As you probably know by now, I am a massive advocator of buying your own transport when you’re travelling, whether it be a car, a van, motorhome, motorbike or even a push bike. Owning your own transport is key to keeping your costs down on any long term, overland adventure. Not only that, but it means you can stop at all those awesome spots that everybody else only get to see for a split second as the whizz by on their tourist bus. I know it’s probably the most cliche travel phrase, but it’s really not about the destination, it’s about the journey and if you’re on a bus, that journey is most likely spent watching a movie or reading a book as the world flies past you.
Now before you buy a motorbike or any other vehicle anywhere in the world, always research what needs to be done to get the vehicle registered in your name because, generally speaking, if it’s not in your name you won’t be able to take it out of that country and that’s your multi country road trip down the pan.
Here is what I found out about buying motorbikes in different Asian countries whilst researching for our motorbike trip:
This is where most people start their Asian travels from, due to Bangkok being such a big international hub and flights are generally cheapest flying into here. However, to take a motorbike out of Thailand it DOES need to be registered in your name. To do this you need a permanent address and a letter of residence either from Thai Immigration or from your Embassy, neither of which are easy/possible to obtain if you are just a traveler. Even if you did have all the above requirements, it will still take several weeks to complete the whole process.
Apparently it is surprisingly easy to get a motorbike registered in your name here. No special visa or permits are needed, just an entry stamp in your passport! To make the process even easier your best bet is to buy a bike from a dealer in Kuala Lumpur and they will sort all the paperwork for you and within a few days you will have your very own motorbike registered in your name that you are free to take anywhere!
The down side is that you will probably end up paying a couple of hundred dollars more for your bike here than anywhere else. Depending on your budget
and travel time frame though, this could be money well spent. If you’re only planning a couple of months touring the region though, personally I wouldn’t go for this option. If however you have
4+ months and hope to smash out Malaysia, Thailand, Cambodia, Laos, Vietnam and possibly on up through China, this IS your best bet. That few hundred dollars extra to have a bike registered in
your name will make your life so much easier and will be worth every cent!
It’s worth noting though that bikes bought in Malaysia can only be sold in Malaysia. We met a couple who had bought brand new bikes from here for a 5 month road trip but because they weren’t planning on heading back to Malaysia, they were fully prepared for the fact that they would probably have to give them away because the paperwork is non transferable outside Malaysia and therefore nobody else can actually legally own their bikes, making them worthless.
Again, this just seems like a massive ball ache to buy a bike here and to get it put into your name. You would need to enter the country on a Cambodian ‘Ordinary’ Visa for $35 (E-Class visa, NOT a $30 Tourist Visa), this is because the ‘Ordinary’ visa can be extended indefinitely (a Tourist Visa can only be extended once, and only for 30 days). Once you have that you need to then head to Phnom Penh to get a 6 month extension at the cost of $150+. Once you have that, you can then legally register your own bike but the seller must come with you to the registration office to formally transfer the bike to your name.
Foreigners cannot own motorbikes in Laos, you can only rent them. If you rent a Laos plated bike you will not be able to take it out of the
country, so not really an option unless you were only planning on only travelling Laos.
This is where we bought our bikes. If you are planning a short trip of a few weeks to a few months, Vietnam is your best bet as your time frame won’t allow you to go all around SE Asia. Buying a bike here is a doddle! When you find one you like, give the seller money, he then gives you keys and the blue registration card and the bike is yours! Easy as that. No faffing about, no dicking around with bureaucracy.
Finding somewhere to buy a bike is also a doddle in Ho Chi Minh or Hanoi, with backpackers and dealers selling bikes left right and centre in the tourist
Some things to note though; the blue card is key! When you buy the bike make sure the registration number on the card matches the one on the bike. The name on the registration will be the name of the original owner, no doubt 15+ owners ago, mine was registered in the name of Ling Yow Ping. This isn’t a problem because if you have that blue card, you own the bike, so don’t lose it!! Vietnamese registered bikes can be taken into Cambodia and Laos, no problem, but you won’t be able to ride into Thailand as it’s not in your name and the Thais see it as a potentially stolen bike, which is a fair enough assumption! But if you only have a few weeks or months, you probably won’t have time to do much of Thailand anyway.
Once you know where you want to start from, your next big decision is going to be what kind of bike do you want...