South Korea and the race to the Ferry.

So after recovering my bike and spending my last night at the Sum Guesthouse I pointed my bike north and headed out of Busan early.   This was easier said than done, I had GPS Mapping but it didn’t recognise town names further north and add to that the ‘no motorcycles on the Freeways rule’ made it very difficult to make any headway.   Now the Korean drivers are something else, either slow erratic and all over the road or excessively fast and pass you any way they can, to be polite the overall skill level is pretty average.   Once I finally got out of Busan and travelled towards the coast I found some quieter roads.

After some hours of riding alone through this Valley I found a National Park called The Ice Valley, again very few cars or people around.

Later in the day I decided to camp and I found this old Soccer field in a small town and set up, there was a beach nearby so had time for a short walk.

So it was a very quiet night sleep but when I woke in the morning it turned out the track around the Soccer pitch was part of the elderly excercise circuit, so smiles and waves to everyone who walked past.

What I didn’t know was that as a result of around 8 hours riding yesterday I had only about 130 kilometres to reach Donghae where the Ferry would leave tomorrow, an easy day.

So a short ride into Donghae and a few hours at the beach.

After a night at a local hotel it was off to the Ferry Terminal in glorious sunshine.   Here I met up with a Polish/Australian girl, Kinga who is riding a similar trip to me back to her homeland in Poland, we had been comuincating by email but finally got to meet, her blog is and is well worth a read.   I also met some of the Korean guys who had been riding with Kinga for the past week, they are the founders of the South Korean BMW Club and are a wealth of information on touring South Korea on Motorcycles.   I also met another South Korean guy, Robin who is also heading to Vladivostok with his Motorcycle then riding to Moscow and into Northern Europe so we will all cross paths throughout the journey.

The three bikes were checked through Customs, we rode them onto the Ferry and were then directed out into the foyer where we paid for the Ferry tickets and waited to board.

After a few hours were were on and shown to our rooms, Wendy (South Korean Agent) had booked both mine and Kinga’s rooms so we had no idea what they would be like, turned out we both had twin rooms to ourselves at the front of the ship and compared to the other areas they were luxurious.

So shortly after in beautiful sunshine we set sail for Vladivostok, Russia.

One problem I had is that once we left the bikes in the Ferry we couldn’t return to them until arriving in Russia, I had forgotten to bring spare shoes as I was wearing my Motorcycle boots and gear, I thought it was a bad look to roll into dinner with bare feet or Motorcycle Boots so I found these little numbers in the gift shop for around $1.50 and they match the colour of the ships deck so problem solved………

So thoughts on South Korea;

I really wasn’t there long enough to make any calls other than what I have mentioned, it is more westernised than Japan which brings both good and bad, the roads can be dangerous and confusing but the people are very friendly and genuinely want to show their country in a positive way.   Prices generally are slightly less than Japan or Australia and once out of the cities and towns the country is beautiful and quiet and the east coast is a fantastic area for motorcycle touring, I wish I had planned more time here but bring on Russia.

The Cost of International Shipping.

A warning this post may only be of interest to those planning or considering shipping a motorcycle overseas, for the others it will simply put you to sleep.

I researched my trip using Blogs and Horizons Unlimited so I’m hoping that this information can help others who are planning a similar journey.

How to go from this;


To this;


I will try and keep this as simple as I can but to put things into context this time last year I travelled to Italy where I hired a Moto Guzzi for 8 days and rode from Milan to Paris and back, the hire alone cost around $1400 AUD, add fuel and the fact I couldn’t take much of my own gear, a similar bike to mine would have been close to $2,000 AUD…….for only 8 days.

For shipping from Melbourne I used Bikes Abroad who initially took a while to get info to me mainly because they have a lot of ‘tyre kickers’ who take up a lot of their time getting quotes and never going.   I dealt with Brent who got most of the info I needed for the first part of the shipping to Busan South Korea.   Currently you cannot ship your Motorcycle directly to Vladivostok unless it goes in a Container with other goods.   I have written about the process in the trip prep section so in this post I will deal with the process and cost once I left Australia.

I opted to ship my bike by sea so I could visit Japan in the meantime, I crated my bike and it took around 3 weeks to arrive in Busan on the 12th of April, I had arrived in Tokyo on the 11th of April but would not get to Busan until the 20th so at least the bike would be there when I arrived.   This only left me two days to clear the bike and ride to Donghae to catch the Ferry to Vladivostok a Friday and a Saturday.   I changed my plans and arrived in Busan a day earlier giving me Thursday and Friday to clear the bike and Saturday to ride to Donghae.

Before I left Japan I received an email from the shipping company ULS to say my bike had arrived as scheduled on the 12th of April, all going to plan……I was later told my bike had been trucked to a warehouse over 100 kilometres north of Busan.

Before I left Melbourne I had contacted Wendy Choi who I knew had organised these shipments before, Wendy had given me most of the information I needed including estimated costs but there was still some confusion over the exact process I need to follow to clear the bike from Customs.

Wendy contacted the shipper and arranged for my bike to be trucked back to Busan as it could not clear customs in any other place.   I needed to be in Donghae on Sunday morning to catch the Ferry to Vladivostok as it sailed only once a week, my visa for Russia would start on the 22nd of April and I had four weeks to go through Siberia and into Mongolia otherwise risk being locked up so spending an extra week in South Korea was out of the question.   To make things more difficult I could only communicate with Wendy via email as my prepaid SIM did not work overseas, in the end the bike was trucked back on Thursday arriving just after lunch so at least I still had some chance of making the Ferry.

The process at Busan Port was a little confusing as I was being looked after by someone who I assumed was from the Port but I was never really sure who I was dealing with or who I was paying the money too but sometimes you just have to go with the flow.   No one in Customs spoke English including the Port Guy who’s mobile ring tone was Hotel California by the Eagles, I was a little worried when his phone rang and all I could hear is “you can check out anytime but you can never leave”.

So after around two hours of showing the same bits of paper to different people and being very polite I paid the Port Costs and was taken to my bike in a warehouse at the back of the Port.   All of the staff were very friendly and helpful but having someone who spoke English there would have made the process so much easier.

The warehouse staff helped me lift the bike so I could put the front wheel on and they wanted to take me for fuel and then to dinner but I had to politely decline so I could put the bike together and leave before closing.   So bike together and packed at around 5.30 and straight out into peak hour South Korean traffic for fuel as I needed to have less than 1 litre to ship.

So by late Thursday I had my bike and Friday morning I left Busan and headed for Donghae, which was around 400 kilometres away, easy enough except in South Korea Motorcycles are not allowed on the Motorways or Tollways so your only alternatives are various back roads which are not direct.

On the 23rd of April I arrived at the Ferry Terminal to catch the DBS Dreamliner to Vladivostok, here I met up with other travellers with Motorcycles.   Firstly we paid the cost for our bikes to go on the Ferry followed by a detailed search by Customs which involved removing most of the luggage for either a search or an X-ray, when this was complete it was time to ride the bikes on the Ferry.   We all then had to go back through the Ferry Terminal and pay for our passenger tickets.   After a few hours we passed through Customs and were searched again before we boarded the Ferry.   Wendy had organised the booking for the Ferry and it turned out that I had a twin room to myself at the front of the ship at a heavily discounted price.

Now the Vladivostok end;

After getting off the Ferry and going through Russian Customs were were met by Yuri and Svetlana from Links, Ltd, I had emailed Yuri before leaving Melbourne and he was straight to work, I emailed him copies of my Passport and Visa, bike details and Registration.   After a few signatures they loaded us (2 Australian and 2 Japanese) into their van took us into the manic Russian traffic to a phone shop where Svetlana organised local SIM cards for us at a very good price then dropped each of us off at our hotels, now this was service.  If only I had been told in South Korea that I couldn’t access my bike and luggage once I put it on the Ferry in Donghae as most of my clothes, shoes and toiletries were still packed with the bike.

The following day Yuri picked us all up from our Hotels, took us to breakfast followed by a short tour of Vladivostok while we were waiting for our bikes to clear.

During the afternoon we met at the port paid the costs and were reunited with our bikes and it was as easy as that.

The contrast from South Korea to Russia could not have greater, in South Korea Wendy was organised but you had to deal with others on the ground which made it a little confusing and difficult, on the other hand in Vladivostok with Yuri and Svetlana being there on the ground made it so much easier.

So back to the main point why ship your bike as opposed to hiring or buying one, firstly it is very difficult to buy bikes in other countries and take them to as many as I will be going to secondly you will see by the costs that it is one of the most cost effective ways to travel, except bicycle or on foot.

Cost breakdown (in AUD)

From Melbourne to Busan.

Shipping = $1200 (saved over $400 by crating myself)

Busan Port Costs, destruction of Crate and Insurance = $500

Bonded Trucking back to Busan and Wendy’s fee = $264

From Busan to Vladivostok.

Ferry for Motorcycle = $500

Ferry for Passenger = $180

Vladivostok Port costs, Insurance (3months) and Yuri’s fee = $330

Total cost = $2974