shipping a motorcycle internationally

Shipping A Motorcycle Overseas: How to Avoid Costly Mistakes.

There are many different types of motorcycle hobbyists. Some some strictly utilize their bike to ride around town, while others enjoy long trips down windy back roads. Then there are those who explore the world on the back of their motorcycle.

So, for the lucky riders that own a touring, long-range bike with navigation system and storage, you need to take extra care to enlist the help of your international freight forwarder to ensure that both you and your bike return home from your next international ride.

An Early Start

No matter how or where you ride your motorcycle, it is important that you choose a freight forwarder that not only has a strong knowledge in the ins and outs of shipping a motorcycle overseas but also understands that your bike is your baby and will treat it the care that it deserves.

There are many sites and reviews by riders helping with the kind of touring that might interest you. Some of them may include freight forwarders’ recommendations, and ETC International Freight System happens to be one of them.

The Documentation

Having proper documentation in line is critical for a smooth shipment process. Bikers must have their registration, original title, and passport at the ready. Having multiple certified copies can be useful and can help prevent delays.

Now comes the kicker, and the most often overlooked piece of necessary documentation! To have a successful world tour, riders will also need to obtain from their international shipping companies an ATA Carnet.

What is an ATA Carnet?

View it as a passport for your shipment of the motorcycle(s). The ATA Carnet will need to be shown to the customs officer that is stamping the entry of your bike.

What is the advantage of an ATA Carnet?

If the country you are entering is part of the countries accepting an ATA Carnet, your shipment will not be subjected to duties (duty free).

How many countries accepts the ATA Carnet?

Many countries accept ATA Carnets, but, not all of them. Click here to view the full list of countries that accept ATA Carnets. 

Things never to forget when shipping a motorcycle.

Beside bringing your wallet, a camera, and maybe some padding, the motorcycle rider who is shipping their bike MUST always have the ATA Carnet signed off by a customs officer on any entry and exit (stamped at every origin and destination port or airport). If you miss a signature, customs will impose taxes and duties on the motorcycle.

The motorcycle can also be shipped back to the origin for signature, however this is costly in both time and money.

We have seen cases where storage piled up when a rider had already traveled overseas and the motorcycle was abandoned. There was a rider who rode from Mexico through Texas, and did not have the Mexican and US customs sign the ATA Carnet document.

When it was time to leave the US, customs could not validate the title, and the bike was not exported. The shipper had a few options, such as riding back to Mexico and get the ATA Carnet signed off when entering and exiting as well as getting it signed at the border crossing when re-entering the USA.

At this point, however, the issue was complicated, as the shipper had already flown back to Europe. Flying back to the US was costly, and the owner was not able to find the time required to reset the issue, which resulted in the abandonment of the motorcycle.

Which countries do not accept an ATA Carnet?

A partial list of countries and territories that do not yet officially accept ATA Carnets is listed below. Please note that a carnet can be used as a substitute for the U.S. Certificate of Registration CBP4455 and might be accepted in the foreign country for a temporary importation. Such acceptance is not guaranteed when entering a non-carnet country. Your international shipping company can assist you, providing guidance regarding temporary imports.

Caribbean Islands



Aruba & Curacao





Cayman Islands




Netherlands Antilles

St. Kitts-Nevis

St. Lucia

St. Vincent Grenadines

Trinidad & Tobago

Turks & Caicos Islands

U.K. Virgin Islands: Tortola

Traveling through a country that does not accept ATA Carnet

Long before riding through a border, the shipper will need to contact the designated freight forwarder involved with getting you the ATA Carnet. The shipping company will locate the local agent of that country that will help the shipper with the process of filing a temporary entry.

Like on any vacation, nailing down every detail is nearly impossible, however, it is still important to plan for contingencies and organize your motorcycle touring itinerary.

At ETC International Freight System, we understand how important your motorcycle is to you and will do everything we possibly can to help your next international motorcycle adventure goes as smoothly as possible, at least where the importing/exporting is concerned. Happy riding!

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