Saturday, June 08, 2013

Planning overland travel is a different ball game

Most of the avid travellers I know travel via flight. Planning an overland travel with own vehicle over an extended period of time is a very different process. The only people I can approach for advice is Master Goh and Samantha. They are the only people I know who have been there, done that. There are many considerations when it comes to planning the route. You cannot just ride into a country as and when you want. There are a few extra paper works and cost involved. Here are some of the requirements and considerations that I have learnt from Master Goh and Samantha.

Correct me if you know better and if any of the information is incorrect.

International Driving License (IDP)
Good to have but not neccessary except for some countries. I realised this document is important especially if you wish to rent vehicles oversea. For Laos, an International Driving License is required and my friend recently did vehicle entry permit at the Laos Embassy. IDP can be applied at Automobile Association of Singapore.

Carnet de Passages
This is an international document required for temporary admission of vehicles into a country. In Singapore, the Carnet is issued by Automobile Association of Singapore (AAS). For information, you can view it here. I do not know when was the last time the AAS's list of countries requiring Carnet was last updated. I trust the list on website Horizons Unlimited more because the information is contributed and updated by overland travellers.

First, you need to be a member of AAS, that is $32.10 for cheapest one year AA Social Membership. To get the document, you need to leave a cheque deposit with AAS or submit a banker's guarantee (you leave the deposit with the bank). The deposit amount depends on the vehicle type and cc. For motorcycles below 400cc is $5,000, above 400cc is $15,000. Banker guarantee can take up to two weeks to process. You can read up Master Goh's ordeal with Carnet. I am going to submit a cheque for the deposit, so it will be easier.

 For Motorcycle.
 < 400 cc: $5,000
 > 400cc: $15,000

If you are visiting any of these countries, there will be a 100% loading on the amount of banker's guarantee.
  • Egypt
  • Parkistan
  • Hong Kong
  • Syria
  • India
  • Tunisia
  • Iran
  • Jordon
  • Zimbabwe
  • Kenya
Above information from AAS website.

If you are visiting the above country, that means you have to put down $10,000 for a less than 400 cc bike and $30,000 for an above 400cc bike.

Why?

Some countries impose taxes for importing vehicles there. The import taxes can be more than 100% of the vehicle value for some countries. In the past, travellers had to place a huge cash deposit at the custom as a guarantee for not selling the vehicles. Upon exiting the country, the deposit is returned. With the Carnet de Passages, it eliminates the need to lug around so much cash. It is a booklet of 25 forms printed with your vehicle information which proves that your vehicle entered and exited the country.

I simplified the form for your understanding. Below is what Rosie from AAS drew for me. If you are going down to AAS to enquire about Carnet, look for Rosie, she is the expert about Carnet.


If you are freighting the vehicle by sea or air to another country, you need to inform AAS of the forwarding agent.
If the stamps are not complete i.e. inward endorsement without the outward endorsement for a particular country, the deposit will be forfeited. It is crucial that you check before leaving the custom! If you infringe any vehicle law in another country, the first association that the country looks for is AAS. So behave good or that deposit will be gone.

It is mandatory to have Carnet when travelling through India, Pakistan, Nepal, Australia and many of the African countries. All the American and European countries do not require it.

Your insurance and road tax should also cover the duration which the Carnet is valid for. That means sending your bike for inspection and paying the insurance premium and road tax in advance for that duration. I requested inspection deferment from LTA nso I can renew my Road Tax in advance.

Rosie advised to apply for the Carnet de Passage at least one month in advance of the trip.

AAS Head Office
535 Kallang Bahru
#02-08 GB Point
Singapore 339351
Tel: 6333 8811
Fax: 6733 5094
Email: aasmail@aas.com.sg

Mon - Fri:  8.30am - 5.30pm
Sat: 8.30am - 1pm
(Closed on Sundays and Public Holidays)


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Visa
As most should know, it is permission to enter and stay in the country for a stated purpose and period. The cost of and ease in obtaining visa depend on the diplomatic relationship of that country you want to visit and home country. Singapore does not have all the consulate of every countries in the world. Visit the Ministry of Foreign Affairs website to check on visa requirements and the nearest consulate.

I often find that information on the website is not updated or there is no information on entering the country with your own vehicle. It maybe necessary to visit the nearest consulate for up-to-date information.

Unbeknownst to many, the visa issued by entering a country via flight and by land borders may have different duration. For Thailand, getting there by flight give you a visa of 30 days. Entering Thailand by land borders, the visa is only 15 days. I have a friend who did not know that and ended up getting fined for overstaying. If extended visa is required, do find out more at the embassy. You can read how I applied for 60 days Thailand visa here.

My 60 days Thailand Visa.
A few things to check on Visa Applications

- How long are you permitted to stay with that Visa?
There are many types of Visas for transient visitors - transit visa only permits you enough time to get to the next country, so it is usually short; tourist visa allows you to stay longer for exploration of the country and can be more difficult to obtain for some countries.

- Where is the nearest embassy?
Usually neighbouring countries should have each other's embassy, nonetheless, do your research. You do not wish to be at the border checkpoint just to find out that you need a visa and the nearest embassy is hundreds of kilometres away.

-How long is the validity period
Most visas have a validity period i.e. Thailand Visa has a validity period of 90 days after issue. Thus, you would need to enter the country before it expires. Due to the long duration and uncertainty of overland travel, it is crucial to plan and time your visa applications. There is no point in apply for all the Visas in Singapore when it is going expire by the time you arrive in that country. You may need to apply Visa as you travel but....

- Can the visa be applied in the country that is not the applicant's home country?
Some countries requires that you apply for Visa from the consulate at your own country. Paulo and Lindsay  and Mark and Sanne had to fedex their passport back to their home country to apply for Pakistan visa. Until they get their passports back, they were stranded in another country. They were not able to apply for the visa before leaving their country due to the validity period combined with the long duration of overland travel.

- How long does it take to process the Visa?
Do take note that some visas may take one or even two months to process. It depends on the diplomatic relationship of the two countries. If they have reasons to suspect you of espionage, be prepared to wait long. So you may have to extend the existing visa to wait for the next visa approval or give that country a miss.

- Does it require additional document?
For Pakistan visa, you need a letter of sponsorship. My friend got it from the hotel they stayed in.

Singapore is on friendly term with most countries. Our passport ranks fifth in terms of visa-free access to countries. Without our ministers wearing a big smile and shaking hands with foreign ministers, do you think Singaporean can enter so many countries?

Source: http://www.stasiareport.com/the-big-story/asia-report/china/story/smrt-saga-unlikely-hurt-bilateral-ties-20121205
Israel is one tricky country. Singaporeans require no visa. They do not have diplomatic ties with Malaysia. Bad history. Go read up. If your passport is found with Israel stamp, you may not be able to enter Malaysia and probably a few other Islamic countries. You need to request the custom officer to stamp on separate piece of paper and not directly on your passport. Someone once shared with me that he needs to apply another passport just for entering Israel as he does so frequently.

Escort
There are countries that require escorts and lengthy paperwork for overseas registered vehicles travelling in their country. E.g. China. Due to sensitivity of certain region, foreigners are not allowed to wander there freely.

Many of the overland travellers I met did not go through China except for a Swiss couple, Susanna and Peter. They had to pay around US$100 a day for the escort guide. The cost was alleviated as they managed to find other travellers to share. What I learnt from Rosie of AAS is that overland travellers usually have to engage a travel agent. Before they can drive or ride into China, they will meet the guide at the border who will escort them to get vehicle inspected, issued a licence plate and other necessary documents done.

It is the same for Myanmar. For my crossing into Myanmar, I was very fortunate to know other overland travellers who are able to share the cost of engaging a tour. After asking around for quotation, we are firming on engaging Burmese Senses Travel and Tours to facilitate our crossing.

I read from Mark and Sanne's blog that they had to be escorted before and after crossing Iran's border for security reasons. From the book, Red Tape and White Knuckle by Lois Pryce, she and a few other travellers engaged an escort to bring them across Algeria. Do check with the nearest embassy on the requirements to drive or ride into their country.

Freight your vehicle - Air or Sea?
Travelling the world solely by land is almost impossible due to red tape, cost (i.e. it may be cheaper to freight your vehicle than to engage an escort which cost around US$100 a day) and geographical barrier. Unless you have an amphibian, one has to air freight or sea freight the vehicle across ocean. As shared by Jannick, my favourite Ang Moh, there are pros and cons for both methods.

Air freight is costly, takes a shorter time. Arrival is very on time.

Sea freight is much cheaper but port fee can amount. Sea freight takes a longer time, depending on the distance, it can take a few months. It can be unpredictable and the estimated time of arrival can be unreliable.

I recalled someone mentioned that a traveller arrived in the country only to find out that the shipment of the bike was delayed a few weeks. The cost of living in the foreign land while waiting for the bike to arrive does not make the sea freight option cheaper now.

If you are going to start your journey by freighting your bike to elsewhere, you can consider sea freight. Send out your bike and track your shipment while you still can work and live in your home country. Once the shipment is nearing the destination, you can fly over to pick up your bike.

Samantha shared a freight cruise company which offers to ship you together with your bike cargo. You can keep an eye on your bike throughout. Food and lodging are included. There you can rest and recharge for your next lake of adventure.

Here is a comprehensive guide on shipping the bikes from Horizon Unlimited Website.

Climate
All we ever experience in equatorial Singapore is two seasons - Rain or Shine. Many other countries go through the four seasons. Winter in Russia can be as cold as -40 degree celsius, not the best time to travel on the motorcycle. You need to time your travel.

Vaccination (More details here.)
Master Goh and Samantha took vaccinations for many endemic disease. All of it are for protecting your health. If you have travelled to South American and some African countries, the yellow fever vaccination cert is mandatory for re-entry into their many countries.

The Yellow Booklet which holds all your vaccination records.
I would strongly recommend you to visit the Traveller's Clinic at Tan Tock Seng Hospital 2 to 3 months before your big adventure. I will touch more on that in a later post.

Conclusion
Money, time and security are usually the factors restricting the travel. I intend to leave my job, so time is not so much of a factor, my budget is. China is too expensive for me and very likely I will skip it.

I do not mind getting the Carnet. At least I know I will not return to Singapore penniless. If I can skip it, I will. I can travel a few more months with that money. However, I do not wish to miss Pakistan, Karakoram Highway and Hunza Valley.

Master Goh recommended Horizons Unlimited website for all the information on overland travelling. Meeting other travellers has also been very helpful in the planning. I will blog about that in my next post.

6 comments:

  1. Good write up and information for the next traveller. Keep it up

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  2. Indeed very well written. My well wishes to you Juvena. Good luck and have a safe trip. Truly inspiring.. cheers

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    Replies
    1. Thanks, I hope it helps prospective overlanders as well.

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  3. We would like to know how do you exchange money abroad. Did you rely most of the time on ATM mashine or you exchange money before you enter destination?

    ReplyDelete