An amazing journey filled with unforgettable impressions.
But it was a way more complicated trip than the ones I've previously undertaken for obvious reasons.
It demanded more planning and more careful preparation (which was actually not completely a bad thing) but the language was a far greater hindrance than in western Europe.
The Chernobyl tour was one of the coolest things I've ever done and well worth the cost.
That I didn't bring either the cooling vest or the hydration system for the jacket was idiotic and I regretted that decision many times throughout the journey.
I would most likely have used the cooling vest every day if I'd had it but even if I hadn't used it at all it wouldn't have taken much space in the pannier and the same goes for the hydration bladder.
A stupid mistake and a lesson learned.
I usually adapt to the traffic culture in other countries quite well but the all-out aggressiveness of the Russian drivers was hard to match and the Romanians are quite honestly just rubbish drivers.
After reading up on it it's still a complete mystery to me that the issue of a driving license in that country is preceded by any kind of theoretical or practical test.
I thought I'd try and help other travellers wanting to visit Russia and Belarus by motorcycle by trying to explain what's needed to enter those countries with a motorcycle.
N.B. This information is accurate at the time of writing (August 2018) but will most likely not be updated.
- An electronic visa application filed and printed from visa.kdmid.ru with a passport photo in colour.
- A so-called Tourist Voucher supporting the visa application from for instance iVisa.ru (most hotels will mail you a link to where to get a voucher after booking).
- Travel insurance certificate. The certificate needs to be in either English or Russian and needs to specifically state that it's valid in Russia.
- You need to plan the trip ahead as you need to provide the route in the visa application.
- This might differ depending on where you're from but from Sweden a Russian visa costs about €68 + postage handling costs.
- Visa application with a passport photo in colour. You can download the visa application document from here.
- A confirmation of your hotel booking stamped and signed by the hotel.
- Travel insurance certificate. A certificate valid in Russia will not necessarily be approved in Belarus.
It needs to specifically state that you are covered for €10.000 and it should be stamped and signed by the issuer.
- The cost of a Belarusian tourist visa is €60 + postage handling costs.
In the visa application for Russia you write the address of whoever issued the tourist voucher as inviting organization and for Belarus you write the address of the hotel (forget camping or spur of the moment accommodation as you will be asked where you're staying at the border crossing and the might call the hotel to check).
To get into Russia and Belarus with a motorcycle you need to fill in a Passenger Customs Declaration.
I have scanned the document I received at the Finnish border.
Download and print it double sided so that you have one paper per declaration.
You need to fill in two identical copies, customs will keep one and you'll get the other one back stamped and signed which you'll keep until you exit the country.
This is an example of how you're supposed to fill in the document.
Belarus uses the same document but they've shrunk it down to A5.
If you hand over a filled in A4 form I don't see why it wouldn't be valid but then again I haven't got a masters degree in bureaucracy so worst case scenario you might have to input the same data on their A5 form.
When I entered Belarus I needed to fill out a questionnaire which was in Russian only so a customs official translated the questions for me.
If you don't know the language you're in their hands at this point but to me they were very helpful.
N.B: Do not as a foreigner try to cross the border between Russia and Belarus, they are in a customs union and have decommissioned the border between their countries.
Regardless of documentation or visa you will enter the country illegally if you attempt this crossing.
You need to exit to third country before entering Russia/Belarus, there are no exceptions.
Belarus has a system of road toll called BelToll. As motorcycles aren't all that common in Belarus customs might not know the score (they didn't when I tried to enter the country).
But you do not need BelToll on a bike as motorcycles are exempt.
An international driving permit is required for Russia and is recommended for Belarus.
I've written this before but a top tip is never hand over any more papers than what is typically required which is passport, registration and insurance green card.
If they want to check travel insurance or driving license it's better to let them ask for it because even though the Russians and Belarusians seemed to have their shit together it completely up to the official, some officials will scrutinize everything you give them carefully even if it's not even required for that particular crossing.
Despite the Latvian customs official I still won't bring my MOT on the next trip, it isn't required.
These are the modifications to the Zega panniers mentioned day 1:
The corner protectors on the panniers are fastened with a torx screw and nyloc bolt on the inside.
I bought D-ring picture hangers on eBay to fasten the luggage straps.
So even though ze bloody Germans used both nyloc and thread locker (which makes me both hate them and admire them at the same time) it was just a matter of loosening the bolt and put the D-ring in between.
The luggage straps I got cheap at a hardware store and after much research finding a bag that fit the dimensions I found IKEAs Förfina accessory bag.
That it didn't cost more than €3 didn't hurt either.
The total cost was about €10 a pannier compared to €70 per bag from Touratech so it was a cheap option that solved a problem.
I can't take credit for the idea as I read it in a thread a user called LiLiBug wrote in the advrider forum.
But I'm still pretty happy with the execution and this is how it turned out. The larger pannier had room in the lid for the multimeter as well.
And finally the trip in numbers:
The cost of fuel and accommodation (converted to Euros).
|Total cost of petrol||€373,5|
|Most expensive petrol||Sweden||€1,66/Liter|
|Average fuel consumption||0.55L/10km|
|Total number of hotel stays||25|
|Total cost of accommodation||(excluding extra fees for breakfast and parking)||€1312|
|Cheapest accommodation||Hotel Volkhov, Novgorod Russia||€33/night|
|Most expensive accommodation||Radisson Blu, Wroclaw Poland||€86/night|
|Total cost of (secure) parking||Almost all of this is just for the parking in Moscow||€149|
Other costs (converted to Euros).
|Visa (through an agent)||Russia||€133|
|Visa (through an agent)||Belarus||€148|
|Internationellt driving license||Valid three years||€25,5|
|Ferry||Silja Line Stockholm - Helsinki||€83|
|Ferry||Stena Line Gdynia - Karlskrona||€152|
|Vignette||Hungary (valid for one week)||€13|