Shipping the motorcycle

Unfortunately, shipping/flying the motorbike at some stage is part of the 'around the world game': some countries are impossible to cross with your own motorcycle (for example Myanmar/Burma); borders may close unexpectedly (like China nearly did for me); and then of course, there's crossing the waters from one continent to another. Unfortunately it's not always as straightforward as catching a ferry from the UK to mainland Europe, but shipping the motorbike also isn't that hard once you got the right paperwork in place.

  Kyrgyzstan – Pakistan
  Nepal – Thailand
  Malaysia - Indonesia
  Indonesian Island Hopping
  East Timor – Australia

Kyrgyzstan to Pakistan or India (Galaxy Air)

For a few weeks, we were stuck Kyrgyzstan: getting the Chinese Visa in 2008 was difficult enough because of the Olympic Games, and once we got our visas, China decided to close its borders to Kyrgyzstan because of some bomb attacks in Kashgar.
To cut a (very) long story short: China re-opened Torugart pass just in time for us to sneak through on short notice, with the help from Newland Travel in Kashgar/China.
Still, I thought it'd be worth mentioning that there is a small airline in Bishkek/Kyrgyzstan which operates flights from there to the Indian subcontinent: Galaxy Air. (No guarantees – they really are a very small set-up!)
The video above is from a fellow overland motorcyclist, who tried to help us getting out of Kyrgyzstan.

Nepal to Thailand

Get the flash player here:

Thai Airways are the only option for the bike.
Shippig agent I used: "Eagle Eyes Cargo" in Kathmandu (central Thamel)
Cost: $800 (including crate/customs clerance/...)

When entering Nepal, make sure the Carnet de Passage is stamped in. The service from Eagle Eyes was perfectly organizedand everything's straight-forward. I contacted them in advance for a price quote, upon arrival visited their office in Kathmandu (JP Road in Thamel area). The next morning, they came around to measure the bike. 3 days later, they picked me up from my guesthouse and I followed them on the bike to the airport.

Kathmandu Airport: dismantled the motorcycle (front wheel out, fly-screen off, handle-bars off/put sideways, deflate tires, drain fuel, disconnect battery), put the motorbike on the palette, attach walls & top to the palette. Engine oil stays in, even my spare bottle of engine oil. Eagle Eyes sorted out the paperwork/carnet de passage within about 30 minutes. Payment to Eagle Eyes by cash or credit card (3% surcharge).

In Bangkok, things are a little more time-consuming but still straight-forward. Overall I spent 6-7 hours at the airport before I rode the bike back to Bangkok (2h for customs clearance on a Saturday). Thai Airways Cargo office were very helpful – they even have an English map of the cargo area.
Customs are officially closed Saturday/Sunday, but will do clearance for a 500 Baht (€10) 'overtime' surcharge (offical charge with stamp, no bribe). Make sure to get to the airport early. I only had one guy in front of me at customs, but it took 2h to do his customs clearance.
On the way from the Thai Cargo office to the customs building, you'll probably be approached by someone who wants to help ("hello friend!"), though of course for a hefty charge. They nearly got me, because I was baffled that they knew I came for a motorcycle, and I thought Thai Cargo had phoned them to assist me. (Thai Cargo told me later that this was probably because most foreign people who come to the airport are motorbikers who want to get their bikes out). "Fallang in motorcycle boots" = "$"


In the end, I ignored the touts & did the paperwork on my own. The friendly workers/forklift-drivers at the cargo hall were happy to give me a hand to reassemble the bike, and they only reluctantcly accepted the tip I gave them for their help (mainly lifting the bike to get the front wheel back in).
Arrival at airport: 9am, back in the guesthouse in Bangkok: 6pm.

Malaysia to Indonesia

Route: Butterworth/Malaysia to Belawan/Indonesia
Shipping Agent: Cakra Shipping/Georgetown, Contact: Mr Lim (phone 042625879, mob 0124709717)
350 Rg (€75) in Malaysia; 500,000 Rupees (€35) in Indonesia (possibly a tad cheaper)
Time at harbour: ~4h in Malaysia, ~2h in Indonesia

This seems to be the only route possible to take. There's other harbours between the two countries, but I've heard mixed reports about those, and most overland motorcyclists I heard of went Butterworth to Belawan.

Shipping the motorbike is very straight-forward, and Mr Lim was a real pleasure to deal with. There's no official ferry, so the bike went on an 'onion boat', which has its own crane to lift the bikes onto the boat. Mr Lim told us he can also ship cars/trucks up to 8m length but this is more costly as he needs to hire a crane in the harbour.
On the Indonesian side (Belawan), customs is quick & easy. No problems with police or insurance, no bribes or anything like that.

The motorbike left Butterworth on Friday, I flew from Georgetown to Medan on a Monday, and picked up the motorcycle on Tuesday. (Note: At around €40, the flight from Georgetown to Medan with AirAsia is cheaper & quicker than taking the ferry).

Indonesian island-hopping

Route/Island Cost (Rupees) Ferry Time for crossing
Sumatra to Java (Bakau to Merak) 67000 inc rider daily, every hour 1h

Java to Bali
(Ketapang to Gilimanuk)

27000 inc rider daily, every hour 1h

Bali to Lombok
(Padangbai to Lembar)

75000 inc rider daily, every 2 hours 5h
Lombok to Sumbawa
(Wanasabe to Alas)
80000 inc rider daily, every 1-2 hours 2h
Sumbawa to Flores
(Sape to Lubahanbajo)
219500 inc rider once a day 8h
Flores to Timor
(Aimere or Ende to Kupang)
298000 inc rider from Aimere; 212000 from Ende
once a week Aimere to Ende: 6h, then another
18h from Ende to Kupang


East Timor to Australia

Get the flash player here:

On the Dili to Darwin shipping route, there's only one option: Perkins. Their agent in Dili is called "SDV". And although I prefer to keep a light-hearted tone about things, I've got to say: SDV were a real pain in the backside to deal with – no response to emails and a rude managing director, who interfered with his friendly sales-person dealing with us because he "doesn't like dealing with travellers". (Other travellers & locals in Timor had already warned us).
A better option for the Timor to Australia route is Timor Stevedores. They can ship from Timor to various cities in Australia. Contact in Dili is Troy Adams – phone (+670) 332 2109, mobile (+670) 732 5359. Troy was a tremendous help for cleaning the bike so it'd meet Australian Quarantine Inspection standards.
I shipped with 2 other motorbikes/travel-partners, and unfortunately we had committed to SDV/Perkins. We took up 1 small container. Cleaning our motorcycles took us 1 long day, 2 days would be better.

Route: Dili (Timor Leste) to Darwin (NT/Australia)
Shipping Agent: SDV/Perkins
Cost for 3 bikes (in Dili): US$900 (container, customs, handling fee, bill of lading); US$100 (cleaning facilities)
Flight from Dili to Darwin (Air North): US$140
Cost for 3 bikes (in Darwin):
AU$335.50 (port fees, handling); AU$292 (Quarantine Inspection)
MOT, Registration, 3 months Insurance: AU$200 per motorcycle

When we booked the Australian Quarantine Inspection, we were given a 30min-slot for three bikes. It turned out to be 3 1/2 hours! Each 30-minute slot costs AU$40.