Border crossings from India to Malaysia by motorbike

Did you just buy a motorcycle in India? Fantastic!

Now it’s time to take your new friend for a spin. The route from India to Malaysia is about 10.000 kilometers and you will pass through Myanmar and Thailand on the way too. A great adventure, but what paperwork do you need and how do you get it?

Find out all the steps below and start your own adventure!

Carnet-de-Passage

There is quite a long list of countries which require a Carnet-de-Passage to pass with your vehicle. On the India-Myanmar-Thailand-Malaysia stretch, my Carnet got stamped in Myanmar, Thailand and Malaysia. So yes, each country on this stretch!

A Carnet-de-Passage for an Indian vehicle can be arranged via the WIAA (West Indian Automotive Authority). They are based in Mumbai, but I actually met up with the chairman twice when he visited Delhi to give him the paperworks and money. Read more about how that went here.

Documents required for applying for an Indian Carnet-de-Passage

1.   Application letter for Carnet with total detail of travelling - see example.
2.   Two next of kin contacts
3.   Driving Licence copy of applicant.
4.  Registration copy of Vehicle Owner.
5.   Passport scan colour copy of Carnet applicant.
6.   Vehicle Photographs. (Left, Right, Front & Back)
7.   Alternative photo id proof of applicant.
8.   2 passport size photo's.
9.   Valid Insurance copy of the vehicle.
10.  Membership of WIAA. - (Rs. 2065/- inclusive all taxes) - apply online.
11.   A list of spare parts/tools and their value.
12.   If vehicle is registered on some other name then NOC letter required on Letter head with respective photo id Proof and self attested documents (this is the affidavit - see example)

Costs of Carnet-de-Passage

The fee to get the Carnet-de-Passage is a steep 1 lakh rupees (100,000 rupees which amounts to about USD 1400). On top of that, you need to deposit a large sum of money as a security deposit. This amount depends on the value of your bike, but in my case, it was 200,000 rupees (!). This money will be returned to you once you come back into India with the vehicle.

The Carnet is valid for 1 year, so if you are not planning to return it back to India within that time, you’ll need to extend it (which can be done through the WIAA), or you’ll lose your deposit.

Important: Make sure that they put both the name of the ‘official’ owner (on who’s name the bike is registered) as well as your own name on the Carnet. That will avoid a lot of difficult questions at border crossings (or even being denied at the border. I understood from other travellers that they were denied at the Egypt border because their Carnet was not in their name).

I received a Carnet-de-Passage with 10 pages. This means I can enter 10 countries where the Carnet is required. I quickly started to regret this limited number of pages when my travel plans expanded. Don’t make the same mistake and ask for 20 pages. Just in case your trip is turning out to be a bit bigger than you originally thought!

It is worth checking out the option of getting a carnet from a(ny) automobile association in Europe. I heard of some people having success with that, and the cost of the carnet is likely to be half price of what I paid to the WIAA!

Arrangements to cross Myanmar

It is currently not allowed to drive your own vehicle through Myanmar independently. You are required an escort by a guide and government official. To reduce the incredibly high cost of such an operation, it’s best to join a group and share the costs.

I have been in contact with two agencies who can arrange the crossing through Myanmar: Asia Senses Travel and Osuga Myanmar Travels. Both companies are equally reliable, but I went with Osuga Myanmar Travels because timing wise it was a better match with my planning. I can highly recommend going with this agent as everything was arranged perfectly.

Generally speaking, the agent form groups doing the crossing 1-2 times per month, so make sure you’ll make the contact with Osuga well in advance. They need to start making arrangements for your permit 2 weeks in advance so don’t leave this to the very last moment.

To arrange your permit for the crossing, you need to supply to the travel agent (Osuga in my case) scanned copies of the following documents:

  • Carnet-de-Passage

  • International Driving License

  • Photos of the four sides of your vehicle

  • 2 Photos of you traveling with your vehicle

  • List of the countries that you have been and the ones you will visit

  • Myanmar visa

Costs of crossing Myanmar

The costs of crossing through Myanmar depends on the number of people joining the group and the number of days in which the crossing takes place. Their price list of 2018 can be downloaded here. To give you a rough idea - crossing Myanmar in 6 days with a group of 9 people costs 510 USD per person.

Included in this price are:

  • 5 nights accommodation at hotels and breakfast;

  • Escort English speaking guide & driver

  • Pilot car, liaison officer from the Ministry of Hotels & Tourism

  • Permission documents and permission fees (as per the requirements mentioned in previous paragraph)

  • Border Pass Process Fees

  • SIM cards with internet

  • Road fees (Toll gate fees)

Excluded in this price are:

  • Meals (lunch + dinner)

  • Visa fees

  • Personal Travel Insurance

Food in Myanmar is very cheap, so you are not likely to spend more than 100 USD for the 6 days crossing. That means that your total cost for crossing Myanmar in a group this size is about 600 USD, amounting to 100 UDS per day. It is not cheap (and definitely above my budget) but won’t break the bank either.

Visa Myanmar

You can opt to get the visa for Myanmar at an embassy (either in your own country or in India) or arrange it online. Since I was in Delhi, I chose to go via the embassy - but the online application is a bit easier.

Embassy in Delhi

The visa procedure in Delhi is relatively fast. You can drop your passport and the below documents at the Myanmar Embassy and you can pick it up the next working day.

  • Fill in the application form (download it here)

  • Write a cover letter (download example here)

  • 1 passport sized photograph

  • Pay the visa fee (amount depends on nationality - it will be around 2000-3000 rupees) by bank deposit.

  • Hotel reservation confirmation of first night in Myanmar.

Your visa will be ready in your passport the next working day and is valid for 28 days. You’ll have to enter and leave the country within 3 months of issue of the visa.

Online application

You can also apply online for the visa.

  • When asked for a hotel address, you can use the following: Hotel Majesty, No. 8/6, Bogyoke Road, Thazin, Quarter, Kale, Myanmar.

  • Select the Tamu land border crossing.

  • Fill in the details of the travel agency you are using (by the time you are going through this process, you should be talking to Osuga already, and they can advise you about how to do the online application).

Border crossing India - Myanmar

The border crossing at Moreh-Tamu with your own vehicle is as follows:

India side of border

Riding out of Moreh, you will pass the last police checkpoint. The officers here want to see your passport and know some details about your trip. They will write down where you’ve been in India and where you are heading to in their logbook. After that, you’ll ride to the customs & immigration office which is just a few hundred meters uphill from the India-Myanmar friendship bridge.

First you’ll pass through immigration, where they will give you an exit-stamp in your passport. Behind the immigration desk you will find the customs desk. If you are riding a foreign bike, you’ll have to get your Carnet-de-Passage stamped. When you are riding an Indian motorbike, then this is obviously not the case and you can skip this desk.

They will do a very brief visual check of the motorbike and then you are ready to cross the bridge into Myanmar!

Myanmar side of border

On the Myanmar side, the guide will be waiting for you. There is a small immigration office with friendly officers who will quickly stamp you into Myanmar (remember that you need the visa in advance, either already in your passport or as e-visa).

A few hundred meters down the road, you’ll find the customs office of Myanmar on the left side of the road and here they will stamp your Carnet-de-Passage and provide you with temporary licenses for your vehicle. The licenses are A4 format, but you won’t have to carry them on the bike. The agency will keep them for you.

Osaga travels handed out local SIM-cards with 1GB internet which worked very well across the entire route through Myanmar. They can also help you to change your Indian money into Myanmar kyat here or get cash out of the ATM.

Riding through Myanmar

I joined a group doing the crossing through Myanmar in 6 days. If you want to see more of the country, I would suggest to try and find a group which is doing a longer crossing. Doing it in 6 days means that you’ll ride every day and some days are very long (9-10 hours of riding).

The official rules state that the guide has to ride in front and the motorcyclists have to follow in a group behind the car. How Osuga arranged it worked much better in my opinion. The guide was riding behind the last rider, so in case of any troubles, the guide would always be behind you. Using the sim-cards with internet that were handed out at the first day, each rider was sending his/her live location to the Whatsapp group so the guide could make sure you weren’t taking a wrong turn.

Every morning the location of the hotel you had to reach in the evening was shared in the Whatsapp group. Using your own navigation system, you could then ride independently to that location. This allowed everyone to ride on their own pace and stop for food/photos/rest whenever was convenient.

Read more about my experiences of crossing through Myanmar by motorbike - here.

Border crossing Myanmar - Thailand

Officially speaking, Thailand has the same rule as Myanmar: you can only cross the country with an escort. This is the case when you try and enter Thailand in any of the borders in Southern Myanmar. But, for now, it is possible to cross into Thailand without having a escort!

The border crossing where this is possible is the Tachileik - Mae Sae border. There have been a few groups of riders who’ve successfully passed here now. The officials are still inexperienced with the Carnet-de-Passage and it’s a very chaotic border crossing, but in general, they are friendly and will let you pass.

However, it is probably a matter of time before this border will also be ‘closed’ for independent travellers. If you have updated information about it, please let me know in the comments below. But until that happens, it is possible! So enquire with Osaga to check whether you can still do it.

Border crossing process Myanmar side

Park your bike on the Myanmar side of the bridge and first go to the customs office. They will sign and stamp your Carnet. After that, proceed to the immigration office on the opposite side of the road and get your Myanmar exit-stamp in your passport. The entire process only takes about 15 minutes.

Border crossing process Thailand side

On the Thai side of the border, things are a bit more complicated and definitely more chaotic. Here’s what you need to do:

  • Fill in the Entry card (the exit part of this card will be stapled inside your passport)

  • Fill in 2 copies of a form describing your trip (officers will provide it to you)

  • Go through the immigration and get your entry-stamp in your passport. Europeans get visa-exempt stay in Thailand for 30 days so no need to arrange anything upfront.

  • Across the street of the immigration office, there is a copy-shop, where you will need to make 1 copy of:

    • Your Thailand entry-stamp in your passport

    • Your motorbike registration card (or papers)

    • Your passport

  • With these papers, you go to the customs office and hand-over these three copies together with your passport and the Carnet.

  • Wait until they’ve processed your papers.

  • An officer will check your chassis and engine numbers with your registration papers.

  • You’ll receive your stamped Carnet & passport back. Welcome to Thailand!

Important: They give you a 30-day limit on your Carnet stamp, so you’ll need to exit Thailand with your vehicle within 30 days or have it extended.

Riding through Thailand

Riding through Thailand by motorbike (independently!) is a fantastic experience. The main roads are of the wide, perfect tarmac type, but there are plenty opportunities to go offroad too if you want to! Read more about off-roading in Thailand - here.

Make sure you always have your international driving license at hand. Especially the police in Chiang Mai are known to check foreigners for your international license. I was doing a day-ride around Chiang Mai and left mine in the hotel, which resulted in a fine of 300 Baht (USD 9,50).

But other than that, despite the many police check points I saw along the way, I didn’t get stopped anywhere else.

Keep in mind that the motorway leading up to Bangkok is prohibited for motorcyclists. I was following my navigation system and ended up riding this road (obviously). I passed two toll gates where the people panicked a little bit when they saw me coming by motorbike but they let me through anyway without any repercussion. From what I’ve heard, you’lll not be the first foreigner motorcyclist accidentally riding on the motorway and you surely won’t be the last!

Border crossing Thailand - Malaysia

I took the border crossing at Sa Dao (Thailand) - Kedah (Malaysia). The reason for this was that I had filled this border crossing on one of the forms when I entered Thailand. According to the border official at the Myanmar - Thailand border, I had now obliged myself to actually use this border. I had done no prior research on which border crossing was best/fastest/easiest/convenient and I only filled in this one because I peeked at the form of another motorcyclist and copied whatever he wrote.

It turned out to be an excellent choice. I could not believe how easy this border crossing was and it only took me about 45 minutes in total!

Border crossing process Thailand side

First you’ll ride to the immigration office which is a large office on the left-hand side when you ride towards the border. The officials stamped me out of Thailand within 1 minute. After the immigration building, the road makes a U-turn and you’ll make a stop at the customs office.

It took them a little time to find the right stamps, but after they got them, my Carnet-de-Passage got stamped and I was ready to cross to the Malaysian side! Total process took perhaps 15 minutes.

Border crossing process Malaysia side

Follow the motorbike lane to the Malaysia side of the border and you will ride past immigration (while still sitting on your motorbike, which feels a bit strange). They’ll take your fingerprints, ask you a bit about your trip and whether you have Malaysian motorbike insurance (I said yes) and stamp your passport. With my Dutch passport I got a 90 days visa-exempt stay in Malaysia.

Next, you’ll ride past customs but these guys are only interested in whether you bought goods in Thailand that you are bringing into Malaysia (I said no). To get your Carnet-de-Passage stamped, park your bike just after this customs check and walk into the big building (the officials can give you directions on where to go). The same procedure as on the Thailand side of the border: most time was spent searching for the correct stamps, but other than that: no difficult questions and I was out before I knew it.

And that’s how you ride a motorcycle from India to Malaysia!