Freighting - Transporting the bikes to South America
Updated: Feb 23, 2020
We had decided a long while ago to use Motofreight to ship our bikes after getting a couple of quotes. They were all quite similar in price, however the reason why I chose Motofreight was based on their quick, friendly responses, and the individualised answers (not just a copy and paste / preset e-mail) to all of my questions, and there were many I can assure you! I had the pleasure of dealing with Kathy Wood throughout the whole process, who offered an exceptional service.
Obviously, freighting bikes is not cheap, however quite straight forwards when you use a motorcycle freighting company, and the quickest most reliable way to get them anywhere is by air. We had the whole 'sea or air freight?' debate, but when we really looked into it, the costs didn't add up all that differently, with a lot of hidden costs in the sea freighting option and plenty of horror stories. Also, with air freight your motorbike is a big chunk of cargo, however with seafreight it's a drop in the ocean (hopefully not literally). Delays with air freight, or so we've heard, are usually no more than a day or two, with sea freight it can be weeks...not so bad for a return journey but a bit of a bummer if you're sitting around waiting for your bike without much money to do the 'tourist' thing, or if you've only got 2-3 months to travel.
Here is a breakdown of our costs:
Cost to ship motorcycles - £1375 per bike.
Cost of transit insurance (optional) - £83 per bike (insured to £4000 each).
Cost of Motorcycle transportation to Heathrow - £250 (logistically made life a lot easier for us).
Cost of agency in Colombia to help us clear bikes through customs etc - $450 USD (approx £365 at time of writing due to shockingly shite exchange rate).
3 months SOAT (Bike insurance for Colombia) - £80 (£40 each)
Total = £3611
Yes, you could buy a newish, good DR650 for that, or two older ones, however looking at all of the pros and cons, freighting our own bikes was by far the best option, especially due to the length of time we are travelling and also due to the fact we would not be finishing in the same country in which we started, therefore making selling them difficult at the end. Also, we have changed a lot on our bikes, including upgrades and all of the consumables (see our previous blog) so we know what's what, however if you buy a second hand bike in the country in which you plan to start your travels, you don't really know exactly what you're getting. Renting for a year was obviously completely unfeasible.
Our Experience of freighting from start to finish
I had contacted Motofreight quite early on in 2016 to ask lots of questions about the whole process and costs etc. I also contacted two other companies, however the response I got from Motofreight was really positive, friendly, personal and helpful. We also met with Kathy and Roddy from Motofreight at the Overland event in 2016 and had a good chat, which instilled me with more confidence about the whole freighting thing. I emailed Kathy with copies of our passports, drivers licences, V5's and IDP's.
The first thing to happen was that on the 27th March, the bikes were collected from our house by a really lovely chap from GlobeBusters who gave me some good tips about riding in South America (£250).
I received regular updates from Kathy about how everything was going e.g. arrival of bikes to them, crating, security checks, delivery of bikes to the freighting Airline and copy of waybill. We were also told when the bikes were taking off (8th April) and also when they were 1 hour away from landing in Bogota (10th April), which was while we were sat in Heathrow waiting for our direct Avianca flight to Bogota. Kathy also sent us a guide to uncrating the bikes and put us in touch with Veronica from Cargorider a few weeks before so they could plan for the arrival of our bikes into Bogota and assist us with the customs processes ($450 and well worth it)! We arrived in Bogota at 3am on the 11th April and got a taxi to the hotel. Fortunately they let us check in early for 50% of the daily rate...I was sooooo happy as I didn't sleep for the 11 hours on the plane despite a sleeping tablet. We managed to get in about 2-3 hours sleep before getting up and meeting Veronica in the hotel carpark. She took us to the airport Cargo holding area where we met Libardo. He was waiting for us and took us into the offices. We were able to get temporary passes so we could get in and out easily, which made life a little easier. Libardo did all of the leg work while we just provided the required documents when asked. It took about 1.5 hours to get the initial documents ready, then we went to another bit where I think we had to get further documents so that we could get the bikes out of the storage area/clearing house.
Then it was off to the actual storage area where they said we needed to wait 1 hour, so we headed off to get some 'cafe con leche' and empanadas (very yummy)! We then went back, and waited until about 2pm to get our bikes. Apparently this process could take a very long time dependent upon the mood of the customs officials. I think we were quite fortunate really as it wasn't too long at all.
The guys there were good and Libardo managed to borrow a cordless drill to unscrew the crate (a bit quicker than my little manual screwdriver). The staff all seemed to love the bubble wrap! After we got the two bikes uncrated, we left them there to go to the 'DIAN' office...the final hurdle, however we were warned it could be a long process. They were really friendly and we managed to charge our sat nav during the wait. Libardo sorted out all of the paperwork (there was a lot) and questioning for us, all we had to do was sign stuff, oh and also try and explain what the colour purple was! We were there until 6pm, but we got the paperwork and TIP (temporary import permit) for 90 days. Woohoo! Unfortunately, the office to sort the final release of the bikes closed at 5pm, however it was a blessing in disguise as we were both shattered, hungry and we needed fuel. The thought of being able to get a good night sleep before braving the Bogota traffic was a welcome one. We walked back to the hotel and slept...lots!
The next morning, Veronica kindly picked us up again at 9am. By the time we got to the cargo storage place Libardo had already sorted out the paperwork and we just had to sign a release document (I think) and then they got our bikes. What a relief! Kelvin managed to get them out of the building through the entrance door and down the steps with some help from Libardo. I carried the kit. There was quite an audience outside, looking at the bikes and the mound of kit we had. I had no idea where my DB killer was so I hoped it wasn't too loud, although the main thing I was worried about was the bikes actually starting. It did take several attempts and a bit of Kelvin blowing in the tank due to the low fuel and uprated tanks (it worked), but we managed to get them started. I have to say, with a massive audience I was very nervous, but I didn't stall, I didn't drop the bike and I was off, followed by Kelvin. I even managed to get my bike off a high curb, fully laden without a wobble. Kelvin overtook and after two circuits of the parking lot he managed to find the exit. We met up with Libardo who showed us the way to the petrol station. On the way, I stalled as my bike was starved of fuel, but Kelvin managed to get enough of the reserve going through to get me to the petrol station...just. We filled our tanks to the top and then followed Libardo to the office to get the SOAT (insurance). Half of the paperwork had already been sorted before we got there and we even got a little gift each. £80 later and we had two SOAT's for 90 days. That was it,all done.
It was about 1pm by then and we said farewell to Libardo. We then made our way back to the hotel after a couple of miles of travelling in the wrong direction and my clutch having a bit of a hissy-fit and not disengaging; not fun! Two Colombian guys driving past in a car even stopped to tell Kelvin I was stuck and one came to check I was ok! Fortunately, after 15-20 minutes of 'cooling off' the bike seemed to be a bit happier again and we managed to get back without too many issues. Despite my anxieties about the traffic and the different style of driving, it was refreshingly easy and just organised chaos.
We then tucked the bikes up in a corner, took all the bags off and we were done for the day. Finally, Libardo stopped by later in the afternoon to give us some Colombian gifts, which was lovely. So, overall, really positive experience with no real hassles and just a lot of waiting around, but we were fully prepared for that and we just chatted and smiled and met lots of lovely people. We would strongly recommend Motofreight and Cargorider if you need to freight motorbikes to/from the UK or to/from Colombia. First class services!
Bienviendo a Colombia!