Bordercrossing Iran - Turkey at Serou/Esendere, Ferrycrossing Van/Tatvan, Train from Tatvan to Istanbul with two motorbikes, Crossing into Iraq/Kurdistan from Turkey, getting oil and tyres in Tehran. Including GPS waypoints.
Here's some info that might come in handy for some of you: Me and my girlfriend (or wife in Iran
were driving to India on a Transalp and an Africa Twin until we discovered something in Tehran that made us want to go back home asap..
We wanted to visit family in Kurdistan (North Iraq as the Turks say), so we drove to Silopi in Turkey to cross the border into Kurdistan. It took us a bit more than 3 hours (excluding the one hour time difference) and no carnet de passage was needed. They inspect your motorbike, write the chassis# on some paper and give you a white slip to exit the customs zone. Also a visa was not needed (for us being Dutch citizens, but there was also a German guy who didn't need one and I think nobody needs a visa there) for they gave us a ten day stay straight away. After ten days you should go to the 'alien registration office' (for those who have been to Sudan and went there, they will understand that 10 days will be more than enough to visit this part of Iraq
). In the customs zone there's a bank to change from whatever currency you have (lira, euro, dollar) into iraqi dinar. (1 lira was about 750 dinar, but this varies a lot) In Kurdistan we drove straight to the Jamal hotel in Zakhu (N37'08'539E042'40.932) where you have excellent value for 30$ a night for two, including parking.
The road in Kurdistan is not safe everywhere, but as long as you AVOID Mosul and Kirkuk you'll be fine. I'm more than happy to give you the exact route in Waypoints if you email me at email@example.com
. Basically we drove in one day to Suleymania (such a waste because it is very very beautiful to drive there) via Dohuk, Al Aqrah, Atrush, Shaqlawan (not neccisarly in that order). Suleymani (or Slemani as the locals write) is a nice place to visit for some days. There's a bazaar with a lot of chinese crap but also a place called the Amna Suraka (red prison) N35'33.747E045'25.523 which was a torture centre during the Saddam period. Very impressive to see.
We tried to exit Kurdistan into Iran (you will need a carnet de passage there and a visa (duh..)) via Penguin/ Basmach to Marivan in Iran, but they didn't let us trhough with the motorbikes. Obviously they didnt understand how to handle a carnet and they sent us to a bordercrossing further south (4 hours from Slemani) at Khanagin/Kosravi. The latter is a Iraqi controlled border so there was some doubts of our friends in Slemani if we could cross there. We decided to take our chances and drive south. Take the main road to Jalaula, but make sure you turn left here N34'35.422E045'17.837 to take the Kurdish controlled backroad to Khanagin. Also if you want to drive this strecht email me for some crucial waypoints... At the border we discovered that there had just been a new law introduced stating that whoever enters Iraq over land has to exit via the same border. Problem for us here.. But the people were really nice and with help of a US army translator they managed to get us through. On the Iranian side there was no problem at all, they were really friendly and stamped everything needed within an hour or so. Also changing money here is not a problem, although we had to get rid of our dinars at the cafeteria. USD or Euro can be changed at the small bank counter at this border. 1 dollar is about 10.000 rial, or 1000 Toman. From this border we drove to Qasr-I-Shirin (or how do you write that..) to a nice hotel (12$ for two, no breakfast) with a safe parking at N34'30.871E045'34.536. By the way, after three hotels in Iran we got so sick and tired of it we just asked local farmers to pitch up our tent in their garden/field. This was nowhere a problem and if you still like being invited into their homes this is a good way to 'explore local culture'
Getting 4-stroke oil and tyres in Tehran
I know some people suggest to get your oil and tyres changed in Turkey, but we planned to do that in Tehran and managed to. First of all: it is illegal for Iranians to have a motorbike larger than 125 or 250 CC, only the police drives the bigger ones. Therefore it is basically illegal to drive on the freeways with your bike. But seeing something strange as this they always let you pass and don't charge any toll. Anyway, this is why it seems so diffiult to get proper 4-stoke oil and the right size tyres. After spending some time looking for it we found all of this in the area called Gom Rock (or Ghom Rhoq of however they spell it) around here: N35'40.023E051'23.832. There we found Atrod 4-stroke engine oil for motorbikes, at 4,5 dollars per liter. propably not the best in town, but it beats filling up with car engine oil. Also we found front tyres 90/90-21 which would be called 3.00x21 here and back tyres 140/80-17 and 130/80-17. The back tyres were made in Thailand (which they said was the best there is
and were sold at around 100$ and the front tyre I found was made in Yazd, Iran. No steel thread but looking very tough for the 24$ it costed
Bordercrossing Serou/Esendere Iran/Turkey
I honestly don't get why people keep going to Dougobayazit to cross into Iran. The most southern bordercrossing between Turkey and Iran is at Serou N37'43.309E044'38.132. This crossing took us with two motorbikes only 1,5 hours, exactly the time difference as well (so if you're heading west there's no time loss
. They know how to handle a carnet de passage and the road connecting Orumiyeh and Van is very nice. We drove it in december 2009 and it was way too snowy for motorbikes, but still passable. Fell down a few times though. the highest peak was 2800m and it was -9 Celcius there. but nonetheless very nice scenery. There's quite a few checkpoints on the Turkish side, because this is a bit of a disputed area, but we only had to show our passports every once in a while. There's a very nice hotel in the city centre of Orumiyeh N37'33.020E045'04.406, run by a Iranian guy who studied in America. It is called the Reza hotel (yes, it is fomr the lonley planet
) They have a safe underground parking and the hotel is 20$ for two persons (they start with 30.) breakfast is an additional 4 dollars.
Ferry crossing Van/Tatvan
There did not seem to be a timetable for the crossing of lake Van (Van Gölö) but I think the (train)ferry runs at least once a day. Our connection was from Van to Tatvan at 19.00 o' clock and it arrived in Tatvan around 01.30. The costs were 14 lira in total, for two persons (5 lira) and two bikes (2 lira). Make sure to bring some rope to tie them down. There was also a car on board. The waypoints of the 'harbours' were at Tatvan N38'30.802E042'17.820 and at Van N38'30.998E043'18.507. Or just ask for the Feribot. There's comfortable seats on the boat but I imagine it to be crowded when the Trans asia express is connected to it. The ship was deserted when we took it.
Train from Tatvan to Istanbul (part of the trans asia express)
First of all we decided not to take this train from Tehran because of the stories of people been thrown off at the border. We thought it would be wiser to not have to cross a border with our bikes on the train so we drove to Tatvan.
The station at Tatvan can be found at N38'30.548E042'16.562 and it is not very normal for bikes to be taken on the 48 hour ride to Istanbul. The staff at this station was very friendly (they let us park the bikes inside the station waiting for the train) and helped us with loading the bikes using an old door to funtion as ramp. The lift into the bagage wagon is about 1 meter. My bike weighs about 340kg, so it took 7 men to push it in (and the door cracked, but survived.) I wanted to take the door with us to Istanbul, but they left it at the station, propably to use for the next idiots who want to take their motorbike on the train
. We could buy a ticket for the bikes on the train, which costed 29 lira per 50 kg's, so our bikes weighed less than they actually weighed all of a sudden
250 and 200 seemed plausible, and that costed 265 lira (140 euro's). The ticket for ourselves we had to buy in Mus (the first big station after Tatvan) which costed less than 50 lira alltogether. The staff of the train asked us to empty the fueltanks, but i said there was only half a liter left and they accepted this. So we still had Iranian fuel in our tanks (which is 5 times less expensive than the Turkish fuel). The train stops very shortly at all the staions in between Istanbul and Tatvan, so I think its best to ride the whole stretch, to not ask too much of the staff, but that's up to you. We get off in Istanbul (Hayderpasa station) with help of three guys, who wanted to be paid
Around 20 lira will do. The gate to drive upto the stations's platform is at N40'59.808E029'01.302.
If you'd like to see some movies about all above please check on youtube, my username is rickmeeuw. Or type in hondahonda
If there's any questions don't hesitate to email me at firstname.lastname@example.org
of look at the blog we wrote about this trip at waarisrick.nl