When it comes to motorcycle travel, paperwork is by far the biggest headache. Imports, acronyms, visas, insurance… it can quickly get confusing. This motorcycle travel paperwork guide will help explain away the most common documents and paperwork you’ll run into on a round the world motorcycle trip.
Motorcycle Travel Paperwork
Paperwork is one of the most annoying aspects of motorcycle travel. It’s confusing because every country has their own rules and regulations and you’ve got to abide by them in order to get yourself and your motorcycle in and be legal so that you can get out again without a fine.
We’re often asked how we go about the paperwork requirements for all the new countries we visit as there’s so much to consider and the terminology can be overwhelming. Each country is different so you will need to check their requirements, but the types of documents asked for are usually similar. So, we produced this guide explaining the terms. It’s by no means exhaustive, but it covers the most commonly used documents you’ll run into on a round the world motorcycle trip.
CUSTOMS: Motorcycle Paperwork
To get your bike into a foreign country you will need to temporarily import it using either a Carnet de Passage (CDP) or Temporary Import Permit (TIP). This process will be sorted at the border entrance to the country you’re trying to get into by Customs.
Whether you use a CDP or TIP will depend on what the Customs rules are for entering that specific country. Regardless of which one you use, you will need to show your vehicle registration document to prove the bike belongs to you.
And more often than not, you will also need to purchase motorcycle insurance that allows you to ride in that country. Here’s our explanation of all the above in more detail.
Carnet de Passage
The Carnet de Passage en Douane (commonly known as Carnet or CDP) is an internationally-recognised customs document, which allows you to temporarily import your vehicle into a country without having to leave a cash deposit at the border.
The reason it allows you to do that is because you would have already left that cash deposit with the company that issued you the Carnet in your home country.
The Carnet then acts as an international guarantee to the country you’re entering, promising that your Carnet’s issuer will cover any taxes or duties owed if you don’t export your vehicle (using the money you left with them originally in exchange for the document).
We have a full guide explaining the CDP, where to get it from, how long they last, the cost and FAQs in this guide below:
READ MORE: What is the Carnet de Passage?
To enter a foreign country with your vehicle, you will need to go through Customs first and temporarily import your vehicle. Each country has their own rules on this import process. For some countries you must have a CDP, for others you can use a Temporary Import Declaration instead and receive a Temporary Import Permit (TIP).
TIPs usually last 30 days and state that you promise to take your motorcycle out of the country within that timeframe or will pay a fine. TIPs don’t usually cost anything but if they do, it tends to be small money around the £20/ $25 mark.
Temporary Import Extensions
Whether you’re using a CDP or TIP to enter, they both eventually expire. Entering with a CDP more often than not means you can stay in the country for longer (it depends on the country and you will be told how long you can stay when you enter). Regardless, you can usually extend this time by visiting a Customs house in that country and applying for an extension for a small fee.
TIPs are usually extended up to the validity date of your visa. So, you may need to extend your visa first. There are limits as to how many times you can extend. And if you can’t extend, check if there is the option for you to exit the country and get a new TIP upon re-entry.
Third-party Motorcycle Insurance
When entering a new country, you will sometimes be asked to purchase mandatory motorcycle insurance. This insurance won’t cover your bike in case of theft – it only covers third-parties.
Not all countries require you to purchase insurance. There may not even be any mention of it at the border. However, plenty of travellers get stung by not buying it and then getting pulled over a little way down the road and fined for not having it. If there is an option to purchase it, it’s worth it (even though the insurance isn’t actually worth the paper it’s written on).
There are usually insurance offices by the borders and Customs offices. Some countries are very strict on insurance like Japan and South Korea where you will need to show that you have insurance before you can ride in the country.
Remember, this insurance you buy at borders (often around £20/ $25 as well) will not cover you if you have an accident, any personal injury, theft or damage to your bike. It will only cover third-parties – and even then, only if you’re lucky.
We always get asked what insurance company we use that insures our motorcycle to ride round-the-world. The answer is we don’t. There are no companies that will insure your motorcycle for a round-the-world trip. Well, maybe there are some specialist firms, but the price would be so incredibly eye-watering it wouldn’t be worth thinking about and we’ve never heard of one.
The reality is, once you’ve left the zone that your home insurance covers you for, then your bike is no longer covered. If it’s stolen or written off – that’s that. No insurance you buy at a border or in another country will cover it either. Hence why taking very large, expensive bikes is a big risk.
For example, if you have a UK registered bike, you are normally covered to ride in the UK and Europe (some countries will allow 30-day European cover before returning, while others will give 365 days cover). Once you’re out of Europe though, you’re no longer insured!
So, if you’re leaving on a long-term motorcycle trip, don’t bother insuring your bike. Work it out with your provider so your cover expires once you’re out of Europe, or simply call up and cancel it when it’s no longer valid.
Green Card Insurance
Some countries require you to have Green Card insurance for your motorcycle before you can enter. This insurance is compulsory for some countries like Turkey, Serbia, Albania and Morocco. But, rules can randomly change, so do check the requirements of the country you’re travelling to before you go.
A green card is basically an internationally recognised certificate from your insurance provider to show you have the minimum legal coverage to ride in that country. It has become very outdated and there are very few countries at the moment which require it. But, if you are heading to a country that requires it then you can either keep your current motorcycle insurance policy valid until you’ve entered and exited the country that requires Green Card insurance, or buy new Green Card insurance at the border to that country or online. Keep in mind that buying it at the border can be costly (especially the Greek-Turkish border!).
If you’re going to purchase it online, we’d recommend using the guys at Knopf Tours based in Germany.
V5/ Logbook/ Registration Document
Before you can get your import paperwork and insurance, you will need to show your registration document. In the UK, this is your V5 Logbook, other countries issue cards for example. It’s a good idea to carry a colour copy of your logbook and to hand that over instead because it always gets manhandled and saves the original.
But, you should always carry an original because you can often get asked for it.
Driver’s Licence and International Driver’s Permit
You should take your driver’s licence with you. To date, it’s never been a requirement for us at any border, but can often be asked for by police.
There are many countries that require foreigners to have an International Driver’s Permit as well as their driver’s licence. Japan is a perfect example of this, if you don’t have an IDP then not only are you not allowed to ride your bike, you’ll get it confiscated. Get caught without one in Thailand and it’s a big fine too.
The IDP is a translation of your driver’s licence with pages at the back of the booklet explaining your licence details in foreign languages. You may need to show it in order to get your insurance at the border.
The IDP is a simple document purchased in your home country (if you’re from the UK, then it can be bought from the Post Office for around £5). All you need is a passport size photograph and your driver’s licence and they’ll fill it out and give you one there and then.
Check the IDP requirements of the countries you are travelling to. There are three types of IDP: the 1926, 1949 and 1968 convention IDP. This Gov UK site lists which one each country requires. Or use this handy Post Office checker.
Remember that they last 1 to 3 years dependent on which one you get, so you’ll need to factor that into your travel plans.
IMMIGRATION: Your Paperwork
To enter a country at a land border, sea port or airport, you will need paperwork to prove who you are and to also meet the country’s entry requirements. Here are the most common terms when dealing with immigration and what they mean.
First up is your passport – obviously. You’re not going anywhere without it, let alone getting into another country. There’s not much to say here as it’s self-explanatory, apart from your passport needs a few clean blank pages left and usually at least six months validity left when entering new countries.
Border guards love putting tiny little stamps slap bang in the middle of a fresh new page. This will quickly fill up your passport. A good trick is to put sticky post-it notes on the clean pages saying ‘Reserved’. Or, simply ask the border guard or immigration officer if they could stamp on a specific page.
Also, plan ahead if your passport is going to expire while you are abroad. Consider how you will get a new one sent to you.
A visa is a document that allows you to enter a foreign country for a specified amount of time. The visa may be stamped, glued or stapled into your passport or printed out and carried with you.
Which country do I need a visa for?
Every country has their own visa requirements and those requirements differ dependent on which country you’re from. Some countries grant visa-free entry to citizens of specific countries for certain periods of time, some cost as little as £10 and others are eye-wateringly expensive.
Where do I get a visa?
Some visas are given at borders and some you must apply for in advance either online (e-visa) or at an embassy. Sometimes, when a visa runs out you might need to exit and re-enter the country to get a new one, and sometimes you can just reapply for an extension at immigration or even online.
Always carry a bunch of passport size photographs with you as you’ll go through them quickly when entering multiple countries. Use an online service to turn a mobile phone pic into a passport size picture and then go to your local print shop to have copies made for pennies as opposed to those expensive passport machines.
How long do they last?
Visas aren’t indefinite. Typically you’ll get a 30-day visa. If you get a 30-day visa at a border then it will start immediately. Often, if you get a visa in advance (embassy or online) then they are valid for a set amount of days within a set period. #
Let’s say it’s a 30-day visa within a 90-day period. The 90 days starts from the date the visa was issued. That means you’re allowed to spend 30 days maximum in the country and can enter and start your 30 days anytime within those 90 days. But you can’t enter on the 89th day and expect to stay 30 days from there. Once the 90 day period is up, you’re out.
Visas typically last 30 days from the day you get it if you’re entering at a border, but they can last 90 days, 6 months or even up to a year dependent on the type of visa you get.
How do I get a visa on the road?
Getting a visa on the road is tricky for motorcycle travellers because there are multiple countries to travel through, time constraints and different requirements at different embassies. If your visa has a date stamp then you’ll need to stick to a schedule and can’t spend loads of time waiting around and applying at embassies.
If you’re on a long-term motorcycle trip then it’s very difficult to arrange all your visas from your home country before you leave as most will expire by the time you get there. So you will have to arrange visas on the road at embassies. This is usually a straight-forward process, but some countries require you to apply for your visa while in your home country – Pakistan is an example.
If you are going to apply at embassies, then remember that not all embassies are the same (processing times, opening times, requirements etc differ) and there’s not an embassy in every country.
You will need to research which countries the country you want to enter has embassies in, find out what their requirements are and plot them into your route. You will also need to time it well as there’s no point applying for a visa in a country 2,000 miles away if it expires within a month.
A lot of countries are now moving to e-visas where you can apply and receive your visa online. This makes life a lot easier for motorcycle travellers.
Are there different types of visas?
Check the visa requirements before you leave home for all the countries you’re planning on travelling through. You may decide to get them all on the road, but sometimes this isn’t possible or is extremely difficult. For example, Russia is notoriously difficult to get a tourist visa for while abroad, so you might need to get a Transit visa instead, which means you have to enter and exit at specific points within a tight-time period and can’t go off sight seeing. Turkmenistan is another example where it’s easier (and far less expensive) to get a transit visa than a tourist visa.
Other than Transit visas, the typical visa you’ll be applying for is a Tourist visa. There are other options though, like business, working, student visas – but these are more specialist and are for people who need to stay in a country for a longer period of time or wish to work or study while there.
Letter of Invitation (LOI)
The Letter of Invitation (LOI) is a document that very few countries require. It is a supporting document which you may need to provide in order to get a visa. This is often to prove your accommodation if staying with family or friends (and must be filled out and submitted by them) or can be supplied by a company or business if booking a tour with them to ‘vouch’ for you.
Permits are specialist documents used to enter specific regions within a country. For example, you need a visa to enter Tajikistan, but to enter the Wakhan Corridor area you will need a GBAO permit. Permits differ dependent on the country and where you’re going – they’re supplementary documentation.
It’s highly advisable to get the recommended vaccinations for the countries you’re planning to travel to before you leave home, and keep a record of them while you travel so you know what you’re covered against and for how long.
However, some countries require you to have vaccinations against Yellow Fever – mainly in some African and South and Central American countries before entering and a certificate to prove it.
The Coronavirus pandemic is an evolving and changing situation. Be aware that countries may require Covid tests before entering or in future you may have to be vaccinated first.
Motorcycle Travel Insurance
Motorcycle travel insurance falls under its own category and is the most important document for any motorcycle traveller. But it’s not a requirement to enter a country.
It’s often confused with motorcycle insurance (mentioned above), which is vehicle cover. Motorcycle travel insurance on the other hand is your personal travel insurance, which covers your health. The reason it has the word ‘motorcycle’ in there is because this insurance needs to specifically cover your health even if you are riding a bike. Most travel insurance policies wont cover you if you’re on a bike and see it as an optional extra.
Even if you opt for it as an extra there are still lots of caveats such as you might only be covered to rider 125cc bikes or you’re not covered if you travel on one or use it as your main mode of transport.
Because it’s so important, we have a dedicated guide for it below. This article explains all the pitfalls and things to look out for when getting motorcycle travel insurance.
READ MORE: The Motorcycle Travel Insurance Guide
Read more on Motorcycle Travel Guides and Paperwork
Thanks for checking out this Motorcycle Travel Paperwork Explained Guide. We hope you enjoyed it! Here’s a few more articles on motorcycle travel that we recommend you read next. And check out our comprehensive Motorcycle Travel Guides for each country as they list visa and paperwork info.
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