This is our experience/record of crossing the Malaysia-Indonesia border. The process took five days because the bikes traveled on an “onion boat” and we flew. Our traveling party consisted of four people and four motorcycles.
Closest major cities: Butterworth, Malaysia and Belawan, Indonesia
Costs: $715.45 ($46 per person for Indonesia 60-day visas, $17 for taxis to/from Indonesia consultant in Georgetown, $31.50 per person for airplane ticket Penang to Medan, $182 per motorcycle paid to Mr. Lim in Malaysia, $0.27 per person for the ferry to return to Penang, $81 per motorcycle paid to agents in Indonesia, and $17 for taxis/rickshaws).
Paperwork required at border:
Note: we keep all originals in individual plastic sleeves. We labeled these sleeves clearly to avoid confusion as to what was what, to keep original documents clean, and to differentiate what is original and what is a copy. All border-crossing officials have respected the sleeve.
Indonesia visa paperwork and process
*Passport and one photocopy
*Photocopy of carnet
*Photocopy of motorcycle title
You can receive 30-days on arrival in Indonesia and you can extend it one time for an additional 30-days. We plan to stay for four months in Indonesia so we applied for the 60-day visa which can be extended, 30-days at a time, for up to six months in country. We went to the Indonesia consulate on Penang Island and it was a very straight-forward process. We went in the morning (between 9:30-12:00) and were directed to window 6. They gave us an application form that must be filled out with black ink pen. They have pens if you don’t. We provided the filled out form along with our passports, passport photo, passport photocopy, and photocopy of our carnets and motorcycle titles (in lieu of a plane ticket). We returned the next day at 2pm and pick up our passports with 60-day visa.
Our bikes left days before us with Mr. Lim’s “onion boat”.
Step 1 – Immigration: Our passports were processed at the Penang Airport because we flew between Penang, Malaysia and Medan, Indonesia
Step 2 – Bike shipping with Mr. Lim including Malaysia customs:
• Email Mr. Lim (email@example.com) when you have a time frame for sending your bike from Penang to Sumatra. The boats load on Wednesday (unless end of month when it is sometimes on Thursdays), sail on Saturday, arrive on Sunday, and available for pick up on Monday.
• Via email Mr. Lim will need a copy of your passport and carnet.
• On Thursday (we went the end of the month so the week before Mr. Lim emailed to tell us the boat would load on Thursday rather than on Wednesday) we met Mr. Lim at 10:00am at his office in Georgetown (5.41429, 100.33823). We met two additional people at Mr. Lim’s office that were shipping at the same time. We all went into his office and provided our passports, carnets, and the fee (803 Ringgit). Mr. Lim made photocopies, provided us with receipts for our payment, and an invoice for the agent in Medan, Indonesia.
• We followed Mr. Lim on the ferry (it is free in the direction of Butterworth) to the Butterworth port where we stopped at the customs building. Mr. Lim did all the paperwork while we waited in chairs. At one point, I (Shannon) went with Mr. Lim to meet with the customs official as he stamped our carnets. I think he chose me from our group as I was the only woman. After the customs office we drove over the canteen to wait until time to load the bikes (arrived at the canteen at 12:15, had some tea, and relaxed). About 1:15 we drove to the boat, “Setia Jaya”, and left our motorcycles alongside. We packed as much onto the bikes as possible including our helmets (inside one of our bags).
• If you are only one person then you can hop on the back of Mr. Lim’s moto and he will drive you back into Georgetown. As there was four of us we walked from the port to the ferry terminal (about a kilometer) and took the passenger ferry (1.20 Ringgit per person) into Georgetown.
Total time to exit for the motorcycles was about five and a half hours (we missed one ferry on our return to Penang Island which added about an hour). Everything took a bit longer on each end as there were four motorcycles to process.
Step 1 – Immigration: We flew into Medan, Indonesia so our passports were processed at the airport. Because we did not have a return airplane ticket we were pulled out of line and interviewed by a senior immigration officer. He was very friendly, spoke excellent English, and was very supportive of our motorcycle adventure and he stamped us into the country with no problems. We made sure that we were given the 60-days of our visa allowance.
Step 2 – Customs: The motorcycles are available on Monday for pick up though you can also pick them up later in the week.
• Go to the importing shipping agent (3.770248, 98.769798) near the Belawan port. We took a taxi from Medan that cost 120,000 Rupiah including tip plus 3,500 for the toll. Our taxi driver didn’t know the roads very well in Belawan but we were able to guide him with maps.me on the phone. We had difficulty finding a Grab driver (similar to Uber) to take us to Belawan port but in the end the price is basically the same. The drive took 45 minutes. We arrived at the agent’s office at 10:30. We provided our passports (they made photocopies) and paid per person 150,000 Rupiah agent fee and 924,425 Rupiah per motorcycle fee. This was higher than Mr. Lim had told us and in fact, they charge for “four days” storage when the bikes had only arrived the day before. I questioned the fees but nothing changed. We spent an hour at the agents’ office and then they provided us receipts and said “you are done and can go”. We insisted they help us find a taxi or rickshaw driver so that we could get to our next stop.
• Warehouse (3.782507, 98.68168): The agent took two of our group on motos while the other two went in a rickshaw to the warehouse. We arrived at the warehouse at 11:30. We provided our receipts but the motorcycles cannot be released until you go to customs. Do NOT go to the warehouse first. The agent should have directed us to customs first. We wasted time by going to the warehouse.
• Customs (3.785379, 98.691332): We took a local bus and walked partway to the customs offices where we provided our carnets to the customs officer. As we arrived near to noon we were told to come back at 1:00pm. They close for lunch. We walked to a nearby restaurant for a bite to eat and returned at 1:00pm. The customs officers summoned us about 1:20pm and then we drove in their car to the warehouse where they inspected the bikes (taking photos of license plate, VIN number, and engine number). We were then told to ride our motorcycles from the warehouse to the customs office. On returning to the customs office we were provided our carnets (all stamped and processed). We were then free to go.
Step 3 – Insurance: We have not purchased insurance for Indonesia.
Total time to enter was about five hours.