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All placed in a flip-file for easy access. Certified copies of all the documents, with originals stored in the vehicle safe. We will try to only hand over these originals for perusal when specifically insisted on. Copies of our documents are also left at home and scanned into the travelling laptop and I-pad as well as the PC at home. The appearance of being confident and organized can avoid many potential problems such as extortion or bribery. It can also lessen the chances of unnecessary marital conflict! It is amazing how one can tense up when at a border post and how this can spill over into petty squabbles.

  • We have two copies of an International Driving License each. This makes it safer to hand over one of them over to possibly difficult traffic officials rather than your original driving license. They might threaten to hold onto your driver’s license whilst trying to extort a bribe. If you can indicate to them that this is of no concern to you because of duplicates, the threat of extortion would no longer be effective. These are obtainable from the AA. You will need an ID/passport, 2 passport photos, driver’s license and cost R265 each. Valid only for 1 year.
  • New extra thick multipage passports (so-called multi-passport, cost R600). Fortunately you will be able to keep your old, but still valid passports. Two passports will help in Kenya when we may need to courier one of our passports to Pretoria for the Ethiopian visas.
  • Police verification certificate and micro-dotting certificate for vehicle.
  • Original vehicle papers and certified copies.
  • Typed lists of all electronic and other valuable, possibly dutiable goods, with serial numbers, to be stamped on entry to each country in order to avoid import duty later.
  • Forty passport photographs.
  • Yellow fever certificate also containing records of recent inoculations.
  • Printed and laminated list of the various Currency Exchange Rates in US$ for quick reference.
  • Multiple wallets for the various currencies and also so that the money load can be spread through various secure hidey holes in the vehicle.
  • All permits issued will be placed in the flip file as the journey proceeds for safe keeping and rapid access at road blocks, border posts and the like.


For South Africans, these are the processes involved:-

Firstly I had been told that it is a requirement in order to obtain a police clearance, that the vehicle is micro-dotted and a microdot certificate is obtained to show to the traffic and police departments. Just Google micro-dotting and your home city (or nearest) and you will find the various businesses offering this service. It only takes about 20 min and cost me R570. I had this done but subsequently found out it is not required as I will explain.

The clearance procedure is carried out at the nearest SA Police Vehicle Unit. There are two possible certificates involved and the police officer explained both to me to my satisfaction and exactly why I needed the PRIVATE VEHICLE VERIFICATION CERTIFICATE rather than the Police Clearance Certificate. The Police Clearance Certificate is only required if you are leaving the country with the vehicle and not returning with it, in other words permanently exporting the vehicle. This is clearly not the case with our and many other trips and he indicated that the police would be reluctant to do this clearance process in my case. If it is performed the vehicle would be removed from the South African vehicle register and then would have to be reregistered on returning. This involves a fair amount of hassle as a roadworthy certificate would be required together with the costs involved. This certificate could otherwise also be required for an entirely different reason, for example if the engine is changed requiring registration of a new engine number.

The Private Vehicle Verification Form is the one needed to cross borders. One does not need micro-dotting for this or any need to visit the Traffic Licensing Department. All you need is your original vehicle licensing papers and your driver’s license. The police officer will inspect your vehicle and confirm the chassis(Vin) and engine numbers. This is a good opportunity for you to make sure you know where to find them for future border crossings. After an Interpol computer check to ensure the vehicle is not registered as stolen the certificate is issued. Check that all the numbers are correctly recorded on the certificate. This was a far simpler process than what I had been led to believe and there are no fees to pay. Ensure you understand the function of the two alternate vehicle police certificates. I understand that it is common to experience border post extortion attempts directed at the false claim of not having the correct clearance. The possession of a Carnet reinforces that there is no intention to permanently import your vehicle. Stick to your guns! I gather this malpractice is particularly common at the busier border posts in Zambia and Zimbabwe.


A Carnet is an internationally recognized customs document entitling the holder to temporarily import a vehicle into foreign countries. In simple terms, it’s a passport for the vehicle and indicates to customs that the vehicle will only be in the country temporarily. It is a set of vouchers in duplicate, containing all the relevant information that includes the vehicle’s make, model, colour, number of seats and vehicle identification chassis and engine number. Every time the vehicle enters and leaves a country, customs remove one of these vouchers and the stub is kept in the book for future reference. Make sure you understand exactly what needs to be done as administrative errors can come back to haunt you later. Many customs officials at minor border posts will not be too familiar with a carnet and will need subtle guidance. A bank guarantee is supplied to the Automobile Association, in South Africa in our case, for the value of the vehicle. Should your vehicle be written off and not repatriated, the vehicle import duties are paid out of this fund. It is important when returning home to have the carnet cancelled by the issuing authority on producing the duly stamped book. See here

In South Africa the application forms to fill in for a CDP application are down loaded from the SA Automobile Association site above, together with instruction on the processes to follow. I also downloaded a bank guarantee form from this site. My virtually paid off home mortgage bonds were enough for the bank to sign AND STAMP the bank indemnity form for the R450,000 (US$ 50,000) value required. The amount required is determined by the cover wanted by the most expensive country on the route, which in our case was Egypt which requires a guarantee or deposit of 200% of the value of the vehicle. The trade value of my Land Cruiser is R225.000. If I could not get the bank to stand guarantee I would have to deposit this amount of 450 thousand Rand with the AA (Egypt 200%). They keep this at no interest until you are back home and can present your carnet with all the customs stamps needed. In South Africa we will obtain a 100% refund of any deposit. I gather that this is not the case with other organizations such as the Royal Automobile Association. The cost of our carnet was R4.000 for a 25 page version. The cost depends on the countries visited and number of pages and payment was done by EFT. Proof of payment was sent to the AA head office in Johannesburg by courier together with the bank indemnity form (the original is required), the completed forms that were downloaded, copy of ID or passport, copy of driver’s license and a copy of the vehicle’s registration papers, all of which are listed on the website. All except the bank indemnity form can be faxed or scanned and then emailed. As the indemnity form requires the original to reach them I just couriered the whole lot together. They state that it takes about 4 days for the carnet to be processed once the forms reach them and are found to be complete and this in fact was the case. I would not leave this application too late just in case there are snags. If you are having any problems give the AA head office a ring as they are very helpful. The postal address is Foreign Travel Department, AA of South Africa, Dennis Paxton House, Kyalami Grand Prix Circuit, Allendale Road, Midrand 1684.


This was a very unsatisfactory exercise. Not all companies pay for repatriation of the vehicle, if needed and some will only cover you if you are travelling in a formal group. One of the many companies I contacted is this one, apparently used with satisfaction by previous trans-African self-drivers, They are based in the Netherlands. It was very difficult to elicit any response from them and many other companies and with all the restrictions and conditions involved I ultimately decided to carry the risk myself. Local South African companies are reluctant to insure further north outside our customs union and their charges are as exorbitant as the international companies.


All the countries in Southern and East Africa will have a third party insurance office at the border (in South Africa and Namibia, it is included in the price of fuel). It is cost-effective and more efficient to purchase Comesa Yellow Card Insurance, which covers you for most of the countries in Southern and East Africa. (Mozambique is the only exception) I plan to buy my 3rd party insurance and the Comesa Yellow Card at the border post when we cross into Zambia. I have tried in vain to purchase it via various brokers in SA before leaving, but have given up. At present in Zambia COMESA for 365 days to all COMESA Countries costs K377.00 (inclusive of VAT). It is important to establish this cost beforehand as the asking price can vary. Just note that you still have to buy a Third Party for your first country outside the SADC, in our case Zambia.


Fortunately as Africans, things are relatively simple for us and most visas can be obtained with little trouble at the point of entry border posts. How things have changed since we were the pariahs of Africa!

Early on in our trip I am busy hatching plans to use a little utilized border post between the Caprivi area in Namibia and Zambia. This was established to facilitate access between the newly promulgated, but not yet fully functioning Trans-frontier Park between the parks in Caprivi and the seldom visited Sioma Ngwezi National Park in the extreme south-west of Zambia. This border post is variously referred to as the Imushu or Singalamwe Border Post. A local contact has taken the trouble of researching the process intensively for me and if our crossing is successful the details will be posted later.

A recent problem is for South Africans to obtain a Kenyan visa. In their wisdom our South African authorities have new stringent visa application formalities in place. Perhaps as retaliation Kenya passed a new requirement that to obtain Kenyan visas, we had to apply in person at their embassy in Pretoria. Fortunately this has now been suspended and we will have to see what develops prior to our departure. This in itself is not insurmountable but the problem for us is the fact that only a six month visa at best is obtainable and this would tie down our schedule unnecessarily especially with the planned multiple entries to Kenya. If the worst comes to the worst, we might even have to store our vehicle in Tanzania whilst we fly home to apply in person. The newish joint East African Visa between Rwanda, Uganda and Kenya may be another solution, but is apparently not understood at some of the smaller border posts. Perhaps Tanzania may also have joined this venture by the time we leave.

There are various other administrative pitfalls. The crossing from Kenya to Ethiopia via the Lake Turkana route means that one passes through no recognized Kenyan border post and one has to be stamped out beforehand by Kenyan Immigration in Nairobi. Also in Nairobi you have to clear customs and have your vehicle carnet stamped out of Kenya. There are now immigration and customs facilities on the Ethiopian side just beyond the border in the town of Omorante. There have been some reports of difficulties in persuading the customs officials at Omorante to stamp the carnet. We shall see!

In Nairobi we have a fair amount of admin to do in this regard. Our Sudanese visas need to be obtained here from their embassy, apparently relatively simple. The big bug-bear is our Ethiopian visas. We could obtain a tourist visa in South Africa prior to leaving. Although you have to apply at the embassy in your country of origin you do not have to appear in person. Apparently the best we could get is a 6 month tourist visa but this would tie us to a fixed schedule and this is exactly what we want to avoid. We will probably have to courier our passports to the Ethiopian embassy in Pretoria from somewhere like Jungle Junction in Nairobi, continue on our regional Kenyan travels with our old passports, before returning to Nairobi to pick up our passports after a couple of weeks. This is the method that most have to follow, whatever their nationality. We will have to investigate exactly what is involved when re-entering Ethiopia from the north but if we can obtain a six month visa should be covered. In Khartoum, Sudan, one may have to register as an alien within 3 days of crossing the border, as they often refuse to help you with this at minor border posts. We plan to try our best to sort this out at the border or at the first town of substance we reach. In Khartoum you also need to obtain a photography permit.