Borders and crossings by bicycle

Slovenian border

I thought I would include a page that includes details on borders and crossings I have made in case there were any issues and to make it clear if there were not.

  1. UK to France – cross channel ferry
  2. EU borders
  3. Croatia to Bosnia
  4. Croatia to Montenegro
  5. Montenegro to Albania
  6. Albania to Macedonia
  7. Macedonia to Greece
  8. Greece to Turkey
  9. Turkey to Georgia
  10. Georgia to Azerbaijan
  11. Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan – by ship
  12. Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan
  13. Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan
  14. Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan
  15. Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan
  16. Singapore to Malaysia
  17. Malaysia to Thailand
  18. Kyrgyzstan to China
  19. China to Korea – by ferry

UK to France – cross channel ferry

This was easier than expected.  I rocked up at Dover followed the necessary signs to the ferry terminal then the signs to the ticket desk.

Once there it was no problem to get a ticket for a bike to cross.  I chose P&O as they appeared to have a boat leaving soon.

It was then again quite clearly laid out where I needed to be in order to get on the boat.

There was a worryingly perfunctory security check which didn’t take my bike into account.

Once on board a helpful deckhand tied my bike up with a hawser after I asked.  I took all my bags off the bike, this was an error – I could quite safely have left them all attached.  Wish I had as I had to lug them around the boat and it was hard loading the bike again.

Various EU: France, Belgium, Germany, Switzerland, Italy, Luxembourg and Croatia.

Very easy, on some occasions I wasn’t even sure what country I was in as there was no border- as you would expect within the Schengen zone.

Croatia to Bosnia and back

Glance at my passport, no issues apart from not being sure how long in the future to answer the question as to where I was going…

Croatia to Montenegro

Bit more of a real border, guards looking more serious but still no more than a standard look at passport – no visas of course needed.

Montenegro to Albania

Thought there might be some questions here – none though – guard did take passport away to be ‘stamped’ no stamp was forthcoming though so felt hard done by.

No checking of luggage.

Albania to Macedonia

Straight through again.

Macedonia to Greece

Coming from FYROM having passed through Albania and back into the EU I was expecting someone to take an interest in the massive bags I was packing at this point. But no, pretty much waved through again.

The Macedonian border policeman did ask where I was going and I thought I was in for an interrogation but his next question was ‘alone?’ And after he gave me a rather you than me look at my response I realised we’d had a conversation not a questioning.

Greece to Turkey – Ipsala

Well this was a real border. After I was checked out of Greece with ease I crossed a long bridge with soldiers at either end and a clear line painted to demarcate Greece and Turkey (no love lost there!). There were also flags flying all over the place from both countries.

After riding through the border zone nodding at soldiers I arrived at the first Turkish queue. This was for a window I was waved through at.  I hoped that wasn’t it as I was pretty sure I needed a stamp of some kind, I need not have worried.

A bit further on was another queue, at the head of which I was told to go buy a visa at a nearby office and then come back.

I went over a bought the visa for €15 with no issues.  The visa man even gave me a sweet…after I’d handed the money over.

Then back to the prior queue for more waiting. The man stamped me through with no questions.

Then a new even longer queue which it transpired was for customs.  Something they seemed to be taking seriously if the emptied cars were anything to go by.

When I rolled up a man in a black leather jacket with no badges came over and actually started interrogating me.  His English was as bad as his manners though and after leafing through my passport and confusingly saying ‘Ankara, what Ankara?’ when I responded to his ‘Where you going?’ he turned his regard to my bags.  I thought that finally one of my great fears was to come to pass: a full bag search.

He pointed at a front pannier and angrily ordered me to open it.  Then he pointed at the rest and said ‘open’ before striding off to the office.

I duly opened my bags, I wasn’t going to unpack them until he barked unpack…

While I stood waiting I loaded up on food and watched other people being checked.

This went on for about ten minutes with the guy not appearing again.

Eventually one of the other custom guys looked at me as if to ask ‘what are you still doing here?’ and gestured me to go.  I didn’t need telling twice and did my panniers up and flew off for about fifty metres.  Then an arm appeared out of another window calling me over for a final check of my passport and that was that.  Over an hour later I was in Turkey.

I really hope the guy in the leather jacket actually worked there.

Gelibolu – Cardak ferry across the Dardanelles

Extremely easy. Rolled up to ferry port asked for Cardak and was pointed to a boat where I was directed on. Asked about ticket greeted wıth shrugs and move along.

Stuck bike at side near lorry and waited on deck with it for crossing.

Rolled off as soon as crossed.

Turkey to Georgia – Sarpi

This was a pretty comfortable easy border.  I rode my bike through from Turkey, perhaps having my passport checked at one more window than was necessary but with no issues.

Then into Georgia it was the most modern swish land crossing I have made.  I had to get off my bike and wheel it through what felt like an airport passport control.

As everyone going through here was on foot (I guess they get a lot of bus loads) I had to walk up to a booth and get my photo taken and speak to someone head on.  I had not done this for a while as most of the other borders had been geared for people handing their passports from cars.

It was trouble free though and I was in Georgia with no issues.

The ladies at tourist information were particularly helpful here and seemed keen that we see everything Georgia had to offer.

Georgia to Azerbaijan – ‘Red Bridge’ Customs post

This crossing was easier than expected. Exited Georgia with no fuss and then rode up to the Azerbaijan border.

This required passing through some large gates into the Azeri border zone.  If on a bicycle feel free to skip the larger queues…

We were led up to a booth for pedestrians by our own friendly soldier who helped hold our bikes when needed.  The officials were friendly in a military manner addressing us by first names when calling us forward to have photos taken.

No questions were asked and we went through very smoothly passing into Azerbaijan via another set of large gates.

Azerbaijan to Kazakhstan – Baku Port

This was my second port based border crossing after Dover.  With my ticket and visa in order everything was fine.  I first had to pass through Azeri customs, here my luggage got scanned for the first time on the trip.  Luckily I wasn’t carrying anything they were bothered with.

It was  a pain though as I had to unload my bike and reload it again.

After customs the border guys stamped my passport out and pointed me towards my ship.  I was not now officially in any country and wouldn’t be for another 50 hours.

On board the ship I had to hand my passport over for the duration of the trip.  Upon arrival in Aktau, Kazakhstan this was returned to me by the Kazakh border control police.

They came on board the ship and checked my visa and stamped me in.  They also provided me with a registration card.

After that I was allowed off the ship and was taken to customs.  The customs guy asked what was in my bags had a look at the top but wasn’t interested in me getting anything out. He tried to scan them but his x-ray machine wasn’t working.

All in all took a while but wasn’t a difficult process for me.

Kazakhstan to Uzbekistan – Beyneu/ Karakalpakstan

So apparently they take land borders a bit more seriously in Central Asia than in Europe. Arriving at the Kazakh side of the border I was met by a closed gate guarded by a soldier. The soldier asked to see my passport and then asked if I was a tourist in a somewhat surprised tone. He then radioed that he had a tourist and let me through the gate into the border zone.
Here I was gestured into a building avoiding the lines of cars in order to go through the Kazakh customs procedure. This involved taking all the bags off my bike running them through a scanner and then reattaching them and leading my bike through into the passport control part.
Now things got difficult. Not because of complex bureaucracy or the such but because in central Asia they don’t really queue. There were two lines (I say lines…most of the time there were two mobs) which people seemed to shift between periodically for reasons unknown to me. Every so often a man would come out of the office and shout every behind the ‘Do not pass point’ and try and get a queue in order. With a bicycle it is very hard to jostle for position so I would stay in the same place but end up with people moving in front of me. I didn’t want to say anything because I had no idea what was going on – some people seemed to be allowed to move forward for some reason. So I concentrated on waiting patiently – for over an hour. Then the shouty man from the office saw I was still sort of stood in the same point in the queue and started to make things happen and got me through to the front.
The border control soldier processing my documents was very nice and seemed a bit nervous at having to deal with a foreigner…normally it is the border control guys making me feel nervous! After a while of inputting data and checking I was through!
I was getting a bit annoyed though as I’d only managed to get out of Kazakhstan and I still had to get into Uzbekistan and I had been at it for about two hours already.
Saying that, I still wasn’t out of Kazakhstan, I still had to pass through another gate guarded by another soldier – who spoke better English than all the other guys doing the actual border processing.
So off I went towards Uzbekistan and another locked gate where another pleasant soldier let me through into the Uzbek border processing area.
I headed into the building indicated, queued a short while at the border control point where some more nice soldiers stamped me into the country with no fuss. This section took a surprising ten minutes.
Next up was Uzbek customs which was a big pain, they enjoy their declaration forms. First off I had to wait for them to go and find the English language versions. I then had to fill it out – detailing what foreign currency and goods I had. I filled it out per the instructions of the soldier watching me which I am pretty sure was wrong…Have to wait and see if there are issues when I leave the country.
I then had to wait more for the guy processing the forms to look over mine and stamp them. The guy asked if I had any drugs and I said just medicine. I had to show these to him – not quite sure what he was hoping to tell from my paracetamol and Imodium tablets! Then I had to unload my bike again and run all the my stuff through the Uzbek scanner. Once this was done I was free to load up and ride out – I think they were a bit bored of me by this point.
All that now remained was to pass through one other guarded gate and onwards.
In total it probably took three to four hours to get through this border. On the Kazakh side passport control took forever and on the Uzbek side customs.

Uzbekistan to Kazakhstan – Jipek Joli

I was expecting this to be a nightmare crossing as it had been very difficult crossing into Uzbekistan from Kazakhstan.  Fortunately it was quite the opposite aтв I managed to get through in an hour.  This might sound a long time but when you have to go through Uzbek border control and customs and the same for the Kazakh side it is not bad.

On both sides the border police were ridiculously friendly and took me to the front of all the queues and helped me with any forms.

The Kazakh customs guys didn’t even check my bags – just asked if I had any drugs and were satisfied when I said no.

Kazakhstan to Kyrgyzstan – Chaldovar

Another easy border.  On the Kazakh side I got stamped out by the border control guys quite quickly and no one at customs checked my bags.

The Kyrgyz side was even easier. I didn’t need a visa – just handed my passport over and got a stamp.  They didn’t appear to have a customs check so no one looked at my bags. Fantastic!

Kyrgyzstan to Kazakhstan – Kordai

Pretty much as easy as entering Krgyzstan.  The Kyrgyz border guys just checked my passport and waved me through – no customs checking.

On the Kazakh side there was no queue and I got through very quickly.  My bags were scanned but the police were very pleasant and chatty.

Singapore to Malaysia – Tuas

It turns out you cannot cross here by bicycle. So don’t try and cross here by bicycle, you will be sent back with your tail and bike between your legs.

Singapore to Malaysia – Woodlands

Crossing here was fine. Take the motorcycle lane rather than the pedestrian route.  The staff here were nice and just stamped me through.  No one checked my bags.

Malaysia to Thailand – Padang Besar

Easy to cross here.  Just stamped through following motorcycle route out of Malaysia and pedestrian route into Thailand. Visa waiver for thirty days at land border for UK citizens.

Krygyzstan to China – Irkeshtam

The border is only open during the week and closes for weekends and national holidays.  Apparently the border is not open for the whole day either and we were told on the Kyrgyz side that it opens at 8am.  We arrived shortly after and it was open.

The Kyrgyz side was very easy to negotiate and early in the morning there was no queue.  Or if there was one we were waved to the front of it.  Our passports were simply checked and stamped and we went through without having our bags checked.

After the Kyrgyz border checks we rode about five minutes to a KG checkpoint where our passports were checked again and then we rode a little bit further up a short climb to a set of ornate gates manned by the Chinese military.  I assume on the other side of these gates China started.  At the gates we had our passports checked by the Chinese who spoke no English and didn’t really seem to know what to do with us.

They waved us through though and we rode for about 5km down till we reached the Irkeshtam Chinese customs post.  This is not the border control point and is just customs.  Here we had to go in to a building where they took our passports and checked ALL our bags thoroughly.  This took some time as I have seven full bags on my owns.  They went through literally everything but were clearly just following orders and were either friendly or abrupt but never rude or intimidating.  English and Russian was spoken by some of the guards here.

Once our bags were checked we were told we had to get a taxi the 140km to Uluqqat the town where the actual border control was (we did not get our passports back at this point and they had not been stamped either).  We tried to argue that we wanted to ride this distance but we were not allowed.  In the past I had understood that cyclists had to get a taxi because the road was so bad and it was dangerous riding with trucks.  Now I do not know the exact reasons as the road is brand new and absolutely beautiful.  I assume it is because the distance between the customs post and the border control point is just on the edge of being achievable in one day on a bicycle and probably would not be rideable in the opening times of the border posts.

So we had to get a taxi, which was 100RMB (c.$16) each and we had to have our bikes strapped to the outside of the boot in a manner that I was not particularly happy with…In the end bikes and people made it to Ulluqqat in about two and half hours.

The taxi driver kept our passports for the whole journey and we had to go through one check point on the way.  At Ulluqqat our passports and visas were checked and stamped without any fuss. Our bags thankfully were not checked again and we were finally in China.  There was a restaurant, possibly restaurants at the border and men offering to change money at a rate not dissimilar to that found in Kashgar.  There is not much between the border and Kashgar so I would advise having something to eat there and getting at least changing any soms you have there before making the 100km journey to the city.

China to South Korea – by ship

This was an easy crossing.  On the Chinese side I went through immigration with no issues.  They scanned my bags but didn’t mention that I had camping gas with me.

The only problem was getting on the actual ferry.  Rather than being a car ferry like the Dover Calais crossing this was purely a passenger ferry. This meant getting a touring bike up two escalators worth of stairs.  In hindsight should have done it in two trips with bags first then bike. Bike was locked in a storage room for duration of the trip.  Also had to load bike on a ferry from the terminal to the ship in China and Korea.  Not sure if you could argue for riding if you really want to cycle all the way.

On the Korean side passing immigration was similarly easy, stamped straight through and bags scanned with no problems.

Was with two other British cycle tourists at the time and they had no trouble either.

Canada to the USA – Blaine

This crossing was far easier than I expected.  I just cycled up to the border building confirming that I didn’t need to check out of Canada first.  I didn’t which seemed strange but apparently the way it is done.

In the border building I had a short wait before being processed.  The guy was stern but polite and just asked a few routine questions.  He seemed OK once he had established what I was doing and I got stamped through.

I didn’t have an onward flight, I didn’t have any details of my funds.

I had to pay about $6 processing fee for my visa waiver.

Nobody checked my bicycle.

2 thoughts on “Borders and crossings by bicycle

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out / Change )

Twitter picture

You are commenting using your Twitter account. Log Out / Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out / Change )

Google+ photo

You are commenting using your Google+ account. Log Out / Change )

Connecting to %s