Tales from the Saddle


Whilst preparing for the trip I was asked a lot of questions by various people. Before setting off I did my best to compile and answer the most frequently asked questions.

Though I’m not doing great….

You can ask a question if you like and it will (eventually) be posted here.  Just drop me an email from the Contact page and I’ll do my best.

Click the question to expand the content and reveal the answers!

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How do you get sponsored?

written by Nick | date posted 14/06/2008

Nearly everyone thinks I spend millions of dollars and do everything for free, that Yamaha are slipping me free bikes and helmets and I don’t really camp everywhere I stay in five-star hotels. Others think that my parents pay, or that I am just unbelievably rich. Sadly I am not, I have no idea how to get sponsors, and my parents would rather see me “settle down”, buy a house and feed a pension fund, than travel “aimlessly” around the world. That said, I’m also lucky to meet lots of helpful people along the way; in garages, or through websites like couchsurfing and ADVRider, so the list of freebies and helpers is actually very long, though unaffiliated. But otherwise, I pay my way.

So, where do you get your money?

written by Nick | date posted 14/06/2008

I worked as an engineer before I left home, then on the trip I have worked as a grape picker in France, a teacher of English in South Korea, a teacher of all subjects in Guatemala and I.T. assistant to a small new business, now I’m home again and working for my old company as an engineer.

So when did you leave?

written by Nick | date posted 08/08/2008

September 7th 2008

How long will it take you?

written by Nick | date posted 13/08/2008

To be quite honest I’m not really sure.  It depends on how long I stay in some places, how far I can ride before falling asleep, how tough the roads are and how well the bike does! I’m not in any rush though.  Ted Simon spent four years travelling the world on his Triumph 100 in the 70’s….

I’m thinking of doing a similar trip, any advice?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

I get quite a few emails asking about tips and information.  How much will it cost, how long will it take, visas, maintenance, carnets, what bike, where to buy parts, shipping costs.   And pretty much all of these are difficult to answer.  Some answers are below, though most have so many variables as to be unanswerable.

How much will it cost?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

It will cost as much as you have, if you are broke you’ll manage on less than $5 a day, if you’re loaded then you’ll spend $100 a day on average or more, going to parks and game reserves and sky diving or whatever.
Also depends on the carnet – more below – your route, and the mood of the customs officials.  On average, with a small bike, look at $20-30 per day, though on a typical day you’ll actually spend way less, but when you need to go to hospital or pay for customs or shipping, then your days’ spend will be 10 fold. Shipping costs are the real killer.  (Update, you can see my breakdown of costs for the 2.5 years from USA as far as Bolivia on ADVRider at the following link: http://www.advrider.com/forums/showpost.php?p=20196616&postcount=211
A new update for my costings for the almost three years in the Americas can be found at http://www.advrider.com/forums/showthread.php?p=25064424&posted=1#post25064424

How do you update the map?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

It’s not really a live map, so my current position is the last known position where I could get to a computer.

How long should I take for a trip like yours?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

This depends on you.  If you are happy to sit around or not, or stressed-out from being alone on the road and just want to move, if you’ve got money to pay for a hotel to stay somewhere for a few days.  One tip, is take your time.  If someone asks you in for a drink, forget your presumed itinerary for the day and go for a drink, it might be good….it might be crap, but it will be memorable!

What about visas, how long can I stay in each country?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

Visas change all the time, the only way to check them all is to plan a route then check each visa on the FCO website.  You’ll most likely change the route, either now because you can’t get a visa or later because you feel like it.  At least plan for where you need to get the visa for the next country before you get there!  It took me a long time to plan the route.

What’s a carnet?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

Basically a book that covers you for taxes if were to sell the bike in that country.  It’s something like a passport in that each page has three sections: YOUR COPY, an ENTRY slip and EXIT slip.  When you enter a country, YOUR COPY is stamped once (to show entry) and the ENTRY portion of that page is removed and kept by customs.  On exit, YOUR COPY is stamped again (to show that the vehicle has left that country) and then EXIT slip is removed for customs. Generally available from your home countries motor-organisation; in the UK it is from the RAC. The price of it is high, and depends on your destination and vehicle value.  Egypt is highest cost at 800% the value of your vehicle! If going here explicitly state you will go everywhere in the world for otherwise some countries will be omitted from the carnet.
It means that the more expensive the vehicle involved, motorcycle, or car or 4×4, then the more it costs.  My bike was valued at $1500, meaning the carnet cost would be $12,000 plus $500 for RAC deposit, and $225 for the carnet itself.  I couldn’t afford this and so took “insurance” out, which cost 10% of the indemnity.  So for me it worked out at $2600.  You do get some money back on return of the carnet (provided it has all the stamps). If you have the cash then the deposit is the way to go as you get it all back.
You used to be able to get a carnet from ADAC in Munich, Germany.  But as I found out to my horror, this is no longer the case, unless of course you are German.
Complicated at first sight, becoming very simple once you’ve used it a few times.

What should I take?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

Not as complicated or as daunting as it seems.  You can see my packing list, but essentially you need sleeping things, cooking things, fixing things, paperwork things.

Don’t you get lonely?

written by Nick | date posted 26/05/2013

At first yes, painfully so. But not now. I get unlonely though. I think in reality people mistake other feelings such as boredom, lack of goals, unhappiness, or discontent with loneliness. I think when I felt it in the beginning it wasn’t real loneliness but the result of such a big life change, from being comfortable and surrounded by family and friends and familiarity to being on your own and everything being up to you.

How to buy a bike abroad?

written by Nick | date posted 26/05/2013

I get asked a lot about buying a bike in Nicaragua.  I suppose this is because I bought my second bike in Guatemala and many people have a few doubts about riding through Mexico, Guatemala and Honduras. Anyway, as for buying a bike, Guatemala is easy and below is an example email reply I have sent:
Dear ______
Yeah, I bought my Honda XR125 in Guatemala. I still have that one now. Really if you plan to buy in Nicaragua it might be totally different to Guatemala, so I can only tell you my experience in Guate. For example I know two people who bought bikes here in Bolivia only to reach the border and be told “Sorry, you can’t take the bikes out of Bolivia.”
Guatemala is both easy and cheap to buy bikes.
First you need to obtain a NIT number, which is a little like your own social security number. It’s very easy to obtain and you get it from the SAT office in Zona 10 of Guatemala city, near Obelisco and Hooters of all places. Basically you shuffle up the seats until you reach the counter, show your passport and they hand over the NIT number free of charge there and then.
So with that, I go to Honda and pay for the bike (they accepted bank cards, though not all will, or may charge you more, though Honda didn’t). They take your details with a deposit, I used a hostal’s address for example and then you must wait a week or two for the number plates and for the Guatemalans to actually go and get them (they are pretty slow workers). In the mean time you also need to buy the road tax which has a name which totally escapes me every time someone asks as someone went and bought it for me, it certainly doesn’t cost much. I can find out if you really are desperate to know but I’m sure Honda (or whoever) will tell you and go and get it if you ask nicely. (EDIT: I think it is a called “Boletta Verde” or Green Ticket)
My bike cost about $2200, new, with plates and they threw in some fork boots and some handguards too. A Yamaha XTZ125 was $3000, a hondaXR250 is $4500, a Yamaha AG200 or Honda XL200 is/was $3750.
You’ll get more for your money in the states (but small bikes are harder to come by I think) so unless you are short of time you could buy there and just ride south?
As for selling, remember that if you want to sell it you will have to sell it back in Nicaragua (or where you purchased it), or sell it to a farmer ie one who doesn’t really need the plates as there are no police in the countryside (but for a lower price…but you won’t have to pay the taxes)….or pay the taxes change the plates and sell it to whoever, or maybe just maybe get a lawyer to write a contract stating that the owner takes full responsibility of the bike and understands that you are selling it without plates.  This last option is a little dodgy and you must research the countries laws, but of course the lawyer will help and tell you.
Be careful then if you want to store it too, the customs papers usually limit the time the bike can be in a country (you normally make a temporary vehicle permit at each border, for example the max in Bolivia is 90days, in Peru it is unlimited but you must renew it at a border every 90days ), but I know people do store them, a friend I met stored his American bike (in Mexico I think) so he obviously managed. The problem will be when you go to leave the country and they see you’ve got expired temporary vehicle papers and they might make you cough up lots of dollars! So, again, you’ll need to return to the country of purchase again where there will be no problem.
Hope that helps, but just fire away with questions I’m always happy to help!

Your FAQ’s aren’t helping? Some tips?

written by Nick | date posted 13/11/2009

It might seem so, but the way I found things was that you never feel ready, and often this is because you don’t have faith in yourself. So here’s a few tips I think are handy;
– A water filter is very useful, I have a katadyn pocket filter, expensive, but everyone I met loved it.
– Carry passport photos, lots of them
– Carry a few US dollars always, get this at home as getting money can be difficult to obtain and costly, it’s still the king of currencies in Africa.  $100 or so is good, more if you are heading for Egyptian border customs, which for a small bike is about $180.  A Sudanese visa is US$100.
– An international license and international vehicle registration was useless, so don’t bother.
– If you see something you’re going to need in the near future in a shop, then buy it there and then!
– Don’t pass a petrol station, always fill up.
– My travel insurance has already paid for itself, try http://navigatortravel.co.uk/
– Don’t worry too much about vehicle insurance, but buy it at the border where possible.
– Be nice to people, even if they are trying to scam you, once they get past the bullshit you can often have a normal conversation….but it’ll probably go back to the bullshit eventually.


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