Carnet de Passage
How the Carnet works
To ride through some foreign countries you have to temporarily import, and then re-export, your bike. The Carnet system allows you to do this without paying the customs duties (import taxes) normally associated with a permanent import.
It’s an international agreement, organised by the Alliance International de Tourisme (AIT) in Switzerland, and administered through agents worldwide. These agents are usually national motoring organisations such as: theRAC in the UK; ADAC in Germany; ANWB in the Netherlands; ÖAMTC in Austria; and the AAA in Australia. Theoretically, you could arrange your Carnet with any authorised agent but, in practice, some won’t issue Carnets for foreign riders or foreign bikes e.g. the ADAC. They all seem to have slightly different rules, so it’s worth researching the alternatives.
The Carnet works in a similar way to the tourist visa in your passport. The document is stamped (for import) on entry into a country, and again (for re-export) when you leave. The Carnet guarantees that if, for any reason, you fail to re-export your bike, the agent will be liable for any import taxes. An example of this might be if you sell your bike along the way. It is therefore critical you get these entry and exit stamps. If disaster strikes (eg if your bike is stolen or damaged), you must get official documents from the authorities to explain why the exit stamp is missing.
The problem with Indian bikes
Many overland dreams are shattered when people realise they can’t ride home on their Indian-registered Bullet. We get hundreds of enquiries about this issue every year, so here’s the official story: In 2002, the Indian Government declared that only people with proof of residence in India are eligible to purchase and register vehicles in their name. They also stated that non-residents who had done so in the past had acted illegally and could be prosecuted under Indian law.
Foreign agents were therefore instructed that under no circumstances can they issue Carnets for Indian-registered bikes. The laws are different in Nepal. Tourists can legally register a bike in their name, so it is possible to ride around the world on a Nepali-registered bike. No, sorry, it’s not possible to re-register an Indian plate bike in Nepal.
The deposit is how much?
Here’s the bad news. Your Carnet agent faces a big financial payout if you fail to re-export your bike. You therefore have to deposit a pile of money and promise not to sell your bike on your travels. If you break the deal, or fail to get the correct stamps for any reason, the agent uses your deposit to pay the taxes. Your deposit is only refunded when the Police or Customs officials rubber-stamp the Carnet at your destination.
Import taxes are very high in some countries. The AIT classifies countries into bands from 1 to 8 according to their tax regime (find out the latest bands from your agent). To calculate your Carnet deposit, simply multiply the price of your bike by the band number of the countries you wish to cross. For example, Nepal, Pakistan and Iran are all in band 5, so each requires a deposit of 5 times the value of your bike. You only make 1 deposit, which covers the most expensive country you will visit.
Carnet deposits can be huge. A new Ewan & Charlie style BMW costs about €15,000. To ride one across Europe, through Iran and onto Nepal requires a down-payment of €75,000. Ouch! It’s possible to reduce the deposit by lowering the estimated value of your bike, but the agent has to agree that the figure is fair and reasonable. Suddenly our low-tech, low-budget Nepali bikes seem very attractive!
Different ways to pay
The quickest and easiest method to pay the deposit is by cash or credit card. The downside is that a large amount of money is tied up during your trip. The agents have therefore organised alternative methods of payment.
You can take out a Carnet insurance policy. If you default, the insurance company pays the deposit - but the small print says you have to pay the money back. Insurance usually costs about 10% of the deposit, and the minimum value they will underwrite is typically around €2000.
Your bank can also guarantee the deposit, using your property or savings as a security. Banks will usually charge for this service, and there may be additional administration fees for the agent.
How to get a carnet in Nepal
You can get a Carnet for a bike that belongs to someone else. However, it is advisable to have the bike registered in your name in case you run into other problems on your travels. Re-registering a bike in Nepal can be time consuming and frustrating, so build this into your plans and stay calm. You will need to provide:
a letter from your Embassy in Kathmandu stating they have “no objection” to you buying a bike
a document stating your authority and justification for owning a vehicle
the sales receipt for your bike
the registration papers, commonly known as the “blue book”
a photograph of the bike
a copy of your passport & visa, plus extra passport photos
road tax and bike insurance certificates
the administration fees (approximately €20)
Once the bike is registered in your name, the documents must then be translated by your Embassy. You complete a 2-page Carnet application and post/scan/email all the necessary documents to the agent. The yellow Carnet book itself costs around €200. Your Carnet can be sent to Nepal by express post for around €60. The motoring organisation may also be able to issue an International Driving Permit (IDP) for about €10. It’s worth having. The whole process takes about 2-5 weeks if you’re well organised. If you buy your bike from us, we will manage the re-registration process and help you with the Carnet application for free. If you buy your bike elsewhere, we can advise and support you for a fee of €200.