Have you ever thought of taking an overland trip from Australia to Europe with your own vehicle? After our long road trip around Australia, we are on the way to drive from Australia to Europe in our own vehicle. But how did we end up in Korea on our epic overland trip from Australia to Europe? Korea is certainly not the most popular travel destination for Europeans. Especially not with the own vehicle. Korea was not on top of our bucket list either. Actually, we did not know much about Korea. So how did it happen that we shipped our vehicle to South Korea?
In April 2016 we announced that we start to an epic road trip around the world in our own vehicle. Our initial plan was quite different. We wanted to take a plane to Australia, buy a suitable vehicle and drive around the world with that car.
Our plan A for the overland trip from Australia to Europe
In Switzerland we have worked out a plan for our road trip around the world. We wanted to fly from Switzerland to Australia, buy a suitable vehicle in Australia and prepare it for the road trip around the world. So far, we have followed our plan. From Australia we wanted to ship to Singapore or Malaysia. From there we wanted to drive through the Southeast Asian countries of Malaysia, Thailand, Laos and maybe some others as well. Through China we would have needed a guide, which we would have been fine with. After crossing China, we wanted to continue through the Stan countries to Europe.
Why we change the plan for our overland trip from Australia to Europe
If we want to drive our own vehicle in a foreign country, we not only need a visa for us to travel around this country, but we also need a temporary import permit (TIP) for our vehicle. The requirements vary depending on the country we want to travel. In addition, these laws and guidelines change very often and are somewhat unpredictable.
Thailand is a classic example of arbitrary changes to laws and regulations concerning visa and temporary import regulations. At the time we worked as scuba diving instructors in Thailand, we were already confronted with that topic. Laws have changed overnight and visa requirements have been drastically tightened. Nevertheless, during the planning phase of our overlanding road trip around the world, Thailand was one of the countries that gave us the least headache. At that time, it was relatively easy to get a visa and also a temporary import permit for your own vehicle wouldn’t have been too difficult to get.
Unfortunately, Thailand has become the main obstacle for many Overland travellers who want to do the overland trip from Australia to Europe. It has become difficult and very expensive to enter Thailand with the own vehicle. The worst affected are vehicles, which are obviously equipped for camping or over 3.5 tonnes. At present, it is no longer possible to drive independently through Thailand with your own vehicle registered overseas. You need to use a guide who accompanies you on your trip through Thailand.
Under these circumstances, we did not want to travel through Thailand. We do not want to be dependent on a guide, be inflexible, have to rush through a country and also spend a lot of money on it. We have to throw the planned route through Southeast Asia overboard. How does our plan B look like?
We need to look for an alternative route for the Overland Trip from Australia to Europe
So our initial plan to travel from Australia through Southeast Asia, Asia and Europe to South America is no option anymore. What other overlanding routes could we follow? We could ship our vehicle from Australia directly to South America. We quickly realize that this shipping route is not too frequented and shipping from Australia to South America is very expensive. So we rejected this option very quick.
What other options are there to get from Australia to Europe? Shipping directly from Australia to Europe is out of the question. That’s just too boring for us. From Australia there are shipping routes to India, China, Indonesia, Japan, Russia, South Korea and others. In India we would hit the totally wrong season. We have been in India during the hottest time of the year before and we do not want to experience this extreme heat again.
Shipping to China is also not that easy, as you are only allowed to drive through China with a guide and that makes a trip with the own vehicle very expensive. But why not ship to Russia and then drive through Russia to Europe. That would be a good alternative overlanding route for driving with your own vehicle from Australia to Europe.
We quickly find shipping companies operating cargo ships on this route. We also find time schedules for some ships, and the crossing takes only a few weeks. We ask some companies and get offers. We are surprised at the high shipment costs for a vehicle from Australia to Russia. We also notice that most of the vessels stop in Japan or South Korea. Of course, a lot of vehicles are being imported to Australia from Japan and Korea. These shipping routes are very busy and well travelled.
Plan B takes shape – Alternative overland route from Australia to Europe
Suddenly we realize that we have found a great alternative overland route from Australia to Europe. Why shipping our vehicle directly to Russia? We could ship from Australia to Korea and travel around Korea before we ship further on to Russia. From Korea there is a regular ferry service to Russia which runs once a week. It will be two separate shippings and may not be the cheapest option but we would have the chance to explore a completely new country. What does South Korea offer anyway? Can we camp there? Is it even possible to drive in South Korea with our own vehicle?
Our Overlander trip from Australia to Europe via South Korea and Russia
Luckily, there is so much information on the internet. We quickly find out that it is relatively easy to temporarily import a vehicle into South Korea. In addition, Korea is a beautiful country with interesting culture and spectacular nature, many national parks and camping is much more widespread than we have thought. Is Korea the missing puzzle piece for our overland trip from Australia to Europe with our own vehicle?
After a few days we receive the offers for the vehicle shipment from Australia to South Korea. The prices vary a lot but we like the second offer we receive. It is a lot cheaper than anything we have received so far. Now, all we have to do is to plan the shipment and our journey through Korea and Russia. The timing is very critical because we have to drive through Siberia. And, we do not want to end up in Siberia during the wrong time of the year. In the middle of the winter it can be extremely cold and the time slot to travel through Siberia is relatively short.
The plan for our overland trip from Australia to Europe with our own vehicle is ready
After a few intensive planning days, the plan for our road trip from Australia via South Korea and Russia to Europe is ready. We have fixed the timing, taking into account the seasons, the maximum times for our visa in South Korea and Russia as well as the maximum durations of the temporary import permits for our vehicle. In addition, we also planned around family birthdays and family visits in Switzerland. The schedule for the next few months is written down and we are ready for our next adventures.
Mid-March we shipped our vehicle from Brisbane in Australia to Incheon in South Korea. After a rollercoaster ride of emotions here in Seoul, while we were busy organizing the right documents, insurance, import documents, customs clearance and hearing about the cargo ship, that changes its routing, resulting in arriving a week later, skipping some stops again and suddenly arriving a few days earlier than expected, the first stage is done.
We got our vehicle out of the Korean customs and are now travelling in South Korea. Everything is new. The culture, the language, driving a right-handed vehicle on the right side of the road, shopping and so much more. But that’s what makes travel so special. We are looking forward to many exciting moments in this incredibly fascinating country.
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Have you ever been travelling in a foreign country with your own vehicle? What were the biggest challenges you faced on the streets of a foreign country?