Driving through Africa was an Amazing Journey in direct contrast to Europe. We could spend a month or two in Africa for what one week in Europe cost us. Fuel in Africa ranged from US$0.5 cents per litre in Libya to US$0.75 in Uganda with an average price in Africa of around US$0.45 cents per litre. In contrast fuel in the UK cost US$1.20 cents per litre.
We travelled through Africa and Europe from bottom to top, 40,000 km, 20 countries in 8 months from September 1998 to April 1999. Eight months was too short and meant that we had to skip the Middle East. In hindsight we should have allowed twelve months.
Looking back, most of our preconceived notions about Africa were not as we envisaged or that as portrayed by the media. Mostly it was the opposite.
During the time we were in Africa we had excellent weather. The temperature was very pleasant and we only experienced inconvenient rain four times whilst either setting or breaking up camp.
Travel Guides and Trip Reports:
We used the Lonely Planettravel guides and found them very good although we found a number of inaccuracies. Some campsites had gone out of business. Note that the prices for campsites or other accommodation can in reality be a little higher than what was written in the guidebook. "Africa on a Shoestring" is too brief and does not contain sufficient detail. I recommend that you buy the more detailedLonely Planet travel guides, which cover just one or two countries. The Rough Guides series also look very good but we did not use them.
"Vehicle-dependent Expedition Guide" by Tom Sheppard is a very good source of information in preparing a vehicle. Less useful but non-the-less worth reading is "Africa by Road" by Swain & Snyder. The best overall maps are the Michelin Map number 955 (Southern Africa), number 954 (North East Africa) and number 953 (West Africa) which are available from specialist map shops.
If your travelling through the Sahara (North Africa) then Chris Scott's "Sahara Overland - A Route and Planning Guide" (ISBN 1-873756-26-7) is a must. If you look closely you'll even see a few pictures of Troopy. His Sahara Travel Information Web page contains all the latest information to compliment the book. Chris also has another book call Adventure Motorbiking Handbook which covers worldwide overland motorbike travels.
The Automobile Association in South Africa also produce some excellent maps and document on South Africa, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Mozambique. If you write to the Automobile Association of South Africa, PO Box 31612, Braamfontein 2017, South Africa and tell them you are intending to travel overland through Africa they will send you a set of maps, documentation and areas of interest on the countries mentioned above. These are free if you are an affiliated member of the local AA in your country.
Some of the books I really enjoyed reading are “Desert Travels” by Chris Scott (ISBN 1-8744-7250-5), "Running with the Moon" by Jonny Bealby (ISBN 0-7493-2098-2) and a very funny book called “Malaria Dreams” by Stuart Stevens (ISBN 0-87113-361-x).
There is also a wealth of information that can be obtained from the Internet. A number of people have written good accounts of their trips and placed them on the Internet. My favourite is Derek Tearne's Overland trip by vehicle through Africa. For the best pictures covering an Overland trip through Africa see Gunther and Ulli Zanner's Web Page. Others are Derick Lean's trip, Charlie and Illya’s trip, Barnicoat-Glovel-Castaldo’s trip, Wouter van der Westhuizen RTW trip, Andrew and Jacqui's trip, Tim and Clare deWet's trip, Scott and Renee's trip, Grant and Shelly's trip, and Ian Veinot's trip. Martin Solms has a great WEB page called The African Overland Network with a list of Overland WEB sites - both future, current and past. Another great read is Dave and Lances backpacking trip through Africa. As mentioned above Chris Scott has a great WEB page on travelling through the Sahara Desert (Northern Africa). A good place to ask questions on travel through Africa is at Lonely Planet's African Thorntree, the newsgroup rec.travel.africa and Grant and Susan Johnson's Bulletin Board. Grant and Susan's Horizons Unlimited WEB page covers worldwide overland travel and they also Email an excellent monthly newsletter providing details on who is travelling where.
Keeping up with World News:
Keeping up with the World News and especially African News makes a Short Wave Radio worthwhile. A Digital Short-wave Radio is recommended as the station frequency can be stored and recalled for later use. Both VOA (Voice of America) and BBC (British Broadcasting Corporation) transmissions to Africa have a daily one hour roundup of Africa News. We used a Grundig YB400 which also features dual-time and an alarm clock. For more details on short-wave radios and reviews on many of the available Short-wave Radios refer to the Radio Netherlands Short-wave Guide WEB page. English newspapers are often available in bigger towns. You can keep up with Africa news on the Internet through the Africa News Online,BBC African News Service, the BCC Focus on Africa, CNN African News or the Middle Eastern Times.
We had expected it to be difficult to find good drinking water. However at no time during our trip did we buy bottled water or found it necessary to purify water. We had fitted a 70 litre water tank under Troopie and so we were able to fill up with good drinking water when available. We used the criteria that if the water came from an underground spring or well, or if the locals told us that they drink the water and it looked clean and tasted good then we would fill up our water tank. Even though we carried water purification tablets we never found it necessary to use them.
In all the capital cities and in any reasonable sized town in Southern Africa and Kenya there were western style Supermarkets, however elsewhere we had to rely on local markets. Fresh fruit and vegetables were plentiful. During most of our trip we were able to buy meat. Often this was from a roadside stall where a side of beef or lamb hung in the open, unrefrigerated and exposed to the dust and flies. We usually bought our meat early in the day when it was the freshest, before the flies had been at it for too long and before it got too hot. Bread in all forms, shapes and sizes was readily available everywhere. It was amazing what you could buy at the markets. We had friends who bought new springs for their vehicle and we even saw a set of Digital VMS computer manuals for sale.
US dollars reign supreme in Africa. In South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Egypt credit cards and ATM (Automatic Teller Machines) are common place. In Zambia, Malawi, Tanzania, Ethiopia and Sudan you will only be able to use credit card in five star hotels. In Uganda a few places accept credit cards and you can get cash on visa from the Barclays ATM in Kampala. Traveller's Cheques are accepted in all countries with the possible exception of Sudan. In Sudan I would only count on using cash. Outside of South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Kenya and Egypt cash reigns supreme and it will give you the best exchange rate. I would carry as much US$ cash as you feel comfortable in carrying. If you have your own vehicle I would recommend installing a small safe which is bolted to the vehicle to store valuable documents (carnet, passports etc) and some money and store the remainder in various cavities inside the vehicle.
During the whole time we were in Africa we kept excellent health. Kienny had the runs only once after eating at a restaurant and Su-lin had a 24 hour fever. Other than this we didn't even catch a cold or flu. We spoke to many other travellers who caught malaria. As the malaria carrying mosquitoes only come out at night we made an effort to be in bed around dusk and got up at dawn. If/When we were to do this trip again we probably wouldn't take anti-malarial medication due to the high cost, limited effectiveness and possible side effects, which we did not experience although many people do. We would bring the malarial cure medicines in our first aid bin. In Australia we did a lot of research into Travel Insurance. You definitely need the Health Insurance cover however read the fine print. We could not find insurance that covered theft from a privately owned motor vehicle. The best deal that we could find in Australia was from travel.com.au.
All through the African countries people are extremely friendly and hospitable. Sudan is our favourite country followed by Ethiopia, Uganda and Namibia. We did not visit Mozambique however other travellers told us it is wonderful and worth visiting.
From what we are told by the media, we imagine Africa to be a dangerous place plagued by war and famine. Hence we were surprised and delighted by what we saw and experienced. Food was plentiful and many people looked well nourished and quite content. Even though most people did not have a lot of money they probably have a better lifestyle than we do in the West. Whilst we hear about wars these are mostly contained and isolated to a small area. When we were travelling in Ethiopia there was fighting going on between Ethiopia and Eritrea. As a tourist or for most locals the only difficulty experienced was a shortage of fuel. Of all the countries we visited Kenya is without doubt the most dangerous. We heard of other travellers who were robbed, had their vehicles broken into or mugged, especially in Nairobi and on the road to Moyale. Most western people would say that countries like Sudan and Ethiopia are dangerous. Our experience is the opposite. Sadly, highly publicised news such as the killings in Uganda have badly affected tourism and the income derived from it, whilst similar massacres in America or Europe are shrugged off, considered normal and do not affect tourism. We have heard from a couple of overland travellers that had no security problems in Africa but were robbed or mugged in Europe. Statistically Africa is a far safer tourist destination than Europe or America. If you're taking your own vehicle then the security of the vehicle is very important. Unless we were sure we were in a safe place we never left our vehicle unattended. In big cities we usually left the vehicle parked where we were staying and took taxis.
During our travels through Africa we met quite a number of fellow Overlanders who were driving from either Europe to South Africa or vice-versa. It was great to be able to share travel experiences and exchange information. Whilst guide books can provide a lot of useful information, it's other overland travellers that provide the best up-to-date information on security, border crossings, accommodation and things to do and see. Fellow Overlanders are like one big family away from home. We kept hearing about the experiences of other travellers. Many we met along the way, others kept in touch via E-mail. Some we've never met although we kept hearing a lot about their travels. For much of the time we travelled by ourselves. At other times we really enjoyed travelling in convoy with Ross/Caroline (Kenyans) in southern Africa and Gunther/Ulrike (Austrians) in Ethiopia and Sudan. We met some lovely people with whom we got along really well and would love to get to know better. We take our hats off to a Dutch overland couple we met in Zambia whose husband was confined to a wheelchair. It hadn't stopped them from pursuing their dream.
What vehicle should I take?:
Most Overlanders we met in Africa drove Landrovers, some Toyota Landcruisers and a few motorbikes. Those we met driving Toyota Landcruisers had very few problems in comparison to those driving Landrovers. In defence however, some (not all) of this may be put down to the fact that the Landrovers we saw were older in comparison to the much newer Landcruisers. Both Landrovers and Landcruisers existed in all African countries we visited. Some countries had more Landrovers than Landcruisers whilst other countries had a larger population of Landcruisers than Landrovers. In Wadi Halfa we were amused when one Sudanese local showed us over his Toyota badged Landrover. He was very proud of the fact that his Landrover had been fitted out with a Toyota Landcruiser badge, radiator, air filter, alternator and lights. Spare parts should be available for both types of vehicles in all countries. Motorbikes are not allowed in Wildlife National Parks in Africa. So, whilst motorbikes are great fun I tend to feel than a motor vehicle is more practical when travelling through Southern and Eastern Africa.
Petrol or Diesel?:
Diesel (also called Gas Oil) and Petrol (also called Benzene) are both widely available. Diesel is invariably quite a bit cheaper than petrol. We had no problems with the quality of Diesel however we did hear of poor quality Petrol. Unleaded Petrol is only available in Southern Africa. One overland truck driver recommended that we never fill both fuel tanks from the same fuel station in case the fuel was watered down, however we did and never had any problems. Diesel prices were: South Africa, Namibia and Botswana around US$0.36 cents per litre. Zimbabwe was a little cheaper at US$0.28 cents per litre. Zambia and Malawi was getting more expensive US$0.50 cents per litre. Tanzania ranged from US$0.50 to US$0.64 cents per litre. Uganda was the most expensive at US$0.75 cents per litre. Ethiopia was a pleasant US$0.22 cents per litre. Sudan was even cheaper at US$0.9 cents per litre but going up to US$0.29 cents per litre in the more remote areas.
African roads are very rough on tyres. After 30,000 km's our BF Goodrich All Terrain tyres were all shredded. Other travellers we met using these tyres all had similar experiences. We met quite a few people using Michelin XZY tyres whose tyres looked new after 30,000 kms and had not had a single puncture. If we were doing the trip again we would definitely choose Michelin XZY tyres. Whilst the Michelin tyres cost almost twice that of other similar tyres they go more than twice the distance. We met one couple who had driven 120,000 kilometres on their Michelin XZY tyres.
We used a gas stove for cooking. Gas was readily available and can be filled all through Africa. We carried two 2kg cylinders so that when one ran out we had another full cylinder available. A 2kg cylinder lasted at least two weeks during heavy usage. Southern and Eastern Africa use the CADAC cylinder fitting which is a Right Hand Thread 3/8 BSP Female Fitting. If you intend taking your gas bottle to Africa then I recommend that you obtain an adaptor from a specialised gas dealer. Western Africa uses the standard Camping Gas fitting. CADAC in South Africa (fax 27-11-4742985) make an adaptor fitting part number CAD080 to go from a CADAC fitting to a Camping Gas fitting.
We had expected border crossings to be a nightmare. In contrast all border crossings from South Africa to Kenya were straight forward and took less than an hour whilst the Ethiopian and Sudanese border took a couple of hours. At no time did we meet any official who was trying to obstruct our progress. The border officials were always polite and friendly. We had also expected to be constantly harassed for bribes. This was not so. Only in Zambia were we frequently asked for bribes and only once or twice in Malawi, Tanzania and Uganda. The requests for bribes were always light hearted and a firm no or a joke allowed us to continue on our way. I think that if you take your time, are courteous and friendly then that's the way officials will treat you.
Fortunately we as Australians only needed Visa's for Tanzania and Kenya which we bought at the border, Ethiopia which we got in Nairobi (Kenya), and Egypt and Sudan which we got in Addis Ababa (Ethiopia). I have since heard that we no-longer need a visa for Kenya however we now need a visa for Zimbabwe. I would get as many visas' as you can get before leaving home and get the rest along the way. No matter which way you look at it getting a VISA is usually expensive, inconvenient and often takes some time.
In every country we visited, people would ask if we could sponsor them to migrate to Australia. Everyone from the man on the street to police and soldiers at border posts wanted to emigrate to Australia, America or Europe. They all had the expectation that their own country was bad and that moving to the west would bring them prosperity and wealth. However we often admired the Africans unsophisticated way of life, priorities and values.
Whilst preparing for the trip we spent some time debating on whether we should sleep in the vehicle, in a ground tent or in a rooftop tent. We ended up choosing a rooftop tent and were very happy with the decision. In the whole time we were in Africa we only slept in a hotel room on Zanzibar Island and one night in Sudan. The rooftop tent was great in that it allowed us to camp virtually anywhere and not have to worry about the animals or the ground being rocky, muddy or uneven etc. etc. In towns where there was no campground we paid for a cheap hotel room just to use the shower and toilet and slept in our own familiar and very comfortable rooftop tent. This also meant that Troopie was not left unattended during the night. We purchased our rooftop tent in Australia. There are many brands of rooftop tents available in Southern Africa. Of all the different rooftop tents we have seen we especially like the Technitop rooftop tent which is manufactured in South Africa by Nicro Technologies (Phone: 27-11-4742582 Fax: 27-11-4749504). This tent is enclosed in a fibreglass casing and folds out over the side or rear of the vehicle only taking up half the roofrack space. The Technitop rooftop tent is now available in Australia from Open Sky in Sydney (Phone: 61-2-9565-5345 Fax: 61-2-9565-5346).
Email and the Internet:
We were also surprised to find so many Internet Cafes through Africa. There are Internet cafes in ALL capital cities and in most countries there are also Internet cafes in many of the bigger towns. During our eight months of travelling we never made a single phone call. We relied on the Internet for all correspondence. This was much cheaper, quicker and more convenient than phone calls or postcards. In fact it was not until we reached Europe that we had problems finding Internet Cafes - hence the long delay in sending this Newsletter. We did not take a laptop or handheld computer and just wrote our E-mails at the Internet Cafe. Many Internet Cafes did not charge us or charged a much cheaper rate to work offline. We mostly only paid the full rate whilst we were actually connected to the Internet. In many ways a laptop or handheld computer would have been useful. We could have written our E-mails on the laptop as we went along and then transferred them to floppy disk. Then at an Internet Cafe we could have sent our pre-written E-mails which would have been more convenient that spending hours at an Internet Cafe. I think it would be very difficult to connect to the Internet using a modem so transferring messages via a floppy disk is the way to go. If you take a laptop you would also need to be able to recharge or power the computer from the vehicles battery. Whilst a laptop or handheld computer would have been an advantage its not all positive. Firstly it's one extra thing to carry. Then you would need some way to protect the computer from rough roads and then there is always the security issue.
Travelling with Children:
Initially we were concerned about taking Su-lin, our nine year old daughter. We were concerned about her schooling and safety. Her teachers were very encouraging and supportive and gave her maths and spelling books to work through which she did each day in addition to a travel diary. We found that travelling with a child helped to break down the barriers. The locals rarely see western children and really warmed up to Su-lin and were very excited to talk to and touch her. We feel that by travelling and experiencing different cultures Su-lin has learnt more than she would have done by merely sitting in a school classroom.
Carnet de Passages:
To allow free passage for the vehicle in and out of each country we obtained a Carnet de Passages from the Automobile Association in Australia. This is a customs document which allows a visitor to temporarily import a vehicle into a country for a limited period of time without the need to deposit a large sum of money equivalent to the customs duty and excise taxes at the border. In simple terms a carnet is a passport for the motor vehicle. Under the carnet system, temporarily imported vehicles can stay in a country for a limited period of time, usually 12 months, after which the vehicle must be exported. The carnet is a set of vouchers containing all the relevant information pertaining to the vehicle. Security needs to be lodged with the AA before a carnet can be issued and is set at the highest amount of customs and sales tax payable for the countries requested. For Africa this bond can be up to 250% on an Australian valuation of the vehicle. The AA in Australia also sells an Insurance policy to cover the cost of the bond. All the information we had said that a Carnet was mandatory for Southern and Eastern Africa. This is not the case. You can actually travel from South Africa through to Sudan without a Carnet. A carnet is mandatory for Egypt. Our carnet was only used in South Africa, Tanzania, Uganda and Kenya. Temporary vehicle import permits could be issued by the customs of these countries as well. However a Carnet does make things easier. South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Lesotho and Swaziland are members of the Southern African Common Customs Area. Once in the area, vehicles can move freely between these countries without paperwork formalities. For Australians, more information on exporting and re-importing vehicles can be found on the NRMA WEB page.
For vehicle insurance, the only firm I know that can offer fire, theft and accident insurance for all of Africa is available in the UK irrespective of where the vehicle is registered by Campbell Irvine, 48 Earls Court Road, Kensington W8 6EJ - Phone: +44-171-937-6981 Fax: +44-171-938-2250. Email: email@example.com. They charge about 12% of the cost of the vehicle so it's definitely not cheap. We did not take out vehicle insurance. Traffic levels in Africa are low compared to Australia or Europe so the risk of an accident is much less. Theft was always a concern. We fitted a burglar alarm and never left the vehicle unattended unless we were sure it would be safe.
Compulsory Third Party Insurance:
Compulsory Third Party insurance is compulsory in many countries. In South Africa, Namibia and Botswana (?) it's included in the price of fuel. In countries where Third Party Insurance is compulsory it is available at the border and costs somewhere between US$10-US$60 for a months cover. In Zimbabwe we bought Yellow Card Insurance which covered all countries between Zimbabwe and Ethiopia and cost US$60 for a three month cover which is much cheaper than buying it at each border.
In Zimbabwe contact the Zimnat Insurance Company, PO Box CY1155, Causeway, Harare (092634-73-7611). In Ethiopia contact the Ethiopian Insurance Corporation, PO Box 2545, Addis Ababa. In Kenya contact the Kenya National Assurance, PO Box 30271, Nairobi. We were never asked for insurance in Sudan and so did not have any insurance.
If your vehicle is not registered in the UK then Green card insurance for Europe, North Africa and the Middle East is best purchased before arriving from Campbell Irvine, 48 Earls Court Road, Kensington W8 6EJ Phone: +44-171-937-6981 Fax: +44-171-938-2250 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org WEBpage: due July-2000.
Green Card Insurance to cover just Western Europe and the UK is available from the Germany Automobile Association - ADAC Geschäftsstelle & Reisebüro, Jahnstr. 26, 88214 Ravensburg, Germany Phone: +49-751-3616811 Fax.: +49-751-3616888 Email: email@example.com.
In Israel contact the Israel Insurance Association, The Green Card Bureau, PO Box 2622, 39 Rothschild Boulevard, TEL AVIV, Israel Phone: +972-3-5677-333 or in Italy from the AA who sell a policy underwritten by Uffucui Centrale Italiano, Corso Venezia 8, MILANO 30232 Phone: +39-2-773911.
From Australia we used Wilhelmsen Shipping Line (08-83410466) who offer a RORO (Roll On Roll Off) service to South Africa (Durban and Cape Town). It cost us approximately US$1400 for shipping (US$64/cu metre) plus US$300 wharfage fees in SA. The major cost getting the car off the docks in South Africa was a fee based on the cost of the vehicle. The cheaper you value the vehicle the less you will pay. Whilst this may seem a lot its not really very expensive when you average it out over seven months - around US$7 per day.
Shipping our vehicle back from the UK we used Excess International Movers, Unit 1 Abbey Road Industrial Park, Commercial Way, London, NW10 6XF Phone: +44-20-8453-2834 Fax: +44-20-8453-2836 Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Internet: http://www.overseasremovals.com This was easy to arrange and one of the few firms we found that would allow us to ship using RORO (Roll On Roll Off) and leave all our equipment in the vehicle. This cost us around US$1980 for shipping (US$100/cu metre) plus US$250 wharfage fees in Australia.
Buying and selling a vehicle in
We actually shipped our vehicle from Australia. This has the advantage that you can set up your vehicle before heading off to Africa. It does mean however than you will probably need to ship the vehicle either to or from Africa. We met Luke and Mark who bought a vehicle in South Africa. This has the advantage that there is no shipping required, however it means that you have to buy, setup your vehcile when you get to Africa and time to sell the vehicle when your finished. Luke provided this excellent writeup on buying and selling a vehicle in South Africa.
For lots of reasons it is necessary to have a "home" address in South Africa - find some friends prepared to let you put their address on all the paperwork described below.
Buying a car. Johannesburg is the only option really in terms of choice of vehicle. New cars are very expensive (2-3 times the cost in Australia), but cars 4-5 years old are approaching equivalent value. Our 1989 Toyota Hilux Dual Cab 4WD in good condition was worth about R29000. The Star newspaper has classified ads (Thursday is the big day for cars), but even better is the "Junkmail" classifieds (like the Trading Post). Highly recommended is the internet site www.junkmail.co.za to get a feel for the market before you go, unfortunately they no longer include prices though so you are compelled to purchase the printed version. Be warned, the range of vehicles is nowhere near as extensive as in Australia, so put aside enough time (a week at least) to find a decent vehicle. Hilux, Landcruiser or Landrover are really the only options in terms of parts availability and reliability outside South Africa (though Nissan and Mitsubishi are also ubiquitous in the South), petrol and diesel are widely available, diesel fuel is usually very cheap but good diesel 4x4s are often hard to find.
Car Insurance. A lot of travellers are happy to go without car insurance in Africa, but the package described below gives a lot of peace of mind on a continent where you are very likely to encounter a mishap of some degree. We searched everywhere, both at home and in Johannesburg, including the Automobile Associations and even Lloyds of London, for car insurance to cover the whole of southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Malawi, Swaziland and Lesotho) and east Africa (Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda). Believe me, there is only one choice in this area. Ream Insurance Brokers in Johannesburg sell a 4WD owners package which includes comprehensive insurance for all the above countries plus Zambia and Mozambique, plus an excellent Medical Rescue and Retrieval Service back to a private hospital in South Africa for passengers (and the vehicle), plus coverage for vehicle accessories etc. They are very reputable and extremely helpful, easily the most professional company of any sort we dealt with in Africa. The vehicle must be insured for R50000 (regardless of what it is actually worth - not really a problem), and must have an immobiliser and gearlock (a good idea anyway, Ream will arrange to take you to a nearby car accessories workshop to have these fitted at minimal cost if the car you buy doesn't have these already - about R600 for both). Cost was about R5000 for 12 months insurance on a R50000 vehicle, they promptly refunded us the unused portion pro rata (ie R2500 after a six month trip) as soon as we returned. Ask to speak to Raymond and say hello for us. Phone +27 (0)11 394 8235 or fax 394 8917, it is easiest to visit their office and sort everything out in one go. Samtem is a large South African Insurance Company who underwrites the policy. Ream have large advertisements in Getaway, which is the biggest RSA travel magazine. They have only recently included East Africa in their policy, which would have saved us a lot of time and stress if it had been available in late 1998 !
Carnet de Passages. This is the document which allows import and export of the vehicle in and out of each country, though it is not needed until you leave Southern Africa as defined above. Be warned, it requires substantial capital outlay, but border crossings are a breeze once you have it. You need to work out how many such countries you will enter on the trip and buy the appropriate number of pages in your Carnet (5, 10 or more). Two entries to a country, eg even just in transit on the way back, requires 2 pages. If you buy a vehicle in South Africa, you must return it to South Africa, otherwise you will be deemed to have exported it and will be liable for import duties. Bribing a government official is a common local practice to circumvent such duties, but if you don't want to do this, you need a Carnet as a "bond" !
The Carnet is purchased from the Automobile Association of South Africa,
in effect, they guarantee to pay the import duties if the car doesn't return.
Your end of the deal however, is to get a bank guarantee (on the documents
they provide) for the value of the duties. It sounds complicated,
but is not too bad if you know what to expect (allow a couple of days).
1. Open a bank account in South Africa
2. Import duties are usually around (an additional) 100% of the car's value. Deposit the equivalent of 100% of the value of the car into your account. (i.e a R30000 vehicle requires an additional R30000 in bond money to get a carnet, or a believable figure close enough - you would probably get away with 80% or even 70% of the real value).
3. Get the bank to sign the guarantee form provided by the AA, and return these forms for processing - the carnet takes 10 days to issue but can be collected from another AA office in South Africa later in your travels if you request this, eg organise it in Joburg and collect it a few weeks later in Capetown - don't wait around for it. The document itself costs about R600.
4. Guard the document with your life, especially after it has been stamped at all. It is worth 100% of the value of your car !
A cautionary note which caused us problems. You can only take as much money out of South Africa at the end of your trip as you took in, so make sure the money that goes into the carnet account is clearly shown to be yours. A telegraphic transfer from your home bank account (after you have opened your South African one) is easy to organise, quick and serves this purpose. We used First National Bank, a big institution with lots of branches. Deal with one bank branch only and one competent person (get their name and contact details up front), or things are certain to get confused and protracted when it comes time to take your money home (again from bitter experience).
The carnet definitely requires heaps of spare capital, but the money actually earns about 20% interest in South African accounts, so gives you a nice little lump sum profit at the end (easily covers the cost of the carnet and more). When you take the money out at the end (again, a telegraphic transfer back home is easiest) the transaction WILL be scrutinised by the foreign exchange officer at the bank to make sure you aren't taking out more than you brought in (a little addional interest earnings is OK).
Join your local Automobile Club (RACQ, RACV etc) at home and take your membership card, as there is reciprocal AA breakdown service in most of southern Africa and excellent free road maps of each country also from the AA (collect them when organising the carnet or write to the address supplied above before you go). An international licence is a good idea, Africans love official-looking documents.
Car Registration. Expect to stand in a queue for a long while at the Motor Registry Office, but apart from this it is similar to Australia but with twice as many forms to fill in. You will need photo ID of some sort to obtain a Motor Registry Number (for you) before proceeding to registering your car. A roadworthy certificate is required on sale but can be obtained by either the seller, or the buyer within 21 days of sale.
Selling your vehicle in South Africa is basically the reverse process of the purchase. We based ourselves in Johannesburg and allowed three weeks to unwind from the journey (having driven direct from Uganda over about 10 days), organise a refund on the carnet and unused insurance, and sell the vehicle. We advertised in the Star newspaper and in the Junkmail classifieds (you can place an ad on the internet). Junkmail actually gave us the most responses. Obviously, wash the car and remove any stickers which suggest it has been to Uganda or Sudan etc !
There was plenty of interest in the vehicle, and plenty of people willing to take the time to inspect and test drive (as mentioned, there are a limited number of 4x4s available). However, it seems to be an irritating cultural trait in South Africa to wait interminably to actually agree on a deal, don't expect to get a buyer to agree to purchase on first inspection, even if they want the car ! You may have to make some follow up phone calls and be a little flexible on price.
We lost money on our car due to currency fluctations (having paid US$ before the Rand crashed), but the average fall in value over 6-12 months would not be too dramatic under ordinary circumstances (assuming no major damage or mechanical deterioration during your trip, not necessarily a valid assumption!). Any money lost is unquestionably a worthwhile investment if it means having your own vehicle for the trip of a lifetime, and will definitely be cheaper than renting a vehicle or (usually) paying shipping costs.
The back up option if time runs out or if the hassle of a private sale sounds too much, is to drive the vehicle to a dealer and ask them to make an offer. You can strike a deal very quickly, but will usually get less money. In Johannesburg, there are a large number of used car dealerships on Jules Rd (not the most pleasant part of town, but not drastically unsafe). We sold our Hilux privately for R28000, but had at least half a dozen offers from dealers (a few hours of bargaining) on Jules Rd in the range R25000-R28000 as a fallback position.
Capetown is probably another reasonable sized market (though considerably smaller than Joburg), and a much more pleasant place to be based for a few weeks. They also have a local Junkmail edition.
The paperwork is self explanatory, and available from any motor registry office. The papers have to be lodged (in person or by mail) at the same office where you registered the vehicle in your name on purchase. You should fill in two copies of the transfer of registration form, get both signed by the purchaser, and keep one as evidence of the sale after lodging the other. A roadworthy certificate is necessary but can be arranged by the buyer up to 21 days after the sale if you can't be bothered !
Summary. The above information is the result of days and sometimes weeks of frustration, and will potentially save loads of time and unexpected surprises. It sounds like a lot of work, but in Africa there is no substitute for setting yourself up properly administration-wise at the beginning and having real peace of mind down the track. Don't let it put you off going - the trouble is justified a thousand times over once you get going on the trip of a lifetime! Have a great trip, email any further questions about buying a car in South Africa to me, Luke Bennett.
Another Alternative - Rent-Buy:
I recently saw an advertisement from Drive Africa who offers a Rental Purchase with a guaranteed buyback. You buy a car from them; they take care of all the paperwork etc. and they guarantee to buy the car back from you when you're ready to leave the country. You can finalise all your vehicle requirements including paperwork, insurance and registration before leaving home and then they will deliver your vehicle to you on arrival.
I have never used Drive Africa nor have I heard any positive or negative feedback. I merely list it here as a possible alternative.
Well I'm sure you're all interested to know how much it cost? Southern Africa (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia and Malawi) and Northern Africa (Ethiopia and Sudan) countries cost us around US$36 per day whilst Eastern Africa (Tanzania, Uganda, Kenya) cost in the order of US$60 per day. As the figures show, Eastern Africa is much more expensive than other parts of Africa. National Parks in Tanzania and Kenya alone cost us around US$65 a day whilst further south, National Parks cost us around US$25-US$30 per day (three people). Overall the average daily land based expenses including all vehicle repairs cost us US$54 per day. These figures are for two adults and one child. These prices do not include shipping costs to/from Africa. An overland truck trip from London to Cape Town with Encounter Overland or Exodus costs US$36 per person per day or for us this would have been US$108 per day (excluding personal expenses). Even when you take the cost of shipping into account doing an independent Trans-Africa overland trip is quite cost effective.
We had a fantastic journey through Africa. The only sad day we had during our entire trip in Africa was in Port Sudan when we shipped Troopie to Italy and realised that our trip through Africa had ended. We would strongly encourage anyone who has a dream of doing an overland trip to set a date and go for it. Thanks to all our friends and family who have helped us prepare, fellow Overlanders who we met along the way and provided us with valuable information, and those who have kept us in their prayers.
Now where are we going to go for our next holiday??
Geoff, Kienny and Su-lin Kingsmill