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Is it possible to ride from Malaysia to Papua New Guinea by motorcycle. Any help would be much appreciated.

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    Um, no not unless your motorcycle flies. There's water in the way. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Dec 12 '16 at 7:42
  • I presume the route is somehow Malaysia-East Timor-Darwin Australia and on. But even these fine fellas abikejourney.com have flown from Singapore to Australia. With the increasing difficulty in freighter tourism, this will be at least very challenging. – chx Dec 12 '16 at 10:01
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Through to West Timor/Timor Leste is the more common route - I've done bits of it, but not the whole shebang. I've ridden all over Bali, Lombok, Sumbawa and Flores - both by scooter and car.

You can overland into PNG but you need to get a visa before hand.

Some questions for before you put your gloves on.

1) Do you already have a bike? In Malaysia? Do you own it and have the books for it? Assuming yes, yes, yes and yes you'll need to ferry it over to Indonesia - there are plenty of options for this. Google is your friend.

2) If you don't have a bike and plan to get one in Indonesia, you'll need to buy one in Indonesia as nobody sane will rent you one to ride it to Papua! To be "legal" and for insurance purposes an international driving permit for riding a bike is advisable. If you drive unlicensed you can expect to be fined repeatedly and any insurance you have will most likely be void in the event of an accident.

Ok, once that is sorted out, the base route (very broad strokes):

Across Java -> ferry to Bali
Across Bali -> ferry to Lombok 
Across Lombok -> ferry to Sumbawa 
Across Sumbawa -> ferry to Flores 
Across half of Flores -> ferry to Kupang (West Timor) 

I wouldn't characterise motorbiking in Java as "extremely dangerous" but I would say you need to be mindful of trucks and remember your place in the vehicle pecking order (near the bottom, above pedestrians). Most people I know who have ridden extensively in both find the Balinese traffic far more challenging than Javanese, but your mileage will vary.

In the East, on Lombok and especially on Flores, Sumbawa, Sumba (if you divert there) and Timor, riding late afternoon and especially in the evening is not recommended, as there is a substantial chance you will be robbed. Do not ride at night unless it is absolutely unavoidable.

Traffic in the east however is extremely lights - I've ridden for hours in the middle of the day on Sumbawa without seeing another vehicle. You won't have that problem in Java ha ha.

Time-wise, 3-4 months at a comfortable pace, which means you'll need to allow for a visa run out to Malaysia to get a new tourist visa.

  • Lived in Java before and currently living in Bali. While I agree that the traffic within population areas is worse in Bali, it (nor other islands that he would pass) simply doesn't have the kind of long crowded lawless roads outside of the cities which Java has. After many years of motorbiking experience I still would think twice about riding a motorbike across Java. – Sebastiaan van den Broek Dec 13 '16 at 3:12
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Is it possible, yes (assuming you don't mind ship / ferry crossings thrown in). Will it be easy, no.

95% of your ride will be through Indonesia, working your way down the main islands of the archipelago, then some longer ship crossings to reach West Papua. There is only one overland border crossing from West Papua into Papua New Guinea and that is on the northern coast between Jayapura and Vanimo. The road from Vanimo to the rest of PNG is unknown to me, but apparently exists.

You can look up some of the ship crossings with Pelni, one of the major shipping / ferry players: https://www.pelni.co.id/welcome

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    Isn't there another border crossing in the south, between Merauke and Moreahead/Daru? Photo 1, Photo 2, Photo 3? I've never been anywhere near the area so I might be completely wrong… – gerrit Dec 12 '16 at 16:59
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    @gerrit - looking at your links and Google's satellite images, it seems to be an Indonesia manned crossing only, as there is no PNG immigration office nor really a road leading into PNG. One has to wonder if it was built as part of a plan to have another highway connection but PNG never finished their side. To the best of my knowledge only the northern crossing is open to overland travel. – user13044 Dec 13 '16 at 1:42
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@Tom's answer seems to address your question well re actual routes and modes.
This response focuses on different but vitally important aspects of such a journey.

The Malaysian peninsula is "safe enough" for motorcycles if you are experienced in multi-country travel.

Travel in Java Indonesia is extremely dangerous for motorcyclists.
If you are competent and careful and take things slow and steady and assume that all the drivers who are out to kill you are out to kill you and that any of the rest may do so anyway then the journey is probably just "very risky".
You'd at a minimum want good health and vehicle insurance cover, with certainty that it applied to ALL conditions and areas en route.
You'd also need to personally accept the risks of potentially low availability of medical facilities and evacuations times of up to some days in worst case areas in Java. I have no direct knowledge of the conditions in IJ/WP but would expect them to be worse than Java in many cases and ~= "just accept that you'd probably die" worst case.

You can find many accounts of local motorcyclists being killed or maimed on Indonesian roads in Java/Sumatra/Borneo. Accounts of bad things of any sort in WP/IJ can be harder to come by. (Do not be encouraged by this aberration).

When I was in Yogyakarta I inquired re hiring a small motorcycle from a man who hired out motorcycles - with the aim of riding to Bali (except for the wet bits). He refused the hire point blank. No matter what the financial protection given him he did not think it worth his risk, or mine.

I do not know about motorcycling conditions in West Papua / Irian Jaya but while traffic may be less, I imagine that general hazard level would be high.

A more problematic issue for travel in WP/IJ may be the political constraints. While permission for access to Java and Sumatra is easily enough obtained, access to IJ is much more tightly controlled and you may be denied access unless you have a good reason for the journey and are 'politically acceptable' to the authorities. YMMV.


Ask an expert:

All that said, if you are genuinely keen, I can refer you to a friend who has ridden a one lung Royal Enfield 500 through a large number of countries (including East Timor). Hospitalised once - broken bones after she met a 4wd head on on a remote Asian jungle trail - flown back to UK for repairing and picked up bike and continued many months later. VERY experienced international motorcycle traveller. See my profile for email address.

__________________________

Pedants corner:

Some have suggested that "riding" the route is impossible due to the various bits of water along the way.
Here are some people who seem to have done similar and who have no problem with the terminology. The text given is a direct copy in each case. Bolding added for clarity.

Bicycle

Car

  • Cape Reinga to the Bluff: Driving across New Zealand

Tramping / trekking / hiking

  • Tramping (Trekking) the Length of New Zealand -- Route, Photos, and Journals

Tractor!

  • Retiree to drive from Bluff to Cape Reinga by tractor for good cause

EV

  • A Far North man attempting to make motoring history by driving his electric car from Cape Reinga to Bluff and back is on his return journey and should be home by Christmas.

____________________________

All the above routes cross, without qualification of the journeying term used (drive/trek/...), the wet bit in the middle - named "Cook Strait". This is about as real a water crossing per distance as you can find.

enter image description here

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I travelled from West Papua to PNG a couple of years back. The only real border crossing is from the Jayapura to Vanimo. I had to pay a "fine" to to exit Indonesia from West Papua and had to walk about one kilometre between the border checkpoints of the two countries.

In PNG you would need a durable bike - few roads along the north coast were paved when I was there, some were pure mud. Also, you would have to cross some rivers one way or another. You can probably drive most of the north coast on loggers roads or take ferries to hop some distance if necessary. I travelled on the back of pickup trucks loaded with coffee and cocoa beans most of that stretch. In the east of the country there are fairly good roads that connect to the highlands. I don't know how easy it is to get from there to Port Moresby however.

Obviously, be careful. There are plenty of scary PNG travel stories you can read up on. Nevertheless, most people I met during my trip were really friendly can hospitable!

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I can add that travelling on a motorcycle on Bali and Flores is an excellent way of travelling. Bali however is very busy and one big traffic jam. This year I travelled on a rented motor-scooter on Flores from Maumere to Labuan Bajo (east to west, 850 km with all side trips). There is no better way to travel Flores, the Trans Flores 'highway' (ahum...) is excellent, really. I encoutered one landslide and had to wait for half an hour. Outside the villages there's not much traffic. I noticed the Australian governement funded roadworks.

You don't have to worry about safety, people are very friendly and open. Be aware that most of the road on Flores has no straight stretches, it's all bends, so speed will average at 60 or less. Most annoying thing are the chickens and roosters who will do their best to commit suicide by trying to get in front of your motorbike.

Haven't been to PNG so can't tell. Bali and Java are more crowded/busy. Malaysia Peninsula, excellent roads and perfect for motorbike. You can take ferrys between the Islands, they run regularly. There's more than the Pelni lines between the neigboring islands.

The local truck- and (mini)bus drivers don't mind driving 14 hours or more in a row staying awake on red bull drinks and alike. That is a serious risk to stay alert for. Besides enjoying the country, islands and experience, this also is a good reason to slow down and take more time, do short stretches and stay alert.

  • Zef how did you go about returning the bike to Maumere? Did you ride back again from LBJ or throw it on the roof of a bus? – Stuart at Travelfish Dec 12 '16 at 22:24
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    I was lucky to find a guy who does one way rentals. Actually I was his second customer after a French bloke travelled from LBJ to Maumere. Let me know if you need to contact him :-) He has bigger scooters (155cc), not the small ones you normally would get. – zef Dec 12 '16 at 22:36
  • Interesting. Am planning on heading back there in March to ride it again, but this time want to go further east to Alor as well... good to know - thanks. – Stuart at Travelfish Dec 13 '16 at 2:08
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There is no land connection between Malaysia and Papua New Guinea. So, no. Unless your motorcycle flies, you cannot ride from one country to the other. You would need to ship your motorcycle either by land or sea to get to the island of New Guinea.

Malaysia consists of a peninsula on mainland Asia and the northern part of the island of Borneo. Papua New Guinea is the eastern half of the island of New Guinea. (The western half the are Indonesian provinces of Papua and West Papua.) Borneo and New Guinea are about 2500+ km apart, separated by the Pacific ocean.

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    That's a pretty dataless answer and I'm surprised anyone upvoted it. While it's not 100% certain, it seems 99.9%+ likely that the existence of said bodies of wet stuff are exceeding well known to the OP. The 2nd paragraph is a mini geographic introduction and, while perhaps informative to any who are totally clue-less about the area, are unlikely to tell the OP much that's useful and addresses the question close to not a whit. – Russell McMahon Dec 12 '16 at 11:15
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    The question asks if it's possible to ride a motorcycle from Malaysia to PNG. Unless "ride" has a definition I'm unfamiliar with, the answer is no. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Dec 12 '16 at 11:50
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    @RobertColumbia, by that definition of "drive from -- to --", you can drive from any spot where cars are allowed to any other such spot. If someone asked me "Can you drive from the US Virgin Islands to Puerto Rico?" I would answer, "No, they are islands without bridges. You'll need to take a ferry." – Malvolio Dec 12 '16 at 14:11
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    I think it's reasonable to interpret the question as "I am on a motorcycle in Malaysia. I'd like to take a motorcycle-centric journey such that I end up in Papau New Guinea with said motorcycle in hand. Is this practical?". This answer isn't particularly helpful to that question, nor is Malvolio's tautology. That said, I think a clarification comment would be highly appropriate (asking if they're talking about ferries, or specifically about bridges). – Joe Dec 12 '16 at 23:13
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    It'd be the same answer if you were to ask "can I walk from Malaysia to PNG", or can I ride a bike/horse/car/train/skateboard/camel/pogo stick. The answer is no, you have to take a boat/plane. We have questions that ask 'how can I get my motorcycle from island a to island b', but that's not what this question asks. This question asks "can I ride it from island a to island b," and the answer is no. And like it or not, some questions have "no" for an answer. – Roddy of the Frozen Peas Dec 13 '16 at 8:07

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