There are the dirt bike adventures that you want (these often include copious quantities of either mud or dust), and then there are the travel related dramas that you don't want. Avoiding the latter so you can thoroughly enjoy the former, is what this article is all about.
To begin with dirt bike riders from Australia wanting to have an adventure abroad do have somewhat of an advantage over overseas riders wanting to come to Australia. Many overseas dirt bike tour providers offer packages that are far more comprehensive than those available in Australia, by providing bike & equipment hire, accommodation and even airport pickup. This is a situation that Aussie dirt bike tour providers really need to address if they want to make inroads to the global dirt bike adventure tour market.
When we are looking at a world-wide dirt bike adventure tour market, it's not good enough to just say that these extras don't really matter or are too expensive to provide. They do matter, and dirt bike riders from abroad will make their decisions based on some of these "little extras" and end up going to other Asia-Pacific destinations as a result. So, hopefully this situation will improve over time, because Australia really is one hell of a great destination for any keen dirt bikers.
So now ... let's move on to cover some of the basics of a dirt bike adventure abroad ...
Passports and Travel Visas
- What is a Passport?
A Passport is your proof of identity, and as such is an essential document for most international travel. Some exceptions may be neighbouring countries with specific treaties, for example: Australia and New Zealand, USA and Canada, European Union countries. Generally speaking though, it is a good idea to have a current Digital Passport with you at all times when traveling internationally.
Thanks to International Passport Treaties, it is now possible to easily travel between many countries around the world. Travel between countries like the US and Australia is now a relatively simple and straight forward affair requiring minimal effort and just a few minutes online.
- What is a Visa?
A travel visa is a document that is attached to your passport that provides you with permission to visit and travel within another country (and specifies any conditions or limitations that might apply). With the introduction of the Digital Passport (which contains a microchip) some paper visas have now been replaced by an ETA (Electronic Travel Authority). These can in some cases be issued instantly after completing an online application form.
A travel visa (tourist and visitor visa) does NOT allow you to work or gain employment in another country. Work visas (also known as Work Permits or Green Cards in the USA) have different and more stringent requirements than tourist and visitor visas. Work visas also tend to apply for longer periods (usually 6 to 12 months), while tourist and visitor visas are usually limited to a maximum of 3 months.
- How Do I Apply for a Tourist Visa to Australia?
Click here If you are planning to visit Australia and wish to find out more.
Important ! ... Remaining in a country for a period longer than allowed (over-staying your visa), can have very serious consequences, including: deportation, automatic refusal of future entry, and possible criminal charges (and/or detention). Your name may also be placed on a watch-list. In other words, you don't mess with this.
Also worth noting is that regulations governing international travel are constantly
being revised. If in doubt contact your embassy or the department of immigration in the country you wish to travel to. Always make sure you are carrying the necessary documentation when traveling.
- Which Countries Have Passport Treaties with Australia?
The United States (USA), Canada, United Kingdom (UK), and most European (EU) countries have passport treaties with Australia. This means that travel from Australia to these countries (or from these countries to Australia) is greatly simplified, requiring only a fairly simple and in most cases online electronic visa application (subject to certain conditions).
You should always contact an embassy (or visit the immigration web site) of the country you wish to visit. They can provide you with information on how to apply for a visa (electronic or otherwise).
Travel Visa, Extended Travel and Work Visa applications for Australia can be completed online.
Visit - Australian Department of Immigration - Applications & Forms
Drivers Licenses and Permits
- Do I need A Local Drivers License or Permit?
In most cases, No.
A current and valid full motorcycle driver's license or permit (in your home country) will generally enable a rider to travel on roads abroad. It is however the rider's responsibility to make sure that this is the case. Tour operators can generally assist with any detailed information required ... always ask.
- Do I need to know the Local Road Rules?
Though international standards, regulations and road signs tend to be very similar, they are not necessarily the same. It is the responsibility of the individual rider to comply with local road rules, speed limits and to ride on the correct side of the road. Motorcycle adventure tour operators can greatly assist visiting riders and help them to avoid unwanted problems.
- Will I be subject to fines for Traffic Offenses?
It is the individual rider's responsibility to correctly interpret road signs and speed limits. A lack of local knowledge could prove expensive. This is another very good reason to travel with a well organised Tour Group that can assist with driver education for local road regulations and conditions.
- Do I need to exchange currency and how much do I need ?
It will almost always be useful to have some local currency available. How much you should carry depends on where you are going and how long you expect to be there.
Don't take a lot of cash if you don't have to, as this will just increase the likelihood of theft ... lots of cash makes you a target. Keep your cash well concealed and only carry a relatively small amount in your wallet at any time.
If you are planning to travel to remote regions in any country, you may have difficulties if you rely entirely on your Credit Card. So sometimes you will need to bring enough cash to last your trip. But be cautious and be careful!
- What is the best way to exchange currency ?
You will generally get the best value for currency exchange at the airport before you depart. It is important to realise that once you arrive at your destination, not every one there will necessarily speak your language. This may make financial and/or cash transactions awkward and possibly dangerous. The less opportunities there are for currency exchange at your destination, the more likely it is that the amount of any currency exchanged will NOT be in your favour.
Using Credit Cards generally avoids the whole issue of currency exchange, since your bank or card provider will automatically process any transactions into the appropriate currency. Be careful however that your credit card information is not stolen when you use your card. And remember to check whether you will be able to use your credit card at all. They don't generally have EFTPOS and ATMs when you go totally bush.
Booking Flights and Low Cost Airfares
Booking flights, accommodation and even car hire online is simply the easiest way to organise your travel itinerary, whether it is local, interstate or international.
There is now a growing number of comparison based agencies that will show you all available flight options from your point and time of departure right through to your return. Some operators like Zuji can also include accommodation as part of a package, potentially saving you even more money.
Besides this, some airlines now offer Fare Discounts for Online Bookings (usually called E-Tickets), creating an even greater incentive for you to arrange your travel online. This is particularly good if you have a preference or loyalty to a particular carrier (like Australia's QANTAS) because they provide you with Frequent Flyer points.
All of this convenience does come with conditions and catches though, particularly at the budget end of air travel. To get the best deals you may have to be prepared to fly the red-eye special (travel between midnight and 6am). You may also have to book well in advance (from several weeks to perhaps a month or more). There may be restrictions on the amount and type of luggage you can bring with you. And you may find it more difficult, or perhaps to be accurate "more expensive", to cancel a booking or alter departure and return dates.
When booking budget flights, you really do need to pay attention to the fine print in the Terms and Conditions relating to your booking (and preferably book well in advance).
Another potential pitfall is connecting flights. Take it as a given that any flight you book may be up to an hour or more late in arriving at a destination. I've spent 45 minutes in a plane out on the tarmac at O'hare International airport, while the flight crew waited for permission to take off. Some of the lost time was actually made up during the subsequent flight. But in truth any number of things, including weather, can see your flight arrive late. Always allow a few hours for flight connections ... You have been warned!
Of course, another advantage to booking flights early is that you may get to pick your seat. This is particularly good if you'd rather not spend your flight down the back listening to the dull roar of the engines.
There are occasional horror stories on the news about cancelled flights and stranded passengers, particularly with regard to budget carriers. However, my own experience with online travel bookings (both interstate and a seven week sojourn bouncing around the USA) suggests that this it a great system that can save you considerable money ... and you'd be silly not to take advantage of it. Just be well organised and diligent.
- What is the best way to book over-seas accommodation ?
If you are traveling with an organised Motorcycle Adventure Tour operator, there is a good chance that accommodation will be included as a part of your tour package. Make absolutely sure though that this is the case. Arriving in another city or country, only to find that almost all the accommodation has been booked out, can be both unsettling and very expensive.
If you do need to book accommodation, perhaps either before or after your motorcycle tour, then it pays to work with reputable agents. These would preferably be companies with offices (or at least contactable representatives) both in your country of origin and at your destination.
Booking your accommodation online will generally save you money, particularly if you book well in advance (at least one month or more ahead of your departure). It may be worth investigating Accommodation and Airfare Packages to get the very best deal.
- Are Cheap Deals Really Good Value ?
That depends on whether or not you need to make changes after you have made your initial bookings.
Making changes to either Cheap Airfare or Cheap Accommodation bookings can prove very expensive, particularly as you get closer to the booked dates. More expensive bookings generally allow greater flexibility (less financial penalties for making changes), though of course this will depend on whether you are traveling during their peak, off-peak or shoulder seasons.
- Do You Need Travel Insurance ?
The short answer is YES!
You should cover yourself against a range of possible mishaps including: Theft, loss or damage to your personal property; assorted injuries resulting from accidents (not just road accidents); illness resulting from exposure to diseases with strange names that you can't even pronounce.
It might be worth mentioning here, that to get inoculated against some diseases may require several visits to your doctor. In other words, depending on your destination, you can't always leave getting your shots to the last minute. Always thoroughly research the region you are planning to travel through, to avoid later unnecessary and potentially unpleasant surprises.
- What is the best way to get over-seas Travel Insurance ?
If you have any current insurance policies (Home Contents, Motor Vehicle, Life Insurance, etc.), your existing insurer may be willing to provide you with additional cover, in the form of Travel Insurance, for a nominal additional fee. Bundling insurance policies can reduce the over-all cost quite substantially. As an example, over $3,000 worth of travel insurance (covering interstate and international travel) adds only an additional $50 per year to my annual Home Contents insurance.
Another form of Travel Insurance is available with certain major credit card contracts (usually the more expensive plans available from MasterCard or Visa), which will also provide a level of purchase insurance (warranties on any items purchased using the card). Using a credit card (where possible) is generally preferable to carrying large amounts of foreign currency.
You can also take out very specific levels of Travel Insurance limited to the duration of your trip, when you book your over-seas adventure through a Travel Agency. Some tour operators may also be able to provide limited insurance specifically related to the Motorcycle Adventure Tour you plan to take. Though this will cover you while Touring, it may not cover you for any periods before or after the Tour, while you are in transit.
Motorcycle and Bike Gear Hire
- What is the best way to Hire Bikes and Bike Gear ?
Working through an organised Motorcycle Adventure Tour operator will always be the safest and most convenient method of hiring bikes and bike gear when traveling. Even if you plan to spend some time out on your own (or with friends) while exploring another country, tour organisations that hire bikes will probably be your best way to get reliable and fully serviced rides. They can also help you with local knowledge and useful information that may help you avoid unnecessary difficulties.
Customs and Laws in Foreign Countries
- What is the best way to Stay Out of Trouble ?
Rule number one: Don't get caught out by ignorance! Always research your destination well.
Whenever we leave our own shores it is important to remember that (whether we are aware of it or not) we will be subject to the Laws, Rules, Regulations and in some cases even social customs of the land that we are entering.
In many English speaking countries the legal systems and customs are so similar, that it's relatively easy to fit in and feel right at home. This is just a warning to advise travelers that there are still plenty of countries in the world where this is simply NOT the case. And importantly, it is the responsibility of the traveler to know what is and what is not acceptable behaviour in the country that they are visiting.
Some simple examples come from predominantly Muslim countries where public displays of affection (as simple as kissing in public) are not only considered as impolite, but are actually illegal and may result in corporeal punishment (lashes) and/or jail time!
An even harsher example would be the laws in some countries relating to the possession of illegal drugs. Even the possession of small quantities may result in jail terms of many years, while any substantial quantity may lead to the death penalty.
So when you see those signs at the airport, about bringing illegal substances into or out of the country ... just remember that ... They Are Not Kidding!
Updated: 08/11/2010 - Editor