GENERAL All border crossings must be at a legal international crossing where you can get a passport stamped / visa validated and motorcycle temporarily imported. Legal international border crossings should not be confused with local border trading places, where local residents cross the border on either their ID cards or local day passes.
The Thai – Lao border crossing at Huay Khon – Muang Ngern is often problematic for bikers.
Take a look at the low resolution borders map – For a guide to the legal international land border crossings in the area.
Warning Local border crossings: At local border trading passes it is sometimes possible for foreigners to cross, but remember that you are not legally in the country and free to continue. You are in the country illegally, both personally and with your bike, leaving yourself wide open to serious trouble. I’ve seen it a few times in both Thailand and Laos – riders who thought they were clever sneaking into the country, but when they tried to leave the country they could not produce any papers to show that the bike was legally imported. The Customs officials were not impressed and neither was the rider when he had to pay a hefty fine to leave. I know of another case in Vietnam where a rider foolishly snuck in from Cambodia without papers & it cost him a couple of thousand US dollars to leave with his bike from the North. Silly boy & don’t do it! So, play it wise & safe – make sure all your border crossings are at legal international crossings where you get your bike import papers properly stamped.
An unfriendly Lao – Vietnam border crossing at Lalay
CROSSING WITH A BIKE To actually cross an international border with a motorcycle you need a passport and a bike. (Not as silly as it sounds.) Passport: this should be valid for at least 6 months, & have the appropriate visa if necessary (if the rental shop has your passport as security for the bike then you can’t cross the border.)
Bike You need to prove it’s “real”, not stolen & have valid docs to support this = proof of ownership, the bike licence / registration.
For a Thai registered bike this means the original green registration / ownership book, with up to date registration (not expired). No copies, original only!
Thailand Permission To Export: If the bike not registered in your name you need permission from the owner to export the bike temporarily. Otherwise as far as the officials are concerned you could be stealing the bike from the finance company whom you have not yet paid off, or your estranged wife / girlfriend / boyfriend / ex mate who no longer cares about you. Permission from the owner = a written consent Permission To Export form with both your & their & the bike details + signed copies of their valid (not expired) ID card & house registration.
The Thai – Lao border at Phu Doo.
Thailand International Transport Permit – NO longer required for motorbikes. A bit of history: The ITP is a small booklet that is basically a passport for your vehicle. A blue one is issued for cars & a purple one was issued for motorcycles; however it is no longer issued or required for motorbikes, although some misinformed border staff may sometimes think so & try to cause trouble. The cost was a mere 100 baht and & if you have one, they can make your international border crossings easier. In December 2007 the ITP for motorcycles was replaced by a Vehicle Registration Certificate. Certificates of registration are basically English language translations of your bike’s registration book & are valid for one year – the length of registration = you need a new one each year. These are still issued by the Land Transport department & can be helpful, but are not always asked for. ITPs are compulsory for cars crossing the international borders, but are no longer issued or required for motorcycles. You can get a Certificate of Registration if you can, but they generally don’t ask for one either.
Rent & ride across international borders only a few shops will let you take their bikes out of the country. You can try these shops In Chiang Mai Pop Motorcycle Rent C&P Motorcycle Rent In Chiang Rai ST Motorcycle Rent Chiang Rai Big Bikes CR Big Bikes also have provide a drop off & pick up service.
The Thai – Lao border crossing at Nakraseng
DOCUMENTS DEPARTING THAILAND First do Immigration, then Customs. If you’re on a foreign registered bike all you need do is hand in the copies of the Customs & Immigration documents you got on arrival. If you’re on a Thai registered bike you need to complete the papers for both Immigration and Customs. First do Immigration, then Customs. With a Thai registered bike have 4 photocopies of your documents – bike rego / ownership book + copies of your passport to hand over. Usually on the Thai side the Immigration keep two & Customs one set. Then sometimes on the Laos side they will ask for another set.
Completed documents to exit Thailand at Chiang Khong.
1. Bike Ownership Documents
2. Immigration Two forms are needed, these are;
The completed original of these forms is kept at the departure port and you are required to hand in copies of the same 2 forms at the arrival port when you re-enter the country.
Thai immigration forms are here.
Some border immigration (Chiang Khong) ask for 200 baht to complete the forms, & you don’t always get a receipt.
Chiang Khong appreciate a tip for completing the forms for you.
Experience has taught me that you are not always asked for these forms on your return, and sometimes, the immigration staff don’t ask you to complete all the forms when you leave. But, be warned there is a fine for not having the forms on your return and occasionally you get a bad egg official who likes to make trouble if don’t have all the copies & / or completed correctly. I’ve had several runs with border staff over this and either way you never seem to win – it’s up to them & their mood of the day. Note too that I’ve yet to pay a fine, so I consider myself lucky. Stand your ground, be firm but polite.
3. Customs need a Temporary Export / Import form (Official name = Simplified Customs Declaration Form for a car and motorcycle temporarily imported or exported.) You get this from at the Customs office at the border. Customs are organized & computerized. They will complete the form for you. Your data goes in the computer & the form is printed out for you to sign. If you have been out & / or in before, your data should still be in the computer & is easy to bring it up if your info & the bike is still the same. If you’re leaving with a bike from overseas then you just need to hand in the temporary import form you got at the border on arrival.
The Thailand Customs Export/ Import Form
Customs Temporary Import / Export Validity is usually for just a month, and there is a fine of 1,000 baht a day, with a maximum of 10,000 baht if you return / depart late (up to 6 months). Import & Export time limits are the same. It is possible to get an extension on both the export & import, but these must done at your local customs office.
Overall completing these forms on departure is relatively easy provided your bike papers & passport are in order.
ARRIVING IN THAILAND The documents are the same as above. Immigration: TM2 Information of Conveyance & TM4 Crew List + TM3 Passenger List if you have a pillion. Customs: Temporary Import / Export Form. You usually get a month on arrival, & no longer than your visa. Get a visa extension & you can extend the bike import.The bike import can be extended out to the 6 months, with your visa extensions.
Rule change June 2016: the Thai Land Transport Department has enacted new rules to curb the thousands of Chinese vehicles pouring into Thailand in a hard clamp down. Unfortunately motorbikes have been caught up in the crack down; & Customs have been told to strictly enforce the new rules. If you are not on a bike registered in Laos, Malaysia or Singapore, countries that have cross border transport agreements with Thailand, then you now need prior approval to enter Thailand. The rules are basically the same as trying to enter China, Vietnam or Myanmar, where your trip needs to be approved in advance via a registered tour company.
You can read about it on GTR here.
In a nutshell you need
Import is valid for a maximum of 30 days, with no extensions & a maximum of 60 days in a calendar year.
Thailand Visa Issues – New Policy 1st December 2016: you can only make 2 (30 day) “visa exempt arrival” entries into Thailand in a calendar year. More than two entries & you must have a visa – tourist visa or whatever – Non-O, or Business, or student visa; but it must be a visa issued outside Thailand! You cannot just rock up & enter, if you have already done that twice in a calendar year, you won’t get in without a visa in advance in your passport. There are Thai embassies / consulates in the neighbouring countries of Laos, Cambodia, Vietnam, Malaysia, Myanmar should you be there & need to get a visa. Riders from Malaysia & Singapore who come regularly, should be aware of this! Click here for more info here.
THE CROSSINGS Thailand / Malaysia / Singapore are relatively easy and hassle free, provided your passport, visa, bike registration and ownership papers are all in order. Allow 3/4 – 1 1/2 hours to clear the borders on both sides.
Singapore / Malaysia the legal “land border” crossings are: 1. The Causeway: Woodlands (S) / Johore Bahru (M) 2. The Second link: Tuas (S) / Tanjong Kupang (M) Of these two the Second link is faster and easier.
Thailand / Malaysia there are seven legal land border crossings: 1. Ban Ta Ba / Tak Bai (T) – Pengkalan Kulor (M) 2. Buketa / Waeng (T) – Bukit Bunga, Kelantan (M) 3. Sungai Kolok (T)- Rantau Panjang, Kelantan (M) 4. Betong (T) – Pengkalan / Keroh, Perak (M) 5. Don Nok / Sadao (T)– Changloon / Bukit Kayu Hitam, Kedah (M) 6. Padang Besar (T) – Padang Besar, Perlis (M) 7. Khuan Don / Wang Prajan (T) – Wang Kelian, Perlis (M) 8. Satun (T) – Kuala Perlis (M) – sea crossing 9. Ko Lipe (T) – Langkawi (M) – sea crossing 10. Satun (T) -Langkawi (M) – sea crossing
Pakxan Laos. No visa on arrival.
Thailand / Laos there are ten legal international ones: 1. Chiang Saen, Golden Triangle (Chiang Rai T) / Golden Triangle – Sam Liam Kham (Bo Keo L). Mekong River boat crossing. Pax only no vehicles. 2. Chiang Khong (Chiang Rai T) / Houei Xai- FB4 Friendship Bridge 4(Bo Keo L). The 4th Friendship bridge opened 11.12.13. Crossing the bridge – exiting from Thailand you need an escort vehicle, cost 500 baht. 3. Huay Kon (Nan T) / Nam Ngeun – Muang Ngeun (Xayaboury L). Land crossing. Closed to motorbikes – entry & departure – in September 2016. Then 1st October 2017 “open” again for exit & entry (only if you enter via a Lao tour company.) Check the latest Xayaboury info here. 4. Phu Du (Uttaradit -T) / Phu Dou (Xayaboury – L) No Lao visa on arrival, but exit from Laos is ok. Closed to motorbikes – entry & departure – in September 2016. Then 1st October 2017 “open” again for exit & entry (only if you enter via a Lao tour company.) Check the latest Xayaboury info here. For more info see: Chiang Mai – Luang Prabang via Phu Du & Hongsa. 5. Thai Li – Nakraseng (Loei T) / Nam Hueang – Kenthao (Xayaboury L) Local bridge crossing Nam Heuang River. Closed to motorbikes – entry & departure – in September 2016. Then 1st October 2017 “open” again for exit & entry (only if you enter via a Lao tour company.) Check the latest Xayaboury info here. 6. Nong Khai (Nong Khai T) / Tha Dua Friendship Bridge 1, Vientiane (Vientiane L). Friendship Bridge 1. 7. Bun Kan (Bun Kan T) / Pakxan (Bolikhamxai L). No bridge. Mekong river crossing by ferry. Motorbikes ok on working days Mon – Frid only. Laos NO Visa on arrival. 8. Nakhon Phanom (T) / Tha Khek (Khammouane L). Friendship Bridge = entry into Laos not always guaranteed, but be polite, patient & firm. You may have to use a pick up to transport your bike across the bridge. Exit ok. 9. Mukdahan (T) / Savannakhet (Savannakhet L). ). Friendship Bridge = entry into Laos not always guaranteed, but be polite, patient & firm.You may have to use a pick up to transport your bike across the bridge. Exit ok. 10. Chong Mek (Ubon Ratchathani T) / Vang Tao, Pakse (Champasak L). Land border crossing. The Thai Chong Mek Thai staff always seems to be the best – friendliest, happiest, easiest, most efficient – border officials to deal with on the Thai border anywhere! 11. Another international border crossing in the works is from Huak (Thailand) that, all being well, is scheduled to open in 2017. For a wee bit more info see on the forthcoming Huak crossing, see Laos Motorcycle Ride East of Phu Chi Fah On The Road With Destination Thailand TV
GTR on the road with Destination Thailand TV.
The land & bridge crossings are open 7 days a week.
Getting AGL Insurance on arrival in Laos.
The Mekong river ferry crossing – Bung Kan / Pakxan is usually only open regular working days Monday – Friday. It is unclear if there is Lao visa on arrival – some say yes, some say no.
Xayaboury province in Laos is often problematic both entering & leaving. The Xayaboury border crossings have all been no go since August 2016!
EXPERIENCE If you have no experience of riding in Asia and / or crossing international borders, alone, on a motorcycle, do yourself a favour and make a 2-3 week tour of North Thailand and the Golden Triangle to familiarize yourself with the area and the conditions first. In S E Asia, one of the main complications is communication – the locals don’t speak much English and you probably can’t speak, read or write the local language either. So, how will you converse and deal with an unhelpful official at the border, who is perhaps not so familiar with all the rules and maybe not so interested in your problem? Riding here, is not like riding in the EU or Americas, where you can at least read the language, if not speak it, and the rules are generally clear and available. So get some experience under your belt, before you seriously consider whether you are ready to tackle touring the newer frontiers of S E Asia. If you think you are, then come back next year, don’t attempt these trips without experience. Note that riding in Singapore / Malaysia / Thailand is quite easy and straightforward.
Riding Southern Laos.
Vietnam is now possible should you apply 3 months in advance & buy a package tour (with a guides & back-up vehicle.) Rocking up at the border & asking politely does not work. Don’t believe me about no entry – then look here Mr Wheezy & Thao & Under 175cc to Vietnam Forget It. Or try these recommendations.
Entering Vietnam at Tay Trang
Myanmar is also possible now. Read how some GT Riders did Myanmar from Chiang Mai in January 2013. But again you can’t just rock up at the border & ride in. You need a tour package with hotels & guide. Check out the documentation here.
China is also possible now, but again you can’t just rock up at the border & ride in. You need a local tour operator guarantor who provides insurance, an approved route & licenses.
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