Shipping your motorcycle, some general thoughts
Shipping your motorcycle is certainly not the most enjoyable part of travelling with your bike! However, at some stage, if you want to cross-continent, you are going to have to face it at least once on your journey! Gathering the information can be time consuming and frustrating! There is usually a lot of red tape to navigate and hoops to jump through. It rarely makes sense, or runs smoothly. It can be daunting saying goodbye to your trusted companion too. Putting her in the hands of a total stranger and waving goodbye as she enters the ‘system’ can be quite a stressful affair. It doesn’t get any easier, but it helps to know this in advance, so that in this way you can be prepared with a lot of patience, and can have some biscuits at hand (keep your sugar levels up!).
Some hints and tips for shipping your motorcycle
My advice would be to find a motorcycle shipping agent who can take some of that stress away. They can put you in the right hands, with people who are experienced in bike shipping. They can advise on how to crate your bike to get the cheapest fare (small is good) and, if you need it, they can even arrange for someone to crate the bike for you. Every service you take, comes with a price tag attached, so do your research, and do as much of the process yourself as you can, if budget is a priority.
Sea versus Air
Sea: Shipping by sea may seem like the obvious choice. However, this mode of transportation is the least reliable when it comes to timing. Do NOT expect your bike on time. A two-month wait can easily become three as I have learnt. These delays can be costly if you are waiting around in an expensive city with no transport and all your camping gear is with the bike! On the plus side, it can often require less messing around, as they will take the bike in a container in one piece. You will not have to drain it of fluids or take the wheels off (but DO disconnect the battery). If you have a heavy bike, shipping can save you a lot of money as you are not charged by weight, unlike the airlines who will.
Air: Flying is fast and efficient. You should get your bike back within a couple of days of waving her off. If you have a small bike, the cost may not be that different to shipping by sea when you consider the additional costs that delays can bring.
Obtaining a Carnet de Passage
Paperwork is made easier with a Carnet de Passage. This is like a vehicle passport and the cheapest way to travel without paying import duties. It is based on the value, and the cost varies depending on which country you are in. The UK no longer has an office that offers Carnet (it used to be the RAC) but you can still purchase them from Europe. Give yourself plenty of time to research this and allow a few weeks for delivery. The Carnet will last 12 months but is NOT required for all countries.
The key here is to do your research before you commit and remember – cheaper is not always better!