I have read and heard so many stories about border crossing and how difficult (frustrating) the Russian one can be. However unless you have actually experienced this no stories can truly describe the reality of the situation and complete lack of logic fond amongst the customs officials. Our first attempt took 6 hours which ended with us having to return to Latvia due to the fact that we are meeting 2 riders in Mongolia and their bikes are being transported on the back of the Kudu support vehicle. The officials insisted that each vehicle must have its own rider / driver and Kudu cannot transport these bikes across Russia, something they have done every year. The officials agreed that the paperwork was in order but that we were trying to break this law. So back to Latvia to find some emergency overnight accommodation which we found in the form of the most stunning little wooden holiday cottage rented to us for the night by a very nice Latvian couple.
Day 2, Jeff (the owner of KUDU and the driver of the 4×4, and Gareth one of the riders left at 5am to drive the support vehicle with the 2 bikes to another border) 4 hours at the border and the customs official agreed they could take the bikes into Russia as they would both be riding them there.
They then drove back to the original border, Gareth walked through and collected his bike and us.4 hours later and we all finally made it into Russia phew, a day missed for absolutely nothing. The reason the border crossing are so painful is that the customs officials (passport control is fine and the people almost civil) try everything to find fault with the copious number of forms you need to fill in. The border crossing process is so inefficient one must fill in form after form and go through 3 different check points (just on the Russian side the Latvian side also has 2, so that is a total of 5 points) fortunately we found out that if we push our bikes across through all 5 points we can jump the queue and take the bikes to the front, saving HOURS. Now it’s true that the drivers of all the cars sitting in the queue for up to 8 hours (let alone the actual customs process) don’t particularly like this but HEY GET A BIKE, we have other disadvantages like getting wet when it rains J
Anyway the forms: every time you fill out a customs form an official will find something wrong with it. They moan at you and talk to you like you are an idiotic child who clearly filled the form out incorrectly on purpose just to pee them off. Two examples: on the form one must fill out the chassis number of my bike which I did according to the stated chassis number in the bike licence doc. The official decided the number should not be filled out under the chassis number space on his form but another place. Totally random. The second example is that I filled in my name under the clearly marked, surname, first name and second name boxes. Well the customs official decided that my second name was in fact part of my first name and I had to re do another form to rectify this mistake. What makes the situation worse is that the forms must be filled out in duplicate for every mistake they find.
It’s so frustrating and one must just bite ones tongue smile and get through it, and of course not a single customs offal speaks English but when you find one that does it usually doesn’t help
Welcome to Russia, fortunately the only unfriendly things is Russia are the customs officials and mosquitoes
FINALLY got through the border at about 8pm time for a quick pot noodle and a VERY LONG COLD ride to the hotel made it to bed at 2am. BUT WE MADE IT to Russia 🙂