Are you riding or planning to ride South East Asia? Have you thought about crossing Myanmar and Thailand already? Unfortunately, one cannot cross Myanmar freely with a foreign registered motorcycle. A guide must accompany the rider up to the Thai or Lao border. Entry regulations in Thailand are somewhat unclear and amended very often. The experience varies from one land border to another.
When entering Thailand from Myanmar with a guide, some are left to ride on their own as soon as they cross the Thai border. Others are accompanied until they enter Laos. What we know for sure is that even though it is possible to enter Thailand from other borders without a guide, it is definitely impossible to do so, coming from Myanmar.
Traveling through Myanmar and Thailand by land
When you start getting quotes for this tour, the first reaction is a shock! Why do I have to pay so much money to simply cross a country for a couple of days? Those riding 2up might see this cost even more ridiculous. As with most agencies, the pillion has to pay the exact same amount of money to cross over with the rider, even though they are on one motorcycle. And the most natural reaction people have to this is to look into shipping the bike from a particular country to another, and skip riding this part of the route altogether.
We have been through this phase too, but in reality, why should you go into the hassle of shipping the bike? When with pre-planning, it costs cheaper to ride it, and you get to see a bit of Myanmar too! To give you an idea, shipping our V-Strom DL650 by Air Freight from Nepal to Malaysia or Indonesia costs between USD1200 to USD1600 (not including your own flight tickets). Using sea freight is cheaper but takes longer to get the bike to the desired destination (usually three to five weeks but there might also be delays). Moreover, there are hidden costs at the seaport and it is generally easier to retrieve your motorcycle from an airport.
This all boils down to making a couple of clever choices. Even though for some this is annoying and inconvenient to their flow of travels, planning ahead is very important. Here is some advice and what we’ve learned from these border crossings.
Be pro-active and start planning early.
Tour agencies come up with the cost according to the size of the groups. The larger the number of people that sign up for the same dates, the cheaper the cost for every individual to cross over. However, they still have a limit on the number of people that can join and you might miss out if you leave it too late. Agencies usually submit the necessary documents and permits around one month before the tour, so once these are submitted, they do not accept further registrations. If you prepare early enough and contact an agency at the right time, you can easily choose one of their planned groups and adjust your itinerary accordingly.
Get in touch and make the most of Social Media.
Social groups and networks come in very handy in such scenarios. First of all, you can keep yourself updated on various overland rules and regulations through the experience of other travelers. Secondly, you can get to know of others looking to join a group through these channels (Facebook groups, online forums, and other travelers’ Instagram/Facebook accounts or blogs). If you have a clear time frame of when you want to cross over, look for potential travelers and start creating the group yourself. You can also add people to an existing one. It makes the process of having this sorted faster and cheaper.
Don’t choose the cheapest for the sake of spending the least possible amount.
Even though it is annoying that such a tour takes a large chunk out of your budget, evaluate different packages. To give an example, when we booked ours, we went for the cheapest tour with the least days. We spent most of the four days riding non-stop. We visited Bagan (a highlight in Myanmar), but that was the only attraction we experienced. The biggest chunk of the tour cost is for acquiring the overland permit required to cross from Myanmar to Thailand. Re-consider extending your tour for a couple of extra bucks to make the most of it whilst you are in that country.
Choose the agency wisely.
The coordination of our tour was poor and disappointing, especially the way things turned out when we reached Thailand. Going back we would have definitely chosen another agency.
Meanwhile, we did further research to be able to provide an alternative to our readers. Other travellers that have done this tour already recommended Zawmin Tun from Myanmar Senses Family. He seems to offer attractive and genuine packages and has good connections on the Thai side.