The ´how to´ guide

I chose to purchase the motorcycles in Chile for a few reasons. Firstly it’s quite a simple and straight forward process. Secondly I have read reports online and meet other travellers who purchased vehicles from other South American countries and had difficultly crossing borders or even leaving the country in which the bikes where purchased from. With the correct paperwork mentioned below I was able to travel through the following countries and never experienced any problems. Chile, Argentina, Uruguay, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Ecuador, Colombia, Panama, Costa Rica, Nicaragua, Honduras, El Salvador, Guatemala, Mexico, USA, Canada and finally the state of Alaska.

Eg of Temporary Import Document

I found the border crossings very relaxed but don’t expect anything to happen in a rush. Most crossings took 2 hours minimum. The majority of border officials simply wanted to see that we were the owner of the bikes and that they are registered. These documents include information like the bikes registration, VIN and engine number. However we carried the extra documents below as a precaution. We couldn’t afford back track to Chile if it was later required. By cross referencing the below documents, border officials simply created a country specific temporary import document.  The process is simple. You will visit migration for the country you are leaving and have your passport stamped. Usually in the same building there will be an office to hand in your temporary import document. Majority of officials will keep this document as it signifies you have entered and exited the country.  You will then cross ‘no mans land’ before reaching immigration for the next country. You will have your passport stamped for entry. You will now need to obtain your temporary import document from Aduana. This stands for customs in Spanish and is usually located in the same building as immigration. They will then input your information into their computer system and print off a copy for you to hold on to for when you exit the country. It’s also likely that at some point you will need to present this information to police and military personal at various check points to prove you have legally imported the bike.


Steps in legally purchasing a motorcycle


1)    RUT number

Cost: Free

Time: Instant for temporary RUT number, permanent mailed approx 2 months later

Location: Registro Civil

It’s also called a Chilean tax ID number and is similar to a social security number in USA. It’s a number required to purchase a vehicle. You obtain this from the Registro Civil ( . There is atleast 3 in Santiago. You will need to have an address to obtain this RUT number. And you will need to visit the office closet to this address. If you don’t have a friend’s address use your Hostel/Hotel address. After 10 minutes you will receive a piece of white paper which is your temporary RUT, plus a copy of the form you filled in. You will be given the option to either collect the new permanent RUT card from the same office or have it sent in the post. (takes approx 2months in the mail). We chose the latter option as we knew that the temporary RUT number is all we needed to travel internationally. The temporary RUT was checked once when we exited Chile and we never needed to present it again. If you plan to return to Chile to sell the bike you will need the permanent RUT card as the temporary document is only valid for 3 months in Chile.


2)    Purchase Motorcycle

Location: Dealers can be found in the Vitacura district of Santiago.

There are online classifieds like and

Needing 3 motorcycles, we didn’t have the time to shop around in the second hand market. Additionally the bikes would be travelling all the way to Alaska so reliability was a huge factor in purchasing new motorcycles. Lastly motorcycles are cheap in Chile. In my opinion Honda manufacture the best motorcycles and parts are readily available worldwide. We visited the local Honda dealership and negotiated a good price for 3 new Honda XR 125cc 2012 model motorcycles. For $2400 each, we had 3 simple yet super reliable machines. Later we would meet BMW riders travelling with a $20,000 setup and not be able to service their machines for under $100. Or technical problems requiring special tools and lengthy delays. Our bikes were simple to fix and inexpensive to run. A service never costs more than $10. Our front tyre, chains and sprockets lasted the whole trip. Amazingly the only items we replaced on the bikes all the way to Alaska covering 36,000kms were 2 back tyres. The top speed of these machines is about 100kms/ph. We kept our gear to the bare essentials as to not weigh down the bikes. Although the bikes might not be fast off the mark, they are incredibly fuel efficient, on average consuming 4 litres per 100kms.

Important: Obtain tax invoice from the dealer.


3)      Certificado de Homologacion (Certificate of Approval)

Cost: Free

Time: Instant. Same day as motorcycle purchase

Location: Motorcycle dealer for new bike or Municipalidad (Arturo Prat 200, Tiltil Santiago, Chile) for used motorcycles







4)  Solicitud de Primera Inscripcion  (Registration/number plates)

Cost: Approx $50

Time: Instant

Location: Registro Civil

Take your temporary RUT and Homologacion to the Registro Civil. Your Inscription document simply confirms the owner of the motorcycle.






5)      Seguro Obligatorio (Insurance in Chile)

Cost: $75 approx

Time: Instant

This document is insurance for the bike, not for an individual. It’s only valid while riding in Chile. You will need this to purchase the Permiso de Circulacion below.

Location: Municipalidad (Arturo Prat 200, Tiltil Santiago, Chile)


6)      Permiso de Circulación (Permission to Circulate)

Cost: $20 (a % of the bikes value)

Time: instant

Location: Municipalidad (Arturo Prat 200, Tiltil Santiago, Chile)




5)      Notario  (Lawyer)

Cost: $10

Time: instant

Location: All over the city

I made a copy of all my documents and visited a Notario. This person is a specialised lawyer that stamps and signs each photocopy and therefore verifies its authenticity of the original.







Tips on the road…………..

I read from other reports online that insurance is required when travelling outside Chile. They state that it’s absolutely necessary for crossing into Argentina as it’s checked at the border. I only had insurance for Chile and had no problems crossing into Argentina via Parada Caracoles, Los Andes, Chile. Furthermore we travelled through the following countries in South America and never required to either purchase or present insurance documents: Argentina, Brazil, Paraguay, Bolivia, Peru, Columbia. I can not guarantee that legally foreigners travelling through these countries do not require insurance, but no border/military officials or police ever explained/enforced it’s requirement on us (April-June 2012). Ecuador was the only country to enforce compulsory insurance in South America. We payed for this at the immigration office as we entered the country. If insurance was required in the future for other South America countries then you could simply purchase as you cross the border. Insurance in Central America is enforced and on average costs no more than $20 per country. All purchased at the immigration office and was compulsory before temporary import documentation was issued. Costs as per below: Ecuador: $15, Panama: $15, Costa Rica: $20, Nicaragua: $20, Honduras: $36, Guatemala: $20, Mexico: $50.


No road between South and Central America

There is no road joining South and Central America. This 200km stretch of swamp land known as the Derian Gap is the Pan American highway’s missing link. The terrain is not only unpassable but in recent times inhabited by guerrillas, drug traffickers and kidnappers. With his roadblock in place, yachts operate between Cartagena (Colombia) and El Porvenir (Panama) ferrying tourists back and forth. The trip takes approx 6 days and is a great way to see the beautiful San Blas islands of the Caribbean Sea. Majority cost $500 (per person) plus extra for a bike. Hostels in both Cartagena and Panama City have yacht schedules. For eg ( I believe only 2 yachts will transport motorcycles. I travelled with ( There is also talk of a large ferry to operate with drive on/drive off facilities costing alot less and taking 12 hours. When I was there in July 2012, it was unclear as to when that service will operate if at all.


Down in Mexico

I want to share with everyone the problems we experienced in Mexico in the hope it doesn’t happen to anyone else. We visited the ruins of Tikal in Northern Guatemala and decided to cross into Mexico via the remote border crossing. A river divided the 2 countries.  We had to pay some local people in the village to transport our motorcycles across via canoe. Once on the other side we visited immigration and had our passports stamped. They did not have a customs office to issue temporary import documentations (TID) and explained that we would need to head to another border crossing to obtain it. Being late we decided to stay overnight in the next town 20 kms into Mexico. The next morning we headed on a 170km round trip to obtain this document. It was a waste of a day but knew it was important. As we left, I pulled over to ask a local police officer who was stationed at a road check point. I asked if I could get the TDI in the capital Mexico City which was our intended destination. He explained that our ownership document is all we require and we will not have a problem riding to USA. This was great news and we headed to Mexico City. When we arrived I visited the head office of Customs where I was informed that I could not receive the TID from their office. So the police in the south were wrong. I would need to obtain this from the border crossings. Guatemala was a 1000km south and USA was 1200km north. I explained I will run the risk and head north but they advised that if the police in the north pull us over they could impound the motorcycle for illegal importation. I had been pulled over twice in southern Mexico but the police did not want to see documentation, just curious on our overland motorcycle trip. In the south they are very relaxed and I guess we had been lucky.  I was ensured that I did not need to present the motorcycles to obtain the TID and with the lack of knowledge in the south we headed on an overnight bus to the Texas border and left the motorcycles behind. After all it was the northern border that we would be crossing with the motorcycles in a few weeks time. We obtained the TID and headed on the overnight bus back to Mexico City. It took 36 hours but we were legal to ride to the US. It cost $450, however $400 I would get back provided I exited Mexico.

Importing into USA

When we entered USA the custom and border officials explained that we do not need TID if we were travelling for 90 days or less. With the problems we experienced in Mexico I had the officers print me a copy of this legislation so I could have it on me at all times. I also had them date, stamp and sign the piece of paper. They did explain that we will need to buy insurance but this can be done in the next city (San Diego) or online. I believe it will cost approx $200 for a 30 day coverage policy. We intended to do it online but after 5 days we had never been pulled over we decided to simply act like we were unaware of this insurance requirement. Surprisingly we were never pulled over by police in our 3 week trip up the west coast of USA. Nor in Alaska. We had saved ourselves atleast $200. We had been lucky. It made up for the costs and delays in Mexico. The border crossing into Canada was by far the easiest of the trip. Took 3 minutes and we did not require TID or insurance. We explained that we would ride through Canada to Alaska and they wished us good luck.


Speeding Tickets

I never saw police with mobile speed cameras in South America.  So we speed on occasions where it was safe to do so. I did see fixed speed cameras but knew that my licence plate was on the system as an international tourist and fines would be impossible to enforce. On the whole trip , I was only pulled over a total of 3 times by mobile speed cameras.  In Panama and Canada I was kindly let off with a warning. In Mexico they attempted to make me pay the fine of $90 with a cheeky 20% discount if I pay them direct on the side of the road. Knowing my rights I explained that I will pay the fine at the police station. After 20 mins of not getting any closer to my money, the police officers handed back my driver’s licence and we headed on our way.