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Motorcycle travel in Tibet, Nepal, Bhutan, India...

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  #1  
Old 15 Mar 2009
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A short(ish) ride in China

Hi, I've been researching doing a short ride in China (between 2 and 4 weeks), and would love any advice from somebody who's done it before me.

For a ride this short, the red-tape involved in buying a bike is probably not worth the hassle. As such, I've been looking into doing a 'guided' ride. I've sent emails off to half a dozen company's, and the prices quoted seem astronomically expensive for a developing country. I have ridden with Offroad Vietnam before (on two separate occasions), and loved the experience. My last ride with them was for 2 weeks, covered around 2,000kms and cost $1,000USD (all expenses covered - including guide). The cheapest price I've been quoted for a ride in China is around $5,000USD!!! Can anyone recommend someone whose price is a little more agreeable? Is there are reason it's so expensive?

Of course, there's always the option of buying (or maybe renting) a local Chinese bike (I have ridden solo on my own bike in India before as well) - but all the research I've done thus far seems to indicate that the Chinese Government will make this sort of travel pretty difficult for a solo rider - particularly in the Tibetan region (which I'd love to see).

Any help, advice, etc would be greatly appreciated,

Jimmy
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  #2  
Old 16 Mar 2009
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Hello Jimmy. I am also looking into a China trip. Have to agree with you that the guided option is ridiculously expensive (certainly too much for me). I am still researching other (semi) legal ways of doing it solo. If you are interested, I will let you know how I get on. When and whereabouts in China do you plan to go? I am currently looking at Xinjiang in the autumn (September/October) this year. I lived in China for a short time and speak some Chinese so have some idea of how things work there. I don't think it is as impossible as many folk will lead you to believe.
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  #3  
Old 16 Mar 2009
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Thanks for your reply Wuming - it would be great for you to keep me posted on any progress you make, thanks! I'm looking at riding in June of this year. Ideally, I'd like to make my way to Lhasa, but I totally understand that this might be even more of an undertaking than getting a bike in the first place. I figure to just take it one step at a time! Of course, any local knowledge would be greatly appreciated!
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Old 21 Mar 2009
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nepal-tibet

sorry guys as i do not have any concrete info. but in 2003 when i was in kathmandu, there was an agency there who was taking groups into lhasa from kathmandu on enfields. when i was there they had a group of about 112 americans and the agency had done all the paperwork for them.
again sorry, but i do not remember the name of the agency. i think the trip was for only 10 days or so. maybe too short for your liking.
hope it helps
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  #5  
Old 21 Mar 2009
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I've talked with a few people on other forums about this and privately too. In fact we are a loosely grouped motorcycle club in China, mostly foreigners who are western teachers, a lot of people come and go as the majority of people work here only for a year or two. We have a couple of ratty but road legal small bikes no body owns hanging around. If you want to join us and use facebook we are here........
Zibo Motorcycle Club | Facebook

I'd love to be able to help people ride in China, but want to help them do it as legally as possible, as the consequences of breaking the law can technically speaking be quite bad.

I soon hope to investigate the possibilities of temporary driving licenses for foreign riders, I speak Chinese and have lived here for a long time, and have a reasonably well developed understanding of Chinese traffic rules and how to obtain licenses if they can be obtained.
Anyone who needs more info about riding in China use this thread.
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  #6  
Old 21 Mar 2009
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Buying isn't so much of a hassle and is cheaper

G'day,

We looked at all the alternatives, that being 3 major ones:

Taking our own bike, doing a tour with a hire bike, buying a bike.

By far the easiest and least expensive from all accounts is to buy and then resell. This is for several reasons. 4 weeks is a long time for a tour, most operators will only do 1-2 weeks and if you hire then this is expensive and you have to worry about dropping the bike and paying for insurance. If you buy then you can add crash bars at a cheap price and when you fall, you will because motorcycles aren't allowed on highways or expressways or freeways and the side roads are really bad then you have to ride dirt.

Think about it and read up about a few blogs, there is a Melbourne guy called Gary who is on the HUBB and he has a good blog and is very friendly. There are people willing to help buy a bike and you don't need paperwork, once the police see you are a westerner then you get off almost any issue with paperwork. You don't need a drivers licence and permits are just nice to have unless you got to Tibet.

Hope this helps.
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  #7  
Old 21 Mar 2009
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Turbocharger, yes you can successfully ride around China without any paperwork.

You can also ride around China without a crash helmet!
You'll probably get away with it, the cops are friendly, and if you don't get in an accident, you'll be just fine and feel that you saved all that money from not buying one!

The law is harsh in China, 99.9% of the time you won't get stopped or asked any tricky questions if you are a foreigner. If you get in an accident, it might not be your fault as pedestrians have right of way at all times.

But you could get:

-Bike impounded
-Forced to pay costs massively at massively inflated prices
-Fined by the cops
-Put in a detention centre for up to 15 days
-Deported

But basically it all comes down to money, if you get in an accident and the cops say you must pay so much money and you don't have it then the nasty stuff will happen.

I'm not trying to be a killjoy, over at mychinamoto this is the consensus opinion of many long term and short term riders, who have done hundreds of thousands of kilometers all over China, and the result of knowing what actually happens when things go wrong.
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  #8  
Old 1 Apr 2009
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In an accident where no one is seriously hurt, how much might one be expected to pay? Once paid does everyone just continue on their way?
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Old 2 Apr 2009
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If nobody is seriously hurt, it all depends on the cops and their decision is final!

The law usually applied means that the party at fault pay hospital costs and damage costs to the other party, insurance will pay you back later.

If there is no injury this can be settled without the cops. Which means pay a slightly inflated price (double if need be for repair of their vehicle if it's your fault, and leave before the cops arrive or pay if you'd just like to leave). Or if it is their fault say that you are willing to settle for free, and leave before cops arrive.

If I had hit a kid or old person who had run into the road, I know that it will be considered my fault as pedestrians have right of way. I'd pay between 1000 RMB - 5000 RMB (100-500 euros) on the spot to cover hospital costs, after agreeing this sum with a family member and leave before the big crowds and cops arrive!

If I was travelling around China I'd have about 1000 euros in local currency to cover any fines/charges that may occur.
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Old 2 Apr 2009
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Amazing how different the "law" works. You can just pay an agreed "spot" fine. And all is fine , excuse the pun.
Where I come from riding around with 1000 euro (R 12 000) in cash in your pocket would not be wise at all. Back home every second jobless person would be running in front of some kind of vehicle daily and making good money.
Roads were made for bikes and cars - pavement for pedestrians.
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  #11  
Old 3 Apr 2009
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Alas in China, being hit by a car or motorcycle can be a lucrative thing for some villagers. Sometimes the cops are very involved with the victims, and a few bandages and bruises can soon become very expensive.
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  #12  
Old 4 Apr 2009
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We're crossing China later this year with these guys:

China Adventure Tour, trekking, overland, festivals, special travel – NAVO

So far Karen, our contact, has been excellent, really well organised, immediate reply to emails - allowing for time difference, good price and for a smaller group they try to pay the import bond!

I'm very impressed up to now, we'll enter China in about Sept

(we're in 4 cars BTW)

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  #13  
Old 24 Apr 2009
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I crossed from Kashghar to Lhasa on a Hotoian 150cc via (the illegal route) China 219 in 2007. I don't think it's legal for a foreigner, to buy a bike in China, ride about w/o insurance or travel about Tibet independently w/o a tour. Yet, I managed to do all these things completely hassle free.

I bought the bike for $660 brand new (actually I never really owned it formally) and sold it in an afternoon 5000 km later for $450.

I'd simply go to Lhasa & head to "moto row" (a few blocks fro the Potala) & start test riding. That's where I sold mine. If you have cash they'll find away to get you on the bike. The authorities don't like to hassle tourists so once you get going you likely won't be bothered. The ride out to Everest is highly recommended, especially, the difficult jeep road out to Tingri. If you head out to Shishma Pangma or elsewhere off the beaten path, be very prepared.


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  #14  
Old 24 Apr 2009
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Things have changed since summer 2008. Tibet is off limit for independent foreign traveller unless arriving by air or train to Lhasa. So if you wanna do Tibet on a bike solo, you need to be as smart as a spy.

I have done some research b'cos I am starting ba trip to Tibet next month. I own a bike in China and got all the papers required. Being a HK Chinese does help.
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Old 24 Apr 2009
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Assuming (I know - a big assumption!) that the situation in Tibet relaxes and travel in that region becomes possible may I ask for your opinions on the possibility of entering China from Mongolia at Erenhot, with all the correct documents and even a drivers license, perhaps on a short guided tour with official guide but then dispensing with all that and simply traveling independently to the Taklamakan before heading south to cross into Nepal at the Friendship Bridge? (if it's open in a year or two!)

Alternatively, if Tibet stays closed, exit China via the KKH.

I will be in a truck and my idea of China in the western provinces is empty spaces, few cops but the occasional check point. I'm not too concerned about being "legal" but would not want my truck and its contents confiscated. Really, my only concern is that I don't get too much hassle from officials that I can't handle - I just want to wander at will.


p.s. is it just me or do Google Maps leave out the roads in Tibet whereas MSN maps do not...?
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