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Old 11 Feb 2009
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Crossing from Indonesia to Singapore. Any advice?

Hi all,

I'm just in East Timor having left Sydney a month ago on an old postie bike and was wondering if anyone had any advice on the crossing to Singapore.

Batam looks like a good option but just wondered if anyone had experience of this or recommendation of somewhere better.

The only influence is the 30 day visa, which means I'll not have to hang around and probably have to make the crossings in to Singapore sooner rather than later. I considered the 60 visa but preferred the challenge of making it in 30.

The postie's done well so far. We crossed Sydney to Darwin in 12 days and it would have been without issue had the engine not gone kaput in Brisbane. But never mind. A bit less throttle from now on.

Any advice greatly appreciated.

Sydney Australia to London England on a moped. The adventure travel blog of Nathan Millward | The Postman
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Old 11 Feb 2009
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We went the other way from Europe to Oz 1 year ago, crossed from Penang to Belawan (near Medan), and that route worked fine. I´d heard bad things about Melaka--Dumai, and later on met a German, who had his bike at Jakarta airport customs, and another Italian, who had his bike at Surabaya seaport customs, and neither one had been able to clear the bike to Indonesia. And they both had the carnet!!

I would guess it could be easier to go from Indonesia to Malaysia than vice versa, but can´t be sure about that. The province, where Dumai is located, was said to have a lot of problems with smugglers, this might mean dealing with the officials gets more complicated, etc. We never had to pay any ´baksheesh´ to the police or customs in Indonesia, which surprised me.

Do note, that the word "ferry" may or may not mean a passenger ferry with a cardeck (one of the shortcomings of several guidebooks, btw). The "ferry" between Penang and Belawan was actually like a speedboat, only bigger, and it certainly looked questionable, if our 200kg, 650cc bike could have been lifted to the deck and back safely (the bike went on a small cargo-boat, which transported onions). Your smaller bike may fit inside the speedboat, even though it was actually quite full of people & their luggages, when we went, but naturally it will be up to you to persuade the crew to accept it.

In hindsight, for us getting only the 30-day visa-on-arrival was a huge mistake, because Indonesia is so interesting, beautiful, cheap, AND also huge, slow to travel, and very time-consuming!!

And we also managed to get to Bali right at the same time, when there had been the assassination attempt on the president in Timor Leste, so we decided it won´t be wise to go there at that time. Also the seas had been rough, and the many boat trips required to get to Timor didn´t sound very inviting.. they do have all sorts of more or less seaworthy ships operating in that region, and accidents happen.

Were already getting short on our visas then - even though I heard from some expats in Bali, that you can work your way around this, to extend it for 30 days without having to leave the country, by paying in the region of 200-300 dollars to the right persons... but never tried this ourselves, so I can´t be certain, if it works.

I would recommend going to Belawan, because that route has been known to work (but of course you´ll need to keep in mind, how rapidly things change in that country!)... and also because Danau Toba was one of the big highlights of our whole journey, worth spending at least a few days there, maybe even more.
We went through 15 countries on our trip, and if I had to pick only one in which to return some day, Indonesia would be very high on that list. I would be wiser with the visas then, too...

Last edited by pecha72; 11 Feb 2009 at 13:03. Reason: (dont get it, why the last sentence is smaller...)
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Old 12 Feb 2009
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Thanks for that, greatly appreciated.

Yeah, i was worried myself about getting into Indonesia. When I went for a visa at their embassy in East Timor the guy said no motorbikes. I didn't push the issue, just hoped that he's just a passport guy who doesn't know about carnets etc. At least I can go back to east Timor in the worst case, must have been a nightmare to fly into Indonesia and not be allowed to enter.

That route looks pretty good, although i'd hoped to see a bit more of Malaysia before carrying on up to Thaiiland. But I suppose I could cross there and then do a loop down and around and then on to Bangkok.

And yeah, 30 days isn't ideal, but I'm workinng to quite a tight timeframe anyway so it'll push me along nicely and hopefully allow me a bit more time in Iran and Pakistan, two places I was hoping to spend more time. I did get used to 14 hour days in Oz so ferry crossings permitted, I reckon I'll have just enough time to get through and see a little bit of the place.

thanks again
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Old 12 Feb 2009
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It doesnt really matter, where you´ll enter Peninsular Malaysia, as its not that big, and the roads are generally very good. Penang to Singapore in 2 days would be easy.

We also thought of going from Singapore to Indonesia, but it seemed to me, that you´d need to go first to the Riau archipelago, which is next to Singapore, and then catch another boat to Sumatra or Java. If that´s the case, it would´ve probably doubled the hassle (but I´m not 100% sure, that there isnt a direct boat between Singapore and Sumatra/Java).

There are (or at least there were!) the Pelni ships, that go to many many islands of Indonesia, you might want to check them out. We tried, but this system is made for locals, and it shows; their website is a joke, and getting any accurate info about their sailings seemed almost impossible, unless you went to the port yourself. We found out in Bali, that there was one Pelni ship scheduled to sail to Kupang (West Timor), but it was still 2 weeks away, we couldn´t wait that long. And the weather in the rainy season (this was almost exactly 1 year ago) also meant, that the schedules were even less reliable than usual.

We also found out, that Pelni service between Padang and Jakarta had been put on hold, but that it might have been possible to get a boat from Jakarta to Surabaya or Bali, maybe even further east. First we thought that these long-distance boats could have made it easier for us to cover some distance, but as I said, we couldnt find any accurate info about them (and they also warned us at some ticket offices, that they do NOT take motorbikes into the ships, which sounds ridiculous, and I dont know if it is true, or if a few dollars might make them change their mind...)

It took us over 2 weeks to get from Medan to Bali, even though except in Lake Toba, we usually stayed in each place just for 1 night, and kept travelling every day. For us, it would´ve meant less than 2 weeks time to get from Bali to Timor Leste border, and definitely not a lot of sightseeing or relaxing on the way.

BTW, whatever you do, do not ride in the dark in Indonesia. Especially in Sumatra, the road surface was often in a condition, that could actually be very dangerous, if you cannot see well. Big bumps on mountain roads, just before a switchback curve, and also huge portions of the entire road missing, washed away by rains. Much better to get up real early, and start riding at first sunlight, then find the next place to stay well before dark. That´ll mean about 10 hours of useable riding time per day, and Sumatra will be slow mostly because of the roads, while Java will be slow mostly because its so crowded. 300-400 kms will probably feel like a very long day.
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Old 12 Feb 2009
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Use Malaysia instead of Singapore...


I just shipped a Transalp from Brisbane to Singapore, and if I was to do the trip again, I'd ride right up through Indonesia and ship from the north of Sumatra to Malaysia. Singapore's a monumental pain in the arse to bring a bike into - I had to get (i) 3rd party insurance, (ii) an ICP, (iii) an autopass card, and (iv) a port pass, in addition to my carnet. Fortunately I had time to go into Malaysia and get A$20 insurance, otherwise it was going to cost A$140 in Singapore...

Thankfully I'm past all that and up into Malaysia now, en route to Thailand. I'm planning to be in SE Asia until mid-late March - let me know if you think our paths will cross...



One man caravan
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Old 12 Feb 2009
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Youre on your way, well done.
Jeez youre travellin quick. At this rate youll catch us before India!!!

From Kupang there are boats going to many parts of Indonesia.

Pelni has a few big ships that pass through every couple of weeks. You must go to thier office just outa town and check on thier board when and where the ships go.
Talk to the head honcho, Alphonse.
He will sort you out but you must barter hard as his fees are "Negotiable".
Pelni are expensive but safe-ish, though not particularly clean.
If spending just one night on board, say to Flores Island or surrounds then economy class is OK... You sleep on deck with everyone else.

If you take the boat to Bali, or Java or beyond then I would recommend 1st class. Its not that expensive, you will be able to relax and not worry about your gear getting nicked, can go to the dunny anytime and all meals are included.

ADTP is the other company with smaller very basic ferries.
They go everywhere. They dont have a good reputation so check the weather report before you book. Thier office is further out of town. Staff speak minimal english but all are verry friendly.
I dont think you can go far with ADTP, will have to change boats often.

Getting to Singapore sounds a little difficult, Im sure it can be done if you have time to wait around and nut it out though.

Free internet at a concrete shack on the waters edge in Kupang. Cant remember the name but the owner is a character, an ex actor that spent some time in Oz.

Good night stalls just up the road. 9pm close.

30days is just not enough, as others have said. You will be pushing it hard!
You can extend your visa at an office on Monkey forrest road in Ubud, Bali.

Indonesia is our favorite along with Laos...
Flores and Sumatra Islands will blow your mind, not to be missed really.
Reconsider. Dont rush.

See you out there.
Round the world on a Postie bike, 2-up
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Old 13 Mar 2009
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Nearly there

Thanks to everyone who replied to my question.

Against everyone's better and perhaps wise judgement, me and my bike Dot have just smashed Indonesia in 3 weeks having had to wait a week for a ferry in Kupang. So Flores, Sumbawa, Lombok, Bali, Java and Sumatra, all at 60km/h. Long days, 14 hours but we've made it. Just in Medan and going to cross to Penang tomorrow.

I do feel as though I've missed some of it but I also feel as though I've seen an awful lot of it too so I've no regrets about not taking longer. I don't have that much cash or time and would rather spend any excess of either in Iran or India.

I did like Indonesia but not love it. Sumatra, especially in the west is my favourite. I didn't think much to Java but liked the islands and thought East Timor was fascinating. For me the bits at either end are the ones to go back to.

I think the mountains have about finished off the bike. She'snot sounding healthy so a full service due in Malaysia and hopefully she'll be back on form.

See you on the road
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Old 13 Mar 2009
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Hi Nathan,

We are in Melaka now, will go to Sumatra in about 3 weeks or so. I've spent a year in Thailand, so ask away. Also, everybody heading into T or Laos should check in on The Golden Triangle Rider :: Index. There is loads of up-to-date info and tips there.

I've heard a lot about the hassles with Singapore, so we are just skipping it.

Interesting to read Pelni won't take bikes. I was hoping that they would, as we want to go to Borneo and Philippines.


Europe to NZ 2006-10
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Old 15 Mar 2009
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A quiick reply cause nearly out of internet time but I think you can get a bike on Pelni. It was going to be my fall back option for getting the bike from East Timor to Flores. A bit pricey as they have to crate and lift it in but possible, at least on that route.

No such luck with ferry Belawan to Penang. First yes it will go on ferry, then after taking off panniers and draining tank they said no. After a day scouring the docks I found a seadog in a shack who said he'll take my bike on Tuesday. All a bit underground but he seams ok. We'll just have to wait and see.
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Old 17 Mar 2009
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Dear Nathan,

I live in Malaysia but work ofetn in Singapore. The only real rought between Indonesia and Malaysia is from Belawan (port of Medan in North Sumatra) and Penang in Malaysia. There are other routes, but the are very chancy and can prove impossible. There is NO vehicle ferry between any Indonesian port and Singapore. Batan to Singapore is only for passengers.

You can read other stories on here of people taking bikes ito and out of Indonesia by other routes, but most with big hassles, Belawan to Penang seems the correct way to go.

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Old 19 Mar 2009
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Made it in the end, but at a cost...

Thanks to everyone who helped with this. We finally made and am now with the bike in Penang.

Though in true Indonesian style the money I paid in Belawan - 60 quid - wasn't to cover the full cost as they'd told me, but just to cover the 'costs' at their end.

So when I get to Penang and deal with Mr Lim it turns out I have to pay the same price again. Not happy but if they've got your bike then what choice have you but to pay. So an expensive crossing.

Mr Lim wasn't the most sympathetic, he just laughed and told me he's not the boss, the guy in Indo I dealt with was. Which is ironic because that guy had already told me Mr Lim was the boss. I suggested Mr Lim have a word and see if we can't have a bit better communication between the agent but again he didn't seem to care.

To be honest not that happy with dealings at either end and wouldn't
recommend either but the bike's here and that's all that matters.

Naivity punished.
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Old 19 Mar 2009
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Sad to hear you got ripped off. We went from Penang to Belawan, and only had to pay once, to mr. Lim. Everything worked as was planned.

We did pay some ´tea money´ to someone, who supposedly helped us with the customs and other stuff at Belawan (though it all went surprisingly smooth, not sure if we´d needed any extra help, but as you know, those jokers will help you anyway - and expect to be payed!!) but that was only a few euros. I suspect someone in Indo side wanted to get some extra from you.

We met a German biker in Penang, who was coming from Sumatra with his bike, and was generally happy with Cakra Shipping, or at least he didnt mention any rip-offs at Indonesian end.

Edit. I repeat, that I met several bikers in Indonesia, who had very serious trouble to clear their bikes into the country - at all - even though both of them had their papers just fine, including the carnet. One of them, upon hearing about our entry via Belawan, decided to try that route, even though for him it meant shipping his bike from East Java to Singapore, then riding back to Bali through Sumatra&Java, a detour of maybe 5000kms total. And I dont know, if he actually did that, but may give you an idea, how important it is to be aware of the points of entry, that are known to work. Belawan is one of them, while Surabaya harbour and Jakarta airport are not. If the customs say, that you cannot bring your bike into Indonesia, you may very well be looking at shipping it elsewhere, even if you have carnet. Bribing could be possible, but its not guaranteed: this one guy, for example, had lived over 10 years in Bali, and if he couldnt do it, the occasional tourist is even less likely.

Last edited by pecha72; 19 Mar 2009 at 09:29.
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