No doubt: Before the real adventure begins there is an administrative adventure to master. Virtually endless To-Do-lists wait for your action. We thought we’d share some of that with you, since it can really make a difference for the real adventure. The following hints draw from our preparations of our motorcycle-trip from Berlin to Tokyo in Germany in 2016/17. Needless to say that for other countries and other trips other things might apply. We go through the different issues briefly, don't hesitate to drop us a line if you need more in-depth-information. And by the way: For the abovementioned To-Do-Lists we used the Wunderlist-App, which has been very useful in coordinating our efforts.
Passport and visa
Make sure your passport is valid until at least six months after your trip. You might want to get a second passport as backup and to be able to apply for two visa in parallel. Also, in case you want to visit Iran you can't have an Israeli stamp in your passport.
Visa regulations can be complicated and intransparent. In order to get all the visa we need before we started our trip, we had an agency get the more complicated ones for us which worked just fine. Give them your passport and tell them where you want to go and they know what to do. Some other countries have started electronic visa procedures (Azerbaijan, Tadjikistan e.g.) which you can easily take care of online.
All these procedures can be lenghty and it is not guaranteed that everything works out fine. So start at least six months ahead of your trip planning these things. Another strategy is to apply for visa of countries you want to visit at embassies in neighbouring countries. However, there is no guarantee this will work.
By the way: We made scans of all our documents and deposited them in the cloud, on our laptop and on password-protected memory sticks.
Vehicle registration, Driver’s license and Carnet de passages
After the passport, the registration certificate of your motorcycle is the document you have to show most frequently at checkpoints and at all borders. In the EU, the technical term is “registration certificate, part I”, at borders it is many times referred to as “motorcycle passport”. Make sure your vehicle is registered on your name, everything else might cause major problems or at least confusion. Confusion can at least be expensive. Under normal circumstances you don’t need the “registration certificate, part II”. We left it at home with friends, along with an ID-Card. That way, if our registrations get lost or stolen, we can ask them to apply for a new one and send it to us.
We also got an additional document, the so-called international registration certificate (“Internationaler Zulassungsschein”) in Germany. This is a document that looks like it is straight from the 50ies and no one has ever asked for it. We carried some hardcopies of our passports and vehicle registration, which we were asked for at checkpoints and borders in Uzbekistan and Kirgizstan for example.
Take your driver's license, of course. Again, there is an additional prehistorically looking international document (“Internationaler Führerschein”) that no one has ever asked us for.
Some countries (Iran, Japan) require a Carnet de Passages to enter. We recommend to get one at home. You have to make a deposit, which will be returned to you under normal circumstances. However we met a guy in Iran (05/2017) who got an Iranian one at the border (you find comtact information through online search) which cost him $400. We don't know, how his exit from Iran worked, though.
If you are an EU-resident, make sure the green “International Motor Insurance Card” you can obtain from your vehicle liability insurance company covers all available countries relevant to you (e.g. in our case all of Turkey, Azerbaijan, Russia). Some insurance companies exclude many countries, which means you might have to pay extra at certain borders.
International health insurance
You should get an international health insurance covering medical treatment and return flights in case of emergencies. For some countries, like Iran, this is even a prerequisite to obtain a visa.
Visit a specialized medical institute to decide on which vaccinations to get and to set up a schedule for getting the shots. The overall procedure can take a couple of months, so it's a good idea to start at least six months before traveling. We took our international certification of vaccination with us, just in case.
Get a regular check-up and, very important, have your teeths checked. Again, allow for enough time for treatment before you leave.
Not being experts on this field we recommend to ask your doctor on what to take with you and have him/her explain the use. Make sure you don't take drugs that can be considered illegal narcotics in other countries (e.g opiates). When in doubt, declare the import at borders. We also took a one-day first-aid-course and took a first-aid kit with us.
It’s good to have a mix of options. Worldwide, you will find ATMs or banks that allow cash withdrawal with VISA- or MasterCards. A certain amount of cash is also a good idea as backup, by far the best option is US-Dollars. Also, some countries even make you pay your hotels in US-Dollars (e.g. Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan) and due to embargoes, Iran is still not effectively connected to international payment systems. There also seem to be countries where medical treatment is given to foreigners only against upfront cash-payment in Dollars. In order to keep track of who has withdrawn cash or paid by credit card we use the app Splitwise. It reduces money issues to almost zero, very helpful. In addition we have the XE app as a calculator for exchange rates.