Go Back   Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB > Regional Forums > Northern Asia

Northern Asia Topics specific to Russia, Central Asia (also known as "the 'stans"), Mongolia, Japan and Korea
Contact Overland Solutions for all your custom modifications and setup for overland travel.

Refreshing, funny, informative, thought provoking, honest, inspirational, infectious, budget overlanding. A handbook, a guidebook but ultimately a genuine traveller’s tale

LinkBack Thread Tools Display Modes
Old 28 Jul 2005
Registered Users
HUBB regular
Join Date: Sep 2004
Posts: 24
Sakhalin Island - safe?

Now for the horror stories...

I'm trying to get to Sakhlain from Wakkanai, Japan by ferry either by bike (Transalp) or truck (Bighorn).

So far, we've obtained international licenses and international car plates, but are now stuck at the "Letter of Invitation Point".

A few Russian tourist agencies have offered to provide us with one, after we transfer $1500 US to them via Western Union (including hotel bookings).

Since I'm not about to pay cash in advance, we're stumped: how to get the darn LOI?

Meanwhile, my wife has been collecting horror stories about Sakhalin from her friends in Japan, along with the Japanese Embassy in Sakhalin:

- foreigners are being robbed by Russian youth at gunpoint

- cars and bikes are stolen frequently, even old smokey 4WDs like mine, and old Transalps

- a Frenchman was recently murdered in Sakhalin; several Japanese tourists attacked

- don't even think about going out at night

- every car MUST have an alarm

When a self-professed member of the Russian mafia heard about our trip (long story) he said basically the same things, and even offered to 'protect' us while in Sakhalin.

Has anyone been to Sakhalin, and if so, is it as bad as 'they' say?



Gordon Hilton
Reply With Quote
Old 28 Jul 2005
Super Moderator
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: Nagano, Japan
Posts: 759
While I haven't been to Sakhalin Island, I have travelled in other parts of Russia. Basically, don't leave your bike or gear unattended. Park in a guarded parking lot or hotel lobby. Cities are more dangerous than the countryside. Stay away from groups of young men sharing a bottle of vodka. You should be fairly safe, however there is no guarantee anyplace in the world. I have had a bike stolen here in Japan!
For agencies that will give a letter of introduction, search the HUBB. The topic has been covered before.
http://www.waytorussia.net and http://www.visatorussia.com offer services for a price far less than the $1500 you have been quoted. (I am not endorsing them, just saying what I have seen).
If you know Japanese, search for Sakhalin Touring in Japanese and you will find many Japanese tour reports.
I know of some American guys who went on Goldwings last year. So anything is possible if you put your mind to it.
E-mail me and I can put you in contact with some who have actually been if you need more info.
Japan touring information
Reply With Quote
Old 28 Jul 2005
Gold Member
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Apr 2000
Location: RTW
Posts: 501

as they say in Russa. I travelled Sakhalin by bike in 05/2003 and I took a cargo boat from Otaru. Wakkanai is easier with the ferry, but more expensive.

I had an international numberplate for my bike (which was registered in japan) but nobody ever looked at it in Korsakov. Japanese papers worked fine, but the customs are corrupt and wanted money - I did not pay anything playing the stupid tourist with a lot of stamps in the passport and a few old russian visas.

I dont think somebody will steal the bike, but as Chris said, you must lock it away at night in a paid parking lot (stoljanka). A car is more interesting for them.

Sakhalin is a very isolated place, also getting to mainland of Russia is difficult. Some police check points, but on a bike they suspect a Japanese traveller and after I told them in Russian that I am German, no more problems.

Go and Enjoy - dont pay 1500 usd for an invitation

Learn Russian and learn how to drink Vodka, but as Chris said, stay away from drunken people in the street.

Greetings from France


Reply With Quote
Old 20 Aug 2005
Registered Users
New on the HUBB
Join Date: Aug 2005
Location: Somewhere in Asia
Posts: 1
Well, I used a company called WhiteNights (http://www.wnights.com/) to get visa tourist vouchers and arrange a four day home stay in Yuzhno-Sakhalinsk.

Before we even paid, they faxed us the tourist vouchers. We then applied for our visas, received them in two weeks, and then paid for our homestay only - no charge for the vouchers.

If all goes well once we get to and back from Sakhalin, I'll recommend them very highly.


91 Honda Transalp
91 Isuzu Bighorn
Reply With Quote
Old 22 Aug 2005
Registered Users
New on the HUBB
Join Date: Jan 2002
Location: Helsinki, Finland
Posts: 14
In my experiences (two motorcycle trips in 2003 and 2004 and several public transportation or car trips), Russia is quite safe for traveling. Of course, you can get mugged, but you can get mugged anywhere.

Knowing some Russian definitely helps, and the Cyrillic alphabet is a must. Outside of the main cities like St. Petersburg and Moscow very few people speak any English. German works surprisinly well in occasions.

Roads wary from pretty good on the main highways to horrible in the countryside and smaller towns, but for an offroad bike that isn't usually an issue.

Getting spares for motorcycles can be difficult outside of the main cities, and even there the parts most likely have to be ordered. But if you're lucky enough to have an Ural or something similar, then there will be parts and people with repair experience in every village.

Keeping the bike at night in guarded parking places (stoyanka, pronounced "stajanka") is always a good idea. This way only thing ever stolen from me in the country has been some petrol overnight.

Gas stations can be found on main roads usually near cities. 92 grade fuel is available pretty much everywhere, and 95 (and even 98) is becoming quite widespread because of the big number of cars imported from central Europe.

Have fun! Russia is a very interesting country to visit.

Some pictures from my trips:





Ein Schwein, das nicht fliegt, ist nur ein gewöhnliches Schwein
Ein Schwein, das nicht fliegt, ist nur ein gewöhnliches Schwein
Reply With Quote
Old 23 Aug 2005
Jake's Avatar
Contributing Member
Veteran HUBBer
Join Date: Mar 2005
Location: Northumberland, uk
Posts: 721
Hi, for your invite try www.getrussian.com I got my invite from them and had no problems getting the visas or with entry/exit to Russia. The invites are very reasonable about £30.00 and are issued over the internet within a few minutes you then print off a hard copy of the invite from your computer and use this to apply for your visa. If the original is needed for some reason get russian will mail it to you or the embassy your applying through - very helpful and fast. I can recommended them 100%. remember to get your visa/invite verified within 3 days of entry to Russia or you could have problems.I was only in the western area of russia this trip but I have to say I travelled alone and found the russians to be friendly and helpful. security was a problem in places but generally secure parking can be found or in my case the bike was kept in the front hall/foyer of places I stayed this seemed to be the normal thing to do. Its a great country great people and just be sensible as always about your own security.
Reply With Quote

Currently Active Users Viewing This Thread: 1 (0 Registered Users and/or Members and 1 guests)
Thread Tools
Display Modes

Posting Rules
You may not post new threads
You may not post replies
You may not post attachments
You may not edit your posts

BB code is On
Smilies are On
[IMG] code is On
HTML code is Off
Trackbacks are On
Pingbacks are On
Refbacks are On


NEW! HU 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar is now available! Get your copy now for some terrific travel inspiration!

HUGE, 11.5 x 16.5 inches, beautifully printed in Germany on top quality stock! Photos are the winning images from over 600 entries in the 9th Annual HU Photo Contest!

Horizons Unlimited 2015 Motorcycle Adventure Travel Calendar.

"The calendar is magnificent!"

"I just wanted to say how much I'm loving the new, larger calendar!"

We share the profit with the winning photographers. YOU could be in the HU Calendar too - enter here!

HU DVD Autumn Special!

Take 40% off Road Heroes Part 1 until October 31 only!

Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers Peter and Kay Forwood (193 countries two-up on a Harley); Dr. Greg Frazier (5 times RTW); Tiffany Coates (RTW solo female); and Rene Cormier (University of Gravel Roads).

The first in an exciting new series, Road Heroes features tales of adventure, joy and sheer terror by veteran travellers."Inspiring and hilarious!"

"I loved watching this DVD!"

"Lots of amazing stories and even more amazing photographs, it's great fun and very inspirational."

"Wonderful entertainment!"

Check it out at the HU Store! Remember to use Coupon Code 'HEROES' on your order when you checkout.

Scottoiler automatic chain oilers. The most important accessory for your next motorcycle adventure!

Renedian Adventures

Renedian Adventures

What others say about HU...

"I just wanted to say thanks for doing this and sharing so much with the rest of us." Dave, USA

"Your website is a mecca of valuable information and the DVD series is informative, entertaining, and inspiring! The new look of the website is very impressive, updated and catchy. Thank you so very much!" Jennifer, Canada

"...Great site. Keep up the good work." Murray and Carmen, Australia

"We just finished a 7 month 22,000+ mile scouting trip from Alaska to the bottom of Chile and I can't tell you how many times we referred to your site for help. From how to adjust your valves, to where to stay in the back country of Peru. Horizons Unlimited was a key player in our success. Motorcycle enthusiasts from around the world are in debt to your services." Alaska Riders

contest pic

10th Annual HU Travellers Photo Contest is on now! This is an opportunity for YOU to show us your best photos and win prizes!

NEW! HU 2014 Adventure Travel T-shirts! are now available in several colors! Be the first kid on your block to have them! New lower prices on synths!

HU 2014 T-shirts now in!

Check out the new Gildan Performance cotton-feel t-shirt - 100% poly, feels like soft cotton!

What turns you on to motorcycle travel?

Global Rescue, WORLDwide evacuation services for EVERYONE

Global Rescue is the premier provider of medical, security and evacuation services worldwide and is the only company that will come to you, wherever you are, and evacuate you to your home hospital of choice. Additionally, Global Rescue places no restrictions on country of citizenship - all nationalities are eligible to sign-up!

New to Horizons Unlimited?

New to motorcycle travelling? New to the HU site? Confused? Too many options? It's really very simple - just 4 easy steps!

Horizons Unlimited was founded in 1997 by Grant and Susan Johnson following their journey around the world on a BMW R80 G/S motorcycle.

Susan and Grant Johnson Read more about Grant & Susan's story

Membership - help keep us going!

Horizons Unlimited is not a big multi-national company, just two people who love motorcycle travel and have grown what started as a hobby in 1997 into a full time job (usually 8-10 hours per day and 7 days a week) and a labour of love. To keep it going and a roof over our heads, we run events (22 this year!); we sell inspirational and informative DVDs; we have a few selected advertisers; and we make a small amount from memberships.

You don't have to be a Member to come to an HU meeting, access the website, the HUBB or to receive the e-zine. What you get for your membership contribution is our sincere gratitude, good karma and knowing that you're helping to keep the motorcycle travel dream alive. Contributing Members and Gold Members do get additional features on the HUBB. Here's a list of all the Member benefits on the HUBB.

Books & DVDs


All the best travel books and videos listed and often reviewed on HU's famous Books page. Check it out and get great travel books from all over the world.

Motorcycle Express for shipping and insurance!

Motorcycle Express

MC Air Shipping, (uncrated) USA / Canada / Europe and other areas. Be sure to say "Horizons Unlimited" to get your $25 discount on Shipping!
Insurance - see: For foreigners traveling in US and Canada and for Americans and Canadians traveling in other countries, then mail it to MC Express and get your HU $15 discount!

All times are GMT +1. The time now is 17:28.