The complications of driving your own vehicle in China are well documented. Essentially, unless you are prepared to spend a small fortune on a guide, it’s not an option. Therefore once we’d decided that we wanted to continue our adventure in South East Asia, we had a small logistical difficulty to overcome! Enter Landbridge LLC, a freight forwarding company in Ulaanbaatar. Our initial contact was with a very helpful woman called Baigalmaa, (firstname.lastname@example.org) who spoke very good English, and we were quoted $3,080 to ship the vehicle in a standard 20′ container to Bangkok. The route would be via a train to Xingyang and then a boat to Bangkok. Initial estimate of time of transit was 28-35 days.
Once we got to UB, we were amazed to find that their office was about 300m from our Air BnB apartment, so we set off to talk to them face to face and start the process.
Overall the process was quite simple and Landbridge took care of everything, however if we had understood which documents we would need to provide it would have been considerably quicker as we could have had them all ready at the start.
Over the course of two weeks we gave them:
2 x notarised copies of Jon’s passport (he was the consignee – the person the vehicle is being delivered to).
2 x notarised copies of the vehicle registration document
The original Mongolian customs form we got on entry into Mongolia (we got a copy done before handing it over).
A photo of the vehicle
Dimensions and max gross weight of the vehicle.
Two documents called an invoice and a packing list, which get submitted to customs. The invoice is a document detailing everything that will be in the container and their approx value in USD. The packing list is essentially identical except has everything’s weight in Kgs. Be aware here that whatever you put on these documents will fall into different taxation classes, such as personal goods, camping equipment, car tools etc. We didn’t (and still don’t) fully understand this, but we listed absolutely everything going into the container, and Landbridge wrote us a letter of tax exemption so we weren’t charged tax for exporting personal goods from Mongolia, although we were charged (about $100) for not specifically declaring our vehicle tools.
The other thing we needed was contact details of an agent in Bangkok. Their name also went on the customs forms so was needed quite early on. We used one that had been recommended to us on HUBB overland forum:
Nisarat Khongphetsak Schmidt
KPS International Trade (Thailand) Co,.Ltd.
Email : email@example.com
They were very helpful and replied to all our (and Landbridge’s) queries very promptly by email. They checked all the documents and changed them where necessary to ensure they would pass through Thai customs. The customs process was even more complicated for us as we had to take into account Chinese customs rules as well.
The final transit took 26 days (21st December to 15th January), although we had decided not to collect the vehicle from Bangkok until the 27th January as we were still in Myanmar and were loving it! The demurrage costs for up to two weeks in Bangkok weren’t too bad so we decided to risk it.
Collecting the vehicle in Klong Toey port – Bangkok
Things were complicated for us as Jon, who’s name was on all the vehicle and shipping documents, was unable to collect the vehicle in person, so the process was slightly more longwinded than normal. Once we had all the correct documentation however, with letters of authorisation/power of attorney, and multiple signed copies of Jon’s passport and driving licence (both UK and international) things progressed relatively smoothly. We also needed Tom’s passport and driving licence, the vehicle registration documents and the carnet. As the carnet isn’t officially used in Thailand anymore, it wasn’t strictly necessary, or stamped, but they were so used to the format of it that it helped speed things along.
We met our shipping agent at 10.00 outside the customs office, having paid him the day before, and by 11.30 had all the paperwork completed – including customs forms and insurance documents. At 11.30 we were driven into the port itself, deposited at the canteen and told to wait until after lunch!
At 13.00 we were picked up from the canteen (nice food actually, and really cheap!) by the shipping agent, and driven to the K-line office (they own the container). We then picked up a man with some bolt cutters, who unsealed the container and there she was!! Ratchet straps that had been lashing her down inside the container were undone and, with the aid of a forklift, we were out!
After we reconnected the battery, and the agent had disappeared off to go and get some fuel, it was the moment of truth! Would she start? YES!!! Nearly first time… To be honest I probably should have primed her first… She spluttered /roared (delete as appropriate) into life, and we moved her into the shade to await the customs inspector. Whilst we were waiting, a port official brought us soft drinks, oranges, and most bizarrely, a tube of fake ibuprofen gel…!
The customs official was delightful, and spoke English. After checking the engine and chassis numbers, and being terrified by the mess in the back, he asked us a few questions about our trip, and stamped her into Thailand!