Category Archives: bureaucracy

Shipping from Dili, Timor-Leste to Darwin, Australia

I shipped from Dili in Timor Leste to Darwin in Australia.
As nobody was nearby, I needed to take a whole container. it’s much more expensive as I thought, especially in Darwin!

-Shipping costs in Dili: 1800US$
-Unload & Inspection costs in Darwin: 1700AU$
-3 days of cleaning the bike in Dili
-one week waiting for inspection in Darwin
-the inspection in Darwin was not as hard as expected

I stayed in Dili Central Backpackers, which seams to be the cheapest you can get (10$ in a 6 dorm, fan only). Nice backpacker community, an Australian owner, good food, but sometimes a bit dirty…

In Dili there is the Entreposto Ford dealership, where you can go and clean your bike. They have a high water pressure cleaning station and you can use their tools. You can leave the bike overnight, as the cleaning will take you some days (I cleaned for three days!). They even helped me to transport the bike to the container, on the back of a Ford pickup!
The manager there just requests some photos to hang in his office.
For the first quick cleaning I went to this car wash, it was 3$ for a pretty good first cleanup.

I found three shipping agencies in Dili: Bollore/SDV, Crossland (also known as and ANL (they bought Perkins. Australia’s Tollgroup also ships with them).
All of them don‘t really respond to emails in a timely manner. And if you finally get an answer, the quote will be wrong anyways…
In my experience you have to go to Dili and walk into their offices to ask for a reliable quote.
For Bollore/SDV, the quote in Dili was 1000$ cheaper than per email, ANL was 500$ more expensive than per email.
All of them will fuck you over, at latest in Darwin.

Bollore/SDV (
SDV has been renamed to Bollore two years ago. But nobody seems to care, all offices are still labeled as SDV. Even in Darwin. From Darwin to Dili this company seems to be the most reliable and easiest way to go. From Dili to Darwin it‘s not going that smooth… at least they have the fastest ship, it only takes two days to Darwin. They go about once a month.
But you have to buy a whole container, they don‘t want to do LCL (they may do it if you really insist, but they did not want to give me a quote). They will get the empty container to their office, so you can load it basically in the middle of Dili, near the hostels and cleaning stations.
They also do the stamping of the Carnet for you, as the customs officer will come to their office to inspect the container and seal it.

They made a good quote in just 10 minutes when I was at their office. It was 500$ cheaper than Bollore. But they forgot to list the BAF of about 500$…
So they are almost exactly the same price as bollore. But their ship goes to Surabaya on Java first and will take about 25-30 days to Darwin. Goes about once a month.

ANL (former Perkins):
The most unreliable company. But the cheapest, as they do LCL: you pay only the space in the container which you are actually using. My quote was about 1300$. But they will not ship the container until it‘s full! This easily can take a month or two. Then it will take almost another month until the ship arrives in Darwin (normally 22 days, but they may move your bike into another container in Singapur, which can add another week). They claim to have two boats and go every 10 days, but one boat seems to be broken since more than half a year now.
With ANL, you have to go to the customs with your bike first and get your Carnet stamped. They won‘t handle the customs for you.

What you should see on your quote from the shipping agencies (if you go for a whole container):
Container, 950-1000 US$ per container
Tax, 2.64% per container = 26.40 US$
BAF (bunker adjustment factor), ca 500 US$, this depends on the current oil price.
Customs clearance, 50 US$ per shipment
Bill of Lading fees, 30 US$ per bill of lading
Customs inspection fees, 55 US$ per shipment
Terminal handling charges, 50 US$ per container
Trucking, 60-120 US$ per container

When asking for the quote, tell them you will load and strap the bike by yourself! This will save you about 500 US$. They try to charge 350 US$ just for the straps and 150$ for labour! I bought 4 straps in Malaysia for 25 US$.
And they want it in cash! only ANZ ATMs give up to 500$ in 50$ bills, all others may just give 200$ in 20$ bills.

I loaded the container on a Tuesday, the ship was supposed to leave on Friday.
Unfortunately, the SDV office was closed on Wednesday and Friday, but nobody told me! The customs inspection and Carnet stamping was done on Thursday, so I got a bit nervous. Especially when the container was still sitting there on Friday at 1pm! I got no response from the office in Dili anymore, so I didn‘t know if the container has been loaded or not.

On Monday I’ve been already in Darwin and I‘ve got an invoice from a Chinese shipping company called Swire Shipping. So I went to their office in Darwin, which was closed. Called them up and finally got Jacky on the phone. She cannot do anything, as it’s just a small office and does not have access to the company’s computer system. I had to call the Sydney office, where you have to speak to a tape and nobody calls back, ever.
So I payed the invoice (1100AUD!) to get my Bill of Lading. Because without that, it’s not possible to get anything done at the customs.
The invoice was like this:
MISC AGENT CHARGES: 450 AU$ <— these charges were false. got it back after one week!

it seems that you must have an agency in Darwin to communicate with the customs and get the inspection appointment.
the following fees did apply through the agency:
Local Handling (Agent fees?): 275 AU$
Customs Clearance: 145 AU$
Biosecurity Inspection Booking: 25 AU$
Biosecurity Attendence: 95 AU$
Quarantine Direction (2x?): 160 AU$
Container transport (harbour to warehouse): 300 AU$

I did all this through Bollore/SDV in Darwin as I thought they already have all the information about my shipping.
 But the office in Darwin does not communicate with Dili, so they did not know anything about my container! And they didn‘t even try to ask them, I had to relay all the emails by myself and went to their office (taxi is 35 AU$, no public busses are going there) to give them my carnet.
Finally on Friday, after five days waiting in Darwin, I got an email from Bollore, that the inspection will be on Monday at 2pm.

Bollore stated at first, the container can stay at the harbour for the inspection. On Friday they suddenly needed to move the container to their warehouse, which costs additional 300 AU$!
If the inspection fails, it has to go back to the cleaning station, which would be another 300 AU$ for transport…
She could not really explain why they moved the container. Once she said something about storage costs, another time she said the customs wanted this…

On Monday at 10am she called me that I need to bring the bike key immediately (I locked the steering on my bike), although the appointment was scheduled for 2pm!
They wanted to move the bike to the quarantine area. So they tried to get my stuff out of the container without me being present! is this even legal??
the quarantine inspection lady came at 2:30pm…

I passed the inspection on the first try! it took about an hour and it was not as bad as all the horror stories told me.
Only needed to open the panniers and the seat. She mainly looked for dirt, soil and sand. She had a good look at the motor, center stand and radiator grill.
 She found some dirt between the rear wheel and the motor, but she said that’s not much and cleaned it with a small brush.
I’m glad I cleaned the bike thoroughly! Make sure to degrease everything (like chain, sprocket, brakes) and clean/replace the airfilters (in my case I didn’t need to show, but I told her that I cleaned them).
The luggage was even easier to pass. I just needed to show the tent, sleeping bag, camping chair and motorcycle boots. Everything else of my luggage she basically just had a small glance or even completely ignored.
After the inspection you have to wait about one hour for the clearance, then you are allowed to take the bike with you.

Total costs: 3150 US$
consisting of these bills:
Loading in Dili & shipping (Bollore/SDV): 1800 US$
Unloading in Darwin (Swire): 700 AU$
Customs & Inspection (Bollore/SDV): 1000 AU$

Border crossing from Indonesia to East Timor

I crossed the border from Indonesia to East Timor/Timor Leste!
My Indonesian visa expires in two days, so this was a close one with the ferry!

On the Indonesian side they are building a complete new border crossing area. It’s all still under construction, but already in use.
The entrance to the area is here, it’s not on OpenStreetMap yet.

The first building is the immigration. You have to go in there, they won’t stamp the passport in the boothes outside. It was pretty quick, as I was the only one there (Wednesday morning at 8:30).
Then I had to look for the customs. It’s the building on the right side, take the third exit of the roundabout. It looks just like a construction site than an active building, but the customs office is in there.
It took only about 10 minutes to stamp my carnet.

And off I went to the Timor Leste border!

Directly at the booth they stamped my carnet, quick and easy!
Then I needed to put my bike on the parking lot and walk back to the immigration, which is the building on the left.
I had to fill out the usual form and customs declaration, which they give right at the entrance at a small table.

The customs officer asked if Switzerland is in the European Union and I said it is 🙂
Because citizens of the European Union can get into Timor Leste without a visa and fees. Switzerland and Iceland do have the same agreement, but he only knew about the EU and I didn’t want to complicate things…

I read so much about issues to enter Timor Leste on the landborder from Indonesia and the required Visa permission in Kupang or online, that I was not sure if I really can go in without it.

But the whole process on both sides took less than one hour!

Border crossing Thailand – Malaysia (Betong)

The Thai officer waved me through the first booth. But this is the customs and I needed to go back there to get the stamp on my Carnet des Passages! They didn’t know how to do it and I had to explain where the stamps go and that they have to keep the lower part. Fortunately there was one officer who spoke a little bit of English.

There are some other boothes on the left side of the second big building, but nobody is in there! So park before or after them and go inside to find the immigration counter. There was no queue at all, so this was pretty quick.

There are a lot of Malaysian motorcyclists crossing this border. It seems they only need to show their ID and don’t have to do any paperwork or stamps at all. They just stop for a moment and drive on (in both directions).

On the Malaysian border they are also not used to stamp passports or Carnets! (as mentioned before, they just drive through).
A lady officer took my Carnet and walked from office to office to find anyone which knows how to do it. She even checked my chassis and motor number! (first time since China). I waited about half an hour (while chatting with a security guard with a rifle) and she gave my passport and the carnet back.

The immigration office is in the big building on the right side. The officer had a problem with the computer and I needed to wait about 10 minutes. After that he waved me in and gave me the stamp for 90 days (yeah!), no visa needed. But they took my fingerprints…


Border crossing Cambodia – Thailand (Hat Lek)

I made it into Thailand! Not completely legal, but almost 🙂

Thailand changed the rules last year for travelers with their own vehicles. Officially it’s now required to get a special permit, a guide and a temporary Thai drivers license (they don’t accept the International Drivers License convention of 1968, they want the one from 1949!)
The whole procedure would take about 15-20 days and costs a minimum of about 1000$ for a two day Thailand transfer! For a 30 day transfer this could go up to 5000$!

Some friends tried to get into Thailand without the permit on a big border in Laos and were being rejected. So I tried a small border crossing, the most southern border from Cambodia to Hat Lek in Thailand. And it worked! They either didn’t know the new rules or just didn’t care to enforce them.

Here’s the report:

I arrived at the Cambodian border at about 8:45 in the morning. I guessed they open at 9:00 as it was Sunday. But the border is open daily from 6:00 until 22:00.
It looked closed when I arrived. Not many people there and a metal barrier, but a guy just motioned that I have to drive around it.

I went to the right building to the departure booth. Only three people in front of me. After about five minutes it was my turn. Don’t forget to fill out the departure card which is likely stapled into the passport. The officer stamped it and I needed to look into the (Logitech) camera for a photo. Then they took my fingerprints of both hands! Three weeks ago when entering Cambodia from Laos they didn’t even had computers and wrote every person manually into a big book!

After the passport check I headed to the left side of the street to the customs office. The officer said I can go directly to the Thai border. But I needed the stamp on my carnet de passage (CPD)!
I insisted and said this is important. So he sat down, looked at it and gave me the stamp with signature. I ripped off the lower part, which the customs office must keep and gave it to him (he didn’t even fill it out!) and said “this is for you”. His answer was “I’d rather have  money”. But he just smiled and didn’t want a bribe. Not even the usual 2$ fake exit fee.
Then I was free to go.

On the Thai border I’ve been instructed to park the bike on the left side (left driving in Thailand!).
I headed to the building on the left side and an officer handed me the immigration card. I filled out the arrival part of it and went to the booth nr 4 “Immigration” and gave my passport with the card. The lady recognized my motorcycle jacket and asked for the bike papers.
I had to give the carnet de passages and the vehicle registration. She entered everything into the computer and printed out two papers for the bike, which I had so sign. Then she sent me over to the booth nr 2. There an officer stamped my passport, and I had to sign in a big book. He took one of the papers and gave me the other.
For most Europeans no Visa is required for up to 30 days. Even on land borders like this (it used to be 15 days on land borders and 30 on Airports). But they limit it to two land border crossings per year!

After that I thought this was it (because they entered the bike info from the carnet into the computer) and headed back to my bike.
But another guy came to me and said I had to go to the right side to the customs office. My heart stopped for a second, as I thought that I already made it!
At this booth he entered the information of the carnet into another computer and asked the same question as booth nr 4 (which color is your bike?). Then he correctly filled and stamped the carnet, printed another paper (which I had to sign again) and gave everything back to me. In Thailand it’s required to have a vehicle insurance, but they didn’t ask for it (I bought one online for about 20$).
No fees and no bribes on the Thai side neither, very professional and fast.

The whole border crossing took me about one hour.

Now I’m in Thailand without the permit. But I guess that no police officer knows about the new rules and just cares about the standard papers, which I have.

Border crossing Laos – Cambodia

On the Laos side we parked the bikes and went to the first booth. We filled out the departure card and handed it over. They stamped our passports, wanted a 2$ (fake) exit fee and pointed us to the other side to the customs.
There you need to give your green temporary import paper of your vehicle. Which we didn’t have… after arguing for about 15min they let us go.

On the Cambodian border we needed to fill out a health survey and they checked our temperature for fever. And we needed to pay the usual fake 2$ entry fee.
We then needed to go into the building on the left to the second office (labeled with customs). But nobody was in there, so we waited. After a while somebody called the guy and he came aber 10min later. We handed over our carnets and he began to fill them out. A another guy came into the office and helped us translate and fill out the visa application forms. He looked official, but in the end it turned out that he’s just a tour guide who brought some tourists over the border and had too much time left…
The customs officer who stamped our carnets wanted 20$ per bike ‘for his service’. He also said that this is not official and we don’t ‘have to’. As I didn’t have my passport back yet and wanted to get it done fast, I paid 10$…
After about 10min the passport with the Visa came and we were free to enter Cambodia!


Border crossing China – Laos (Boten)

The Guide will help you getting out of China with your vehicle.
We parked on the separate parking space on the left and went into the big building on the right by foot. We needed to fill out some additional papers, which they missed to give to us when entering China (the small pink paper and it’s yellow copy. there’s also a green copy of it, which they keep at the entering border to China).
After stamping the passport we could get our vehicles and cross the border, where they wanted the small papers and checked the passports again.
They didn’t check our vehicle or motor numbers to get out.

On the Laos side you have to go to the building on the left side first.
They want a 2$ ‘tourist’ fee (I guess that’s fake). Then find the table with the papers for your Visa application and arrival form. Ask at the counter if there are none left.
As a Swiss citizen I would not need a Visa for up to 15 days, but I wanted 30 days, which was 35$. The Visa price depends on your nationality, some paid only 32$.
They didn’t want a photo, although it was required on the application form.
If you don’t have an international driving license, you need to get a temporary drivers license for 4$.
Don’t go to the passport control, but instead outside to the booth and get your stamp there, showing your vehicle papers (no carnet needed). Then you can get your bike and drive through the border.

BUT your are not finished yet! The customs is 5km AFTER the border! (GPS 21.150190, 101.669980)
Make sure to stop there and get your green temporary import paper!
We missed that and had some arguments getting out of Laos!!