After completely changing our plans we decided to ride in South East Asia. But to do so we needed new bikes. We sold our BMWs in Mongolia. It was not easy to find out the best way (what country and from who) to buy bikes in South East Asia. We searched through different forums and other web resources but there is surprisingly not much substantial and up to date information out there. It took us many hours to find out what we know now. Mainly with the help of the Ride Asia forum. Thanks guys!
Read more about our Asia adventures in our ebook
Buying and Riding a Motorcycle in South East Asia
by Sherrie McCarthy & Patrick Schweizer
Get it for $2.99 USD at your favorite ebook store: Smashwords (all formats), Amazon (Kindle), Apple iTunes, Kobo, Barnes & Nobles (Nook)
We want to write here a little wrap up and share our experience. Maybe it will be useful for others. (and again if you are family and not the biking half of the family, there are still some pretty pictures!) 😉
Before we started to look into buying we set some perimeters:
We decided to get little motorbikes (125ccm). We came on a budget (we got 1000 EUR each for our BMWs) and they are relatively cheap. Little bikes are ubiquitous in South East Asia, they can be repaired everywhere and cheaply. Spare parts are no problem. And they use up little gas (ours use 2,7 liter/100km). They also blend better in the crowed instead of an alien big BMW.
Register the bikes in our name
Some people buy a bike and register the bike in a locals name in order to get the papers done easier. This was not an option for us. If we buy a bike we want to own it. Also on paper. Besides that border crossings with someone else’s bike have a tendency to get complicated.
Do everything the legal way
Some people told us (from personal and second hand experience) that it would be no problem to have bikes that are not in our names. If it was then we just hand over a little bribe. This is all easy until something happens (eg. an accident). Then its our ass that gets busted or thrown into an Asian prison. Thanks but no thanks.
Buy a new bike
We thought if we buy a small bike that should last us for the next 6 month we better get a new one. Prices for used brand name bikes (Honda, Yamaha etc.) are also quite high.
We didn’t buy bikes in Thailand. But we wanted to do so at first and therefore looked into the procedure one must undergo to buy and register a bike in Thailand. This is what we found out:
In order to register a bike as a foreigner you need to present a letter of residence.
To get a letter of residence there are 2 possibilities: a) from your embassy, b) immigration office
The embassies have different rules on when they issue such a letter of residence. We asked at the Canadian and the German (which apply to us):
Canadian: “Bring a bill with you with your Thai address on it, e.g. a telephone bill and then you need to swear that you are a resident here.”
German: “You need to have a non immigrant visa”
Obtaining a non resident visa is neither easy nor cheap (at least not for us. Having a Thai spouse or being over 55 makes things easier). We tried to get the non resident visa from the Thai Embassy in Korea but they wouldn’t issue us one. We needed to have a job offer (we do not want to work on this trip) or we could get the educational one by going through a school. 500 Euro was the cheapest we found on offer (for the course plus visa), and we would have paid it and never attended the lessons. BUT the Thai government has learned of this little trick, and now tests you when you go to get your extension. We really did not want to go to school just to buy a bike.
More on non resident visas can be found here.
For option b) we were told different things. Some said a letter from your landlord / hostel saying that you stay there is enough, others told us that you need a non resident visa as well. Probably a lot depends also on the mood of the officer.
Conclusion: Overall Thailand seemed like a lot of paperwork and fees.
We got this information from a fellow HUBBER. I have edited it, but for anyone wanting to buy in Cambodia it would be invaluable, and if we were going to buy a bigger bike I think we would have went to Cambodia.
IMPORTANT- ALL UR FREEDOM TO CROSS BORDERS DEPENDS ON TH FOLLOWING- When you arrive at the airport TICK business visa and pay $25 instead of $20 for your visa. (Pack about 10 passport photos for the coming days, rego etc…). When you get to Phnom Penh go to a visa extension place and get 6 months extension for about $120. You are now able to get a license, rego etc.
Post wanted ads on BongThom.com and Khmer 440 and any other blgs for Cams you can find. If you don’t have any luck the best store to buy a bike at is Flying Bikes, they are also the best mechanics. For mechanics there is also a German guy who is full race mechanic from Europe he advertises in the local rags so u’ll find him easy enough. Get in touch with people as much as you can before you go.
Get a $32 license if you wanna be hassle free, the fine for no license is between $1.50 and $5 so I didn’t get one but you can also get insurance (ask for Shane from Infinity Insurance in Phnom Penh for $20 a year that covers any accidents you may have).
When you buy a bike, MAKE SURE IT HAS PHOTO ID WITH THE CURRENT OWNER. INSIST that you will pay a deposit and PAY THE REMAINDER AT THE REGISTRATION OFFICE the current owner must attend transfer of registration. You might wanna pay $10 for Khmer to help you with this, someone from your hotel should do fine. Rego is about $46. The Rego paperwork takes about 5 weeks so this is you Cambodia/Laos touring time. Get photocopies of ALL DOCUMENTATION at the REGO office so u can cross into Laos. Get your Khmer guide to offer $100 if you can get in 10 days, you may get lucky. You need a “permanent address” signed by police to transfer rego you can A) Forge yourself a lease in PP or B) Ask your hotel to write you down as a permanent.
UP TO HERE SHOULD HAVE TAKEN YOU 3 days so far with some sightseeing and clubbing etc… mixed in.
There is a book CALLED ULTIMATE CAMBODIA, buy it for about $15 from Bohr’s Books. It is a lonely Planet style Travel guide written solely for bikers. It has some MAGNIFICENT rides through the wilderness, and gives kilometer markers for every point in ur ride. Ring the guy who wrote it, he rides A LOT with his Khmer wife, so you may be able to hook up on a ride with him. He swears by an XR400, I swear by the DRZ- Tomaetoes Tomartoes… lol.
Cambodia is safe. Just be wary on public holidays cos they drink distilled spirits and makes em a bit loony if you get caught in an exceptional circumstance. HIGHLY UNLIKELY though. Khmers are very respectful of women but carry some Mace or something just in case.
Repairs: any town with half a market can do most repairs. They are creative- however they are damn difficult to communicate with because they are shy and uneducated… if a mechanic says they don’t have (eg: brake pads, clutch) and there is no other mechanic they probably just don’t understand you. ride further and KEEEP ASKING people. Every town has a creative mechanic somewhere and numerous mechanics within it.
Requirements: A valid entry stamp in your passport. Thats all you need. This is what we were told by Calvin, the guy from KOK Motorsin Kuala Lumpur. And surprisingly he was totally right. This was really all we needed. And this is how we bought our bikes:
– We showed up on Thursday evening at KOK Motors, settled for 2 bikes (Honda Wave Ultimo 125) and made a down-payment of half the price. Calvin took copies of our passports and that was it for the paperwork. He said registration takes 2 work days.
– On Monday evening (as in 2 work days later) we got his email that the 2 bikes were ready and registered.
– We went to the shop, payed the rest and drove off. That was it.
– The paperwork he had done for us included the registration, the road tax for 1 year and the insurance. All was included in the quoted price, no extra or hidden fees.
Calvin, if you read this, thanks again!
Conclusion: The price was a little bit higher in Malaysia (about 200 EUR) compared to what we would have payed in Thailand. But the hassle free paperwork made it well worth it. (Plus there were no fees for Visas!) We were told that Cambodia could take up to a month by another person, and that was time we could have been riding. So we decided to pay the extra 200 and have bikes within 2 working days that were completely and legitimately ours. No hassle and no pain!
Laos we have no idea, we could not find any real info and Vietnam again seemed a little dodgey legal-wise in regards to drivers license issues. We had just looked into China and we were already put off with that, so we never looked any further into it. Others have found Vietnam to be super easy and cheap place to buy a bike and ride. But the info on Horizon’s is very clear if you want to look into the discussion on buying a bike in Vietnam.
This was our experience in a 3 week crash course of deciding to sell bikes and massively rearrange our travel plans. This is not legal advice!!!! Nor is it the only way to do it. But we would have loved to have found this info beforehand, so we hope it does help someone!
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