Thanks to the COVID pandemic, we now live in a world full of uncertainty, and planning a RTW trip right now may sound like madness. Is it, though? Right now, airlines and shipping companies are more flexible than they’ve ever been offering deals, discounts, and flexible dates; besides, there’s plenty of time to do your research, set up your bike, and think about where you want to go. RTW travel is more achievable than most people think, and while it may not be possible this year or even in 2021, the time to plan and prep is now.
So if you’re ready to start putting your perfect ride around the word together, here’s what you’ll need in terms of logistics for a RTW trip:
We’ve covered motorcycle shipping from top to bottom this year, talking about the cheapest shipping destinations and overland routes requiring the least amount of motorcycle transport. However, if you’re planning international motorcycle shipping, there are a few more factors to think about before calling a shipping agent:
- can you share costs with other riders? If you’re planning a more popular route like Alaska-Ushuaia or London-Cape Town (and let’s say you want to ship the bike back from South Africa rather than ride it back to Europe), see if you can find more riders heading the same way. Sharing a shipping container can drastically reduce costs, and it will give you a bargaining chip when negotiating with the shipping agencies. Groups always get discounts, so see if you can buddy up to avoid big expenses.
- crates vs cages. Depending on the make and model of your bike, most shipping agents will charge according to the bike’s size as this will influence the number of bikes and cars they can cram into one container. As a general rule, companies who cage the bikes rather than crate them are cheaper as they are saving on space without compromising the safety. When you’re reaching out to shipping agents, ask them about their packaging process and see if you can shop around.
Getting Tires and Spares
A lot of riders worry about the availability of tires and spare parts on the road, and in some corners of the planet, they may indeed be a little tougher to come by. Here’s what you can do to avoid getting stuck somewhere where DHL doesn’t ship to:
- order ahead. While some countries are less developed than others, most capital cities will have large motorcycle dealerships or at the very least, DHL/post offices. If you know you may need new clutch plates in about 4,000 miles, pick a capital city on your route, order the parts, and fix the clutch once you get there. The same goes for tires, spares, and anything else you may need.
- carry the consumables. What wears the most on your bike? Brake pads, clutch and throttle cables, spark plugs, a few spokes – these items won’t take up much space, but they’ll come in handy when you’re traversing a remote part of the world with limited access to motorcycle shops.
- set up a network. Do a little bit of research, reach out to regional Facebook groups, and set up a network of motorcycle people along your route: locals who can keep a set of pre-ordered tires for you, recommend a good mechanic, or offer garage space to work on your bike. Most of the time, local riders and bike dealerships are happy to help out a traveling motorcyclist, so make some friends before you leave!
Visas and Carnet de Passage for the RTW Trip
Depending on where you’re originally from and where you’re going, setting up visas and bike documentation can get a little tricky, especially as countries sometimes unexpectedly change their rules and regulations. However, with the advent of e-visas and travel permits obtainable upon arrival, it’s possible to plan ahead and figure out where you can travel freely. Even when countries require you to get a visa before arriving, you can usually find their embassy in the country you’re currently in and apply there. West Africa seems to be the trickiest in this regard, but according to Lea Rieck, an adventure rider who was making her way down to South Africa this year, simply allowing for a little more time and visiting embassies before entering a new country works well, especially if you don’t know exactly how much time you’ll need to transit each country.
With carnet de passage, things are even more straightforward: do your research on which countries actually require you to have it, get one while you’re still at home, and you’re good to go. Here’s a list of carnet countries to make it easier.
It’s way too early to predict what travel will look like in the foreseeable future, but while jetting around the world may get a lot more complicated, overlanding should remain a viable option as you’re generally traveling solo and social distancing by nature. We may or may not require proof of COVID vaccine to be able to travel freely, or there may be certain restrictions to transit versus stay in any one country; however this thing unfolds, we will still be riding RTW sooner or later.
Are you planning a long-distance adventure for the next year or two, and what are some of the issues you’re facing?