Buying A Motorcycle In South East Asia

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!

ebook cover: Buying and Riding a Motorcycle in South East Asia 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:

 

Little bikes

 

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.

Thailand:

 

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.

Cambodia:

 

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.

Malaysia:

 

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!

Resources
Ride Asia forum (very helpful)
HUBB Asia (mostly travelers whereas Ride Asia has a lot of Asia expats)
Bike Prices
KOK Prices

 

If you enjoyed this, try one of these:

Our Iceland Budget

From A BMW To A Honda Wave

Iceland’s Number One Road Hazard

 

 

 

 

Sherrie

About Sherrie

Sherrie was born and raised in Newfoundland, has her home base in Germany, and at any given time can be found just about anywhere in the world. Addicted to books, travel, chocolate and motorcycles, a perfect day for her is riding her bike followed by drinking good coffee and reading a good book or writing one.

25 Responses to Buying A Motorcycle In South East Asia

  1. Syiful Jeffry says:

    Hi . How are you? I’m jeffry from Malaysia. Can I buy a motorcycle in Germany.

  2. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    You can buy the bike in Germany, the problem is registering! Unlike your country where we could do both! You need to live in Germany to register!

  3. Kyle says:

    I say good call on doing everything the legal way. You really don’t want to find yourself inside some random foreign prison!And awesome of you to write the info all out so other riders will eventually be able to have easier access to the information than you guys did!

  4. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    Thanks Kyle! We would have loved to have had this post before we started buying so we thought we would share our experience!

  5. steve coleman (met at Russian/Mongolian border as you guys were leaving MGL) says:

    Thanks for all the good info!!!!

  6. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    Kiwi Rider, I tried to approve your comment and it seems like posterous ate it! (I did hit approve and not delete). Either way thanks for letting us know the post helped! If you have any questions feel free to email us directly! You can reach us at the title of this blog and at googlemail.com (Not gmail because another company already had the name in Germany). I am really really happy with the Wave so far, and I am about to post over the next couple of days about our ride through the Cambodian jungle. AWESOME and those bikes can handle just about anything thrown at it. (Except for deeper rivers). You are going to have a most awesome trip, I only see China being a barrier for the bikes, otherwise completely doable!

  7. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    From Kiwirider:Thanks so much for this infoI saw your posts on Rideasia as I am in the middle of sorting out exactly the same problem for myself and my husband.We intend to travel from Singapore to Mongolia with the majoirty of the South East Asia leg by motorcycle. It seems that for serious overlanders Asia is too easy to bother with posting information on or the information is focused on big bikes only.It has been a huge relief hearing how easily you can get yourself set up in MalaysiaThanks againKiwirider

  8. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    Dimitri From Greece: thank you for the nice informations……we would like to do the same but buy a motorbike on Bali…..did you had any problem passing borders of malaysia to thailand???or anywhere else……????is your insurance covering accidents with your motorbike???Thank you…..Still on the way???Enjoy!!!!!!!!!Bye from bali

  9. Patrick & Sherrie says:

    Dimitri posterous ate your comment. It caem up for approval and then disapeared! ARGH. But so far we have had no border corssing problems, we went from Malayasia to Thaialnd to Cambodia, then onto Laos and now we are back in Thailand. Perfect so far. Our insurance covers everything in Malaysia, and then we have to buy new insurance in each country we have been in since. We are still travelling, so perhaps we will cross paths as we head back down to Malaysia and you up!

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  13. yogiraj says:

    I want to travel from India to Cambodia on my indian bike,can u please guide me about bike registration & licence .

  14. Sherrie Sherrie says:

    We never tried it with an Indian registered bike. You want to contact the embassies in India and ask them if there are special rules for Indian bikes or if you can just ride through like we did with our Malaysian ones. Enjoy the ride!

  15. Ken says:

    Thanks for posting this article, it helped to plan our trip a lot!!
    We are now on the way of our Around-the-World journey at Vietnam. We noticed we can buy a small motorecycle really cheep here, so I was looking for information on the internet that can backup our plan, and this article did. I just wanna say thank you to you.
    bye.

  16. Sherrie Sherrie says:

    You’re welcome Ken. Do let us know how it worked out or if you have a blog about the trip.

  17. Pingback: What Bike to buy for long trip Southestern Asia - Europe - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

  18. Julian says:

    I drove across Vietnam (3000km) on a 125cc Honda Neo Future 6 months ago. Very doable. However, I do not believe foreigners can do it completely legally. The left over communist bureaucracy makes it next to impossible for a foreigner(visiting/vacation) to do it 100% legally . Of the dozens of people I met on bikes all had bought a bike (with the blue registration paper under the old owners name, very common), got on the bike and drove off (as did I). Many westerns ride bikes in Vietnam and all I met did the illegal method. Personally I think the biggest risk is not ending up in a Vietnamese prison but ending up in a Vietnamese hospital. Most of the westerns I came across rode like absolute morons. For some reason westerns get on Vietnamese roads and become absolute maniacs. Based on the people I met, about 1 in 5 had some sort of accident that resulted in a hospital visit (stitches, road-rash, etc). There is no reason for this if western defensive driving is used in Vietnam. I was even pulled over for speeding in Vietnam, doing 60km/h in a 35 km/h zone. When I got within 5 meters of the cop he noticed I was white and just wagged his finger and waved me on. As a westerner I felt like I was slightly above the law.

    Cheers
    Julian

    • Sherrie Sherrie says:

      Hi Julian, sorry it took so long to see this comment and approve it! Thanks so much for the comment. We get this question so often and it is one we ourselves had in South East Asia. Since no one could say that they themselves had done it recently we decided just to skip it. I will be sure to pass on this comment next time I am asked. I also think the danger of riding is a major problem in all of South East Asia. People do seem to think that people drive the same way in SEA as they do in Europe or North America. Not realizing right of way really only applies to the biggest vehicle, not the one with the legal right. OR they see this and think “awesome, no rules, I can ride how I want!” and end up very hurt.

  19. Pingback: Buying a bike in SE Asia that can be taken accross borders - Page 3 - Horizons Unlimited - The HUBB

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  21. Jess says:

    Hi,

    Interesting article! I motorbiked south from siem reap, crossed into Vietnam at the southern most crossing and 6 weeks later crossed into Laos. It was a Vietnamese bike i bought from other tracellers so the first border crossing was a no brainer but we did have to give a bribe crossing into Laos.

    I just wanted to reapond to Julian’s comment about being treated like he was above the law since we had the opposite experience. I felt like if an officer saw you were a tourist you could almost see the money signs in their eyes. We never had to pay more than $5 but unfortunately we never got waved by.

    Anyways my best advice to anyone going on a long bike trip is that a good roadmap is your BEST friend!! If you want to read more about my experiences head over to jessjohn.ca/travelblog

  22. Adam says:

    Patrick,

    Thanks to your postings I’ve decided to do a similar trip, starting in KL, up through Thailand, across to Laos and through Cambodia back down. Not knowing the roads, I am trying to figure out if it’s possible to manage the distance and back to KL within 10 weeks. Do you think it’s achievable on those little 125′s?
    Thanks, Adam

    • Sherrie Sherrie says:

      Hi Adam, we did our trip in 5 months but it was slow going with a lot of stops and hanging out with visiting family. I do not think it is impossible to do it in 10 weeks, I do think it will be a lot of riding. The bikes are able to do 100 – 125 an hour but they will hurt your butt after 2 hours. That was the only problem we had. Long rides on the BMWs were much more comfortable but not faster. With time pressure you will need to make the choice of seeing more and hanging out less or seeing less but more of one place. This is the choice any rider needs to make not matter what bike size they have. We rode from the border with Laos to the border with Malaysia in just under a week. That was with minimum stopping to hang out, but with a dog in the front basket. So it can most certainly be done!

  23. Adam says:

    Sherrie,

    Thanks a lot for your response. I guess there is only one way to find out. After some local knowledge and advice though, I’ve decided to go with the versys 650 which should offer a lot more comfort. 1 more week before I arrive in KL. Excited to get going. Thanks both for all your useful information. Take care.

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