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My info is from almost 3 years back, but Thailand should allow you to temporarily import your vehicle for about a month (no carnet required / used).
I was warned not to ship by sea to Bangkok, but clearing at the airport was easy. Also you should be able to cross into Cambodia, Laos (and Malaysia, which is a carnet country, but seemed quite relaxed about any bike papers - but I dont know, if it will always be the same). Many people also report having shipped to Kuala Lumpur by sea or by air.
Burma is almost impossible, and Vietnam seems very tough to get your vehicle into - but lately it seems like you can do it in a similar way as China, so very expensive and needs to be arranged long in advance.
Indonesia requires the carnet, and we got in without problems at Belawan (Medan)... but later on I heard of many travellers having serious trouble with the Indonesian customs. May be the port of entry has to be chosen carefully.
About the routes, there are just so many of them to take! But this is what I did in Nov/Dec 2005 with an Africa Twin, we were a group of 5, and still think this was among my best trips in that area:
- From Bangkok along the eastern seaboard or Sukhumvit Road to Rayong, Trat, then cross into Cambodia in Koh Kong (visas on the border for around 20-30 USD). Sadly the great dirt route thru the province is gone (=paved now), and I believe you dont even need to cross the rivers on rafts any more, as they were building bridges, much quicker, but less adventurous
- Relax in Sihanoukville, maybe do a daytrip to Kep, Kampot & Bokor Hill Station (but I heard the road to Bokor may be closed now)
- Continue to Phnom Penh, which is a very interesting and vibrant city; get a Lao visa from the consulate
- Head east, then north to Stung Treng (but unless you´ve been to Angkor temples near Siem Reap, that might be a detour to consider, also nice floating villages to see neaby at Tonle Sap-lake)... the road to Laos was under construction, but not difficult may well be ready by now; border officials collected small bribes on both sides, and the road in no-mans land was bad but not long
- Spend a few days in Si Phan Don, ´4000 islands´ in the middle of the Mekong near the border
- A very good road built by a Scandinavian company goes all the way to Vientiane, about 800 kms from the border; Pakxe & Savannakhet maybe worth a visit on the way... OR if you´ve got time, you can take a more eastern route, but that´s more mountaineous, and roads could be bad (they said they´d be nearly impossible on a big bike, especially if it rains)
- Vientiane also worth a few nights, then head north to Vang Vieng and Luang Prabang; quite good, twisty road, and really spectacular mountain scenery with nice small villages along the way, and river rafting possibilities near Vang Vieng
- In Luang Prabang (which is an interesting temple city) go to the harbour & negotiate a slow-boat transport to Huay Xai (it takes 2 days on the river with an overnight stop in a really small village along the way.. and for us, the boat cost something like 75 USD per head with our group of 5 - but remember to include the carrying of the bikes into the boat, or you´ll pay extra - also the lifting of the bikes above the water looked pretty hairy!!) There might also be a road between these places, but it is a very mountaineous area, and at least that time everyone claimed it is in very bad condition. I cannot comment on that, but the boat trip in itself was also a unique experience
- After two days on the boat, which I did not find boring at all, because of wonderful views to the mountains and the river, plus there was also a nice possibility to just chill out, unload in Huay Xai (I dont remember, if that name belongs to a town on the Thai or Lao side, or both!) and we needed to spend the night on Lao side because the Thai border had closed, then crossed the river in the morning
- Back in Thailand, there´s a wide variety of great routes to the south, and no need to stick to the main roads, either. That time, we followed the small roads near the Lao border, and they were fantastic (but for example the route to Mae Hong Song, and then south along the Burmese border was equally thrilling, it just takes several days more time, if entering from Huay Xai). Generally the area around Chiang Mai is a heaven for motorcyclists!
We spent some 3 weeks doing that trip, was maybe around 4000 kms total. But there are just so many things to do & see, so you can easily spend a lot more time. Also this part of Asia is very cheap to travel, stay and eat, so even a low-budget traveller can stay longer without a problem.
Location: Aussie expat in Switzerland half way RTW
I can catagorically confirm that you can not ride (take your own bike) into Vietnam or Burma. Likewise for China, we tried in 2009 and have a long write up about it if you're interested.
You can and should ride in Laos, Cambodia, Thailand, Phillipines and Singapore. Most riders I know that have been to Indonesia don't recommend it to other riders because of the bad (extremely bad) traffic and poor road conditions.
GT rider is a good forum but mostly Thailand orientated with some info on Laos and Cambodia.
If you want to see the routes we did and recommend then check out our google map here:
Philippines is said to be great (away from Manila...). Ferries to Borneo and on to Java are covered elsewhere. I was also told that Sulawesi is more interesting and less touristy than Borneo, but getting there from the Philippines could be interesting.
Singapore is pointless and expensive with vehicle.
Elsewhere I have posted comprehensive info on Thailand, covering all the paperwork and tricks and tips.
I do recommend Indo, but only with earplugs for hotels. Stay away from all major cities and roads and you will have a great time. Entry at land crossings and in Belawan is easy with your carnet.
Location: Golden, CO USA...on the road since Sept 2005
(I can catagorically confirm that you can not ride (take your own bike) into Vietnam or Burma.)
My little BMW Dakar and I have entered Burma 2 or 3 times sans problem. I have not crossed Burma and understand this is problematic to say the least. The Burmese will ask for 10 Thai baht per day for insurance. The people I met in Burma were just fantastic and really took care of me. Dave.
I can catagorically confirm that you can not ride (take your own bike) into Vietnam or Burma. Likewise for China,
Guys - I believe the info for China posted here is wrong. While I haven't done this myself - so cannot speak from personal experience - I know several groups that have done this in recent years.
Granted it is complicated and you have to be a master at paperwork - but it is possible. I believe you need to apply for Chinese number plates and have a guide with you while in the country (Walter and his mate James are about the only people to have bypassed this - but that was quite a while ago !).
This is why people tend to group together to justify the cost of the guide...
There is a company called Newland Travel who can help you. See link below...
Has someone claimed it would be impossible to enter China?
It does not seem to be impossible, but it does seem to be VERY complicated, time-consuming, needs to be planned months in advance of the crossing, and last but definitely not least, very expensive. These days it seems Vietnam has gone more or less the same way. Wonder if their officials were actually told by their Chinese counterparts, how to start extracting big money from foreigners!
We did a trip from Europe to Australia, and researched the China-option for a while... turned out it could very well eat up something like 50% of our whole trip budget for two!!! So yeah, it is probably a very exciting country, but no thanks - there are many many others, that I havent seen yet, and can enter much cheaper! (And in fact we were in India in December, so at that time there was probably no way to cross the Himalayas & Tibetan plateau on a bike anyway, and our whole trip was 6 months, so not possible to wait for the spring.)
Hi there, we flew from South Africa into Kuala Lumpur. It was a very easy experience. Officials were helpful and organised, they let us uncrate the bike and repack it in the cargo area (being Sunday may have helped!). We did not use a clearing agent (quoted price US$280!!), and it cost us only 68 ringgit to clear customs. Only issue is you have to run around a bit to get your security pass and going to the various offices, but no big deal.
Thailand customs are a bit confusing. From Malaysia to Thailand (September 2010), they would not accept or stamp our carnet and we had to complete the temporary import form - took a little time but no cost or hassles. Leaving Thailand we had to do more paperwork, just time but no cost or hassles. Yesterday (October 2010) we crossed from Laos to Thailand, they completed the import form using info already in the computer AND stamped the carnet (even though we didn't offer it). Go figure?!
So far, we've covered mainland Malaysia, parts of Thailand, and gone through Cambodia and Laos. It's been good and easy, nice travelling. Watch out for roadworks in Cambodia (especially route 3 - take diversion and follow route 2 where you can) and a few roads are still dirt (main roads all good now). Laos seems to be well paved, though route 13 is deteriorating. Prepare for curves!
Location: Aussie expat in Switzerland half way RTW
It is possible to do anything the questions then is just how much money you are willing to pay. I clarify that I never said it was 'impossible' just that you can't legally (at least not with out a lot of hassle, time and money). But who am I to comment. I only spent 6 months trawling internet, talking to people who had been in Vietnam and China illegally with their own bikes, organising through tour agencies the paperwork, knocking down embassy dorrs, getting official papers translated, asking for help from foreign officials, all to no avail and eventually stuck at the borders of Thailand-Burma, Cambodia-Vietnam, Laos-China with not option but to turn back.
Without re-telling my life story as most people love to do I summarise and give the helpful information. Back on topic: Save your time and money and enjoy Thailand, Laos and Cambodia which are hassle free for the most part.
Perhaps if you have been into China with your own bike on a tour then you can attest to it being possible but you are limited and you are by no means free to ride. Not to mention the cost.
The Burmese border situation must have been different for hook, but I was refused entry both at Mai Sai and 3 Pagodas Pass. Please post more detail about your border crossings and where you rode.
Location: Aussie expat in Switzerland half way RTW
Originally Posted by Gary D
That must be a recent rule change, that is great news. With the carnet is there a maximum stay time?
Not a rule change just simplifies the bureaucratic process of the Thai's when you leave Thailand. They have to get this piece of white paper stamped for their own records but make it clear for anyone that doesn't have it that it is a necessary glitch, regardless of if you have the CDP or not.
We crossed China. Not much paperwork for us, the tour co. took care of it all. 6200 Euro each + expenses for 45 days, 3 provinces, incl. Tibet.
In Mae Sai my wife was told she could take her (Thai) bike across the border into Burma, but we didn't do it. I think Thai customs said it would cost us 500B. I was told I couldn't take a bike across the bridge at Mae Sot.
I was never asked for a carnet by Thai customs, entered about 3 times, but some other travellers also told me that they had theirs stamped.
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