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Shipping from Bangkok to Amsterdam — Part III/III

Shipping is never easy.  There are always surprises even when you use forwarding services who are supposed to “take care of things” for you.  I arrived in Amsterdam from somewhere to a couple of days before the bike to a week and a couple of days because of the “Thai New Year Celebration” that lasts almost a week.  Basically the deal was that if my wire transfer landed in Bangkok on before Monday, then they would be able to ship my bike on Tuesday.  If it arrived later than that, then it would be delayed a week until after the Thai New Year celebration.

I’m used to waiting for the bike.  So the week delay isn’t such a big deal, but this time I got lucky!  My banker (and cousin) made the wire transfer fast and TAC Thailand had the money in time.  Unlike in the USA where they will ship your goods before payment, they refused to do such a thing.  I guess I’m not “known”.

I got the news that my money came in the same day that I arrived in Amsterdam.  My good friend Theo, who I rode with almost my entire last trip drove an hour and a half from Germany to Amsterdam to pick me up at the airport.  I almost didn’t recognize him because he was waring a different shirt than the 4 that I knew him for the 4 months that we traveled together in South and Central America.  It was great to meet up with Theo again!!

Back to the shipping saga…

Yesterday I called KLM, the air line who was actually carrying the cargo from Bangkok to Europe.  They told me that TAC did not specify a freight forwarder and they do not allow the customer to access the freight and clear customs themselves.  KLM then chose to use their “house forwarder”, SDV.

I called SDV and reached the exports department at SDV said that in order for me to clear customs that I need a carnet,  I need to permanently import the bike into Netherlands (AND PAY VAT), or the bike needs to leave Netherlands via the same entry port if I wish to use a temporary import permit.

I do not have a carnet and I prefer to not get one as I understood that I did not need one for any of the countries that I visit.  Plus it costs a few hundred dollars from the Canadian Automobile Association.  I paniced.  I emailed everyone I knew and posted on both Horizons unlimited forum and their mailing lists.  The responses that I got back were the same: Customs doesn’t know what they’re talking about and SDV is just echoing what Schiphol customs tells them.

Fortunately, I have a few friends in Amsterdam who I contacted and rushed to the rescue.  Stefan, one of the infamous “Dutch Dangleberries” (as seen on the sticker on my truck) made many phone calls and eventually sorted everything out for me.   He called the main number for the Dutch Customs and heard what we were expecting… no problem to temporary import the vehicle.  He then arranged the main customs office to contact the Schiphol office and fighting ensued.   SDV was then contacted with the information that I did not need to import the bike or have a carnet.

The process was as follows near AMS airport:

  • Bring my passport, vehicle title, insurance to the SDV office/warehouse near the Shiphol airport
  • Get a document from the guy working the import and take to customs to get a stamp
  • Wait in line at customs and get the stamp.. very fast!
  • After customs, return to SDV
  • Pay 150 euro for handling fees (SDV let me pay by credit card and the price seemed reasonable, IMO)
  • PICK UP MOTORCYCLE!!!!! from the warehouse next door

Start to finish-- shipping from Thailand to Europe only took 2 weeks of time with a couple of emails getting quotes

Theo helped me unpack the bike and document the experience.  It reminded me how great it was to travel with him… we’re both photography obsessed!

The bike went together very quickly and I was soon riding my DRZ 400 for the first time in Europe!!!  Wooo!!

SDV did me alright and moved things along quickly once we were all on the same page for customs. Thanks guys! I'd use them again.

Everything went smoothly at SDV once Stefan sorted out the customs issue.

Theo also helped out by lining up Motorcycle Tourist insurance for me for all of Europe at ADAC.  The cost was a bit steep at 200something euro, but we picked up the insurance within 10 minutes of arriving at the ADAC– the automobile club for Germany, like AAA.  It is my understanding that you can just go to any office and bring in your passport and drivers license and they will issue you insurance.

Total cost: $2,644 USD + 150 Euro It may have been expensive.. but it may not be much more than shipping ocean cargo when considering all the ancillary costs such as charges on the receiving side, costs waiting around for the shipment to happen, and potential for delay.  I could have also saved about $400 if I made the crate smaller.  Maybe the NEXT time I’ll do it right.  So it goes….

I now have a bike on a 3rd continent!! woo!!

The next few blog posts are going to be me catching up in Laos and Cambodia.  I have the pictures sorted, but I need to get a little bit of text written.  This blogging stuff is hard work!


  1. Peggy says:

    Folks in Houston are living vicariously through you and enjoying the journey. Can’t wait to see more pics.

  2. Derrick says:

    And the adventure continues!! Sweet!!

  3. Ben says:

    HOOOORAY!!! I liked your bit about not recognizing Theo because of his new shirt. So true. Ride on my friend!

  4. Smitty says:

    Hi Dave,

    If you are still looking for some work, I may have some for you. Please contact me at my email address to discuss it.

    I’m enjoying reading your posts.

  5. daveg says:

    I’m always looking for work! Gotta keep busy and keep gas in the tank.

  6. Good Choice! it’s not expensive. have fun passing the coins to friends.

  7. Steve says:

    Welcome to Amsterdam! Beers are waiting and it was a pleasure to do something in return mate!

  8. Bryn says:

    Say Hello to Theo for me Dave
    I,m sure he,ll let you have a go on his bike on the Autobahn , you,d wait for him too catch up somewhere.

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