Completed Drive Around the World Trip - Report
I and my daughter just finished the Drive around the world trip in a small car. We drove through: Korea, Russia, Mongolia, Turkey and Europe.
Here are few notes:
No problem at custom. There is no surety deposit. But they do charge you custom fee around $120.00, which includes insurance. There is a charge for trucking the container from port to custom office. And shipping company charge. You do need Korean speaking person. I used Wendy Choi who has offices in Seoul and Bushan. She was an angel and was always there. Stay at TOYOKO INN - 22-4,1G Daechangdong jung-gu . Busan 600-101 TEL:051-442-1045 FAX:051-442-1046 hotel . It’s a Japanese hotel chain. Very reasonable $75.00, includes breakfast and dinner –rice, curry and kimchi. Most of all its walking distance to custom and shipping company offices and from Busan railway station.
If you happen to ship your car here follow following rules. I learned this from my experience. However I like to add a disclaimer here. It may happen to you or not. As we all know Russian bureaucracy changes by person on both side of the table.
Some people say Zarubino port is better than Vlad. But unfortunately no passenger can go by ferry from Korea. So if you want to use Zarubino: ship your vehicle and then fly to Vladivostok and take a bus to Zarubino.
This applies to Dong Chun ferry from Sokcho, Korea to Vlad.
1. When preparing for “Bill of Landing”. Insist upon making a detail list of the contents such as : car parts, clothing, food items, camping equipments, medicines and anything else on Bill of Landing .
Best thing is to prepare this list in advance and hand it over to ferry person. Always keep a copy.
CAR details such as: Engine number, Model and make. (Especially if the car is from USA) Ferry people will only enter VIN number as this is the only number on USA car registration. In my case they only put VIN Number and “Tourist Bags” and that gave an opportunity to Russian custom, which cost me money and time.
2. Make sure to fill out the TWO custom declaration forms in ferry no matter what, which is in Russian. Employees from ferry will tell you that you don’t need to fill out. List items as described above from the list you have prepared.
3. When you arrive at Vladivostok, let the custom agent know that you have personal contents in car and like to declare those. Show them the list. Make sure to get the stamped custom form. You are allowed to keep a stamped copy. In my case custom officer at Vladivostok port (on arrival from ferry) said I don’t need to declare and was cleared to proceed. A mistake: Later I was told by custom office on ground that I should have declared everything when I first arrived from ferry
4. (REPEAT) For vehicles from USA, as US car registration has only VIN number and basic car information. I wrote down by hand the Engine number, Model, CC and color on registration paper and that seemed to work. Make sure that you have all the car information on Bill of Landing: especially engine number. This also caused me issues at other borders as they are expecting so called “car passport” with more details.
5. Buy Insurance for your vehicle before you go to custom.
6. Stay at Vladivostok Hotel, cheaper and free internet access.
7. Make sure you have Russian speaking custom agent. I used Julia from discovery.info , who has her own tourist business. Her fee is $10 per hour. Due to my issue with custom officer –looking for bribe- Julia cost me $550.00 total for 4 days of haggling with custom.
8. Make sure your temporary import permit is valid through same as your visa.
9. Have small souvenirs from your country. Get these in plenty. Also buy some duty free cigarettes in plane. As many as they allow and you can afford. Trust me these will help a lot.
10. Have a color print out of your complete expedition plan. Such as charity purpose. It helped us a lot.
They will ask you where you are form and where you are going. In beginning we didn’t understand so we assumed and told them From Vladivostok and name of the destination city.
11. Keep only $100.00 note in one of the pocket. Keep 3000 rubles for gas and food in other pocket.
Keep ATM card, your local driver license –from your origin country -and one credit card in other pocket. Passport in yet other pocket. This helped me when police stopped me and ask for money-$500. After exasperated negotiation, I showed them that I only have $100 till next bank in town.
Hide everything else in car in different packets in different places. Cargo pants are the best.
12. Make a list of speeding fine for different speed over the limit from local person in Vladivostok. One in English and one in Russian. Worst case scenario you can show them a list and pay the fine. Also get a phone number for police head office, which can be used to threaten the local police.
13. Keep your consulate phone number handy. Also try to get local Russian friend’s phone number handy.
14. Make copies of everything.
15. Wear ordinary clothes. No name brand or expensive looking clothes. Act poor.
16. Have 2-3 tires if there is enough space. Just tires no wheels. We learned that there are good amount of tire shops from Vladivostok to Chita road but none sells tires. We were lucky to get them repaired. Good puncture kit –the one with T shaped hook where you can insert the glued thread. Don’t take those puncture cans –fix-O-Flat, didn’t work for us. Ended up giving them away to police. They loved them.
17. Robbers wallet: with canceled credit cards, copy of driver license, $100 in $20. Some other worthless money to make it fat. But never had any issue.
Driving From Vladivostok to Chita.
1. Some say driving fast on dirt and gravel roads id better than driving slow. Its physics. The car supposed to glide through. It depends on weight of your car. We didn’t do this as we were scared. But we still finished in 4 days.
2. Good vipers and 2-3 tires without wheel. 8-9 Octane booster for newer model cars.
3. Crossing the bridges: Bridges are always paved even on dirt and gravel roads. Pay extra attention on getting on and off bridge as there are sharp edges.
4. Find a good track to drive on any side of the road. Left side on coming traffic do not seem to mind you on their side of the road. Usually edge of the roads seem better.
Police in Russia:
Police are bad but here are some tips you may use. We were the lucky one. We got away with $120.00 total bribe and intimidation. This is GREAT comparing the stories I heard from local Russian people. One guy form St. Petersburg was charged $400 for crossing white line. Another guy 15,000 rubles for speeding.
Eastern Russia: East of Omsk.
Police checkpoints are marked in advance with Cyrillic similar ANC in Latin. Cars are Ladas white with blue line and letterings.
When they stop you , give them folder which has insurance papers, International Driver permit and Temporary permit. Most of the time they have no idea what they are looking at. Keep your cool and keep smiling. DO NOT TRY TO SPEAK RUSSIN except good day (Dobrih dein) Good Morning ( Dobrih Utre), thank you (Spashiba) and good buy ( Das-va-da-nia) and you are tourist (mui Tourist). Nothing more.
Eastern side of Russia was OK. Never paid anything. We portrayed ourselves idiot tourist. The goal is get them confused and behave like an idiot. As the road gets better in west after Chita, use of radar gun to check the speed. We were caught twice but our color broacher for charity helped us and got away both times. I gave them couple of packets of cigarettes. They were pleased. The speed is 70KM but allow 80KM.
Western Russia: West from Omsk – gets nastier
As roads get better –paved- there more police check points. Make sure to drive inside of the dividing white line. They have low tech cameras on light pole about 100 yards from check points. They also use binoculars to watch you.
Here is what they do: as you come close to police check point there is a police man with black and white wand –money extortion wand-standing on middle of the road, will stop you. He will ask you for your papers and try to read then he will ask you to get out of the car and go to the police car or inside the office. There is one or two big guys –boss-try to negotiate, bribe or extort the money out of you. The most offence they use is that you crossed the” magic white line” on road. We call it line of extortion. They will write down a number on clipboard -500 Euros. Refuse to pay with “Nyet” keep repeating “Nyet” and tell them by hand gesture that you were going straight. They will negotiate down to 100 Euros. Just keep repeating NO MONEY and Nyet. They will al jump on you and show you your car picture on old computer. Don’t be intimidated by this. They have nothing on you. Make sure that you all get out of the car even though they will insist that only the driver. My daughter was persistent and hanged outside the police car’s window. Finally if all fails threaten them that you are calling your consulate. Also try to call your Russian friend who can speak Russian with the police. 99.9% they will give up and let you go. More time you waste the better of you are.
Look relaxed and don’t be intimidated. One time police threaten to tear off my passport and driver license. I told him to go ahead and he threw both of them at me and let me go.
Police in west is worst than east. I guess there are no roads in east.
There are dummy police car replicas parked on side of the road. We were never stopped by police car, always at check point. Speeding does not seem to be huge problem.
TIPs for check point. Try to drive as close as possible from the car in front. Avoid eye contact. Pretend that you are talking to your passenger thus avoiding looking at them. Trucks are the best to hide behind. Don’t volunteer to stop at check point. Once you avoid the check point they will look at you but NEVER come after you. We did this 22 times. We were stopped 49 times. Only one time – our first time-we paid off $100.00 and 2000 Rubbles.
It’s a huge annoyance and frustrating. It’s hard to keep cool and smiling. They say policeman salary has not gone up in last 10 years, so they justify by this extortion.
It’s a game. Whoever gives up first looses. Keep cell phone in top shirt pocket and play with it while you are being extorted.
Hope this helps.
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