We are often asked what preparation was required for this trip so lets have a quick look.
The 3 V’s
- Vehicle Documents – the logbook from your home country, an international driving permit (IDP) and Carnet. Take copies of everything. Carnet is a bond against import duties and is available from a local motoring organisation in most countries. It needs to be valid for Iran specifically where the bond is 500% of the vehicle value! A laminated copy of driving licence is handy for dodgy looking “officials”.
- Vaccinations – See the travel clinic at your local GP surgery to work out what you need for where you are going. Don’t underestimate the cost of the vaccinations, they worked out £500 odd for both of us. Also don’t forget to get decent travel insurance that covers you for riding the bike (some only cover up to 125cc).
- Visa’s – You need the visas for Iran, Pakistan and India in advance as they can be difficult/impossible to get from an embassy outside your home country.
- Iran is straightforward though fairly expensive. We used an agency to get a pre-authorisation number. This meant that when we went to the embassy to get the actual visa it was all very straightforward and fast.
- Pakistan one is the hardest and may be denied if you inadvertently mention you are travelling on a bike. Thankfully they didn’t ask. We applied ourselves and needed a Letter of Invitation (LOI). After sending the stuff off in the post and getting nowhere for 2 weeks we went to the embassy in person and magically sorted it all in a day. Valid for 3 months with one month stay. This meant we had to leave ASAP after we got it to have time to get there.
- India, again pretty straightforward but valid for 6 months for 3 month stay so have to be careful on the timings.
The 3 P’s
This is what you need when you are actually travelling. Patience, Politeness and Perseverance. This gets you through most things.
Clothes – Taking the route and weather into account I had armoured jeans and textile jacket with me. I also had waterproof over-trousers which folded down small but were very useful in Germany! Using this combination meant I could add or remove layers to suit the conditions and was not too hot. Helen had textile waterproof over-trousers and was too hot a lot of the time. Off the bike light trousers, T-shirt and thin fleece covers most weather. I had no room for shoes so either wore sandals or the (fantastic but expensive) Daytona boots.
Camping – We had a stove, 3 person tunnel tent, sleeping bags and self inflating sleeping mats. We should have gone for a dome tent rather than tunnel since it would stand without pegs. Useful for camping on a hotel rooftop in Iran for example. It would be possible to travel without the camping gear to save space but then you’d miss out on the experience.
Spares – Bring anything that’s a common failure item, particularly if it is small and/or hard to get. The diesel bike had spare engine sensors, water pumps and fuel pumps. The fuel pump was noisy before we left and failed in Turkey so I was glad to have a spare. Should have brought brake pads. The F650 had 2 spare water pumps and chewed its way through both of them. Both bikes had spare brake and clutch levers, headrace and wheel bearings and inner tubes. We should not have brought tyres. 10000 miles on the Metzler Tourance rear and still going strong. I also had a box of electrical spares including fuses, relays, wire, tape, multimeter and gas soldering iron (used more than once on various bikes!)
Navigation – GPS or not? For us we had GPS on the bike and paper maps for planning. Our GPS was on Android phones, we each had one and they were identical meaning we could swap batteries etc. The phone provided satnav, email, web browsing, VoIP (like skype), blogging and even watching the odd video. The disadvantage is the small screen but we had a bluetooth folding keyboard to type on. Micro SD adaptors were used in our cameras meaning photos could be uploaded via the phone wherever we found Internet. We should have checked this stuff more before we left because the satnav kept locking up and had limited detail in the cities due to limited map storage space. I now have better satnav software and maps and discovered the phone is more stable on an older version of Android.
When to go
We left a couple of weeks late. Had we gone earlier we would probably have missed the rain in Germany which would have been nice though was only a couple of days. Don’t end up in Pakistan in the hot season or you’ll be real sorry. Also watch out for the monsoon in India and Thailand.
Where to stay
It can be a real drag finding somewhere to stay every night and should bear some consideration before you leave. Big Tom who we were travelling with had a load of GPS co-ordinates preloaded and found it easier as a result. Had we sorted ourselves a bit better for Europe we would have had a list of campsites everywhere and saved a small fortune. I’m not saying plan the entire route day by day, but a list of options beats riding round towns looking for somewhere to stay, especially when you don’t speak the lingo.
We found lonely planet guides were really helpful for finding cheap accommodation and getting your bearings but we ended up leaving them at home as we had no room to take them! Better to buy the PDF versions for viewing on the phone but nicer to read a paper copy. Keep an eye out in hotels for the book for the next country along the way.