So before we did this trip, we did a lot of research, and all the blogs from other travelers were invaluable, so we thought it important to add our own information to hopefully help others.
We had a bit of a difficult situation, in that our motorbike broke down near Shiraz, so we arrived in Bandar Abbas by man-and-van, and we didn’t have the luxury of driving down to Bandar Lengeh. Lengeh might have had other options for sailing days, but we ended up being stuck in this humid city for 4 days.
Firstly, we had conflicting information about when the ferry actually sailed. Online reports said Saturday and Monday, some said Monday and Wednesday, some said Sunday, Monday and Wednesday…. We called the iran travelling center (mob +98 917 314 5627), who told us that it sailed on Sunday and Wednesday. Even though their website says Saturday and Wednesday, they admitted this is out of date, as were the prices!
We then found a number for the shipping company, Valfajr-8 (the only shipping company to go to UAE with passengers and vehicles +98 917 161 7095) and they confirmed the ship sailed on Mondays and Wednesdays, but is seasonal, so do check closer to your travel time. He gave us some other numbers to call to arrange getting tickets (Mr Sadidpanah +98 917 768 2461, the ticketing agent at the shipping company offices; and Mr Saljoki +98 917 767 4780, the shipping agent at the Port).
We went to the Valfajr Offices in Bandar Abbas to sort the tickets out. I think from memory is it called the South Seas Shipping Company, or similar. There is a couple of hotels who do them, but they charge extra, and I don’t think they had all the correct information. We needed to bring passports and carnets and American dollars or Rials to pay for the tickets.
$80 each for the passenger tickets
$200 for the bike
$60 for the Bill of Lading
Not negotiable prices. We tried, but they seem standard and we spoke to a couple of other passengers to confirm. They have a bank downstairs which you need to pay the vehicle ticket and bill of lading into, but they are only open until 12 or 1pm so make sure you start the process early in the day. The shipping company also have a horrible exchange rate for dollars, but you can pay dollars into the bank and get a better rate.
Check your passenger tickets for spelling/details errors.
The ticket getting process took most of a day.
But the longest day was the boarding day. The ship didn’t sail until 10pm, but we had to be at the port from 8am to “check-in”. Most offices and departments close after lunch, so you need to have all the processes completed before then, and then you’ve got an 8-hour wait to board the ship!
We went back and forth to about 10 “offices” to get this and that bit stamped and ticked. Each person you see seems to know the next step you need to take, and we got the shipping agent to write (in Persian) the people and departments we needed to see, and each department could cross themselves off our list once we had seen them. It’s lengthy and hot and at times frustrating, but we were fully prepared for this so it didn’t seem too bad at the time. Make sure you get a copy of the Bill of Lading (the actual one is forwarded direct to Sharjah).
There is a little shop and a café inside the waiting terminal so you can be fed and watered throughout the day. The café closes after lunch, but you get dinner on board.
So checking-in in the morning took a couple of hours, then a 7-8 hour wait, then another hour or so of checking, where no-one seems to know what was going on. I think we were the only passengers with a vehicle but there were a few freight/goods lorries on board. We went through the boarding room and passport control with everyone, then when the doors opened, we were the first through to get the bike and ride it on. We tied it down ourselves, but they had ropes and ratchet straps.
Now for the ship: It was NOWHERE near as bad as we had been led to think! I pictured cockroaches running wild, wooden benches for sleeping, and men and women being separated (as we are a travelling couple, that would be lonely at the least).
If you looked hard enough you would see the dirt in the corners and under the seats but no more than usual. The toilets were fine and clean, but bring your own paper. There were two rooms – the forward with long blue benches (upholstered, not wooden!), enough for 4 people to sit, or one person to lie, try to grab a whole one to yourself. And the back room had big comfy recliner chairs.
They served supper straight away, same as airplane food really. Chicken and rice, yoghurt, naan bread and a fanta. Then they turned the lights outs and we got a good couple hours sleep! I even noticed a row of power points at the front under the tv which people were using freely.
There’s a little shop which opens before dinner and again at breakfast, with all the usual snacks and drinks. I didn’t check the prices. Breakfast was the usual naan bread and jams, which you had to go and ask for at the shop, they didn’t bring it around like dinner.
The journey itself was really calm, and we could only feel the engines running, no rocking whatsoever so we were lucky there. Men and women were NOT separated. I think they made an attempt at it because at one point a man came and said something to the crowd, and all of a sudden the women got up and moved to the right side of the room, but I stayed where I was and I noticed it wasn’t strictly enforced.
Off-loading in Sharjah:
Firstly, the ferry arrived several hours late, and it took a few hours to clear the port, so don’t make plans for your first day! We left the port at 1pm, and it’s an hour’s drive to Dubai, depending on traffic.
It took a while for us to convince them to let us ride the bike off, and to drive ourselves to passport control (other passengers got a bus).
They got us through passport control first, but then we waited pointlessly for half and hour before they let us ride back to sort the carnet. The man on the ship had taken our carnet before they let us off – it appears pretty easy to just ride out of the port, so they take extra measures to ensure we don’t just drive off – one guy even asked for our keys but there was no way we were going to hand them over!
It was a lot of back and forth. After the carnet, where we paid 340 AED (they take dollars but give change in dirhams), we went to customs. A guy had to inspect the bike, and charged 10 AED, then we took the forms to the processing counter. These guys completed the carnet entrance, and we paid another fee, about $60. Then we took the forms across the room to anther guy who gave us some more forms and we paid another fee, about $20.
(There is a cash machine/ATM inside the customs hall, turn right from the entrance).
We then had to go back to see the security guard near where the ship docked and he gave us a gate clearance form so we could leave the port. He didn’t have any fees but did ask for a tip (which we didn’t pay).
There’s lots of back and forth and it’s definitely worthwhile to have your bike off the ship from the beginning so you can get around. And when planning your Iran trip, make sure you have not only enough dollars for your spending in Iran, but also for the ferry loading in Bandar Abbas, AND the customs clearance in Sharjah.
Any other specific questions, please feel free to get in contact with us at James And Cat's Motorcycle Travel Diary - Introduction
Tried to post pics, but slow internet connection, so you can see a couple in the middle of this page: James And Cat's Motorcycle Travel Diary - Pictures - Prague onwards