For your next motorcycle adventure, rent, ship, or buy a bike locally?
Season 6: Project Alaska1 March 2022
A question that I get asked a lot, is whether it is better to rent a motorcycle, ship your own bike or buy a local motorcycle for a motorbike adventure abroad.
A good and easy question, but one with a not-so-easy answer. And that's because it all depends on where you want to go, where you are from, and what you want to do with the motorcycle.
Here are four questions to ask yourself and find out what might work best for your situation.
1. Are you planning to travel to just one country or more?
Say you have a couple of weeks off from work, and you are dying to explore Costa Rica on a motorcycle. You are not planning to visit any of the neighboring countries, just Costa Rica. In this case, it's easy: rent a motorcycle!
It wouldn't make sense to go through all the effort and costs for shipping your own motorcycle. Buying a local motorcycle will also require a lot of time and effort to find one, register it, and then sell it again after your trip. In this case, your best shot is to just rent a bike.
Are you planning to travel through multiple countries, then you should inquire with the rental company first, whether this is possible and allowed. It really depends on where you are in the world, as in some areas you might in fact be able to cross into the neighboring countries. In most cases, it is not allowed, so don’t count on it.
If renting is not an option, and you consider buying a motorcycle locally, then the answer to the next question is essential to know.
2. Can you register a motorcycle in your own name?
If you don't want (or can't) rent a motorcycle, or if you are going away for such a long time that the cost of renting doesn't make sense anymore - you might consider buying a local motorcycle. I have done this twice, so I have a little experience with this method.
The first time, I bought a motorcycle in India. It was impossible for me as a tourist and non-resident to register the motorcycle in my own name. Instead, a local guy bought and registered the bike in his name, and I gave him the money for the purchase and the bike was then 'mine'. I have taken this motorcycle across 25 countries while it was not registered in my name. So, it can be done, but every border crossing was nerve-wracking to me. I was always scared they wouldn't let me in. Because of this 'border anxiety', and the fact that I was going to Latin America next, where some countries will truly not let you in, if the bike is not registered in your name, I decided not to do it again.
But, sometimes life throws you a curveball and I ended up buying another local motorcycle abroad 1,5 years later. This time, I bought a CRF250L in South Africa. Again, despite trying to get it done, I didn't manage to register the bike in my own name. It always remained registered to the motorcycle shop where I bought it from (until this day). With some police stamped papers, I could take my motorcycle to South Africa’s direct neighbors: Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, and Mozambique, but not any further than that.
All in all, there are not many countries in the world where you can register a motorcycle in your own name as a non-resident. I don't have a full list of the countries where you can get it done, but the USA is the most known country, and I've heard about Colombia and Chile as well.
Another thing to keep in mind if you buy a motorcycle in another country than your own is this. If you are a bike lover like me, and you don’t want to sell your bike before returning home, but instead, bring your bike ‘home’, you may have to pay huge import taxes. And when you don’t want to do that, your bike will become a museum piece in your garage, as you won’t be allowed to ride a bike with foreign plates beyond the temporary import permit time. On top of that, in Europe for example, the emission laws are so strict nowadays, that you also can’t permanently import a motorcycle that doesn’t comply with those emission standards. The Royal Enfield that I bought in India was produced as a BS3 compliant motorcycle and because of that, I could not register it in The Netherlands either.
3. Do you want to pay huge shipping costs to travel on your own bike?
The main advantage of traveling with your own motorcycle is that you will face NO difficulties at borders. You can take your bike to whatever country you like. You can also set your bike up with all the accessories you prefer, customize it exactly the way you want it and set it up for long-distance traveling. That is something you definitely can't do with a rental bike.
But shipping your own bike, either by sea or by air, can be extremely expensive. Especially in recent times, both sea and airfreight prices have exploded due to the pandemic. I would say it's only worth shipping your own bike if you are planning to be away for a long time (or have indefinite funds!).
Another thing to keep in mind when traveling with your own motorcycle in a foreign country is the Temporary Import Permit (TIP). You are only allowed to travel in a country with a foreign motorcycle for a certain amount of time. When your bike is still in the country past the expiry date of your TIP, it will get confiscated, or you face incredibly high fines.
This time limitation suddenly became a lot more important to keep in mind when traveling abroad with your own bike, due to the pandemic. If the country that you are in, suddenly decides to close its land borders, you run the risk of getting your vehicle stuck there while the TIP expires. Extending the TIP is not always easy and sometimes even impossible, increasing the risk that you will lose your motorcycle or face those high fines. In my opinion, this is currently the biggest risk and disadvantage of traveling abroad with your own motorcycle. Hopefully, this will change again in the near future, and we don’t have to worry about closed land borders anytime soon again!
4. Is it worth buying a motorcycle in Country X and selling it again in Country Y?
When you travel too long of a time to rent, and you don’t want to bring your own bike, you could consider buying a local bike in country X and selling it again in country Y. That's of course a great idea, but again, not always possible.
The most important thing you have to keep in mind is that selling a motorcycle when it has an Open Temporary Import Permit (TIP) is illegal. The entire idea about a TIP is that you are not importing a vehicle permanently into a country, but that you will take it out of the country again before the TIP expires, and that you won't sell it in the meantime!
In some countries, there are ways around this. There, you can transfer a TIP to another person. In Panama, Costa Rica, and Chile this is said to be possible. Or, you'll have to go to the border with the buyer of your motorcycle, cancel your TIP and have a new one made in the name of your buyer. The only other way to do it is to let a notary draft a legal document in which the power of attorney over the vehicle is mentioned. The motorcycle will remain registered in the name of the person who owns it, but the 'new owner' travels with a document stating he/she is allowed to ride it. I had one of those documents with me when I rode my Royal Enfield through 25 countries. If I remember correctly, I was asked to show this document only once, upon entering Turkey.
Another way to make it legal to sell your motorcycle in another country is to first import the bike into the country and pay all the necessary taxes. In order to do so, you may have to be registered as a resident in that specific country. Also, not all bikes are eligible for import in a particular country due to local regulations (like the emission requirements I talked about earlier). So do your research first!
All in all, buying a motorcycle in county X and selling it again in country Y is not easy, but I shall never say you can’t do it. The question you will have to ask yourself is if it is worth the hassle.
And your decision is...
I hope I have given you some guidelines for deciding if you want to rent a bike, buy one locally, or bring your own bike with you for your next motorcycle adventure abroad!
Thank You Noraly,
Please do not feel bad that you are continuing your travels and YouTube content despite the horrible events in Europe and around the world. War separates and drives people apart , your work on the other hand elevates all of us and unites us all in a common respect for each other . You are the antidote to negativity we are all exposed to much to often .
Mark Titterton , British Columbia Canada
Hi, be careful with your drone at The Nicaragua border.
Your email today was very interesting. I genuinely appreciate your comments and approach to keeping politics from your channel. It is a bit of a bottonless pit - others can play in that arena. Your comments, to me, show what a sensible educated person you are.
I love your videos for the detailed information you provided, your ability to link with local people on the journey and your impressive presentation style.
The "run around" you sometimes get finding borders/customs makes me smile. Reminds me of a long trip I did (starting 1975) to Europe and the Communist countries in an old car. Changing money to local currency, getting the car into the country, buying a paper town map - often seemed like trouble but I look back and have a smile. No internet, no mobile phones - finding accommodation by talking to the locals. Travel is such a great learning exercise. Thankyou for taking us along with you on your adventure.
Yes, agree with what you said.
For information, i managed to buy and drive vehicles in my name in :
- Colombia ( special rules, but it’s possible)
- New Zealand
- Malaysia: now i am stuck in Thailand with the bike since 2 years due to lockdown but Thai Customs are very nice and keep extending the temporary import every month! Got 24 stamps so far !!!
The joke is that story is that I am French but cannot have a vehicle in my name with a French plate as i am not resident there.
I know i can buy a bike in UK but not yet sure if i can insure it… that’s an other issue i will discover soon …
Voilà , following your lovely spirit through your narrative adventures !
Thanks Gilles for the additional info! Hope you are still enjoying your time in Thailand.
I join Bsmulker in thanking you for your email earlier today, and I must tell you, I was quite moved, Noraly.
Please do not feel like you should apologize for trying to keep your publications free of politics. Speaking for myself, I certainly do not take your avoidance of politics as an absence of concern. We are all concerned.
I'm sure I am not the only ItchyBooter who is already getting his fill of politics etc. elsewhere.
If you were to ask me about my reasons for visiting your sites I would certainly say one of the reasons is because I'm looking for for some much needed relief from it all, and I thank you so much for giving us some of that.
Thinking about another couple of "easy-going" YouTubers I have been following in recent months, Pavlo and Luba from Ukraine. It is not so easy-going for them right now, and I am thinking about them a lot.
Again, Thank you for everything, Noraly. Thank you for everything you are doing for us, and keep safe.
Hi Noraly. I just wanted to respond to your comments in your email regarding current events. I understand what you meant about not injecting political discussions into your channel and blog. I am from the US, not Europe, and yet am just sickened over what is happening to the people of Ukraine, to those people in Russia who wish to protest, and to people in Europe and the world over regarding the possibility of a widening war. I am currently reading Judy Batalion's book, "The Light of Days; The Untold Story of Women Resistance Fighters in Hitler's Ghettos," and the parallels regarding people at first not believing the scope of the danger, and then trying to flee to safety on foot, are striking. I do not think it is a stretch to see echoes of 1939 in what we are witnessing now, and I remember your episodes about the war in your homeland and your family's history. I share your feeling that it seems odd to go about life as usual, especially in pursuits that are usually thought of as just for fun or adventure, but I also know it is absolutely true that your videos provide a great value to many, many people's lives. The beauty, the information about natural and cultural facets of each place you visit, and the simple normalcy of receiving and opening a new Itchy Boots video are positives, the worth of which cannot be overstated. I hope you will continue your planned travels, perhaps with a simple statement along the lines of your email regarding why you are moving forward in these very unsettled times. Ride safe and be well.