et up in 2004 by Double Guinness World Record holders Kevin and Julia Sanders, www.globebusters.com Motorcycle Expeditions & Tours takes riders on amazing journeys to unusual destinations.
We take the freedom to cross borders for granted in Western Europe, but outside the EU comfort zone traversing a frontier with your bike can become a long and unfathomable process. If you don’t prepare yourself for it – physically and mentally – and it can quickly turn your trip sour, or halt it altogether.
In essence, passing between two countries comprises four basic steps. First, you enter yourself into the country at immigration. Secondly, you enter your bike with customs. Thirdly, upon leaving you to get yourself stamped out and finally, you exit your bike. Simple in theory, but in practice every border you come across will be different, and faced with masses of locals, being jostled for money, and a random collection of anonymous sheds/buildings to trawl through, you’ll forget it all instantly. Here’s how to cope:
Rule number one: push the very English concept of queuing out of your head and ride straight to the front.
Take your time to suss-out your surroundings and make sure your bike is as secure as possible: borders attract a strange array of characters and foreign travellers on big bikes attract them all.
Using fixers at borders can be a more efficient way of getting yourself through. They will charge, but if you gain a few hours and avoid tearing your hair out, then it can be money well spent.
Accept that part of the system may be under-the-table payments to the man with the stamp. If it’s only a few dollars, taking a stand on principle and refusing to pay can mean a prolonged and tedious experience.
There’ll always be a variation on a theme to get your passport stamped: fill out a tourist visa or go to a different office to buy a stamp. In any event, border officials are significantly better at pushing people across countries than they are private vehicles.
Before leaving home check all your documents. Make sure the chassis number on the V5 matches your bike, and that the name on the V5 is the same as on the passport. Have your original documents to hand and carry sufficient copies for every entry and exit.
Certain countries also require a carnet de passage too: an import/export guarantee that the bike will leave the country. In the UK, you can get one from a new carnet issuer called CARS www.carseurope.net.
Some borders will also check for food and you’ll find yourself dumping dairy products, fresh meats and fruit in the bin. A good way to ward off a search is to have smelly laundry at the top of panniers!
Another amusing procedure you may find is bike fumigation, which is supposed to prevent insect froms getting into the next country and consists of a man spraying insecticide over the wheels of your bike.
Just when you think you’re done, there can be a final police check of all your documentation and then another by the security man in charge of raising the barrier.
Once through, ride far enough away for people not to bother you, then stop on double check all your documents.
What you’ll need to cross a border:
- Passport – mandatory for all borders. It needs to be valid for at least 6 months after your date of departure from the country you are entering.
- Vehicle Registration Document (V5) – mandatory for all borders, although blagging your way across with good copies is not unheard of.
- UK Driving Licence – often requested. The photo card will normally do, but it’s worth taking the part two just in case.
- International Driving Permit – occasionally requested, but normally the UK driving licence suffices. You can get one from the RAC.
- Third Party insurance for your bike – sometimes requested by police. Some countries require the obligatory purchase of country-specific insurance at the border (it’s normally cheap and covers you for very little).
- Carnet de passage for your bike (depending on country) – required by many African and Middle Eastern countries.
Kevin and Julia