exchange rate) – takes approx 1 week to obtain
USD 100 – Wendy’s handling and documentation fee
KWN 94,000 – for two days’ storage and handling by Korean Air Cargo (KAC)

The first three items are paid directly to Wendy Choi, we used USD cash. The KAC fee is paid at their cashier’s office, but note KAC only accept Korean Won (KRW) cash.

Alternatively, one can have a broker organise the clearance and delivery off the airport island of the motorcycles, we did not look into this so cannot comment on process and cost.

Assuming that you arrive at Incheon Airport (ICN) Passenger Terminal, and your motorcycle has already arrived, you can undertake the first step on arrival with South Korean Customs. The relevant South Korean Customs office is located in the Passenger terminal, level 2 (Arrivals Level), room 7. This is open from 9am-6pm (09:00-18:00). We were told that if the motorbike arrives in the afternoon, we should go the following morning first thing, however, because our motorbikes arrived a day earlier than scheduled, we wanted to minimise the extra warehouse costs so we did the customs clearance at 4pm (16:00).

Location of Korean Customs on Level 2 ICN Terminal on Level 2


All you need for this stage is your Airway Bill number. The temporary import insurance and motorcycle insurance having already been provided. If you don’t speak Korean and no Customs officer there at the time speaks English, they will call an interpreter for you. A number of phone calls ensued and it took about two hours for the process to be completed. No charges were incurred.

At the end you will be given:

– a large yellow circular ‘sticker’ – you have to keep it with you while riding and hand it back upon leaving South Korea to make sure you don’t incur a fine.
– a completed and stamped temporary import/export declaration form.
This competes all paperwork and interaction with South Korean Customs at the Passenger Terminal. You will now need to go to the Cargo area to collect your motorcycle. There is a free shuttle bus to the cargo area, ask Customs where to catch it. We went by taxi from our hotel the next day. Note the Cargo area is quite extensive and you will need the actual location of your handling agent as well. Some walking may be involved if you use public transport.

Korean Air Services (KAS) were the handling agent used by our Vancouver shipper and are located in Building C. The actual office is located down the passageway, second door on the right after the stairwell. Here we learned that we needed to obtain the original Airway Bill (AWB) while we understood our motorcycles were flown here on Air Canada, in this case Korean Air Lines (KAL) had the original AWB and its about a 30 minute walk each way to the KAL cargo office. Luckily a KAS employee took us there and back in his car.

Green dots are KAC Buildings C & D. Purple dot is Korean Air Cargo.


Be aware that the South Korean Customs officer located in the KAS cargo office who needs to process the AWB and temporary import/export declaration form now only work out of the KAS cargo office in the mornings until noon. On our return with the original AWB he then processed the AWB and temporary Import/export declaration form.

We now went to pay for KAS terminal handling and warehouse fees. The KAS cashiers office is located in building D, the next set of offices to building C separated by a warehouse storage area. The KAS cashiers will only accept South Korean Won (KWN) cash. There is an ATM outside, but it would not accept my VISA card, which worked at other locations. Luckily we had just enough KWN cash to pay.

Cost of storage and handling was KWN 90,000 per motorcycle, double the expected cost as the motorcycles had arrived a day early. The advantage of having a broker do the work is that the motorcycles would have been cleared within 24 hours not 48. The KAS cashier will stamp the AWB and temporary Import/export declaration form, you will need to sign within the stamp, they then take the payment and stamp the forms again and return them to you. As this point get a copy made of the temporary Import/export declaration form. You will need the copy to get your motorcycle out of storage.

MAKE SURE YOU RETAIN THE ORIGINAL TEMPORARY IMPORT/EXPORT DECLARATION FORM !!! You will need it when leaving the country.

Staff in the warehouse will take the copy of the temporary Import/export declaration form and get your motorcycle. It will be brought, crated in our case to the front of the warehouse on a forklift. If you are planning to uncrate at the airport, have the driver take the crate to the large rubbish containers normally located at the end cargo terminal buildings. Here all the waste packaging material is dumped and sorted. There was a person working there who disposed of our packaging and may have tools to help open a wooden case. Ours was BMW cardboard.

Once finished ride your motorbike out of the port, remembering that you cannot use either expressway to take the motorcycle off the Airport island. Take the Yeongjong Ferry located 37°29′32.77″N 126°34′52.1″E. to get to the Korean Mainland

Shipping from Vancouver Airport (VYR) Canada, 9-11 June 2017 (EU Passports)

We first found out that it appears impossible to air freight motorcycles to or from the USA, so we decided on Vancouver to ship our motorcycles by air to Seoul, South Korea.

Greg Locher, Managing Director of Locher Evers International was the most responsive and thus our chosen shipper.

The original quote for 2 BMW F700GS motorcycles based on 540kgs and 5.52m3 (230x100x120cms) was: Can$2779

We were asked to provide the following documents:

– A pro-forma invoice listing:
– Shipper address – my name and home address
– Consignee address – my name with the address of the person we used in Seoul who organised the customs clearance, Wendy Choi (see Seoul arrival)
– Description of goods – ie motorcycle – value (nominate currency £,€,$ etc) and “Personal effects – no commercial value”
– Photocopy of our passports
– Photocopy of the motorcycle registrations – V5 in our case

We provided an indicative collection date range and we confirmed the actual collection date 10 days before collection.

Motorcycle preparation: battery needs to be disconnected and terminals taped. Any alarm/navigation system needs to be disabled. Motorcycles must have less than a quarter tank of fuel. No flammable liquids/cans/glues allowed in the luggage. Crucial in order to obtain the necessary Dangerous Goods Declaration (DGD).

Motorcycle crating: was done by BMW-Ducati Vancouver who use BMW shipping crates. They sent photos to the shipper in Vancouver. The final invoice was done after collection of the crated motorcycles, each weighing (342kgs/crated) and measuring (2.780m3) per motorcycle. The cost for the crating was Can$250 per motorcycle.

It is crucial to request 1 Airway Bill (AWB) per motorcycle, South Korean Customs will only clear motorcycles for entry into South Korea on their own AWB. We had heard that a couple had to leave their motorcycles crated for transfer to the Donghae-Vladivostok ferry in 2015 as their 2 bikes were on 1 AWB.

After collection, measuring and weighing by the shipper, Locher Evers International, we received AWBs, DGDs and Customs documents. All correspondence and contact was done via email.

Total cost: Can$ 1,574 per motorcycle (a little more than quoted without the additional weight of the crating) plus Can$250 for crating.

Our Contacts:

Justin Foley
Service Manager
High Road Vancouver BMW|Ducati
Justin.Foley@highroadcollection.com
highroadvancouver.com

Greg Locher
Managing Director
LOCHER EVERS INTERNATIONAL
Greg.Locher@LEI.ca
www.LEI.ca

USA – Canada – Abottsford US9 31 May 2017 (EU Passports)

As usual in USA/Canada border crossings you only process through the arrival side, in this case Canada. We used our EU passports as we had entered Canada originally on them. Licence plate was asked for and any US purchases remaining in Canada. We approached one at a time for processing. Many vehicles, cars, SUV’s & pickups being customs checked, we were waived through.

Canada – USA – Laurier US395 29 May 2017 (Australian Passports)

Returned to USA on our six month B1-2 visa. A quiet border crossing only processing on the USA side. Information asked for was the registration plate of the vehicles, which seems to be entered into some computer system. Took about five minutes to process. We were required to remove helmets for visual matching with the passport.

USA – Canada at EUREKA US93 23 May 2017 (EU Passports)

As usual in USA/Canada border crossings you only process through the arrival side, in this case Canada. We used our EU passports as we had entered Canada originally on them. Was asked when we planned to leave Canada, but no information was asked about our motorcycles. We were asked to approach one at a time for processing. 

Canada – USA at Niagara Falls 15 April 2017 (Australian Passports)

Rode across the bridge at Niagara Falls to the US side. At the vehicle checkpoint are passports are taken and sent by vacuum tube to the Customs and Immigration building. We were directed to park our motorcycles and go upstairs in the Customs and Immigration building. There is a lift that takes you up to a waiting area. Because we had visited Iran post 2011 we were required to obtain a US visa to enter the USA before we left Australia. With our B1-2 visa we are allowed to remain in the USA for up six months, not the usual 90 days under the visa waiver system. A benefit for long term traveller for the cost involved in getting the visa. Usual fingerprints, a stamp and white card, not the green visa waiver card. We are good to go and can use the same card for multiple entries for up to six months, but must remember to hand the white card back on our last departure from the USA.

Toronto Pearson International Airport (YYZ) Arrival, 14 April 2017.

As our motorcycles travelled around the same time as we did and we arrived late afternoon, we waited until the following day to collect our motorcycles. You travel to the Air Canada Cargo area by taxi, it is on the opposite side of the airport to the Passenger terminal.

Join the queue in the Air Canada Cargo office and wait for the next agent. Airway bill will be produced and then you need to go to Canadian Customs to obtain their clearance. This is about 10 minutes walk away. Note we both had to go as we had two motorcycles. Customs may decide they wish to inspect the motorcycles, in our case they did not. Returned to Air Canada Cargo and paid them CAN$110 for local processing. Motorcycles were delivered on pallets, removed and we loaded up and rode out.

London Heathrow Airport (LHR) Departure, 12 April 2017.

We booked directly with Air Canada for our flight tickets and shipping of the motorcycles under Air Canada’s ‘Fly your Bike’ program which has run in the summer for the last few years. Communication on the motorcycle shipping is done with the relevant Air Canada cargo office, in our case London Heathrow. We provided all information requested which included registration, VIN etc. Air Canada Cargo will provide an Airway Bill number, which is the key tracking number you will need at delivery and collection. Motorcycles are to be delivered, we rode ours, to Air Canada Cargo LHR located at Building 553 Shoreham Rd East, London Heathrow Airport, Hounslow, TW6 3RG off the Southern Perimeter Road. Air Canada Cargo will ask for the motorcycle to be delivered to them at least 24 hours before scheduled shipping date to ensure all Customs paperwork can be completed in time. This would be simplified in our case, we think. as the motorcycles were UK registered.

After completion of paperwork, credit cards were accepted for payment which is not always the case, do check beforehand. Motorcycles were ridden into the Cargo area and loaded panniers removed for X-ray. We were able to leave helmets in top boxes. Fuel tanks below 25%. Check the Air Canada Cargo website for terms and conditions. We left the motorcycles and stayed overnight near Heathrow for a following day departure to Canada.

Double entry Russian Visa in London April 2017 (Australian Passports)

The UK is now one of the four countries, the others being Denmark, Myanmar and Namibia, that requires a visit in person by the applicant to provide additional biometric data in the form of fingerprints. This came into force on 10 December 2014, after our first Russian visa application so this was new for us. A reminder that it always pays to check current visa requirements.

The visa application can be broken into three stages, firstly obtain or gather all required supporting documentation, secondly complete the Russian online visa application and finally go to the visa processing centre to submit the application.

Our first step was to obtain a visa support document, also known as a ‘letter of introduction’ which is a requirement for any Russian visa application. We chose the ‘Real Russia’ travel agency to provide this for £25. Which we did online at http://www.realrussia.co.uk. The completed document will be emailed to you in pdf format and will be in Russian. Note that as a motorcyclist you will need to select ‘Auto Tourist’ as your purpose of visit. This brings up the appropriate fields for entering motorcycle details. We subsequently had to change our dates of entry and Real Russia obliged at no cost. Very helpful. We also wrote a supporting letter to the Russian embassy outlining our travel plans and other requested information.

The Russian visa online application form is lengthy but not complex. It can be found at https://visa.kdmid.ru When they ask for the last 10 years’ travel history, if you are a frequent traveller luckily the maximum number of countries you can enter is 30. We left the employment history section blank and mentioned we were retired in the covering letter. We did find a slight variation in the Australian and UK Russian embassies supporting documentation requirements. Also if you decide to change the country where you will make your visa application, you will need to complete the visa application again. Country is a non changeable field.

Russian visa application processing is outsourced in the UK by M/S VFS Services (UK) Ltd http://www.ru.vsfglobal.co.uk (VFS). They have offices in a number of locations in the UK. We used London. The visa submission process is very efficient and even though we had covered the retirement and education questions in the supporting letter, VFS have a couple of one line form letters stating either one is retired or did not have a university education, just sign, simple. Finger printing process is similar to the USA or South African immigration. Our previous experiences applying for Russian visas meant we had no problems and our applications were accepted.

VFS have set up an environment to assist those who make errors in their application by providing four PC workstations and a printer to correct mistakes on the application form. Note that the PCs do not have full internet access, they are primarily for fixing incorrect application forms. All were occupied!

As we applied on Australian passports, without showing proof of residency in the UK, the process time is 14 working days. We had one passport back in 7 days, the second in 14 days.

Double entry Mongolian Visa in London April 2017 (Australian Passports)

Coming soon, contact us if you need information sooner.

Carnet de Passage June 2014

Given some of the countries we are travelling through would require an import deposit of up to 500% of the value of the bikes, a Carnet de Passage is a cheaper, not cheap, way for us to manage this. As we travel on Australian motorcycle licences, we needed to have a UK address for the motorbike registration when we purchased them and a bank account in the UK, both of which we were able to provide. The paperwork process was straight forward except for a double check of the engine numbers which are behind the lower crash bar mounting brackets! Yes this will require removal of the bolts, best take a photo before you have the brackets fitted (BMW F700GS).

We used the RAC in the UK, who as some people will be aware no longer offers Carnets. Because the bikes are only 12 months old, the cost of the Carnets equates to about the cost of one bike, based in our specific countries import duties, of which approx. 50% will be refunded upon our return of the bikes to the UK in 2015. Each country has a Carnet de Passage issuer, normally a national motoring body, who you would need to approach for their respective approach to this form of insurance.

– Anthony

Latvia – Russian Border at Zajesje E22 on 4 July 2014

This border was our first real border crossing, as within the EU one just passes a marker in the road. Here we will need to produce documents, complete paperwork and carry out any other activities deemed appropriate by the authorities in both sides. As forms and information requirements seem to change from time to time, and sometimes without warning I will not provide a detailed step by step guide to this crossing, only what seemed helpful to us in getting through the paperwork where appropriate. As we had indicated in our blog post of of 4 July 2014, we spent over seven hours at this crossing. The long processing time appeared to be caused by the larger number than usual of non Russian tourists crossing and the human resources available on the Russian side to complete the processing formalities. Things to watch out for include:

– Do have all your original paperwork with you, and keep checking requirements. We were asked by the Latvians for proof of our UK motorcycle insurance, which we had printed from the pdf document supplied by the insurance company, plus proof of the geographic coverage of the insurance, which I happened have on an iPad. We heard they asked for originals but the pdf of terms and conditions on the iPad seemed to suffice. Seemed strange as our coverage stopped at the border of the EU which we were about to leave.

– On the Latvian form given to you as you enter the customs and immigration, make sure you acquire both the customs and immigration stamps on this form as both are needed to exit Latvia to enter Russia.

– Russian forms for immigration and customs need to be filled in duplicate. Any mistakes and you have to start again, which slows to process for you and those behind. If in doubt, leave it blank and you will be directed what needs to go in and avoid having to start again.

– The Customs form, if you have a motor vehicle, will have a sticker added over the section which contains the vehicle details including a QR code, I assume to stop changes being made to the vehicle details.

– The process is has a number of defined steps, if you find yourself waiting, best to check as there may be an assumption that you know the process and should have moved to the next window.

– Keep calm, be polite and make sure you have enough water and food if the process is slow. Remember that the customs and immigration staff are only following their procedures and for visitors to western countries such as ours the process for visitors can be more arduous.

– If you are travelling to either Belarus or Kazakhstan after Russia, note that they are both in the Eurasian Customs Union with Russia and your customs declaration form received at the Russian will be needed to exit either of those countries.

While the time to cross was lengthy, the process was fairly straight forward, but if you miss a step or stamp you have to go back and complete the missed action.

Russian third party vehicle insurance is available at any petrol station across the border, expect at 11:30 at night and a small motel can be found opposite the first petrol station, not cheap for what is offered but again at 11:30 at night offers a bed and includes breakfast.

– Anthony

Russia – Kazakhstan. near Mashtakov. E131/M-32 14 July 2014

The Russian to Kazakhstan border crossing, coming from Mashtakov, was very simple and only took 2 hours. Both countries are members of the Eurasian Customs Union (EACU) and thus the customs form for the motorcycle provided on entry to Russia is good for Kazakhstan, as well. This means no customs form to fill in entering Kazakhstan. Since 1 July 2015 Kyrgyzstan is also a member of the EACU. Remember to keep this form until you leave the last country of the EACU which includes Armenia and Belarus.

Neither country maintains the section of road between the border posts so expect loose gravel, potholes and bumps at slow speeds. The entry into Kazakhstan was very easy. Luckily we knew the process from a most helpful forum on Caravanistan: http://www.caravanistan.com get one tiny piece of paper (5cm x 2cm, 2″ x 1″) from a helpful border guy in a tiny shack who filled in with our registration number for us, drive a few metres and park and go to another shack and quickly fill out the blank form we’d just been given by another guy while we’re queuing, make sure the first tiny piece of paper got stamped then, then go to yet another building for customs. Once again, another helpful guy came up to us which saved us going into that building. He asked what we had in each bag and top box, asked if we had any guns or knives, and waived us on, saying we didn’t have to go to the big building. Drive on again a few metres to one last little shack, hand over the tiny piece of paper duly stamped and here we were now in Kazakhstan. The hardest part was to hang onto all those pieces of paper, registration documents in the incredible wind!!!

Next we had to find where to get the vehicle insurance. We had heard to look out for unmarked looking buildings immediately after the border. And we found them on the right hand side a combination of shipping containers and portacabins. Simple process to get insurance, we paid in cash, cannot remember how much.

– Anne & Anthony

Kazakhstan-Kyrgyzstan border – July 23, 2014

We have just arrived in Bishkek, having ridden our motorcycles from Taraz & Merke in Kazakhstan through to Kayyngdy & Kara-Balta in Kyrgyzstan. Our map (Reise know how) didn’t show it as a border crossing and our gps wanted to take us on the new M39 road loop to Korday but we took a chance. It was the easiest and quickest border crossing!! The whole process took about 45 minutes.

It seems that the majority of the ‘traffic’ entering Kyrgyzstan at this border crossing is on foot – we saw one truck come in after us, that’s all. Not a single car.

On the Kazakhstan side, you need your Eurasian Customs Union document for temporary import of vehicles and other valuable goods (which we got when entering Russia and to which they have stuck a summary sticker and QRcode with all your information). They give you a customs exit form to complete with all the same information as you originally wrote when entering the Union. They stamp both and keep both forms and required sight of our passports and vehicle ownership documents.

We were then taken by a customs officer to the exit of the Kazakhstan immigration queue to leapfrog the queue, inside a building. It appears that this is the standard procedure as the truck driver did the same. Once done, customs went through one of our bags, asked if we carried a gun, and waived us away.

The Kyrgystan border is a few metres away. Once you have shown your passport (they look for the Kazak exit stamp – in our case, it confused them that we left Kazakhstan on an EU passport but wanted to come into Kyrgyzstan on Australian passports – that was for consistency across the Stans – but they decided to stamp our EU passports :-(. That process took less than 5 minutes and we were welcomed into kyrgyzstan. There was no paperwork or forms to fill in. Too easy.

– Anne

Kyrgyzstan vehicle insurance – July 24, 2014
We have just found out where to get vehicle insurance in Bishkek.

The insurance company is called KyrgyzInstrakk, located at 219. Chui Avenue, 2nd floor. The entrance is just down a little alley off Chui Avenue. A young gentleman called Arafat Ucenov, spoke enough English and was very helpful.

Interestingly, vehicle insurance is not common here. If/when there is an accident, both parties negotiate who is at fault, and this make take up several hours to come up with an agreement, and decide how much to pay.

– Anne

Bishkek visa photos – July 30th, 2014

ProFoto Centre is a great place to get your photos printed or any other kind of prints made. Great, central location right on Prospekt Chui, west of the fountains on Ala-Too Square. Phone number 664 993.

I had a passport photo on a usb stick which I needed the background made lighter and printed in 2×2 inches for an Indian visa. No problem. 2 colour photos resized, touched up and printed in 15 minutes for 72 com.

– Anne

Kyrgyzstan-Uzbekistan border at Shamalday Say – August 2nd, 2014

Rather than going to Osh, along the main road with all the trucks, we decided to try a small border post at Shamaldy Say which we couldn’t find any information on but was marked on our map. The sign for the border indicated right at the next junction, and suddenly there it is, a barrier about 10m from the tiny turn off. The Kyrgyzstan side consists of two small buildings, one on each side of the road and three people. Army, Immigration and Customs. Formalities are quick and we are done in 10 minutes, a single passport stamp required. About 1km away in the mid morning heat haze is the Uzbekistan building. We ride a mixture of dirt and tar, past various farms and crops, with no other vehicles in sight, to an imposing set of closed double gates that guard a large walled compound, with buildings, vehicle lanes, inspection trenches, gardens, flower beds and trees but no one in sight! No vehicles waiting ahead of us either which is unusual for a border crossing. A solitary guard approaches from some 100m away and after showing our passports, the gates open and we ride to the covered area and park the bikes amidst a large purpose built customs/immigration complex that is completely devoid of vehicles or people, whether border officials or travellers. We are guided by a border post official sitting on his chair to exactly where he wanted us: further forward, no a little to the right, a bit forward, you over here, stop right here. Perfect. He points o us to the building behind him.

Immigration first, we enter the customs and immigration building. The only other people crossing were a family of four from Uzbekistan. Staff outnumber us by 2 to 1. Immigration completed and on to customs where four people, two men and two women are sitting behind a row of desks facing us. Customs forms in English are produced and we complete them by hand and in duplicate, passed for checking: one wrong answer, we will have to start again. Could we have new forms please. No need. Phew! A tipex pen is produced and we are saved. The first sign of a less formal approach to us.

Registering our bikes takes some time as the customs officer had to understand the English language documents. “Anna, come here please, what is …” Anne goes into his office then goes out again. Then a little later “Anna, what is …” This goes on for a little while as Anne helps him complete his online form. When Anne tells him that she forgot to include her camera in the list of electronic goods to be declared, he said it wasn’t important and that we need not have listed all that we did as they were not new. As we wait for him to finish, we are offered tea by customs, we tell a soldier where his colleague has gone and he thanks us. We feel a warming towards us by the Uzbeks. Customs start a detailed inspection of our pannier contents as Anthony declared 500 tablets of medicine.

They all gather round as Anne passed him heart tablets, head tablets, stomach tablets to stop diorrhea, stomach tablets to help the other way, antibiotics for this, malaria tablets, etc he says “ok ok!!!” when his hands are full and he tells us we are good to go. We pack up, (one customs officer kept telling Anne that Anthony should be strapping the bags down as he has more muscles!) and get ready to leave but not before they all get the photos they want of themselves on the bikes, and with us!! Sadly they didn’t want Anne to take photos of them but even apologised about that. A few good laughs, hand shakes and we set off with friendly waves from the Uzbek officials.

All this took two hours: the time is taken by the process, which both sides have to follow. In the time we were there, only 4 other people crossed all on foot, no vehicles. Without increased staff or procedural changes, this border post could not handle greater numbers on either side of the border.

– Anthony & Anne

Uzbekistan to Turkmenistan border Shavat – Dasoguz. 20 August 2014

Having now found the correct crossing point, see blog entry dated 1 September, we arrive at the usual locked gates, but instead of being allowed in straight away as we were when entering Uzbekistan, we had to park our bikes at the roadside and then go into the immigration building, just inside the gates. The border complex is on a grand scale, similar to the one at our entry point of Shamalday Say. We needed to complete two copies of the the customs declaration, the same form that we completed on entry into Uzbekistan, although the officer indicated that he did not need as much detail as we had filled in on personal effects when we entered Uzbekistan. We understood that only new unused equipment and possessions should be recorded.

It was then pointed out, since we cannot read Cyrillic customs documents, we had not purchased vehicle insurance when we entered the country as one of our customs documents should have been annotated with that information. We can only assume this did not happen as we crossed at an obscure post, with probably little foreign traffic. While we continue the immigration process the local insurance agent is summoned to enable us to purchase insurance for a country we are leaving. The insurance costs about eight dollars each, but worth remembering to ask for it if it is not mentioned when entering Uzbekistan as we still had to do this on the exit, although probably not with as much diligence as if we were entering the country. I think we had to take out the now historic insurance purely to keep the paperwork in order.

A local woman used a cell phone to take a call while her passport was being processed, it was confiscated, she was still waiting for passport processing an hour later when we left Uzbekistan. There are warning signs not to use phones or cameras so take note.

No interest was shown in checking our declared currency matches the paperwork, just an interest in the name pound for UK £. Absolutely no interest in our carefully collected hotel receipts that all hotels provided without fail and with due process on each hotel’s part.

The customs process focused on all the medication I am carrying, but with explanations and my age they passed on and finished the process. A number of the senior staff came to look at the motorbikes and we then set off for Turkmenistan.

We cross a creek, reach a checkpoint where our passports are scrutinised, and then we are told to proceed down a road, past what looks like an old border crossing complex on to a larger and grander customs and immigration facility. Our initial welcome is from an English speaking customs officer who directs us to immigration for processing. This requires the payment of $US11 per head at a small bank window located between customs and immigration, a straightforward process.

We proceed past a metal detector, that is not used. Every crossing in the region seems to have one and a baggage ex ray machine, but we are never asked to use them. The customs form for our personal possessions’ similar to Uzbekistan, but only a single inward copy is required and a lot less detail than Uzbekistan, i.e no requirement to declare cash.

We now have to complete the vehicle transit paperwork. This includes a transit document, that has a map of Turkmenistan and on it is annotated our route and expected mileage to be travelled. We get motor insurance and make a fuel adjustment payment, in all US$63 each. Back to the bank to pay and get the appropriate ‘PAID’ stamp and a small US$3 charge each for processing. A number of stamps are applied to these documents by two people and entries made in large ledgers, that will probably be stored and never referred to again. I did note a stamp missing from one set of vehicle documentation, which was rectified, but could have been an issue on exiting Turkmenistan. If you have two vehicles for processing then you can compare the paperwork.

We now need to have the motorbikes inspected, drive them around to the vehicle inspection pits and parking carefully between them. We proceed to another office, where a customs officer completes four forms, two per motorbike and again enters our names, registration numbers etc in a large ledger. We get one copy of the document, duly signed and stamped. As we are now approaching six pm, interest in checking our bikes further wains. After a cursory inspection, we have to hand our passports and motorbike customs form to a young soldier as everyone else disappears along with our customs goods form, which had no details of goods entered on it anyway. The young soldier makes us ride about 10 meters for us to get our passports and motorbike customs form back. The first really officious action we have seen on border crossings. We retrieve our passports and ride out, the gate guard has gone home.

Ashgabat – Iran border crossing at Bajgiran. 23 August 2014

The Turkmenistan customs and immigration buildings are signposted up a road to the right as you reach the top. There are a number of lanes separated by trees, we are directed by a soldier to park the motorbikes on the left hand side of the building. The soldier takes us up to a closed bank office, so not sure if we are meant to pay anything. Then through a metal detector, which is working, but everyone ignores the resultant beeping as we go through. The first time we have seen one of these in operation. Our passports join a pile of Iranian passports at window of a deserted office, must be lunchtime. When the office is manned, other people try to push their passports through first. One woman is particularly persistent, gets her two passports and other document in first. There is something wrong with the paperwork and I think she hopes because she is holding everyone up they will let her through, no luck for her as she is taken the another window to plead her case. One needs to keep one’s place in the queue, else you will be at the back of the queue in no time. Processing takes two people and checking various computer screens.

Passport checked and stamped. We leave the building, we are approached by a customs officer who takes the large white customs vehicle form we got on entry to the country. Completed that easily enough. Next stop is to hand in the transit route map, then we go and show the route map which he keeps, move bikes in for inspection – he is happy to find we have followed the route and not at a different exit point. Go into customs office for goods. We have no document as the single copy was retained on entry. The customs officer fills out similar form to single one at entry. He completes with basic info and we sign. That easy. Next is the customs inspection team. They have one of those sets of tools you see in workshops used by mechanics that could dismantle a truck. The inspection team leader looks at our bikes for 2 seconds and waives us through, much to the disappointment of his underlings who looked keen with anticipation at dismantling our motorbikes. We set off through the single gate, with of course a last passport check then into Iran customs and immigration. The Turkmenistan side has been some of the simplest processing to date, both in time and amount of paperwork. What will Iran’s process be like?

For some reason, probably manpower, only the exit road from the Iranian side to the Turkmenistan side is open, so we need to negotiate the oncoming traffic, something we will realise all to soon is natural in Iran.

We hand our passports in at the police post at the gate, are told to find parking somewhere ahead for our bikes and proceed to the immigration and customs building. After all our quiet and deserted crossings we had encountered previously, this one is positively teeming with people travelling in both directions. No separation of inward or outward bound persons and goods which could make for confusion but seems to work out OK. About 20 people, mostly women, sit waiting. We work out that the police checkpoint brings passports from one direction and the people leaving Iran bring their passports from the other. All are deposited on a single immigration officers counter, who processes each batch while we all wait around. Names are called and somehow all the women seated know when theirs is called. I have to stand near the counter to make sure I can hear when my name is called, the locals seem to be able to decipher there names being called from 10 meters away. While people come and go, porters bring trolleys of goods, bags, carpets and other assorted goods, mostly coming into Turkmenistan.

Our names are called, passports stamped, then we go back to a small window where some additional data is collected. The guys working there interrupted their lunch on the floor for us. Onto Customs: as all our equipment is on the bike, we are passed through straight away and directed to the carnet office. Go out the Customs exit, turn right across the vehicle entrance/exit! between the garden and building! up the stairs and first on the left. Then back to customs, they had forgotten to give us a white from while passing through and the carnet process cannot begin without it. Carnet process is straight forward, except instead of filling the details of their location on the exit form, as suggested on the carnet document, they just use a stamp on the back of the exit form. Achieves the same result.

Then carnet officer then contacted a local insurance agent, who came up from the village of Bajgiran. We then bring the bikes through from the other side of the gate. No inspection required. This was the first border where we had no paperwork to complete and has been the simplest and easiest so far. White customs document is taken further down the hill at the exit gate into Bajgiran, following our vehicle insurance salesman.

Iran Bandar Abbas departure for Sharjah 17 September 2014

I hesitate as I start writing this section, we left the Bandar Abbas port of Shahid Bahonar with 9 pieces of paper in our possession from the motorbike departure process. Three days later a fellow traveller with motorbike left with none, go figure that one out! Your experience will likely be different again. I will attempt to provide an outline of the phases you will follow, but be sure that your experiences will differ in some way. What I can state with some certainty is that the process will take a good portion of the day as many of the processes are manual, but I suspect that you will get the ferry even if roadblocks appear in your path. The documents are primarily in Farsi so unless you read the language or have a translator, you will not understand their meaning.

You will need to deal primarily with Customs, as well as the Port Authorities and the Shipping Company during the day. Unlike an overland border crossing with the Carnet de Passage, which is relatively simple here you will find a defined stream of paper providing a nexus linking all three organisations, with multiple possible paths. The best analogy I can think of, is that my comments are waypoints on your GPS, the route you take between waypoints may vary.

The customs building is on the second building on the left as you enter the port gate. You can save a little time by getting photocopies of picture page of passports, Iranian visas and the outside and inside covers and the current country’s page of the carnet de passage before you arrive. Alternately to the right of the customs building entrance is a small photocopying office. Payment is required. At this office you can also buy the orange cardboard folder that will hold your documents, customs do not provide these.

The person dealing with Carnets for us was situated straight ahead as you enter the customs building and to the left of the central pillar. They started work between 08:30 and 09:00. While the port is not as busy as the main shipping port, you need to keep your place in any queue as other locals may try to expedite their own work. We found the staff would deal with people in sequence, but it is best to wait at the counter rather than sit, wait to be called and forgotten as the day progresses.

At some stage you will be asked to go to the port authorities for a document. We were told to take the bikes. We move them all of 50 meters for no real reason, just leave them outside the customs building. Port authorities building is behind the customs building, exit the customs building turn left go to tend of the building and left again between the customs building and the immigration building where you will depart from. Enter the port authority building and go to the counters on the right to get the appropriate document to take back customs.

Two handwritten letters in Farsi are written by the carnet customs officer: they are taken for signing by a senior customs officer. When this is done they are sent for typing, the typing section will not type without a signature as we found out. This was eventually resolved and six copies of the letters, in two different formats are typed and taken back to the original carnet customs officer for checking.

Document distribution is a precise process: the appropriate recipients on the distribution list are carefully marked by typing section. First copy is taken by another desk in the customs hall, but they take our copy, so much for distribution lists. A return to the port authorities to give them their copy is now needed to obtain two A4 forms, one red one yellow. Finally in the same building we found a senior customs officer who completed the carnet documentation and scrutinised the port authority paperwork. Everything was ok.

Now you need permission to enter the docks to deliver the bikes to the ship loading area, so yes you guessed it back to the customs building, but enter the first office as you round the corner from the road between customs and immigration. Here your passport will be exchanged for a port pass. Ride the bikes in to the dock area, after passing the security check, go straight ahead to the second large shed on the left past the first open sided shed. Not onto the boat as we did to be turfed off. A small portable cabin outside the the second shed on the left processes more paperwork, then a trip into the shed and upstairs will relieve you of the yellow copy from the port authorities. You should then park the bikes next to the port authority building opposite the ramp to the ship. The ship should be visible from the second shed. Bike loading will take place last after you have cleared immigration. Return out through the port gate, retrieve your passports and then wait for immigration to open a couple of hours before the boats departure. Good luck.

– Anthony

Sharjah arrival from Bandar Abbas 18 September 2014

When the ship has docked in Sharjah you will be directed to the vehicle deck to take your bikes ashore. Timing will depend on the other vehicles and the location of your bikes on the cargo deck. You will be met by the shipping company agent who has a list he will give with the steps you need to undertake to clear the bikes which is very helpful. His portacabin office is a short distance from where the boat normally docks. You will need to pay cash for all the port, customs and shipping services in Dirhams. Note if the time it takes to complete the process goes past 12:30 you will be charged overtime fees.

First stop is immigration which you will either follow a police car or the foot passenger bus on your bikes as you will need to return to the shipping agents office after completing immigration facilities. Take note of the roundabout near the port exit as you will return here later. Immigration is straightforward and we were taken to the front of the queue. Back to the Agents portacabin handling fees are then playable including the cost of delivering the bikes. Hang on didn’t you just do that yourself?

Next step after receiving the appropriate paperwork from the shipping agent is to go to the Customs building which is situated just outside the Port entrance on the right. Back to the roundabout near immigration and park to the left of Customs/ Port Entrance kiosk that splits the inbound and outbound lanes to the port. Note a new building marked ‘Customs’ where you park. This was not open when we passed through but probably is now – it may have a function in the process when you read this, you will need to check. Initial paperwork received and yes payment made will see you back at the Customs/Port Entrance kiosk. They will check and confirm the serial numbers etc, then back to the Customs building and more paperwork, the carnet is stamped.

Ride the bikes back to the small cabin next to Shed 6 for your port exit papers, back to the Customs/Port Entrance kiosk and on your way. Took us about four hours all up and yes we got hit with overtime.

– Anthony

UAE Dubai to Delhi : motorcycle airfreight, 30 September 2014.

We had decided to go with self managed shipping and use Emirates SkyCargo to ship the motorbikes by air to Delhi. This would allow us to apply for Myanmar visas in Delhi while we waited for the motorbikes to be delivered. We had negotiated a price for the transport of two bikes in crates with Emirates. Note that this cost will be based on either weight or volumetric space converted to weight whichever is larger. In our case the volumetric weight was over twice the actual weight, so do not get too excited when they quote a price per kilos and you multiply it by the bikes weight, the volume calculation will come into play and you will be up for, in our experience, at least twice the weight of your bike. Note that we shipped all the panniers, spare tyre and motorcycle clothing which along with the crate which added about 100kg each to the shipping weight.

We arranged with BMW AMC in Dubai to pack the motorbikes in two used BMW motorcycle delivery crates. This cost us 500 dirhams per bike for packing. Noel and his team in the service department did a great job. He even cut hatches for the airport officials to see the motorbike serial numbers without opening the crate completely. Noel also arranged for a vehicle recovery truck to deliver the crates to Emirates SkyCargo which we paid for separately in cash.

Entry permits are required to get to the Emirates SkyCargo main building at Dubai (DXB) airport, note: if your shipment is on a freighter flight it will likely depart from Dubai World Central (DWC) airport. Do check this. We had been told we needed dangerous goods clearance. This can be arranged on the day as Emirates have the contact numbers of various companies at the airport in an adjacent building that do the work. The process took about an hour to complete and you pay cash. I forget the amount but not too expensive.

Depending on the crate size, I believe anything over 2.2 meters in length cannot be accepted at the Emirates SkyCargo main building, you may need as we did, take the motorbikes to the old cargo building which you would have passed on the same side as the Emirates SkyCargo building when you came in. In our case it was not only oversize but too big for the X-ray machine which required some opening up of the crates to check the cargo by the police. The police approval is needed before Emirates can accept the cargo, although by this time the crates have now disappeared from our view. Customs may also want to conduct an inspection, and this is where using an agent, for some cost, may be beneficial. In our case the people carrying out the dangerous good inspection had worked free of charge to help us through some of the steps to obtain the piece of paper needed by Emirates knowing how time consuming they were. A big thank you to them.

With the dangerous goods paperwork and the paper accepting the bikes for shipping after the inspections, we pay Emirates, get our receipts and then undertake the Carnet process to leaving in the Emirates building. With the help of the Emirates business cargo staff this is quickly done. That’s it, not cheap to ship by air, but you know when it will arrive if time is a key factor as it was in our case.

– Anthony

Delhi Customs India : 5 to 8 October 2014.

Having spent four days at the New Customs House (Bonds Section) near Delhi Airport (DEL) there must be easier alternatives to Delhi airport as an import destination for motorbikes into India under a Carnet de Passage (Carnet), by road for instance.

We took four working days to process the paperwork, due primarily to the incomplete information we had gathered prior to our arrival. This included a document http://delhicustoms.gov.in/Export2012/PublicNoticNo_33_2012.pdf , dated 2012, found online, provided by Delhi Customs covering requirements for temporary importation of motor vehicles using a Carnet. We had six of the seven requirements that Customs (Bond Section) stated they needed on our arrival.
They were:

1. Original Carnet de Passage
2. Valid visa for India
3. Copy of Passport
4. Copy of valid International drivers licence
5. Copy of Air Way Bill(AWB)/Bill of Lading (Delivery Order)
6. Authorisation letter in favour of customs house agent (CHA) (except self clearance)

The missing additional requirement was a letter from the local Indian Automobile Association stating they have no objections to the importation of our vehicles and the Indian Automobile Association will stand guarantor for our UK carnets. We had even been provided with letter from the RAC, the Carnet issuing authority in the UK, to Indian customs requesting their assistance in the import process, so I presume this was a known issue which we did not understand fully.

Over the course of the day I had meetings with the Superintendent of Bonds and the Deputy Commissioner (Bonds) over this requirement which was not in their online documentation. Following calls to the Commissioner of Customs and the Ministry we were told we need the local motoring association guarantee document because Customs say they cannot deal with organisations outside India, so they need a guarantor in the country, hence the requirement. They agreed that their online information needed to be amended.

A trip across town to the Automobile Association of Upper India (AAUI), we found out that, for a significant fee and a minimum of two days of our time, the AAUI would contact the issuer of the Carnet to secure a letter from the issuer of the Carnet confirming they will honour the Carnet (which is what the Carnet is anyway!). They provided a letter for us for Customs the following day only after a call from one of our Embassies to push the process along on our behalf. We are able to return to Delhi Airport Customs and continue the process.

When all the paperwork is completed, every signature and stamp scrutinised many times we get our bikes out. A couple of hours removing then disposing of the crates, reassemble the motorbikes and we ride out into the New Delhi night.

– Anthony

India – Myanmar (Burma) Moreh / Nampolong 30 Oct 2014

The immigration office is in town and not at the border gate where a barrier and guard hut is situated. As were were travelling in a group of motorcycles for our trip through Myanmar (Burma) one kind person in the group, Joe, volunteered to take all our passports back for processing to save taking all the motorbikes back. Processing was slow as each passport had to be photocopied and each copy inspected to ensure it was not too light or dark. A time consuming process.

Customs processing of the Carnet is in a white building on the right side a short distance beyond the barrier, Carnets stamped with little formality and we travelled on.

Myanmar (Burma) side, all paperwork is undertaken by our tour guide, so cannot comment on the process. Seemed very easy, not sure if by now single bike entries are possible, I hope so.

Myanmar (Burma) – Thailand. Maywaddy / Mae Sot. 9 Oct 2014

Our Myanmar paperwork was handled by our guide and our tourist ministry official. We cannot provide any more detail, but I am sure that independent motorcycle travel to Myanmar is not far off if it has not already happened.

I am writing this some 6 months later, things are a little hazy. Entry into Thailand requires the usual passport formalities, but note that immigration start the paperwork for the temporary importation of the motorcycle. The carnet does not apply here. This will require photocopies which can be obtained past the immigration and customs in a business office on the ground floor of a building on the left hand side of the road about 150 meters away. After payment to immigration officers, you will progress to customs for further temporary vehicle import paperwork. The value of your motorbike recorded seems arbitrary.

Thailand – Laos at Thungchang / Namngeun. 22 November 2014

One of the most straight forward border crossing processes, we managed both sides in about one hour for all the paperwork. This must be a record for us. First port of call is Thai Customs if you have a vehicle. Thai Customs are situated at farthest end of the last building on the right, before the shops at the top of the hill before the descent to the Thai border gate. The building sign refers to it as a Government building, not specifically customs. If you miss it just ride to the bottom of the hill, past the exit barrier as we did and walk back. The customs officials want the green temporary import copy you should have in your possession. Sign in the appropriate place and you are done. Immigration will require the other white document you were issued with on entry into Thailand with your vehicle. They stamp the passport and you are on your way to the Laos side. Do remember to change to driving on the right.

A barrier will greet you as you arrive at the Laos Customs and Immigration Post. Your passports will be inspected and then you need to go to the second building on the right, first door. Here you will purchase your visa on arrival. You will need a photo for this application. Cost of most countries is US $30 or 1,200 Thai Baht. You then need to complete entry forms, similar to those into Thailand and you are stamped into Laos. Customs is back in the first building. Your vehicle registration document, not a carnet, is needed along with your passport. A customs temporary import document is produced and costs 200 Thai Baht or approx US $5. Show these documents at the second barrier on the way out and you are into Laos.

-Anthony

Laos – Thailand at Vientiane / Nong Kai 30 November 2014

The departure from Laos is quite straightforward. We are leaving on a Sunday so there is significant weekend traffic of locals travelling to Thailand for a day out. The border crossing is a few kilometres out of town and easy half hour drive from Vientiane. We ride passed queues of cars and find parking near the covered area where cars are waiting to pass through customs and immigration procedures. The process is fairly straightforward and involves queuing at windows along with locals, start at the window furthest from the border and in approx. 10 minutes in our case and a small receipted payment for weekend working, which the locals also seemed to pay, we are on our way. The bridge is a combined road / rail so you may need to wait for the odd train to travel over.

The Thai side is well organised, but does require the movement between a number of small offices dotted between the roadways where the cars pass. We parked in the VIP area, but had no problems with this. The sequence of offices was by number was window 7a, then 6a and finally 4d. Payment was a couple of hundred Baht as part of the process. I have to confess that the passage of time since we crossed has dimmed my recollection of the cost, other details are correct as I noted them down at the time.

– Anthony

Thailand – Malaysia Khuan Don / Wang Kelian 13 December 2014

Simple departure process from Thailand, you will need to have the copy of the motorcycle import paper, carnets are not used in Thailand, which appear to be a personal guarantee you give for payment of import duty should your motorbike remain in Thailand. This document will have received and paid for on entry to Thailand. The border crossing is small and there is a single office for this process.

Malaysia uses the carnet system and the process was simple. We completed passport entry, then moved the bikes to the other end of the building where customs are located. We waited with the bikes while the customs officer processed the carnets. Simple and on our way.

Entry and exit from Singapore – Dec 2014/Jan 2015

As we used an agent to ship the motorbikes from Singapore to Santiago and did not travel with the motorbikes on this part of journey I can offer not more than the carnet was used for entry (on a truck) and exit (on an aircraft). We were kept informed of the status and the helpful agent did email copies of the completed carnet pages to us. Carnet documents were also couriered to us back in Brisbane to take to Santiago with us if required.

Chile – Peru Arica / Tacna 27 March 2015

The border is only 20 minutes drive from Arica. Follow the vehicle signs and park, space permitting, in the parking area in front of the right hand set of windows which are for car/motorbike passengers to process immigration documents. As part of the border processing on both sides you need four copies of the ‘RELACION DEL VEHICULO Y PASSAJEROD’ (RVP) each of the copies is used in sequence on both the Chilean and Peruvian sides of the border as a method of ensuring that you have not missed a stage at either customs or immigration. We noticed that prior to arriving at the border, some locals seemed to have typed copies already completed. Maybe you can get this Arica? You can buy the RVP at the border for 1,000 chile pesos or USD $2. You go to the right of the immigration windows cross the road up the stairs into the cafe area which runs across the width of the customs and immigration building. Go to the cafe cashier and pay for your carbon copy set of the RVP . Complete the RVP using information in your white ‘SALASA Y ADMISION TEMPORAL DE VEHICULOS’ (SATV) document provided for your vehicle on entry to Chile. Then take it back to the immigration officer at the first set of windows. He will take the top RVP copy and stamp the next copy and process your passport. Take the remaining RVP copies and the SATV document to the customs windows just beyond the immigration windows. Here the SATV will be taken as will the top copy of the RVP, the next copy of the RVP is stamped to show you have completed Chilean customs. Take the remaining two RVP copies and leave Chile.

A short drive brings you to the Peruvian side, park in the car park then go into immigration office, complete the Peruvian entry form and get that and your passport processed, immigration will stamp the next RVP copy. Then ride past the kiosks up to the customs inspection officer who will undertake a food check. Continue on to the car park beyond the building, park there and go to the first office on the right of the building for vehicle customs. Take your two RVP copies and your vehicle registration documents, in our case a V5 for the UK. You will be asked the vehicle’s value and sign a form for duty payment if the vehicle remains in Peru, similar to Chile. Your last RVP copy is stamped and then handed in at the exit gate as you leave the administration area.

Getting Seguro Obligatorio Automóviles Transito (SOAT) insurance is easy and compulsory, about 500 meters from the exit from Peruvian customs and immigration on the right is a new, we think, office for La Positiva. It took us about 10 minutes to obtain one month’s insurance for both motorcycles about US$92. It may be cheaper for longer periods or at other locations but the queue of Chilean vehicles mean that locals use it as well and it is done. The whole border crossing and insurance process took about two and a half hours. It really depends on the number of people crossing at the time and their requirements. We had a pretty quick crossing and I even adjusted my motorcycle chain at one point.

This border crossing has become fairly easy to cross just follow the processes and we found the officials on both sides were very helpful. Hope this is useful.

– Anthony

Peru – Ecuador Tumbes / Huaquillas (Aguas Verdes) 15 April 2015

The Peru-Ecuador border has two identical building complexes on either side which carry out the entry/exit procedures depending on your direction of travel, but we have met people using either side! Coming from the Peruvian side, travel past the Peruvian complex and continue on to the Ecuadorian side. Drive past the first building and park on the left hand side just before the cafes opposite the second building in the complex. Do cross at the pedestrian crossings to avoid the shrill whistle from the officious officer on duty.

Start by returning to the first building you passed on the right on the way in, where you will find an Peruvian customs officer who will process the paperwork you received on entry to Peru for your vehicle. He will leave you with half the temporary import permit, proving you have completed this process. Walk back past the second building and at the end of the third building you will find Peruvian and Ecuadorian immigration side by side. Very convenient and if the queues are short a quick process.

For the temporary import into Ecuador return down the side of the second building to the first door. Here you will find the Ecuador customs import process. The usual passport and vehicle registration documents are required. You will also need to bring your vehicle over to the office in the latter stages of the process to be photographed. You will receive a temporary import document. We enquired about the SOAT, but were advised that this was not needed. We understand from another source that this will change in June/July 2015 when some administrative issues for visitors have been resolved.

– Anthony

Ecuador – Columbia.  Rumichaca.  16 April 2015

When entering the border crossing area, there is a taxi park on the right, we parked at the side of the road leading towards the Columbian border post just past the taxi park beyond the food stalls. You can head up the road a short way and loop back back to the white building on the left as you passed the taxi park. This Ecuadorian building contains immigration and customs offices.

Immigration office which is situated in the centre of the Ecuadorian building handles both ingoing and outgoing processing, which can lead to long delays. Most people seem to go in the side of the building facing Columbia and the ‘door keeper’ may try to give you a Ecuadorian entry form to fill out, you do not need one. When you get to the counter, the processing is fairly quick. The office for handling the temporary vehicle imports/exports is on the side of the building facing Columbia opposite the car parking. There are three windows, not all are manned. Here your Ecuadorian Temporary Import permit will be processed and cancelled.

As you ride the 100 meters or so towards Columbia, there is a car park directly in front of the immigration building. Park here, where you have the opportunity to change money with the money changers. Immigration is up the stairs at the end of car park, go to the windows on the left. Only your passport is needed.

In order prepare for the Columbian temporary importation permit, you will need photocopies of your passport information page, Columbian stamp in your passport, driving license and the registration document for bikes. This can be done at small office/hotel complex opposite the car park behind the line of trucks. The photocopy office is just inside the entrance of a restaurant. Quick and easy.
Take your copies to the Customs office, which is in the building beyond the immigration building. When the paperwork is complete, you will need to sign, then the customs officer want to take a print of your vehicle identification number (VIN). This is done using carbon paper and sticky clear tape. Make sure you have a raised VIN or you will need a photo. SOAT insurance should be available at a small office a couple of hundred meters up the road on the left. Their computer was down when we came through, so we had to buy our SOAT insurance in Ipiales in a supermarket. This was noted by the customs officer on our temporary import form, presumably in case we got stopped by police on the road and couldn’t produce our mandatory SOAT.

– Anthony

Airfreight from Columbia to Panama   May 2015

We had decided to airfreight after considering the options and contacted Dora Cardona at Master Logistic. Dora had shipped our friend Kristjan’s motorbike over the same route a few days earlier.

Since we were in Bogota to expedite the shipping process, we provided electronic copies of our Passports, Vehicle Registration Documents, Driving Licences and Columbian Temporary Vehicle Import documents in advance of our arrival in Medellin. This allowed all our shipping paperwork to be prepared by Master Logistic in advance.

The office GPS location is 06.10’46.48″N 75.26’09.79″W or 6.179579 – 75.436053 The office is situated on the fourth floor, room 403, in a building inside a gated complex of freight and shipping offices with the entrance just off the main road from the airport to Medellin. The entrance is right next to the Terpel petrol station.

Master Logistic is a family run business, Dora’s son Julian is the English speaker in the office.

As in much of Columbia, as we have found, the business deals in cash only. When you have a price you will need to have the appropriate amount of dollars or pesos to pay after the bikes have been processed for shipping and are at the warehouse. You are then given a copy of the Airway Bill and a receipt for the cash.

We found Dora, despite our lack of Spanish, straightforward to deal with and are happy with the results. We didn’t always get responses to our emails after our initial communication and her receiving all the documentation she requested. A little disconcerting, but she had everything organised for us as per her initial email.

Her contact details: ventas@mastersas.com.co
Dora Cardona
Master Logistic
Centro Ciudad Karga Fase 1,
Oficina 403.
Phone: +57 315 229 2465

Had we had more time, we would have liked to have used Luis Ernesto La Rota from Enlace Caribe and sent our bikes by container which would have been cheaper. He was extremely responsive, helpful and spoke English.

His contact details: gerencia@enlacecaribe.com
Luis Ernesto La Rota R.
Enlace Caribe Ltda.
Manga, Calle 28  No. 26-47, Of. 103
Cartagena, Colombia
Ph +57 (5) 660 8960
Mob + 57 315 758 5872
http://www.enlacecaribe.com

We stayed at the El Hangar hostal which is very conveniently located between Dora’s office and the airport. It is behind the Zeuss petrol station.

Panama City Tocumen Airport Cargo –  bike release – 11th  May 2015

Despite my limited Spanish, I had gathered there had been a mix up with our shipping, not realising that Anthony and my bikes were part of the same order. French passports always show the maiden name, and mine is nothing like “Speed”. So we are married Dora asked us at one point? I asked Dora both at her office and by email if there were any problems, but she refused to answer – all is ok. Don’t worry. Even though I had to re-sign one set of documents Dora had prepared, then after delivering the bikes to the cargo area and getting our AirwayBill, Dora’s office got us both to re-sign yet another set of documents.

So when we went to the airline cargo area with our AirwayBill to collect our bikes, I find out they have been shipped with another airline. Maybe Dora had to organise with another airline so that both bikes traveled together?? So I am at the wrong place. I am shown to the Girag office. There are 2 people behind a glass window and I am told to wait a moment. 10′ later, a young man arrives with a huge pile of AirwayBills – he’s handed a notebook by the lady who doesn’t even look up and he sits down and enters each AWB number. I look over his list, mine isn’t there yet. After about 30′, the guy who told me to wait looks through the remaining AWB to be entered. Mine is the last one in the pile.

I hand over my passport which gets photocopied and pay US$35, get a receipt, the original AWB documents with one stamp and signature. Now I must collect 3 more sets of stamps and signatures and return. I go over to a set of 3 portacabins just before the roundabout which house the Aduana, Mida and AUSPA. Each one stamps the AWB, without checking or asking anything, except noticing the previous signature and stamp is there. So I move from one office to the next.

Back to the airline office for a final stamp, a photocopy of the now fully stamped AWB and a new small piece of paper. I pay US$0.25 for the photocopy and am free to go to the warehouse next door and collect the bikes.

There I have to hand over my passport and the new piece of paper. The bikes are delivered eventually and that’s it.  All very painless and quick.

To get the Temporary Import document which is apparently requested at the Costa Rica border (or you can get detained for 3 days by the Panamanian police for failing to have the required paperwork as happened to a friend of ours), go to a small office to the right of the set of Aduana/Mida and AUSPA (which is in fact the first building on your right as you enter the cargo area, under a red corrugated roof over the road). Ask for an “Autoridad Nacional de Aduanas – Formulario de Control Vehicular – Vehiculo Extranjero – Entrada/Salida. You will be asked for your passport and your motorcycle documents. This final process took longer than should have for 2 reasons: impossible to find France in the computer list of countries (we came across Indigenous Australian, Baltic German and Boer!). France was under Ciudadano Frances (French Citizen). Then I noticed that Anthony’s form was incorrect as it had our entry post as Paso Canoas (the Costa Rican border) instead of Tocumen Airport. The form could not be updated online but re-entered from scratch. That took another 20′.

The complete process took us 4 hours, including reconnecting the batteries and pumping up the tyres.

See precious post for details on Dora’s shipping company.

– Anne

Panama – Costa Rica. Paso Canoas. 15 May 2015

We had heard the border crossing was very slow with many large trucks and coaches who make the journey overnight to arrive by 06:00 to wait for the official opening at 07:00. We still prefer to cross at the start of the day so we arrived around 07:00.

The Panamanian Immigration/Customs is situated in an island building between two, three lane roadways, all covered by a large galvanised roof. Inbound lanes on the left and outbound lanes on the right. Pull up behind any vehicle the outbound lanes on the right. The building appears divided into three pods, first contains immigration, the second admin offices and the last houses ‘Aduanas’ or Customs.

We were approached by a ‘facilitator’ or ‘fixer’ and decided to use him. It worked for us as we completed all the Panamanian processing in about 15 minutes. It could have been a lot longer without his assistance.

The ‘facilitator’ takes us to the furthest building, marked ‘Aduanas’, asks us for our (vehicle temporary import) document, leans down into the little window opening and calls the 3 women sitting at back of their office. One gets up – not sure she wants to assist, but she stamps one of the forms on the back. He has to ask her to stamp the 2nd one too which she does reluctantly. Now this when a facilitator comes in very handy: he then took the forms and found the man who was authorised to sign the stamps!! He was busy with a truck outside. He too seemed reluctant to assist but he signed both. First step done.

Next immigration, which is in the first building on the left when we arrived. Not the long line of travellers who have come off one of the coaches, but the window to the far left as you walk back left marked ‘solo transportitas’. Our facilitator tells us to hand the temporary vehicle import document and our passports. A photograph is taken and we an exit stamp in our passport and get both documents back.

We return to the Aduana window where our temporary vehicle stamp in our passport is stamped too and cancelled and the temporary vehicle import document is taken.

The next challenge is to get past the parked vehicles, three lanes are blocked with buses and trucks. One of the buses reverses to help make space for us to pass. We are through in exactly 27′ total!!

It is a short distance to the Costa Rica border building. This is situated on the right just past the Truck/Bus disinfectant spray facility. We park the motorbikes where the drinks sellers are, just past the ‘No Parking’ signs. We saw no facilitators, but had no problem in being directed to where we needed to be by locals.

Immigration windows are on the left hand side of the building as you face it from the road. We used the farthest window, number 4. The immigration form is obtained from the immigration windows. It seems OK to go to the head of the queue to get the form and complete as you queue.

Next step, before going to customs, you need to obtain vehicle insurance. This is obtained from the insurance office which is a couple of paces from the immigration office. You will need your vehicle registration and passport. Cost is US$25.00 per bike for the time we wanted, three weeks.
Next step is to obtain photocopies of your passport, entry stamp, vehicle registration document and insurance. This is done directly across the road at a small business.

Take all the copies to the Aduanas office, which is next door to the Insurance office on the right as you face the insurance office. Here the temporary vehicle import permit will be issued. We took about an hour to complete the whole immigration, insurance and customs process, but it was not too busy.

– Anthony

Central American Observations

It is interesting that in all our travels on this trip, the Central American countries are the only places we have encountered ‘fixers’ or facilitators. In Central Asia, locals or officials would always point out the next place to go in the process, similarly in South America. In Central America however it has become a business which, given the amount of queuing and running around that can take place, they can be useful to expedite the process. We used them on two of the five border crossings, the others we took care of ourselves.

We have deduced from the number of land crossings we have made that the paperwork process, in our experience should, but probably will not, go along these lines:

Country Exit – cancel ‘Vehicle Temporary Import Permit’, process Passport for exit ……..
Country Entry – complete immigration and customs form, process Passport, obtain Vehicle Insurance, obtain ‘Vehicle Temporary Import Permit’

Photocopies are the order of the day at most borders, some you can do in advance such as Passport, Vehicle Registration and Driving Licence. Photocopies of your just stamped passport page, or document just issued means unless you have a portable photocopier, you will need fresh copies and it always seems there is a business setup to provide such services handy.

Please accept in advance my apologies for any inaccuracies in the next few entries. We did all these borders in such a short space of time that even trying to take notes as we passed through I may have been somewhat confused an unable to separate out one process from another as they are fairly similar.

– Anthony

Costa Rica – Nicaragua Sapoa 19 May 2015

After passing underneath an archway ignore the first dirt turnoff, Take the second turn off onto a concrete road. The Customs building is on the right about 300-400 meters along the road which curves to the right. Ignore the queue at the window outside, you will need to go into the building via the door at the end to have the temporary vehicle import paperwork cancelled.

Immigration is further down the same road between the many trucks parked around Customs. When you reconnect with the main road, go to the right hand side of the Immigration building which sits between the inbound and outbound lanes. Before you complete immigration facilities you need to pay a tax, either via the ATM in the corner of the Immigration office with a credit card which we did or go to another office to pay with cash.

Entry into Nicaragua, this border crossing seems to have the most number of steps and processes we have found in Central America, we used a facilitator here to speed up the process and provide the sequential process. Approaching the border, you will pass a line of trucks, under an arch, and there is a small canvas awning on the right. We are requested to stop here. The only reason seems to be to select a facilitator. We are directed behind the awning to a covered area where details of our nationality are recorded and we are given small seemingly unimportant square of paper and told not to loose it. Next step is fumigation, the trucks line up to go through an automatic truck fumigation process, not recommended for motorbikes. To the right of the truck fumigation process are a couple of hand held units. Park there and go back to the small kiosk situated just before and on the left of the fumigation facility. Here you pay and receive an impressive receipt for such a small payment, I forget how much, but think around US$3 each. We also get a blank form signed by the man who undertook the fumigation.

Our facilitator walks while we ride down the road to the right past the fumigation facility and park between two buildings on the left hand side. The further building contains immigration and vehicle insurance the nearer one has the police and Customs / Aduana. We first go to Immigration which is on the far side of the farther building. Here you will pay a municipal tax at a small table setup near immigration. Just another fee

Immigration was straightforward then the next step is to get the vehicle insurance. This is around the back of the immigration building. This cost us US$12 for insurance. We then go with our facilitator to find a customs officer to undertake a customs inspection. This only took us a couple of minutes but was required and needed a sign off before we could apply for a temporary import permit. This takes place at one of two windows in the first building we had parked next too before we went to the immigration and insurance building.

After securing the temporary import documentation, we are required to get a police clearance. Our facilitator arranges this quickly, but then advises that payment of US$ 20 is required to pay the policeman to facilitate a quick signature rather than taking the usual 2 hours. Best to check about any ‘extra’ payments in advance to decide if you want the the fast or slow process.

After all the paperwork and signatures we rode to the exit gate into Nicaragua where our temporary import documentation was checked. Possibly for the police and customs signatures to ensure we had done the process, and therefore paid any ‘fees’.

This was the longest Central American border crossing process we encountered with numerous steps, time consuming rather than difficult.

– Anthony

Nicaragua – Honduras NIC-24 / CA-3 22 May 2015

This crossing was the hardest to remember and may contain some inaccuracies or omissions since I am writing a few months after the event. We park outside the combined Customs and Immigration building on the right hand side in direction of travel. Passports are handled first at a window just inside the entrance. Passports were returned a couple of windows along. Further round to the left along an internal passage is the customs area where Vehicle temporary import processing for exiting Nicaragua is processed. I cannot recall if any processing fees were required, but probably were.

Honduras passport control was chaotic, multiple lines, bus drivers with handful of passports made for slow processing. A form to fill in, information then keyed in and we were done with Immigration, with the aid of a facilitator.

Customs is in the same building around the far side of where Immigration is located. Our facilitator took no part in this process. Temporary Vehicle Import paperwork is completed without reference to the motorbike, just the motorbikes documentation, no checking of VIN numbers on the motorbikes in our case. We needed to pay for this in US dollars cash as we had no local currency. I cannot remember the exact amount, but I think US$20 to 30.

What was interesting to learn from the Honduras Customs officials is that they ask us not to pay money to fixers for services, we will tip the facilitators for their help but not to pay any additional money for ‘officials’ services’. They are trying to do something about corruption which is great.

– Anthony

Honduras – El Salvador El Amatillo 22 May 2015

Honduras exit was reasonably simple. As usual lines of trucks will indicate when we you are close to the border. There are two crossings, one for commercial trucks to the left, take the right fork. The Customs building sits between the inbound and outbound lanes. One can ride past to the right and park on the far side of the Customs building next to a concrete barrier. The Customs building is in two parts, with a roof over the middle, Customs office is on the left hand side when entering the covered area from where you park your vehicle.

Immigration is further to the left and the first port of call to get an exit stamp. As usual photocopies of the exit stamp and other documents are needed for Customs. A facilitator can expedite this process.

El Salvador Immigration is ahead across the bridge over the river. Two lanes exist to the right of the Immigration building you can park in left hand one. Passport control is the first set of windows on the right hand side of the building. Passports are stamped in here.

Customs and the temporary import permit are obtained some 3 kilometres away. Follow the road past where it rejoins the commercial truck road and turn left just before you reach a checkpoint. Ride about 300 meters just past a small customs building which handles the paperwork, turn left then right up to a large covered loading bay. Here you will have to complete a very detailed temporary vehicle import form, which the Customs officers then checked and completed the parts we were unable too due to our lack of Spanish. They also wanted the vehicle registration document and driving licence.

Our motorcycles were inspected for VIN and numberplate. My VIN number sticker was damaged when my steering head bearings were replaced in Costa Rica and a 4 was scrapped off now looking like a 0. I had to insist that the customs officer look at the embossed VIN number on the front fork. He was finally convinced, but as he was showing trainees the process, he went by the book.

The paperwork is then taken back to the small customs building for processing. They will take the vehicle documents, passports and the handwritten temporary import permits to produce a printed version. This took half and hour per vehicle for some reason. The longest time we have seen for a document processing in Central America. We needed to get the original Customs officer involved to move forward. You will need to sign the temporary vehicle import paperwork.

Return to the the checkpoint, yes another copy of the new documentation is needed, and yes a coping machine is available to pay for a copy for the police at the checkpoint.

– Anthony

El Salvador – Guatemala CA8 24 May 2015

This is a crossing we undertook on a Sunday, we were stopped at checkpoint before Immigration and Customs. A check of El Salvador temporary vehicle import original to copy of undertaken, both copies signed. Not sure if this was really required based on later requirements but someone doing their job on the Sunday. Proceeded to Immigration, which is on the right before bridge, turn off stop, immigration checked passports, did not stamp them, but provided a piece of paper needed later to cross the bridge out of El Salvador.

Go round other side of the building, Customs are located here at the end nearest the bridge. You will need copies of vehicle registration and passport, they will want to see originals. An exit sticker is added to the temporary vehicle importation document. Drive up hill to the start of the bridge where a police team will require you to show your passport and piece of paper provided by El Salvador immigration to cross the bridge.

On the Guatemalan side, we are directed to park on the right in the sun, not undercover in the two lanes next to Customs and Immigration. We had no forms to complete at Immigration, which is the first set of offices in the building between the inbound and outbound lanes only an entry stamp in our passports. You then need to get a copy of the stamp in the passport for Customs. The is a shop that does photocopies is situated across the outbound lane from Guatemala, on the far left as you park. The temporary vehicle import process required original and copies of passport, vehicle document and driving licence. Payment for the temporary import paperwork is made at a bank office across from the Customs window. They require 160 Guatemalan quetzals. They only deal in cash, credit cards could not be used. We had been told by some crossing midweek that an extra copy of the temporary import paperwork, back to the good old photocopying office was needed by police based further up the road. We got a copy, but perhaps because it was Sunday no one was there.

– Anthony

Guatemala – Mexico Ciudad Hidalgo 25 May 2015

Approach the centre of town, there is a car park on the right hand side of the customs building. Enter the building from the car park, watch out for the bicycles coming in from Mexico. The Customs counters are on the right hand side. Cancellation of the Guatemalan temporary import permit takes place there. Immigration is the building on the left hand side as you approach bridge and security checkpoint. We left the motorbikes in the car park and walked to immigration, had the passports stamped and returned to the motorbikes. The car park links directly to the bridge. Police had seen us enter immigration and we were waived through after paying the bridge toll which is collected at the security checkpoint.

On the Mexican side of the river stay to the right and follow the road around 180 degrees to a car park. Immigration is on the right and customs on the left. Complete the Mexican Immigration form. Part of the immigration form will be retained for your departure. Then ride around to one of the Customs gates. They may check your baggage. Temporary vehicle import paperwork will be processed some 80 km up the highway just past Huixtla on road MEX 200 where there is a large Customs facility where all vehicles are checked. Here you will pay a refundable vehicle deposit, US$400 in our case, and some other admin. and tourist fees. You will require usual copies of vehicle registration, passport etc.

– Anthony

Mexico – USA Laredo 9 June 2015

We ended up a little confused by the various signs on the Mexican side pointing to Exit numbers 1,2 & 3 so we ended up in the VIP lane, which alas we could not continue down so we were diverted out of by the removal of a couple segments of the barrier separating us from the regular drivers.
Back on track, we go to a vehicle gate where the temporary vehicle import in cancelled and we are told that the US$ 400 deposit we paid on entry to Mexico will be refunded to tomorrow. The Customs officer did have a problem photographing the VIN numbers on our bikes due to light and location of the number. Try and keep the VIN number clean for easy photographing. We are then directed to park our motorbikes on the left and proceed to a small building also on the left where we process or passport exit. Simple and only took a few minutes to complete.

Over the bridge and into the USA. First is a vehicle queue where our passports are checked. We now need to take our Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) vehicle approval to get a temporary vehicle import. We are directed to go to the Homeland office further on where we expect to get this completed. We are told by the Customs/Immigration officer that there is no need for any approval as we are bringing the vehicle in as tourists, travelling around and leaving. So the EPA approval was not needed. Passport processed, entry stamp on a separate piece of paper, a first for us. I think this is probably because people driving back and forward would quickly fill up their passports.

– Anthony

USA – Canada Rouses Point / Lacolle 6 September 2015

Easiest border crossing of the trip, no stopping on the USA side, give USA visa waiver cards to the Canadian Immigration officer. Explained we were departing on Air Canada with our motorbikes from Montreal at the of the week. Passports stamped and on our way.

– Anthony

Air Canada shipping from Montreal (YUL) 8 September 2015

We have chosen Air Canada for shipping our motorbikes back to England for two reasons, price and convenience. Air Canada have been offering a special service for motorbikes that does not require crating and seems very competitive on paper for 2015. We have been quoted CAD$ 1650 for shipping both BMW F700GS motorbikes from Montreal to London Heathrow if we fly with Air Canada, which we do, saving CAD $250 per motorcycle. This is by far the cheapest we have been quoted on what is our fourth airfreight exercise on this RTW trip. Dangerous Goods (DG) cost is a separate CAD$160 for both motorbikes as they are on a single airway bill.

We arrive at Air Canada Cargo at 2200 Avenue Reverchon, which is on the north west side of the airport. We are met by helpful and friendly Air Canada Cargo staff. The bikes are weighed and each comes in at 270kg, balanced packing there!

DG services are provided by Air Ocean Logistiks. http://www.airoceanlogistiks.com. We have removed all flammable marked items to leave behind, tar cleaners, solvents and glues as this is the end of the trip. Other items may need to be checked against some DG register, but we decide as this is the end of the trip, we will leave anything that they are unsure of. We even remove our blue tooth headsets as they have batteries. This was not an issue with other shipping we have done, but maybe the DG rules are interpreted slightly differently from place to place. Air Ocean Logistiks only take Canadian dollars cash, CAD $160 per airways bill. Payment by credit card is accepted by Air Canada.

Security check follows, not conducted by Air Canada I must emphasise, which had us very unhappy at the careless repacking that took place of the first pannier. Because we had soft luggage we were able to remove the panniers and tent bag and have them x-rayed for the security check. Ok, paid the bills and were on our way back to our hotel within an hour, note you will need a taxi.

We not sure if this motorcycle shipping service will be repeated in 2016, but we understand that the number of motorbikes shipped had met, if not exceeded, Air Canada’s expectations. Support this service if you want this to continue. Check with Air Canada Cargo website for further details.

– Anthony

Air Canada Cargo Arrival at London Heathrow (LHR) 11 September 2015

Our motorbikes are due to arrive 3 hours before we do at London Heathrow from Montreal on a direct wide-body flight.We travelled on Air Canada via Halifax, so hopefully the motorbikes will be available to us shortly after we have cleared Immigration and Customs. We shipped same day to avoid potential storage fees as we would have arrived 27 hours after the motorbikes if we shipped the day before. Storage charges can apply after 24 hours.

Go to Air Canada Cargo which is located at Shoreham Road East, situated on the SW side of Heathrow, mid-way between Terminals 4 & 5. Take a taxi, cost us £20 to the door, the public transport alternatives appear slow and cumbersome and likely still involve much walking.

Air Canada Cargo were aware of our motorbikes and had alerted a Customs clearance company who handled the process of clearing Customs, which is required for all goods that come as Cargo, even suitcases! This cost an additional £270, we knew we would have to pay Customs clearance fees as we have done at each airport we have shipped the motorbikes to, just not how much. We presume the cost is by airway bill, but we are still waiting for the receipt. Electronic Customs clearance took half an hour in our case. If you have a carnet de passage (Carnet) and want it stamped back into the UK, the Carnet will need to be taken to Customs for processing which will take couple of hours.

Motorbikes delivered to us in the Air Canada Cargo area, we rode them out and a quick repack on our way. Couple of points to note: 1. Be aware that you only have 24 hours free storage, then you are charged at a rate in UK£ per kilo! This can be expensive so make sure your flights and the cargo shipping are co-ordinated. 2. Air Canada Cargo prices on the website are ex Canada only I was advised in London. Each Air Canada Cargo station outside Canada have their own local pricing, you will need to check with your departure point for the correct cost. (information correct as 11 September 2015)

– Anthony

3 comments on “Visas and Borders

  1. Any future travellers to these countries will surely be grateful to you for letting them know what to expect, along with addresses and phone numbers. Bravo. xx

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  2. Pingback: From Georgia to Armenia | 2slowspeeds

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