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Old 3 Feb 2012
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Question Heading to Sakhalin Island (Russia) this summer -- need tips from those who've been!

Some friends and I are planning a trip this summer to take our motorbikes from Wakkanai on Hokkaido, Japan, to Korsakov on Sakhalin Island, Russia via the ferry that runs between them. Our idea is to ride around the countryside for a few days, then head back on the ferry.

Two possible problems, though:

PROBLEM (1) I've read that in 2008 Sakhalin was designated a Special Border Region of Russia. This means there is now some sort of travel permit that foreigners need, besides an ordinary Russian tourist visa, to be allowed to travel freely around Sakhalin outside certain designated city areas:

Sakhalin travel guide - Wikitravel

Obviously being stuck in the cities would not be good for adventure touring.

So I'm wondering, do we need to get this special permit before we leave somehow? Or do we just get a tourist visa, then show up in Korsakov and find some sort of border patrol officials who can sell us the special travel permit?

I have checked HUBB, Lonely Planet, and some Japanese sites, and the info is either not clear, conflicting, or out of date (i.e., from before Sakhalin became a Special Border Region in 2008).

Do we need to pay up big money for carnets du passage, heading with Japan-registered bikes from Japan into Russia? Word on HUBB on this point seems to be no, we don't; we just get some sort of "Temporary Import Certificate" and buy a few day's worth of Russian bike insurance coverage. However, the HUBB threads are a few years old and a buddy of mine says we do need carnets; it would be nice to know for sure either way.

We do have a Japan-based travel agent looking into the details for us, but she has no experience with this particular situation of bringing bikes to Sakhalin. So, any advice on either of these two points from people who have actually taken their bikes to Sakhalin would be much appreciated.

Or, if you're a Russian who lives on Sakhalin, maybe you could even help us figure out what to do and smooth out the paperwork? We would be eternally grateful! (BTW, none of us speaks Russian or has ever been to Russia!)

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Old 4 Feb 2012
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I think your best bet would be to go to a Russian consulate in your country and ask there - in other words, get the answer 'from the horse's mouth'. At the same time, you can begin the process of applying for a visa to visit Russia, something that is not a quick, easy, or inexpensive process if you are travelling 'on your own' and not as part of an organized tour.

Last week, I ferried an aircraft from Canada to Singapore, via Russia. I landed in Anadyr (way the heck up in the north), Magadan, and Vladivostok. Apparently Anadyr was a 'special administrative region' at one time (heck, it still might be), but there were certainly no issues related to me visiting there. I believe that the rules have changed recently so far as visiting 'special administrative regions', but once again, I suggest you check with your local Russian consulate to get a first-hand answer.

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Old 4 Feb 2012
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I don't know anything about Sakhalin, but you don't need a carnet to enter Russia, unless there is some requirement particular to entering from Japan, which I seriously doubt.

You can check with the Russian consulate if you want, but I wouldn't take whatever they say very seriously, because they probably have no idea what they are talking about.
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Old 5 Feb 2012
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i was on sakhalin in sep-okt 2010.
i took the ferry from vanino(rus) to sakhalin then rode to korsakov and took the ferry to hokkaido and then on to japan.

yes you do need a special permit for driving arround on sakhalin because its a border region. it was not a problem though. when i arrived on sakhalin they just ask you A COUPPLE OF QUESTIONS about your trip, about who you are and what you are doing. then you pay a fee(cant rember how much) and they put a stamp in your paasport and give you a paper slip.. it was all pretty simpel and took not more then one hour (even though i arrived 4.00 a clock in the morning...

i didnt need my carnet for russia and suppringsly neihter did i need my carnet for japan when i arrived at hokkaido...

sakhalin is a great place to drive arround ...lots off great offroad tracks and nice nature.
and ass everywhere in russia the peopple are great...
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Old 5 Feb 2012
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Sakhalin ride report

Here is Pate's superb report of the 'Moscow Off Road People' club on their 2009 trip in Sakhalin. The pictures give you a good idea of how crazy these guys are, as well as an indication of what's there.

Sakhalin or unfinished the BAM road - ADVrider

We were meant to meet up with them for this, between the Road of Bones and the BAM but we were slipping behind schedule for a variety of reasons and they went without us!
I see them regularly at their weekly meetings and can tell those interested in Russia moto trips that good things are being planned for 2012 ......
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Old 5 Feb 2012
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What a read that was. Thanks for the reference.
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Old 5 Feb 2012
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Call up the ferry company if you speak Japanese (Heart Land Ferry, google it). They will at least know about permits required. Many Japanese have done Sakhalin, so it is nothing unusual. Or google Sakhalin Touring in Japanese サハリン ツーリング you will likely find the basics.
First ferry run of 2012 is early June.
Japan touring information
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Old 6 Feb 2012
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Smile Thank you

Thanks to everyone for all the advice, and a gold star to peter-pengepung for sharing his personal experience on this exact subject.

I've posted on other forums about this and got no answers at all so far. The HUBB is amazing.

(EDIT: I just got a PM from someone on another forum about this, so I can no longer say I got zero responses anywhere else. Still, the HUBB post generated the most responses.)
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carnets, japan, korsakov, russia, sakhalin

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