Through August 2017 we drove from Kjachta at the Mongolian border to Vladivostok in Russia and shipped the car to South Korea.
Here some practical information about the journey. For more ample details and pics see our respective blogs.
Kindly note all information given is based on our personal perceptions and observations. Of course you might experience it in a different way.
Procurement of Visa:
Sibiriak, Berne/ Swizzyland. Fast and uncomplicated. 1 week and CHF 150 for a single 30days visa, that’s it. Has to be requested in the country where you have residence. Exception: Osh/ Kirgizstan for citizens of Schengen countries.
Of course Russian. But very little else. So knowing a little Russian is extremely helpfull, even if difficult to learn. Most Russians handle perfectly well Google Translator. You should absolutely be able to read the Cyrillic alphabet.
Entry: Border from Mongolia at Kjachta. Very slow. Approx. 10 vehicles can enter the customs area at a time. Takes about 3h to complete. TIP – forms all in Russian. Preferably you have an English copy with you. Some officers speak little English. In-depth customs check for some of the cars (not foreigners).
Exit: Vladivostock to Korea (ferry). All organized by Yuri Meinlkov, the customs broker of Links Ltd. Tel. +7 (423) 222-0887/ mobile: +7 902 5243447 (asks $150 for his services for a car). You have to be present at customs to prove that you’re not a robot.
On the road:
Speed traps: plenty of mobile radars used. Especially after rather senseless speed limitations. Lots of police cars around towns east of Khabarovsk. Drivers warn of oncoming police infested places . Better stick to the proper traffic laws. No negative experiences.
Other bureaucratic highlights:
Registration mandatory after 7 working days; thus effectively after 9 days. Done directly by the hotel; if not request it. You have to show your passport and immigration card. You’ll get a slip mentioning your and the hotel’s data, dates you stay at the place and 2 stamps. Entirely filled in by the hotel. So no reason for the hotel to ask a fee for that. When staying in Russia for more than 9 days you often are asked for previous registrations at check-in. Good info on: https://russiau.com/registration-visa-russia.
Used OSM maps on the GPS, MapsMe and Google Maps in towns. Worked very well.
Kjachta – Ulan Ude: First part bad tarmac and lots of road reparations. Afterwards good tarmac.
Ulan Ude – Irkutsk: Mostly good tarmac.
Ulan Ude – Chita – Khabarowsk – Vladivostok: mostly good tarmac. Some road repairs on the way. Careful: potholes often are cut out but not yet filled with tar – you often only see them at the very last second. Also watch out for them at the entrance of Vladivostok.
Khabarowsk – Komsomolsk: mostly good tarmac, but quite old.
Vladivostok – Nakhodka: From km 78 onwards approx. 35km bad tarmac with plenty of potholes and reparation works. Heavy traffic.
As we encountered some problems on the way here addresses of some good workshops:
Irkutsk: Safari Irkutsk. GPS: N 52.289724, E 104.356093. Good guys. English is spoken a bit. Helpful and resourceful. Helped us find new parts. 4×4 experts.
Belogorsk: Auto service blue box (written in Russian, it’s a blue house). GPS: N 50.913170, E 128.486910, Good mechanic, properly equipped. Only Russian spoken, but knows well Google Translator.
Khabarovsk: Toyota Center, GPS: N 48,41383, E 135,09853. Very helpful. They find somebody for you speaking English. Did a profound check of our car. Found the proper parts – are expensive as always.
Ro-Ro Ferry to Korea:
The only Ro-Ro ferry is DBS Cruise Line shipping from Vladivostok to Donghae (Korea) and on to Sakaiminato (Japan).
Departure: every Wednesday at 3pm, arriving in Donghae at 11am.
Vehicles are shipped as cargo. Cost: 600$ for a Landcruiser + some 1500 Rubels port taxes.
Passengers: 230$; 115$ for the driver + 700 Rubels port taxes.
Reservation: ferry is often fully booked for passengers. So booking better done several months in advance. Freight does’n seem to be a problem. If a car is shipped DBS asks to book at least 3 days in advance.
Reservation can be made directly thru Olga, the DBS manager in Vladivostok: email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org. Olga speaks English, reacts within 1 day.
Payment in their office in the marine building at the port (Office number 124 on the groundfloor).
DBS prepares the import into Korea. They need copies of passport, vehicle registration certificate and international driving license to prepare. You have to sign forms that you’ll pay insurance and customs “fee” in Korea.
The customs “fee” in Korea is a rather messy issue. For a Landcruiser ist 150$. Effectively it’s a customs guarantee you should get back once the vehicle leaves the country. Currently they claim that the fee cannot be reimboursed until you have a Korean bank account. Nevertheless, you cannot have such an account without residency.
Organises reservations, tikets and customs for 150$. Highly recommended to pass thru him as it’s absolutely unclear how to deal with customs when leaving Russia.
In Korea a DBS agent helps with customs. All documentation is prepared. Once you’ve paid insurance and customs “fee”, you drive off in less than 1h after arrival.