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Well we set off two months ago now, from England, and have got as far as Nepal in our 1985 110. We thought we had Tibet and china all sewn up but it appears that the trip we organised through caravan Cafe has fallen through, DAMN! Anyway because of this we need some advice on the best way to get our Land Rover to Thailand. We have looked at driving through Burma but it seems like a no go also catching ferries to the Andaman islands then on to thailand seems imposible. we know that it would be possible to ship the land rover by container from Calcutta to port Klang but it means we miss out so much of the drive, so any advice on other routes would be greatly received.
Also we just assumed that to get the land rover into Thailand would just be a matter of showing the Carnet at the border, but is this true? or is it more difficult to drive you own vehicle in Thailand and Malaysia, any info on this would also be greatly received.
Thanks for taking a look and I hope you can throw us some ideas.
I'm afraidI can't offer any advice on your problems. But I am in the early stages of planninga trip throuh China with the Caravan Cafe (or someone else maybe), and would be very interested to hear what's go wrong. can you eloborate? Did it cost youany money? we were quoted about £4000 for six weeks, and thats one big gamble. One that I am getting ess interestedin, which is a shame, as I saw China as a real highlight...
Jason, please let us know how you get on and why it has fallen through. Bad service, change of laws, change of your plans etc
I'm will be doing a similiar route next year - well at least from Europe to Thailand anyway so interested to know as are others.
If no luck with the CC then I have a contact that can organise the Chinese side of things. My strong advise is to get through China as quickly as possible with the vehicle. Then when you find somewhere safe to leave your vehicle in another country, return to China as a normal tourist. It will be much cheaper and you won't miss out on anything imho.
It was possible to get through Burma about 6 years ago using a German agency. South African friends of mine did it. From the India/Burma border a driver drove your vehicle whilst you flew to Mandaly I think, and then you were free to drive on your own on only a few approved roads to Thailand etc.
But I believe this has all stopped from a quick scan of other postings??. Follow it up with the German agency if they still exist etc. Then kindly let us know how you get on...
Well we started to organise the china part of the trip back in January and after loads of internet searching and unreplied emails, caravan cafe were the only company who wanted to deal with us. but the costs seemed astronomical (here is a copy of the quote we got for 18 days travel from Nepal to Laos via Lhasa):
"Your modified itinerary is close enough to the original, in number of days, that we will keep the price quote the same at $5950 (or 47005RMB at an exchange rate of 7.9RMB to 1 U.S. Dollar). Please note that the RMB price is firm because the U.S. Dollar may devalue against the Chinese RMB.
US$5950 covers all required permits and licenses, liaison officer/guide and his salary and meals, and service costs for your itinerary.
Not covered are:
- your visa costs
- your meals and lodging
- road tolls
- any other incidental costs incurred by you or your party not noted as included above
If you choose to have us arrange your trip, I will then send you details of the information and images/photos we need in order to submit paperwork for processing. For your trip, we would also require a US$1300 non-refundable deposit be deposited via wire transfer to our bank account in the U.S. before we submit your paperwork for processing. We do this because once we submit your paperwork for processing, we are liable for the cost of processing. The balance of payment for your trip would be due 45 days before your scheduled entry into China. For sake of clarity, below I have included our "Terms of Payment" and "Cancellation Charges".
If you want us to make your arrangements, I urge you to begin the process as soon as possible. Paperwork needs to be submitted to many government offices, including 6 different offices consecutively in Beijing alone. The bureacracy here can not be rushed. We are literally at their mercy regarding when the paperwork is finished. We have seen paperwork completed in about 2 months and we have seen it take up to about 4 months. Since your trip begins in May 20, I would recommend getting us everything so that we can submit at least 4 months in advance.
If you have further questions, please do not hesitate to contact me. Thank you.
Caravan Cafe Travel "
Although it was expensive I did some research on the company and spoke to some of his previous customers and Steve and his company seemed very reputable and we had no choice so we booked the trip.
Everything was going fine and we had travelled to Nepal and were staying in Bardia national park when we decided to email Steve to ask how it was all going. In reply to that email Steve mentioned that we would have to get our own Tibet pass from Kathmandu, unfortunately we were not told about this before and we had already got our Chinese visa in the UK and apparently you get a Tibetan pass when getting your Chinese visa and of course getting a reissued visa could be difficult. Anyway as we were making plans to drive to Kathmandu early and sort this out we received another email from Steve saying that our paperwork had gone missing, here is the email:
"I just received a phone call from our Chinese subcontractor who informed me that somewhere between the military and the Tourism Bureau in Beijing, your paperwork has gone missing. The military processed it and after them it can not be found. I was told earlier that it had passed the Tourism Bureau, but now it seems that may not be true. What a foul-up! It was to have gone on to the PSB (police) in Beijing, but they reportedly say that they have not received it either. My understanding is that these agencies pass completed paperwork to each other, meaning that we are at the mercy of their proficiency or lack of. I am a bit fuzzy on who last had the paperwork and it could be that no one agency is going to want to take responsibility for losing it.
So, this does not sound good - to have paperwork go missing amongst government agencies in Beijing. This problem is major and is far beyond our control. I know nothing of details beyond what I have said above. "
Well this is where we are now and we are giving it a week to see if the paperwork is found but it does not look likely. The good thing is that caravan cafe have agreed to pay back all of our money minus $200 which they say is for their expenses and I don't want to complain about it since losing 200 is better than losing 6000. However, if the paperwork does turn up and the process continues, we still have to get our own Tibetan pass, if we fail to do this we are liable to still pay $1300 to Caravan café (non refundable deposit) and not be able to go through Tibet.
I have to say, Caravan cafe are a good company and they will do their best so sort it all out, they always reply to emails and supplied any info I wanted, but so they should when you are paying that much money up front. I suppose that I should be grateful for getting my money back but I am very disappointed that the trip has not come off since we were really looking forward to doing this. Everyone is saying things like 'well it is China after all' and judging China by our western standards is impossible, everything seems to take longer and there seems to be pitfalls at every junction, but I nevertheless feel a bit let down by the company and the Chinese government.
I hope this has been useful, if a bit longwinded, and just for your interest I'll let you know how we get to Thailand.
Thanks for the long reply mate. In my mind you should get 100% of your money back. They are making the (I know, huge) profit so they should bare all of the risk.
You kept your side of the bargain, they did not so you are entitled to it all back. It does not matter where they are based. Their clientale is probably 99% western and they should be protective of their reputattion according to the standards we expect.
I just got a reply back from the Burma Agency which might be another way of doing it? (though pay no money up front I say - only at the border when you cross into Burma etc?)
"Hi Darren, certainly we are still busy with all application procedures and organizing the transit- tour for the Myanmar part. As you might know we face lots of changes in Myanmar every here and then - so we never can guarantee to be successful in receiving special transit permits.
For the India part (Manipur transit permission) you have to care one your own - the soonest the better.
For getting an overview please give me some details about your travel plans regarding number and nationality of travelers, number and kind of vehicles and approx. date of departure to India, arrival in India and approx. date of arriving at Tamu - the border town. Best regards to you and **** and ****. Franzeska > > >
Hi, A few years ago you helped some friends of mine (**** & ****) travel overland from India, through Myanmar, and onto Thailand with their Land Rover 4x4. Are you still able to organise this kind of thing?
Yea sorry it was a bit longwinded but we have a bit of time on our hands at the moment. I agree that they should carry the risk but I am just relieved to get most of the money back so I don't want to argue.
We have decided that shipping is our best option if the next week bring bad news. We just do not want to wait another 4 months getting paperwork sorted only to be told that it has fallen through.Thanks for the advice about Dhaka, just wondering if you had any recomendations regarding Bangladeshy shipping agents.
Sorry its taken so long to reply but I thought I would wait until the whole thing had got sorted before filling you all in.
Well I think I left you all at the point where the Chinese government had lost our paperwork, and we were waiting for a week to see if they could find it. Well after a week of waiting in Pokhara the papers mystically reappeared, and the loss was attributed to an office worker going on holiday and forgetting to tell his co-workers that he had left our papers on his desk. This was annoying but it was good news and we were back on track to drive across China. However, the loss was set to cost us about another month of waiting in Nepal, which we were just about willing to do.
The next episode of this drama started whilst we were walking around Pokhara one afternoon when an enormous MAN truck ged around the corner looking very shiny and new all kitted out for over landing. Never missing an opportunity to talk about overland vehicles we found the campsite the truck was at and introduced ourselves. The owner was a guy from, Holland called Casper Jensen who was travelling around the world and was heading through China the same way we were. As it transpired he had tried to sort out his paperwork from an agency based in China, but instead of them losing his paperwork his company had informed him that the Chinese had implemented a new policy where any foreign vehicles crossing into China not only had to pay the massively exorbitant fees for paperwork processing but had to leave (in Casper’s case) a $20000 bond at the border which was only redeemable when leaving China through the same border! For this reason he had told his company that this was not feasible and to cancel his trip.
At this point we had heard nothing about this bond from our travel agent so we contacted him and after some umming and ahhring he got back to us with the following email :
“Well, you got me on that one.
Your contact is probably correct. I phoned our primary Chinese operator and the "bond" your friend has been told about is technically supposed to be put up by a Chinese operator who is arranging a foreign-licensed vehicle trip. This bond is a lot of money and it is not clear which operator is supposed to pay the bond. I am not surprised if they pass on this cost to the client. For trips like yours, there is a Tibetan operator and another Chinese operator (with whom we work closely) who is arranging all paperwork together (both Tibet and Yunnan, in the case of your trip).
Our Chinese operator is inquiring of the Tibetan operator to see if there has been a change this year. He tells me that things change and they are not given advance notice, only informed when they apply. Sort of a nightmare situation for a tour organizer.
In the past the Tibetan operator ( that our Chinese organizer has used) has been able to acquire the necessary permissions without needing to pay the bond. I have asked that they inquire to be certain what the situation will be for your trip.
To be straight with you, this arrangement is feeling very risky right now. A couple of weeks ago I was given information that beginning May 1 of this year the central government (in Beijing) has issued a rule that all new foreign-licensed motor vehicle trips would require a bond at the border. It could be that Tibet is now instituting this rule for all foreign-licensed motor vehicles entering. Your paperwork has not made it to Tibet yet, so it is very possible that they require the bond.
My personal advice for you would be that unless I hear back within 12 hours and we are certain that a bond will not be required for your trip, I would advise you to back out now while you can get a full refund. Actually, I may require you to as I can not allow us to be placed in a position of liability for this bond. Sorry.
Unless you want to cancel now, I will notify you by tomorrow regarding what I hear.
Your paperwork has passed the military authority and the Tourism Bureau in Beijing. Regarding sharing an arrangement with your friends, we would need to start over which will require another 4 months. It could be that you make it under the wire regarding the bond, since your paperwork processing was begun prior to May 1. Of course, this may not be important in Tibet. I'll let you know as soon as I hear something.”
Well after this email China was looking like it was not worth the hassle, also after writing on the forum the last time Steve had reconsidered the $200 charge on the refund and had said we could have all of our money back, which we regretfully accepted. In the end we were waiting another month on top of the 3 weeks we had already spent in Nepal with no guarantee of getting into China because of the bond and the need for a Tibetan pass (which foreigners seemed to be being denied at random in Kathmandu) and the longer it went on the less money we would get back if it all went pear shaped, so we decided it was a good time to bail out.
So I am writing this email from Dhaka where we have travelled by bus to from Chittagong, after loading the land rover into a container and sending it to Bangkok. To be honest by doing this we have saved around $5000 (that is including all shipping costs and our air flights from Dhaka to Bangkok), which makes me feel better about not going through China, but I suppose I would still have liked to have done it. Maybe in the future the Chinese will relax a bit and realises that just because we want to drive through their country does not mean that we want to take photos of their nuclear installations or blow up any of their communist statues, then we might be able to do it, but until then I am sorry to say it was just too much hassle for us. However, saying all of this the situation seems to changed daily with regard to getting into China and I would not be surprised that someone just turning up at the border confuses the guards so much that they just let them in.
With regard to Caravan Cafe, I have to say they have been very accommodating and tried to sort the permissions out as best they could, they provided a first rate service and the refund has come back into my account as promised. I am not sure they would try and sort this type of trip out again but if they did I would certainly recommend them.
I hope I have not bored you all too much with this email but I hope you found it useful and I will post a record of the shipping agents used, costs and how it went on the shipping pages.
Best of luck on your own trips, hope you have better luck with China than we did.
Oh one more thing, all of the things I have written apply only to our trip through Tibet and Yunnan, from what I hear I think it is a lot easier to get into China if you avoid Tibet ie. go in from Pakistan. I cann't confirm this but its just what I have heard, thought it might help.
From my point of view that information has been very useful. I'm really sorry to have heard about your troubles, but if you can maybe feel an tiny bit better in helping your fellow travellors, then your certainly have, with that write up.
Not only the information about getting in and out of China, but it was very intersting to hear about the cost saving in shipping aruond China. This (along with the desire to go visit China itslef) had been one of the reasons I was thinking of entering. If it was goingto cost the same to ship around then why not pay the guide?
Anyhow, thanks again for the info, and hope the rest of your trip is OK.
Sorry to hear that you have been having such trouble with your attempts to get into China. We decided to give up on China only a month before we left the UK for this very reason. It is not difficult to get your own vehicle into Thailand or Malaysia and travel between them, (only left hand drive allowed in Vietnam) but I have to warn you, if you have a trailer, in Malaysia, they will charge you through the teeth for driving a 'lorry' (more than double that cars pay!).
If you still want advice on travelling in South East Asia, e-mail my brother firstname.lastname@example.org, he is in Thailand now, having driven through Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, and soon to drive through Vietnam, via Cambodia.
Hi Jason, we happened to stumble onto your last message. We are in Malaysia with our 110 landy and have a web site that details exactly how, if you want, to drive thru Burma. See our top tips page.
Also, we are planning to drive thru China for 45days, 2 vehicles, the quote inc. guide has come in at $3,800 per vehicle. We asked CITS for our quote and if you are interested we can pass on their details.
Our web site is : HOME
Good luck! Rose and dave
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