How to Cross the Borneo Border (Malaysia and Indonesia) with a Motorcycle

This guide explains the land border situation for motorcycle travellers and overlanders in Borneo looking to cross between Malaysia and Indonesia.

Crossing the land border between Malaysia and Indonesia in Borneo

Borneo is an island in Southeast Asia. It’s administered by three different countries: Malaysia and Brunei in the north and Indonesia in the south.

If you’re travelling overland with your motorcycle (or any vehicle) and in Borneo, chances are that you’re going to be crossing the land border separating the two halves of the island. Here’s some important information to help you cross the border with your motorcycle.

At the time of writing (December 2022), there are two main border crossings between Malaysia and Indonesia on the island of Borneo and both are very different.

Both crossings are located in the West of the island. And most overlanders will cross this border to get between Kuching, Sarawak (Malaysia port) and Pontianak (Indonesia port) in order to ship their vehicle in or out.

The difficulty lies on the Indonesian side. Here’s what you need to know.

The two border crossings in Borneo

Aruk border

This is a new border that has opened to international travellers. You can find it’s exact location on Google Maps here.

This is the easiest of the two borders to cross. Multiple reports suggest how quick you can get through on both the Malaysian and Indonesian side. A number of friends and fellow travellers have first hand experience of this border and have explained the process.

Crossing from Malaysia to Indonesia

Stamp your Carnet out of Malaysia and visit immigration to get your passport stamped too. There was no question about Malaysian insurance or the ICP.

Once on the Indonesian side, you can get a visa on arrival for around £25. This must be paid in either Indonesian or Malaysian money and can not be paid for in US dollars.

Then visit customs to get your Carnet stamped and that’s it. You’re in.

Crossing from Indonesia to Malaysia

The same exit procedure from Indonesia applies.

When entering Malaysia, you will need to buy insurance and thereafter get an ICP. An ICP is important if shipping out of Malaysia. We do not have any information on if an ICP issuing office is located at this border. If there is, we suggest getting these documents while there, if not, try and source them once you reach Kuching. Bear in mind, an ICP is usually obtained at a Malaysia land border, finding an office elsewhere can be a pain.  

Etikong border

Crossing from Malaysia to Indonesia

We were told this is an awful border. Plenty of people have had terrible experiences here.

However, we risked it and went for this crossing as we didn’t have enough time to make the detour to the Aruk border, which would have added an extra two hours to our journey – not including time spent at the border.

The Malaysian side was very fast. Customs stamped the Carnet out and immigration was sorted within minutes.

Immigration is first on the Indonesian side. The officials were exceptionally friendly and good fun. We didn’t have time to get Indonesian money before reaching the border and spent our last Malaysian money on fuel. We were hoping to use USD and if not, had heard there was an ATM on the Indonesian side. Upon realising we needed the ATM, Alissa waited in an air-conditioned office with a bunch of officials, while a friendly chap took me on his scooter to the local ATM. We all had a lot of laughs throughout the whole process. But of course, make sure you have enough Indonesian money on you before you reach the border. The more people who turn up without it, the less likely officials are going to be willing to escort them to the local ATM.  

You will need to buy a visa on arrival if you don’t already have an Indonesian visa. This section took 30 minutes, but would have been two minutes if we had the correct currency.

Customs were slightly different. They were strict and asked for all our bags to be removed and put through an airport style scanner. They weren’t rude about it and explained it’s just what they need to do. Fair enough, it’s their job. Our contents weren’t taken out of the bags and the bags weren’t searched, they just came out of the panniers and top box and went through the scanner.

Meanwhile the Carnet was stamped into the country.

This section took one hour.

All of the customs guys were also very friendly and welcoming, they just had a job to do and we don’t hold that against them. Some countries require this, like in Azerbaijan for example.

They explained that the Aruk border may not be as strict because it’s so new, but the same protocol should be applied some time soon.

Don’t let the negative experiences others may have had put you off this border.

Crossing from Indonesia to Malaysia

The process will be smoother. Simply get your Carnet and passport stamped out of Indonesia and get stamped into Malaysia. The same applies as mentioned above in the Aruk border regarding Malaysian insurance and the ICP.

Read more on Motorcycle Travel in Borneo, Malaysia, Indonesia and Southeast Asia

Thanks for checking out this Borneo Border Crossing Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycling in Southeast Asia that we recommend you read next. 

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Are you planning a motorcycle trip to Borneo or Southeast Asia? Or do you have any questions or tips to share? Let us know in the comments below. 

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