Documentation

It’s difficult to make a definitive list of the documentation you will require, as requirements and regulations constantly change. For this reason we cannot accept any responsibility for situations arising directly or indirectly from the information provided here.

Again, this information is heavily biased towards the African explorer, though many of the rules and requirement will apply to other continents as well.

If you are married be sure to take your original wedding certificate with you, especially if you expect to visit the middle east.

Contents:

Passport Tips

Reckon on one and a half pages per country – that’s a full page for the visa and half a page for entry and exit visas; you may also get a few ‘vue-en-passage stamps’ as you pass through towns.

  • Make sure it has enough pages for your journey, or plan to get a replacement, which means contacting the consulate you wish to use and asking how long they take, and what it costs.
  • Make sure it expires at least six months after you end you trip – allow for getting stuck for a month or two, etc.
  • Carry a copy with you as well as the original. Never give your passport to anybody except an immigration official or a uniformed policeman, but then only if they insist – be stubborn about handing it over.
  • Absolutely (but politely) refuse to show it to individuals in plain clothes with official IDs. Ask to go to a police station if they insist; there are a lot of fake IDs and con artists who start by taking your passport, and then use it to drag you off to wherever they intend to rob you…
  • Don’t be afraid about asking for stamps to be placed carefully – most immigration officers are sensible but in some countries like the US they will place a single stamp diagonally in the middle of a blank page.
  • If you are running short of blank pages for visas stick post-it notes over the remaining pages to pre-empt the wild-stamper.
  • Ask for a receipt for all visas – especially stamped ones. The same goes for any cross border charges. Receipts should be numbered originals and if they are photocopies refuse them if possible or at the very least report the incident to the anti-corruption body in-country. You will at times be asked to show these receipts so they are important.
  • Most visas require two photos, some four, and border visas usually none, though they may cost more. If you have access to a digital camera or scanner make up an A4 sheet of about 50 photos of yourself and save a few quid.
  • If you’re going to get wet and you are carrying it around with you then put in a plastic bag – common sense I know but there are some people…

Carnet de Passage

This is only available for the RAC in the UK. You need to organise a bank guarantee or insurance through R.L. Davison & Co Ltd. (The RAC will send you all the appropriate forms to arrange this on your behalf.) The very helpful Paul Gowen of the RAC is your contact in the UK, and the following excerpt is reproduced by their kind permission:

Background

A Carnet de Passages en Douanes is an internationally recognised Customs document entitling the holder to TEMPORARILY import a vehicle duty-free into countries which normally require a deposit against import charges for such vehicles (generally countries outside Europe).

The Carnet is issued under the auspices of two international touring organisations – the AIT and the FIA. A large number of automobile and touring clubs throughout the world are affiliated to one or both of these organisations and issue the Carnet on their behalf. RAC Motoring Services is affiliated to the FIA. Each Carnet is valid for a maximum of one year. A Carnet holder whose journey goes beyond one year may, in exceptional circumstances, obtain a second Carnet or an extension, by contacting the local motoring organisation and seeking further advice from the RAC.

Description

The Carnet is a booklet made up of either 5, 10 or 25 pages. A 5 page Carnet allows the holder to temporarily import into 5 countries or on 5 different occasions. A 10 or 25 age Carnet covers the temporary importation procedure up to 10 or 25 times. Each page is divided into three sections; the lower section is removed by Customs on entry into a country; the middle section is removed on exit; the top, counter-foil section, is stamped once on entry and once on exit. A country re-visited during the return journey will require a new page to be stamped. It is vital that the holder gets these endorsements as they prove that a vehicle has complied with temporary import conditions and discharge responsibility for any possible future import charges. Countries not covered by a particular Carnet are noted in a list of exclusions.

Issuing Procedure

On issuing a Carnet, a motoring organisation becomes directly responsible for the payment of customs duties and taxes if the regulations concerning temporary import are infringed.

In order to take on this responsibility, RAC requires the applicant to meet a number of conditions: they must be able to give a UK address and, in most cases, details of passport and vehicle registration document. The applicant must also provide a security, which can take a number of forms:

- A bank guarantee, signed by a bank in the UK
- An insurance indemnity with the company R L Davison
- A cash deposit

Costs

For current costs, as well as information and application forms see this RAC page.

Discharge of the Carnet

On completion of a journey the Carnet-holder must return the Carnet booklet to RAC in Bristol. The issuing department, having validated that it has been stamped in and out of each country visited and that no further claims can be made by foreign Customs, will discharge the Carnet and release the security as appropriate.

If for any reason the last page used does not bear an exit stamp, the Certificate of Location contained on the last page of the Carnet must be completed and witnessed by proper authorities either in the UK or the country of final import. Failure to do this will almost certainly result in the Carnet holder being held liable for import charges and the deposit left with RAC being forfeited.

If a vehicle is stolen or written-off during the journey, a police report and Customs acknowledgement must be obtained as soon as possible. Failure to do this will almost certainly result in the Carnet holder being held liable for impart charges and the deposit left with RAC being forfeited.

Conditions of Temporary Import

The Carnet is a legal document allowing temporary importation only and, as such, penalties for its misuse are severe. Conditions of issue, including the general regulation regarding temporary importation, are shown on the reverse of the Carnet. The main conditions are:

A temporarily imported vehicle cannot be sold, loaned, abandoned, hire, or otherwise disposed of without the prior agreement of the local Customs authority and the local motoring organisation.

The Carnet can only be extended with the prior agreement of the local Customs authority and the local motoring organisation.

The Carnet holder is responsible for ensuring the Carnet is properly endorsed at each border crossing.

The Carnet cannot be used in any country where the holder is normally resident, nor in any country specifically excluded from that Carnet/

For information contact Paul Gowen on 01454 208304 or e-mail Paul at pkgowen@rac.co.uk

Vaccination Certificates

Many of the countries you travel through require a Yellow Fever vaccination; in practice you are rarely asked to show this, and if you are it may well be a preclude to an attempt to extort a bribe. Make sure you have a certificate anyway (available from your GP or an organisation like Trailfinders). Usually it comes as part of a little book where you can record your other shots (see the medical section).

Occasionally an official may claim that a cholera vaccination certificate is required – this will almost certainly be an attempt to extort money as cholera vaccinations are not required anywhere as far as I know. Though we cannot endorse this, some travellers make up (and hide) a stamp and create their own certificate every six months (that’s how long they are valid for).

Vehicle Insurance

Few European companies are willing to provide vehicle insurance beyond Morocco. Alexander Forbes offer an international policy, and Campell Irvine have also been know to issue policies, but these will not cover you for the required third part insurance which you will need to buy en-route. The exception is Assurantiekantoor Alessie who to offer third part insurance worldwide, although some travellers have found that local officials refuse to accept the documentation.

Most countries will sell you insurance policies at or near the border when you enter. This is generally third party insurance and is of no actual benefit to you at all, but it is a legal requirement in most countries, and is regularly checked in most.

As far as we are aware the exceptions are:

  • Morocco: You may be able to get this included on your green card
  • Namibia: Insurance is included in the fuel charges
  • South Africa: Ditto Namibia

Let us know if you know different.

In South Africa it is apparently possible to buy a policy that covers you as far north a Kenya, but this may be difficult to track it down.

You can pick up a multi-country policy for the following CIMA member countries in any one of those countries – I certificate covers all:

  • Benin
  • Burkina Faso
  • Cameroon (Cameroon Insurance SA in Youndé)
  • CAR
  • Congo
  • Cote d’Ivoire
  • Gabon
  • Equatorial Guinea
  • Mali
  • Niger
  • Senegal (At AXA Assurances at the Diama border post)
  • Chad
  • Togo

Some travellers produce official looking all-Africa policies of their own using a colour inkjet printer and a rubber stamp kit – before taking this path consider for a moment the luxuries of your average African jail.

If you are returning to Europe prepare for this in advance – you will need to have an original green card in your hand before you are allowed back into the EU, or other included countries.

Vehicle Registration Document

Use a copy of this wherever possible – a colour copy might be even better…

There is also something called the ICMV; It’s an internationally recognised registration document, a multi-lingual version of the V5. The ICMV is available from the RAC for £4.00. In Africa it is often a case that the more paperwork you have the more likely things are to go smoothly.

Make sure to included your MOT and tax disc – unless your vehicle is permanently exported it must still comply with British legislation, and if you are returning to the UK you will need to make arrangement accordingly.

Driving License

Most roadside checks accept a standard European license, but some countries require an International Driving Permit (IDP) which is available from the AA or RAC, (download the forms from their respective websites – the fee as of December 2006 is £5.50 ). The IDP is valid for 12 months from date of issue. It cannot be issued more than three months in advance, and cannot be issued retrospectively.

Nigeria requires an older format of the International license than other countries, so if you plan on going there you’ll need two.

Also think about asking for a the post-dated IDP if you are travelling for more than a year as you can’t obtain these in other countries except for your own (I assume they’ll do this for you…). If you are travelling for more than 15 months then you will face problems

Think about colour photocopies to give to policemen as they usually use them to extort money for your ‘offences’, especially in Senegal.

Travel Insurance

This is essential because of the medical cover it requires. For once you are actually going to have to read the policy small-print. Make sure your policy covers the whole period of continuous travel (many policies lapse if you don’t return every three months. make sure it covers you off-road (some amazingly don’t).

You should also look for evacuation by air, as this is pretty standard in East Africa; this is different to evacuation home which may be excluded as it usually depends on you buying a return air ticket first

Most policies have low limits so figure out how much cover you are getting on your camera, laptop and other equipment. Trailfinders seem to do the best policies in the UK, but it still falls short in a few areas.

Money

Visa Card

No good for shopping with, but the only option North of Namibia for ATMs. most capital cities have an ATM, and there are ever growing numbers of them in many countries – even Addis Abeba is supposed to have one soon. Think about keeping a spare card in the safe (you do have a safe?) so you don’t get stuck if you lose one. MasterCard, and to a lesser extent Amex, are strictly wallet ornaments outside of Southern Africa.

Travellers’ Cheques

Not very useful. You get hit on the exchange rate, they want to see the receipt, and usually they don’t take them anyway. If you must take them use Amex US$ in 50s

Euros

Good for West Africa and the ex-French colonies generally – you exchange at a fixed rate with the two CFA currencies.

Dollars

Good for everywhere else. The preferred currency for purchasing visas too. take mixed denominations so that you can make up exact amounts such as the $63 Ethiopia visa, but change fifties and hundreds as the rates for smaller notes are usually less. Avoid old notes (with the small heads) and torn or worn notes as the money changers are very fussy.

Money Tips

  • You usually get a poor rate at borders, but that doesn’t mean you can’t haggle up to a better one provided you arrive forewarned of the rates.
  • Think about where you want to keep you money. A safe it useful, but also obvious. Another hiding place is equally useful if you want to split you money.
  • When you are carrying cash on you get into a routine that suits you. I have a decoy wallet which I top up from a buttoned thigh pocket, but then I’m a 6′ 8″ ex-marine and weigh 100 Kg, so that may not suit you.

Changing on the Street

Get advice from locals about whether it’s a good idea – sometimes it’s cool, sometimes they just try to rip you off.

Make sure it’s legal, and if it is then do it in the open in a public place (try outside banks where there’s an armed guard). Never let the changer choose the place for the exchange. Take a friend. Here’s how it should work:

  1. Show what you are changing, and if you feel comfortable let them check the notes themselves.
  2. Next take them back and pocket them (with buttons or zip)
  3. Notice that you are now being crowded by other people who seem eager to brush against your pockets. Get them to leave. Repeat as necessary until you reach step 10.
  4. Once the rate is agreed (it may vary if he sees you have small notes etc.) Let him count out the notes, then give them to you.
  5. Now count them again in front of him.
  6. Go back to item 3. above and repeat until the amount you count out is the same as the amount he counts out (funny how that happens).
  7. Pocket the money in a different pocket. Button/zip it up
  8. Don’t forget to give him your money.
  9. Now go into the bank and move the money to a new pocket. Walk home watching your back.