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Cross Country Motorcycle Travel Paperwork

Cross Country Motorcycle Travel Paperwork

Travel paperwork is one of the most important aspects of a cross-country motorcycle trip whether you are riding within the United States or crossing borders. Before embarking on your journey, you must complete the necessary travel paperwork to ensure a hassle-free riding experience. You should also consult travel agents and do thorough research, especially when traveling to the United States for a cross country trip. Make sure you familiarize yourself with the helmet laws, lane-splitting laws, and other regulations of each American state or country you plan to visit for your motorcycle tour. Adhering to rules is necessary to avoid getting into any legal issues.

Overwhelming paperwork and the complex jargon involved often deter riders from going on a cross-country motorcycle trip. This article outlines the important documents for U.S. residents and visitors planning to ride in the United States. In addition, U.S. passport holders can also use the guide to prepare paperwork for a cross country motorcycle tour abroad.

1. Motorcycle Registration

You need to carry your motorcycle registration document whether traveling in the United States or cross borders. Riders who import their bikes temporarily need to show their registration document before they get an import permit. It is best to carry color copy and digital copy and show them instead of originals. However, carrying originals is also extremely important.

2. Driving License & International Driving Permit

As a U.S citizen, you should have a valid motorcycle endorsement on your driving license for a cross-country motorcycle trip in the United States. You cannot travel cross country with a learner’s permit. Temporary licenses are also not accepted by the law enforcement agencies. If you are traveling to the United States as a tourist, then make sure you have an international driving license. As a US citizen, you can use your U.S. driving license with a valid motorcycle endorsement to ride in Canada and Mexico. To ride in other countries, you would need an international driving/riding permit.

To rent a motorcycle in the U.S as a visitor, you can use the license issued by your home country during the verification process. But once you are in the United States, make sure you use the international license to ride your motorcycle.

3. Visa

The US passport is one of the strongest passports in the world. As of July 2023, U.S passport holders can travel visa-free in 146 countries and territories, including:

  • Australia
  • Brazil
  • Canada
  • EU Countries
  • United Kingdom
  • Switzerland
  • Sweden
  • Norway
  • Qatar
  • Malaysia
  • Singapore

If you are a U.S. passport holder, then you don’t need a visa to travel to these countries for a cross country motorcycle trip. However, you must have your passport to prove your nationality. On the other hand, if you are traveling to the United States, you might need a visa unless your country is part of the Visa Waiver Program (VWP). As of 2023, residents of the following countries can travel visa-free to the United States.

  • Austria
  • Australia
  • Andora
  • Brunei
  • Belgium
  • Croatia
  • Czech Republic
  • Chile
  • Denmark
  • Estonia
  • France
  • Finland
  • Germany
  • Greece
  • Hungary
  • Ireland
  • Iceland
  • Italy
  • Japan
  • Latvia
  • Lithuania
  • Liechtenstein
  • Luxembourg
  • Monaco
  • Malta
  • Netherlands
  • Norway
  • New Zealand
  • Portugal
  • Poland
  • Slovakia
  • Singapore
  • San Marino
  • Sweden
  • Slovenia
  • South Korea
  • Spain
  • Switzerland
  • Taiwan
  • United Kingdom

Residents of visa-free countries must fulfill the following requirements:

  • Visitors from VWP countries must possess a biometric passport.
  • They can stay in the United States for up to 90 days.
  • If you are traveling with family, make sure each member has an individual passport.
  • He must be found ineligible for a U.S visa.
  • He must have never been convicted.
  • Must not impose any health or security threat to the country.

4. Passport

Carrying your passport is mandatory if you need access in another country. As a US resident, you might not need a passport when traveling within the United States. Your passport must have at least six months validity and blank pages, when you are seeking entry into a different country. Even when riding in visa-free countries, you would still need your passport to prove your identity.

5. Vaccinations & Medical Fitness Certificate

It is advisable to carry vaccination proofs and medical fitness certificates required by the countries you are traveling to. Keep a record of all the vaccinations and blood labs. In recent times, Covid vaccination has been made mandatory by some countries, so make sure you check all the requirements and get vaccinated.

6. Customs Motorcycle Paperwork

Many riders prefer to ride their own motorcycles during cross country trips. If you are planning a cross country motorcycle trip in the United States as a non-U.S resident, then you would need a passport, visa, and also have to temporarily import the motorcycle in the United States using Temporary Import Permit or Carnet de Passage en Douane (CPD). According to the U.S. Customs and Border Protection, to import your motorcycle into the United States, you need to ensure that your bike fulfills the regulations of the Department of Transportation (D.O.T) and Environment Protection Agency (EPA).

Carnet de Passage en Douane is an internationally recognised customs permit and allows you to import your bike without having to pay hefty custom duties and other taxes. This relief is provided because you deposit a required amount at your home country that issues you Carnet de Passage en Douane.

To get this document, you must show your motorcycle registration documents to prove that the bike belongs to you. Moreover, you might also need to buy motorcycle insurance to be able to ride in the United States. In America, the American Automobile Association is authorized to issue a Carnet de Passage en Douane. The application processing fee, qualifying requirements, and procedures may vary from time to time. If you are an American resident and planning a cross-country trip in another country, it is advisable to consult authorized agencies for valid up-to-date information. Also, check for visa requirements.

If you don’t want to take the Carnet de Passage en Douane route, then you can rent a motorcycle in the United States for cross country trips.

7. Permits

You might need special permits to visit certain areas or territories in a country. When riding within the United States, you might also need a permit to ride a motorcycle in the designated areas of national parks, forests, and state parks.

8. Motorcycle Insurance

For a cross country motorcycle trip, you would need at least minimum liability insurance that would cover theft and damage waiver. Once you cross the borders of the United States, your motorcycle will no longer have insurance coverage as companies do not offer round-the-world insurance. Even if some specialist companies extend this facility, their costs are too high. And since your motorcycle is registered in the United States, purchasing insurance in another country would still not cover it. The same applies to non-U.S residents visiting America for their cross country trip.

If you can take the risk, only then import your bike, otherwise choose to rent. Motorcycle rental companies such as Eagle Rider, Riders Share, Hertz Ride, Motoquest and other rental services offer different types of insurance coverage. Since their fleet is registered in the U.S, the insurance you purchase will cover the bike.

Third Party Insurance

On the other hand, in some countries it is mandatory to purchase third party insurance in a foreign country. This insurance will not cover your motorcycle in the event of accident or theft; however, it will cover third parties. Not having third party insurance may lead to hefty fines. The countries that require you to purchase third party insurance include the United States, Canada, Europe, United Kingdom, New Zealand, and Australia. Make sure you consult insurance offices at borders to find out whether the country you are visiting requires you to purchase the insurance.

Motorcycle Travel Insurance

Motorcycle travel insurance is another important document to have when traveling to another country for a cross country motorcycle trip. But it is not mandatory to have travel insurance to get entry in another country. Unlike motorcycle insurance, motorcycle travel insurance is not vehicle coverage. It is a personal insurance that covers your health.

9. Carry Digital Copies of All Documents

During cross country trips, make sure you carry digital copies of all important documents along with physical paper copies. Digital copies offer several advantages, including:


If you lose your documents or if they get stolen, you can use your digital copies as backup. Digital copies help you prove your vehicle ownership and your identity while seeking help from the relevant authorities.

Quick Access

When a law enforcement officer stops you for identification, you can quickly show your digital copies of all documents instead of wasting time rummaging through the luggage for documents.

Reduces Bulk

Thanks to the digital copies, you need not carry extra photocopies of the original documents with you. You can prove your identity through your cell phone. When needed, you can take a print out.

Better Security

Mobile phones now come with multiple security features such as secure folders, two-step passwords, and fingerprint sensors. With all these layers of security protecting your data, others cannot steal and misuse your information.

10. Learn from Others’ Experiences

Cross country travel paperwork can be overwhelming. If you are a beginner planning your first trip, it is recommended that you ride within the United States first as you would have most of the documents required for the trip. Through your trips, you can network and meet other riders who have successfully done multiple cross country motorcycle tours in other countries. Guided tours, motorcycle rallies, and motorcycle communities online may also help you meet people who share your riding interests. You can seek help and advice from other riders and complete the cross country paperwork for a hassle-free trip. You can also join other riders for an adventurous excursion. Once you have enough experience, you can then opt for solo trips.

11. Takeaway

Cross country motorcycle trips involve a lot of planning, especially when you are embarking on a cross country motorcycle tour in another country. It is best to conduct thorough research regarding visa policies, vehicular identification, driving permit laws, passport validity requirements, motorcycle import policies, third party insurance coverage, and medical fitness requirements. It is also advisable to consult a lawyer for guidance or reach out to other riders who have experience with cross country travel paperwork. Completing paperwork might seem challenging and distressing initially, but once you complete it you will enjoy the trip more and will not find it as difficult as your other trips.

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