After two years in Japan and South Korea we were ready for our next adventure: Russia.
How did we get there?
Here is our lowdown on the ferry crossing to Russia.
Between Japan, South Korea and Russia plies one ferry company, DSB. But if you just need to ferry between Japan and South Korea you have more options.
We took the DSB ferry Eastern Dream from South Korea (port of Donghae) to Vladivostok in March 2018.
Read More: Japan Travel Guide & South Korea Overland Travel Guide
The Ferry Crossing to Russia
Schedules & Fees:
- The journey from South Korea takes about 22 hours. The ferry leaves every Sunday and arrives in Vladivostok on Monday.
- We paid:
- US $600 for the Land Cruiser. We paid cash, in Korean Won, but you can also pay in US dollars.
- 148,740 Won per person for the passenger fee (there no driver’s ticket included in the car fee). The regular fee is 222,000 won but we got 33% discount. We paid cash.
- 2500 Won per person for the terminal fee, which we also paid cash.
- Prices and schedules change, so make sure to check the website for details.
Read More: How to Start an Off-Road Adventure in Russia
Travel Guides for Russia
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The above-mentioned passenger fee normally gives you a bunk bed. For some reason we were upgraded to a private cabin, which was nice. The driver gets three meal tickets with the passenger ticket but the second passenger not (yes, odd).
We were not particularly impressed with the meals and were happy to have brought our own snacks and noodles. On board you can fill up your bottle with cold and hot drinking water from a machine (free of charge).
Read More: Stories about Russia
Step 1: Preparation
What to do (long) before taking the ferry:
- Organize your visa.
- Reserve a ticket in advance via email, [email protected]
- Send copies of the following documents at least 2 weeks before departure to DBS:
- Temporary Import/Export Declaration from the Korean Customs.
- Vehicle certificate of registration.
- International driving license.
- Get in touch with Yuri (email see below), the guy who will help you on the Russian side to clear your vehicle from customs. You have to send him copies of the following:
- Valid Russia visa.
- Vehicle registration papers, and the following data if it is not given in the papers: dry weight & maximum weight, engine volume (cc), horsepower, diesel/petrol, color.
- Car Insurance valid for Russia (if available, otherwise they will issue it in Russia).
- Three photos of your vehicle: general view, plates, and VIN (Vehicle Identification Number).
- Organize your car insurance. Yuri can help you with this. Note that at the time of writing, Yuri told us that it was a pain in the ass to get insurance for foreign motorcycles, so plan ahead of time.
- Note that in Vladivostok you can’t drive your vehicle off the ferry (you will have to hand over the car key). To prevent theft, we constructed a barrier between the passenger seats and the rear, and locked anything of value in the rear.
Read More: Organizing your Visa for Russia
- [email protected] or [email protected]
- website: www.links-ltd.com
We paid $150 for Yuri’s service, which we thought was value for money. Yuri was quick in responding to emails and willing help with other issues (e.g. getting a sim card for our smartphone). When we arrived in Vladivostok he picked us up, drove us to and from the place we were staying for the night and had prepared all papers ready to be processed. He clearly knows what he is doing.
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Step 2: Getting on the ferry
In the port of Donghae:
- At 9 a.m. sharp Coen parked in front of the DSB office inside the Ferry Terminal [gps: 37.491404, 129.12623] and paid the cargo fee.
- He drove the car inside the Customs zone.
- The officer did a thorough inspection of the Land Cruiser, which we had not expected at all. It was a mess in the rear with everything from the front thrown in but the official climbed in the car nonetheless and checked everything. The officer confiscated four gas canisters and the 5-liter jerrycan with gasoline that we use for cooking! One large bag [our down blanket] that was convenient to grab was pushed through an X-ray scanner.
- Coen drove the Land Cruiser onto the ferry, locked it and handed the keys to the purser.
- Back inside the ferry terminal, we paid for our tickets that we had reserved beforehand.
- To get on the ferry all hand luggage was X-rayed, to which pretty much the same rules apply as for airlines.
Read More: Russia Travel Guide
Stap 3: Vladivostok: Getting off the ferry and through customs
- You get off the ferry without your vehicle. Before we knew what was happening, a purser came for us and shepherded us to the front of the disembarking cue. Directly after the passport control, Yuri was waiting for us and drove us wherever we needed to be. Our ferry was three hours late and arrived at 5 o’clock so the customs processed all paperwork the following day.
- On Tuesday morning Yuri picked us up. He and his assistant Svetlana had prepared all documents to clear the vehicle and get our Temporary Import Document. We drove to the customs office where Svetlana handed all papers were to the powers that were and Coen had to show his passport. In order to enter the customs building, you need to show your passport!
- Early Tuesday afternoon Yuri called us when all was ready. We returned to the ferry terminal where our Land Cruiser was driven out of the customs parking lot and we were free to go.
The Temporary Import Document (TID)
- It is valid for one year.
- But: There is some kind of agreement between Russia, Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan, and the one year is for those three countries combined.
- More on the Temporary Import Document here – what is it & when do you need it?
All in all, we found the ferry crossing to Russia quite straightforward procedure.
Oh, and when in Vladivostok, don’t forget to do some sightseeing – it’s a beautiful city. And do take the time to explore some of the surrounding regions along the coast, which is stunning and offers lots of rough camp and off-road opportunities.
Read More: Sightseeing in Vladivostok
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15 thoughts on “The Ferry Crossing From South Korea to Russia (+ the Car Paperwork)”
Interesting, nice vehicle.
Geniet van jullie reizen, precies echte avonturiers.
did you have to change the registration plates for the vanfrom Japan to Korea
Hi Graham, no need to change anything. In both countries you keep the original ones on your vehicle.
We are thinking of driving this route from Europe and would like to leave our car in Korea somewhere whilst we flew to Australia (where we are originally from) any ideas or contacts for garaging the vehicle for 2 or 3 months somewhere around Seoul. We would then revers the route back to Europe. So we plan to travel at the begining of April via Georgia and Astrachan up then to Ufa and onto the trans-siberian to Vladivostok. Our vehicle is a Citroen van – any info on the roads from T’blisi to Astrachan and onto Ufa? Do you think the guy you used in Vladivostok would be available in Western Russia or do you have other contacts there?
Hi Paul and Caroline,
That sounds like a wonderful trip. However, there are 2 things you need to check:
– Currently, the ferry is not running. Yuri in Vladivostok is your best guy to get up to date information. See email above in the article.
– Your vehicle can only stay as long as the validity of your visa. Say you get a visa for 90 days, so your TID will be for 90 days too. You can leave the car in Korea, fly out and come back, but make sure to return and have exited your vehicle before those 90 days run out. Wendy Choi is the best person to contact and hear if anything has changed with regard to this rule (which only went into effect in July ’17, before that this was not an issue). wendychoi2 [at] Gmail [dot] com. She helps many travelers, esp. motorcyclists, with the paperwork when they fly in their motorcycles.
We have not been to the Caucasus and hove no idea about road conditions there. Best check on Facebook groups such as Overland to Asia and Overland Experience.
Hope that helps and let us know if you have any questions.
Can we follow your journey anywhere? We’ll be in Central Asia / Russia for quite some time so it would be great to meet up. We love Citroen vans!
looks like the car and passenger not in the same boat?
Yes, on the same ferry!
I will be carrying jerry cans, woudl they confiscate them if they would be empty? I would have all my expensive things in the car (tools, camping gear, recovery gear, drone, etc). From what you say, you have to give the key away to the officials in Korea and then in Russia. I have Toyota 120, so I cannot really lock it up, anybody with a key would have access to everything, Did Jury mentioned that stuff might get lost in the customs? I might have to invest into some lockable boxes/drawers.
Empty jerry cans are no problem (we carry them too).
We build a wooden plan behind the front seats for the ferry crossing, dividing the front from the back section (see 4th photo in blog post). And threw all stuff from the front in the rear. That way all our stuff was secure. Worked just fine and was a cheap and easy option.
(WFIW: We would not hand the keys to a car where it’s easy to ‘misplace’ stuff in one’s pocket, to put it nicely.)
Hi Karin I’m planing to ship my car from South Korea to Russia and after that drive to Europe – Spain – Morocco . Is it safe to drive from Vladivostok to Finland ? You don’t have any trouble on the road ??
The ferry is out of service since this spring, and nobody knows how long that will last. Maybe you can ship per container. Best contact Yuri, mentioned in this article, to find out what the latest news is or what the options are per container
Hope you can ship in some way because it sounds like an incredible journey.
I don’t know what trouble you mean. We feel safe in Russia, that is Siberia (Vladivostok – Novosibirsk) – we haven’t driven in western Russia yet but from fellow overlanders we have only heard good and inspiring stories. (e.g. find them on https://www.facebook.com/groups/510330665669757/)
Hope that helps!
Thanks for this blog post, the DBS ferry website is lacking at best, so this post is very helpful. Although you’re not travelling with pets, I was wondering if you saw any others on the ferry with pets? We’re planning to drive from EU to S Korea/ Japan when things return to normal with our dogs.
You may be having another problem. The DSB ferry stopped working last year and as far as I know, still isn’t working. The best place to find relevant info is either to contact Yuri, mentioned in the article. Or, for other relevant info, including travelers with pets, check the facebook pages on overlanding in Asia, e.g.
Or Facebook group Animal Travelers, specifically for overlander with pets
Hope that helps!
Can we follow your journey on a blog/social media?
Its a great ordeal you have been through!! and very thank you for all the info.
I am planning to travel to Russia from Japan. I have found out DBS ferry services are terminated now. Hence, do you have any contact/info oh how to ship my car to Russia(Vladivostock). Also, I don’t need a Carnet from Japan to import a car, is that correct.
I thought the “Eastern Dream” the actual ship that was enlisted in DBS Ferry’s fleet. Will be operating again. The new name of the logistics company that runs the ferry, I do not know.
As to your Carnet. I don’t think you need a carnet for Russia. You must arrange your car to be temporary imported. Probable by a customs broker if you cannot manage the Russian language yourself. Please do yourself a favor and get in touch with Yuri from Links. He will know what you will need and he can probably help you with the ferry schedule as well.