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.

Motorcycle Travel Borneo route and shipping

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.

Of course, you must check in advance whether Indonesia allows your nationality to have a visa on arrival. Not all countries are entitled to this. 

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. Again, check in advance if Indonesia permits your nationality to have a visa on arrival, as not all nationalities are entitled to this. 

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.

A note on visas

Malaysia and Indonesia have different entry requirements and visa systems. Whether you require a visa, visa on arrival or no visa at all depend on your nationality and passport. Please check in advance before you travel what the requirements are.  

We are British nationals and were granted a visa on arrival in Indonesia and did not need a visa to enter Malaysia for up to 90 days. This may be different dependent on your citizenship. 

How to get to and from Borneo with a motorcycle

We have dedicated guides on shipping your motorcycle to Malaysia Borneo and Indonesia Borneo from both Kuala Lumpur and Java. You’ll find all the shipping guides and more in the Indonesia Guides Page. 

READ MORE:

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. 

Liked that? Try these…

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. 

7 thoughts on “How to Cross the Borneo Border (Malaysia and Indonesia) with a Motorcycle”

  1. I was really happy to see your link from a Google search results.
    This is exactly the info I needed since we’re gonna stay in Kuching from 11/19/23 through 11/22/23.
    Though we’d like to arrive in Pontianak, Indonesia from 11/22/23 through 11/25/23, then fly into Jakarta (CGK) on 11/25/23, we actually have 2 concerns that we’re actually open to simply scraping Pontianak altogether:
    1. What’s the best transportation from Kuching to Pontianak?
    2. Is there any potential immigration complication for American citizens, who supposedly need not a Visa to enter Indonesia?

    Your blog provided much needed details on the second concern. Thank you.

    Reply
    • Hi N Pham, sounds like you have a great trip planned, and I’m glad to hear you found this article helpful.

      1. So, this guide is specifically focused on helping motorcycle travellers with the paperwork and borders required for crossing Malaysia Borneo to Indonesia Borneo.
      Because of that, I don’t know what the best transportation service is as we used our own motorcycle. However, I am confident you will find plenty of shuttle busses and taxi services in Kuching centre offering transportation to Pontianak.

      2. You can get a visa on arrival at the border between Malaysia Borneo and Indonesia Borneo for Indonesia – HOWEVER – I do not know what the visa rules and requirements are for individual countries. We are British citizens and were allowed to get a visa on arrival. I don’t know if US citizens are entitled to the same, so I would advise you to check that first before you head to the border.

      I hope this helps, please do let us know how you get on.
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply
      • Wow!
        I’m a motorcyclist too.
        I’d love to be a part of that.
        I rented scooters almost everywhere renting / driving a car isn’t practical.
        Since this August, we, my wife and I, have transported by JR Passes in Japan for a month, by rental car in S. Korea for 5 weeks, and now, by rental scooters in the Philippines for 2 weeks.
        Without little reading / research that I’ve done, I’m thinking of renting either a car 🚗 or a scooter 🏍, not between cities / destinations but rather while visiting Kota Kinabalu and Kuching.
        As for Brunei, I’m thinking we should be able to cover the country sufficiently in 3 days, staying entirely in Bandar Seri Begawan, with day excursion to other destinations in Brunei. Do you have any favorite cities in Brunei other than the capital, i.e. Kuala Belait?

        My research suggest the best way to travel from Kuching to Pontianak is bus operated by Bintang Jaya Express.

        Reply
        • Hi N Pham, sounds like you have both had a great trip in some beautiful places! Brilliant!
          Yeah, renting a car or scooter would be a good idea – especially in the Malaysian section. The roads are good there.
          Don’t forget to catch a flight to Sandakan too in the north east of Borneo – that’s where all the orangutans, wildlife river boats, proboscis monkeys, sun bears etc are!
          Unfortunately, we didn’t travel through Brunei so I don’t have any recommendations for it.
          Have a great trip and all the best!
          Andy

          Reply
  2. Thanks for your advice about Sadakan. The web shows quite interesting pictures. It’s interesting that you mentioned taking a flight there because the car rental staff actually mentioned that he doesn’t want me to drive there due to the unfinished road conditions.

    We were fortunately able to rent a car on our first full day in Kota Kinabalu. Just FYI, it costs half of what I’d pay through the web. I’ve never walked into a local office to rent any vehicle before, and was pleasantly surprised if this findings.

    I wish you and your wife safe and amazing explorations ahead. You two look amazing!

    Reply
  3. Hi, my husband and i planned to go bali from malaysia using our own car? Is there any possible way to go? Which border to pass by? Can assist us? Thank you all in advance!

    Reply
    • Hi Vinothini, thanks for your comment.
      Yes, the current way to do this route is to ship from KL to Malay Borneo. And then drive to Indonesia Borneo, and then ship to Java and drive through to Bali.

      1. How to ship from KL to Borneo

      2. How to ship from Borneo to Java

      You will find lots of guides explaining this and more in the Indonesia Motorcycle Travel Guides page. You’ll also see our detailed Motorcycle Travel Guide: Indonesia in there – I know you’re in a car, but the info is the same.

      The problem you have is getting back to Malaysia. So you may want to consider shipping your car back, but this may be expensive. I recommend you visit this page: Indonesia Shipping Companies and ask for a quote.

      Finally, I’m assuming you have a Malaysian car. For foreign vehicles to enter Indonesia you need a Carnet de Passage However, I do not know if Malaysian vehicles need a Carnet or if they are allowed to cross with a temporary import instead. This is something you will need to find out before you start this trip.

      All in all, your proposed trip is a long one and involves a lot of shipping and expenses.

      I hope this helps,
      Cheers,
      Andy

      Reply

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