Click on images to enlarge them.

So near & far. Click on map – Malaysia almost touches Indonesia.
Our actual shipping route, Klang Malaysia to Surabaya Indonesia.

So near, so far: Indonesia practically touches Singapore and Malaysia on a map. [Zoom in-out map link.]

Extremely close physically, but the crossing proved a considerable hassle and undue expense to actually pull off.

It's not for the meek or for easy quitters, although actually not at all difficult once you know what to do and whom to call. Follow our step-by-steps and you'll get there, saving a lot of time and money versus what we spent.

Worth it? So far definitely, absolutely yes. We have just started to explore but love it. Highest ratings.

It may be easier to access with wheels coming from Australia and heading north – perhaps the Oz shippers have it all figured out. But coming from the north, we had to figure it out ourselves.

That said, kindest thanks go out the Indonesian Embassy people in Singapore. Nice embassy building too! Geoff is an Australian who is married to an Indonesian and works for the Embassy. I lucked upon him, a fellow biker yet – he was extremely helpful, hooked us up with William Sim at the Visit Indonesia Tourism Office [link] [Phone +65 6292 7675 ]. William ultimately pointed us to the right people in Jakarta. But it took some days of doing, phoning and asking around. Not straight-forward!

There used to be Ro-Ro (roll-on-roll-off) ferries to Indonesia. But no longer. Supply/demand has spoken. Maybe government regulations too, do not know.

Bottom line: Today if you want to ship a car/truck/bike to Indonesia from SE Asia, it's on a commercial freighter.

Humans can take abundant fast ferries or airplanes. But wheels? Not so easy. Up-to-date info is not available online. Plus it's a moving target.

We researched quite thoroughly even with some 35 borders under our belt on this trip and fifty others worldwide. Phoned from Singapore for about ten days solid; received active help from the Indonesian Embassy; every search possible online; spoke to local biker-travelers. Then boots-on-the-ground checking in Malaysia too; several harbours; lots of phone calls to biker-travelers and attended a rally, met dozens, picked brains.

The following is the best we came up with.


How to get to Indonesia with a motorcycle or car:

. . .1. Have a valid Carnet de Passage en Douane from your vehicle's
.... . .country of registration, or just forget about it. See other blog chapters
.... . .on the Carnet.
. . .2. Have a valid International Drivers Permit. Your domestic
.... . .drivers licence alone will not do. You need both.
. . .3. Get an official 'Letter of invitation' from an authorized agency in
.... . .Indonesia. To do this email/phone Ikatan Motor Indonesia
.... . .(IMI) [link] who will ask you to email all your scanned documents.
.... . .Ms. Diyah Yanuardani there is very knowledgeable and helpful
.... . .[email:] [phone: +62-21-5712032].
.... . .So was their President Mr. Juliari P Batubara; very kind and
.... . .prompt – but don't bother the latter unless for some reason
.... . .you cannot find Diyah, for example if she is on holidays. They
.... . .actually want foreign visitors on wheels to visit their country
.... . .and will walk you through the steps.
. . .4. Get a letter from the Indonesian Police, in addition to the
.... . .above. IMI has a form letter the police can copy and they will put
.... . .you in touch with the correct Police authority. Make sure you get this,
.... . .no mistake! IMI at first thought I would not need it but I did; a detail
.... . .that cost me a couple days of unnecessary runaround at Customs.
.... . .However IMI were extremely helpful in sorting it out in a last-minute
.... . .rush – and not just 'pro forma', they sincerely helped me push it through.
. . .5. IMI provides everything you need by email. No charge, courteous
.... . .service that just takes a week or so. You can do it from on the road once
.... . .you have your Carnet and International Drivers Licence.
. . .6. Have your papers 100% in hand, printed in duplicate, before you put
.... . .your vehicle on any boat. (Your personal visa is no problem –.'on arrival'
.... . .visas are OK for most countries.) But they are very sticky about
.... . .vehicles. So, be there the day after the boat arrives and has been
.... . .unloaded – not later. Do the Customs clearance yourself, no Customs
.... . .Broker is needed – I suspect a Customs Broker may slow you down and
.... . .add an expense factor – just a hunch, no hard evidence. I found Customs
.... . .to be meticulous but honest and helpful.
. . .7. Before contacting IMI choose an itinerary. They will need your
.... . .vehicle's points of arrival & departure. I heard Jakarta was bad news all
.... . .around so avoided it; went to Surabaya thinking cheaper/easier.
.... . .Maybe, shop on port costs! Surabaya port is a huge rip-off. Big ouch.
.... . .Try Bali and see what total port charges are. Try other harbours on Java.
. . .8. Write a letter to head of Customs at your Port of Entry and hand
.... . .it to them when you arrive. Ask simply for the release of your vehicle and
.... . .state all its details as stated in the Carnet de Passage.
. . .9. Go there via wonderful island of Sumatra? So close to Malaysia,
.... . .stunningly beautiful. In monsoon season I got very mixed/bad reviews
.... . .on.the roads. Time was becoming tight. This is the wrong bike for mud
.... . .trekking. Otherwise, I strongly suggest a short hop from Klang Malaysia
.... . .to Belawan Indonesia or other ports on the Sumatra coast. I'd bet port
.... . .costs are not a rape as Surabaya is. Plus it's a great ride & major cultural
.... . .trip. We DO want to ride Sumatra and WILL try! Time permitting.
. . .10. I used Bali as 'stated' departure point, figuring we'd find a boat to Oz from
.... . .there. Will report here once we find one.


Why is a $50,000+ Carnet de Passage not enough, like in many/most countries? Hey, Indonesia's name is printed right on it after all – it is a subscribing member state. Well, rumour has it that some/many Carnets were being printed as forgeries (!) to enable the smuggling of vehicles into Indonesia. Since there is no big-money cash deposit behind it, once you get across the border with the valuable car/bike, you just trash the Carnet. In my case that would cost me $50,000. A forgery? Zero cost – so smuggling is a temptation.

Who forged the Carnets? Someone at the very agency that issues them is what we were told! If true, that's akin to someone at the Royal Mint being caught for counterfeiting. How do you say 'chutzpah' in Indonesian?

Carnet de Passage en Douane
available in N America only through CAA [link]
Note that Indonesia is listed as a member.
But that's not quite enough of late ...
You also need ...
Letters in English & Indonesian
from Ikatan Motor Indonesia
Letter from Indonesian Police in Jakatra,
kindly arranged for and emailed to me by IMI.
This one came a few weeks after I obtained one from Surabaya Police
... but two is better than one!


While awaiting our official invitation from IMI, instead of doing nothing in Singapore for another week, we decided to head to Malaysia.

There was the bike rally we were invited to (see Malaysia blog); plus it's more interesting to explore and is cheaper.

Besides, we had our Singapore shipping quotes already in hand, could always come back.


Go to Indonesia via Malaysia, not via Singapore: We tried Singapore and found boats. But they are more expensive than from Malaysia. And the bureaucracy is much more complex.

In Malaysia we tried Melaka [map link]. No vehicle-carrying boats from there, period.

An hour west of Kuala Lumpur, is the biggest city's port area, Klang City [map link]. We drove around. I found a Customs post, asked the Customs man in charge, 'who handles motorcycles out of here to Indonesia?' Bingo. He had the right guy, Mr. Customs Man being a biker himself.

Fifteen minutes later shows up Assir Ariff, one of the brothers who owns Aseantex Marine Services [link].

Assir is:
. . .(a) A biker who has ridden much of the world on his BMW GS1100;
. .. . . .what luck, a fellow serious world biker;
. . .(b) A bike shipper and 4x4 guy with both experience [link]
. .. . . .and perfect English;
. . .(c) A truly nice, friendly, hospitable guy.

If shipping your bike or car from Malaysia or Singapore
to anywhere ... shop no more. Call Assir.

Within a few days Black Bike was beautifully crated, protected, fumigated, papered over and on a ship to Surabaya Indonesia [map link]. The boat arrived earlier than scheduled, ended up being just a three-day crossing, not five as expected.

Yay to our good luck in finding Assir.

In fact we hope we meet Assir again some time, would love to ride with him. Socialized with him a bit in Klang – a fun, entertaining and interesting guy. Reasonably serious about his Islamic faith, although nothing even slightly morally superior about it; evidently caring less that we and the French family he was so hospitable with were quite un-Moslem whites. Assir is married to a Russian lady and evidently travels a lot on his 4x4 and biking adventures.

BTW we found that of all Moslem friends encountered in SE Asia – absolutely no attitude about different faiths or races. We sensed not the slightest hint of it, which cannot be said of all Middle East encounters – where there was sometimes a slight edge. Not so in SE Asia that we could discern.

But I digress. Faith/culture quite aside: Assir also knows how to crate/ship bikes and cars. We never felt cheated. Gave us to-be-tested good advice on clearing the Indonesian side. Prices seemed in line and all were on paper. High recommendation: shopping for 'Plan B' seems a waste of time.

Excellent packing and protection against water, bumps.
All-included the bill came to US$500 for shipping Klang Harbour –> Surabaya. The best price from Singapore had been US$700. Just $200 less (30% lower) but the waiting in Singapore was much more costly and frankly boring. Much more bureaucracy in Singapore too. Klang was a no-BS snap with Assir's experienced help.

A no-brainer, go this way. The only negative: Assir didn't know about the huge rip-off in Surabaya. He figured $200 max all-in local costs. So did I.

Shipping agents Pt. International Pramata Logistic in Surabaya were arranged by Assir. We had to show up in person, flying there from Bali. A drag ... but not the worst part.


Rapacious, Horrid, Port Charges in Indonesia: To any fellow road warriors – and some of you are following us for travel suggestions – avoid Surabaya Port. Do not ship your wheels there if you can avoid it.

Ditto Jakarta, it's evidently even more costly.

Customs is NOT the problem. Once you know exactly what you need, and with the help of Ikatan Motor Indonesia (IMI) – Customs can be cleared in under a day. Do not use a broker, you can do it yourself. All Customs people encountered were friendly and honest. Ditto Police. Zero corruption that we encountered. I needed a written Police recommendation and got it PDQ once I found the right gentleman.

No, it's not Customs that is the problem at Surabaya.

It's the rip-off of the 'Freight Forwarder Mafia' there. I say 'Mafia' because there exists a price-fixing cabal and it's at preposterous levels. I was hit for over US$500 – the same cost as the entire shipping, crating, fumigation and Customs bill Assir charged in Malaysia.

The rates by the way are identical for all port services in Surabaya. I have two competitors' quotes in an email. That's called 'price fixing' in international law. It is illegal in most places. And it is gloves-off utter robbery and victimization of anyone who dares ship via that port. Shamelessly so.

To be more specific, they extorted $500 for exactly what in Surabaya? For bringing the crate from the ship to the Customs warehouse. That's it. Maybe a kilometre or two truck ride for a 4.5 cubic metre motorcycle crate.

. . .#1 comparison, Darwin Australia: Same bike, same $500 shipping charges,
. . .but in Darwin port charges were around $60 (see East Timor blog.)
. . .That's a first-world modern port, with costly first-world unionized labour,
. . .higher land costs.

. . . #2 comparison, London Gatwick Airport: $200 to move and clear the bike.
. . . Zero work on my part, agent did it all in a few hours, I just showed up.

. . . #3 comparison, Bangkok Thailand airport: $0 to move and clear the bike.
. . . I had to walk through Customs for 2 hrs, perhaps a small charge, don't recall.

. . . #4 comparison, Los Angeles airport: $35 to move the bike. $0 to clear it.
. . . Customs took maybe an hour, no charge. Same bike, similar size of crate.

. . .are a shame on the nation of Indonesia. Being shipping-
. . .experienced worldwide, not speaking from naivet̩ Рit's the kind of
. . .corruption & greed that verges on treason: It drives away global
. . .business, tourism, and thus jobs.

. . .Price fixing cabals go to jail in Canada, USA and Europe.
. . .Why not here? Official corruption is why: The average Indonesian's loss.

First International Pramata Logistic
thieves invoice = US$350 for what exactly?
None of your damn business, just pay it.
Second invoice US$150 for what exactly?
None of your damn business, just pay it.
We have your shipment, so too bad for you huh?

Zero Customs help. Zero. Indeed, they specifically washed their hands of it when I enquired.

Nothing else done for their usurious fee. Just a short truck ride in a country where labour is perhaps 50¢ an hour [source link]. And gas is 50% the price of USA/Canada – or 25% of prices in Europe.

All the extra money goes to a greedy owner. Plus likely some official corruption.

I'm proudly a born-again capitalist too, but this is shameless greed – also rather stupid for a developing country. It drives away business, from a nation that badly needs abundant business and jobs.

Oh, and the big well-secured Customs warehouse wasn't even close full either. Hmmm, I wonder why. Could it have anything to do with rapacious prices by world standards?


Great Policeman in Surabaya. I showed up at the huge police compound by taxi at around 4:30 PM. Explained my problem to various people. Was led to an office finally, was immediately welcomed in and sat opposite Officer Iwan Saktiadi.
. . . . .Iwan Saktiadi, Sik
. . . . .Ajun Komisaris Polisi
. . . . .Satlantas Polres Sidoarjo
. . . . .Surabaya

What a great guy! Quite international (been overseas a few times on police work), polite, intelligent, helpful, no-BS. Superb English. And he knows bikes – rides a Police BMW escort sometimes.

He phoned Diyah Yanuardani at Ikatan Motor Indonesia in Jakarta just to understand what Customs needs from him. She immediately faxed a sample Police letter.

An hour later I left with the letter signed by Officer Saktiadi. Meanwhile he explained to me police jurisdictions and how to ride safely in Indonesia.

Wow. No run-around, no delay, no 'come back tomorrow' – as frankly I was expecting at 6 PM!

And no resentment that I was keeping him and fellow officers in the office late.

Thank you to the Surabaya Police and Officer Iwan Saktiadi. The latter, by the way, had been to Netherlands and other countries on police training. He's 3-stars on his epaulets at perhaps early-30's age, and looks to me like a deserving man on his way up.

I must say he and others I met among the Police force, gave me a warm fuzzy impression. I'm sure there are plenty exceptions, but I just met good guys and gals.


Very helpful thorough Customs Officer in Surabaya, who is in charge of all Carnet de Passage vehicles. Which means foreigners. He also speaks quite decent English.

I ultimately reported to him and did whatever he asked.

He was clear and fair in his requests, explained the rules to me. I did what he asked, he got the papers sorted out properly. Next time, I'd go directly to him upon arrival:

. . . . .Officer Yudi Permadi
. . . . .Kasi Kepebehnan Dan Cuka I
. . . . .Perijinan Dan Fasilitas
. . . . .0812-902-7964 cell


We made it into Indonesia. Great country, enormous physically and culturally.

So far (at Christmas) we have explored it for just two weeks but hope to make it a couple months.

However it was one of the most difficult and costly border crossings of my life – a life of almost a hundred border crossings with my own wheels.

Indonesia needs to take the bugs out of this if they wish to encourage tourism by road warriors like us. And they seem to want travellers.

However I certainly can understand and empathize how corruption by their Carnet de Passage publishers put a damper on things! It cheapens the currency of the otherwise valuable Carnet down to almost zero.

Hopefully the to-do and contact list above in this blog page will encourage other travellers. IMI is great and very helpful. Work with them and I'll bet things will just get smoother and faster.

Just avoid Surabaya and other rapacious over-charging ports. This is your one remaining research job that I unfortunately missed – before loading your wheels on a ship. Try for the islands of Sumatra or Bali would be my first suggestions.

Indonesia is definitely worth the effort!

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