Cape Town to Kenya: All You Need To Know About Border Crossings

September 22, 2017

If you’re here, you may be in the same predicament as we were in a few months ago; trying to plan a trip around Southern & East Africa however significantly lacking up to date information about potential routes, border crossings, fee’s, national parks and general self-drive information. After making it to Kenya and back in our Land Rover Defender TDi named Pumba, I thought that I would break this topic down into two blog posts each containing information pertaining to:

Part 1: Everything Border Related: Vehicle Fees, Vehicle Requirements, Visas & Last Minute Thoughts.

Part 2: Our route & stop-overs

Please Note: I will only be able to give information pertaining to a vehicle which is South African registered, and visa requirements/costs etc., for myself who is on a SA passport, and my boyfriend, who is on a UK passport.

PART 1: The Dreaded Border Crossings

The part that every self-drive vehicle gets anxious about on a long-haul trip through Africa, and we were no different. In hindsight, we experienced very little issues on our trip at the borders, with only two standing out as being particularly frustrating (Tanzania & Malawi). Despite being warned about, and hearing horror stories, about these border crossings from people who had maybe done it donkey’s years ago, we can only say that for the most part it was a positive experience for us and definitely added a lot of spice, and memories, to an already unforgettable trip.

General Border Tips:

✈Make sure that you that have certified copies of your vehicle registration papers in the driver’s name (or papers from the rental company, they will be able to advise you further on this).

✈ If you have a lot of expensive items such as laptops or cameras, make sure that you declare them at SA customs when you leave SA even if it seems unnecessary. It will make your SA entry a lot easier (we learnt the hard way).

✈Always have cash on hand for border fees and make sure to exchange money before arriving at the border of your next country into their local currency (US$ & local currency are both needed at border posts).

✈  Always allocate yourself a longer amount of time in the country when asked how long you will be staying. This is in case of unforeseeable events, such as health, car or any other emergencies. Despite being allowed to stay for 30 or 90 days, you will only be given the amount of time in each country that you stipulate on your immigration form or to the official behind the desk. 20-30 days is a safe choice even if you are only there for 10!

✈ Although third-party insurance is obtainable at all border posts (either through the border itself or done through third-party insurance sellers at the border), I would highly recommend purchasing COMESA third party car insurance if you are travelling to several countries within Africa. We were a little late to the party & only purchased/found out about it at the border in Tanzania, however it proved to be a life-saver allowing us to avoidthe dreaded search of finding reputable third-party insurance without getting ripped off & saving a lot of time at the borders. NOTE: Third-Party Insurance for your vehicle is compulsory!

✈ You will be chased after & be offered help continuously, despite constantly saying no. After being heckled one too many times and at a price which is often unknown to you, we eventually stuck to the line that, ‘We have done this many times before’ and blindly figured it out as we went, asking officials where to go next.

✈ HOWEVER, the guys who are waiting at the border to make your crossing easier and faster, can actually be really helpful. If you do want some assistance across the border, pick one guy to help you and negotiate a fee beforehand.

✈ Leave your bad attitude or frustrations in your car. A smile & being polite gets you very far, even if you are getting unnecessary attitude from an official.

✈ Relish in the chaos. The crossings are where the real adventure lies 🙂

NAMIBIA

Currency: Namibian Dollar (accept rands in most places).

Border Post: Vioolsdrif (Open 24 Hours).

Border Requirements: A ZA sticker on the back of your vehicle.

Payments: A cross-border charge (CBC) payable at the border of N$277, dependent on weigh too vehicle. (Make sure you have the right amount of cash for your vehicle, the card machine was ‘temporarily out of order’). You can check how much your vehicle will cost here.

Visa: No visa required for either individual.

Last Minute Thoughts: Driving into Namibia in a South African registered vehicle is easy as pie, with the only requirement being to have a ZA sticker plonked somewhere on the back of your vehicle. After getting off to a late start, we were very late arrivals at the border which resulted in a quick and painless crossing.

BOTSWANA

Currency: Pula

Border Post: Mohembo

Border Requirements: ZA sticker

Payments: Road permit (P52), Insurance (P50) & Road Fund (P50).

Visa: No visa required for either individual.

Last Minute Thoughts: A quick, easy & organised border post. They also had a working card machine which made life a lot easier.

 

ZIMBABWE

Currency: US Dollar

Border Post: Kazungula

Border Requirements: ZA sticker, Red & White Reflective Tape for front & rear bumper, Warning Triangles, Fire Extinguisher & Reflective Vests (see the specifics on AA here).

Payments: Road Access Fee (US$10) & Carbon Tax (US$10). Have cash on hand & don’t expect change!

Third Party Insurance: (US$30). Once again, make sure you say that your insurance is valid for longer than your planned visit. If you overstay your welcome (like we did), or run into any car or health problems, you will make life a lot easier when you depart.

Visa: No visa required for SA passport holders. A visa fee of US$15 was required by Ben (UK Passport holder).

Last Minute Thoughts: Despite being warned about Zimbabwe’s border crossings, the officials were very friendly & helpful. No help is needed to cross the border as it is pretty self-explanatory so avoid using touts who wear official looking lanyards around their neck.

Road blocks are everywhere throughout Zimbabwe, make sure that you have all your papers ready, working indicators and lights as well as your fire extinguisher and kit containing triangles & high-vis vests at grabbing distance to show them at roadblocks. Despite numerous warnings and stories, we had ZERO problems with the police & no form of bribery on our trip throughout Zimbabwe.

ZAMBIA

Currency: Zambian Kwacha

Border Post: Chirundu

Border Requirements: ZA sticker, Warning Triangles, Red & White Reflective Tape on front and rear bumper, fire extinguisher & Carnet de Passage.

Payments: Council Tax (K30). This changes according to which border post you enter through. Road Tax (K200), Road Transport & Safety Agency Certificate (US$20).

Third-Party Insurance: K230 (Mayfair Insurance – 30 Days). Obtainable at border post.

Visa: No visa required for SA passport holders. US$50 for UK passport holders (correct amount in cash is needed).

Last Minute Thoughts: This is where things started to get confusing. The place where you pay for road fees is in a building outside of where your passport is stamped & filled with truck drivers waiting to pay their fees. As a self-drive small private vehicle owner, you can go ahead & skip the truck queue and pay at the small cubicle. Card was accepted for the Road Transport & Safety Agency Certificate. When asked where you will be traveling in Zambia with regards to the RTSAC mentioned above, just tell them to print ‘All Over Zambia’. This will have you covered if your route changes along the way.

MALAWI

Currency: Malawi Kwacha

Border Post: Mzuzu

Border Requirements: ZA sticker, Warning Triangles & Carnet de Passage or TIP.

Payments: TIP (MK10,000)

Third-Party Insurance: We had obtained COMESA and therefore did not price any local insurance.

Visa: No visa required for SA passport holders. US$75 for UK passport holders for a stay over 7 days.

Last Minute Thoughts: Although this border was simple enough, bar a few grumpy passport officials who blamed Malawi’s current state of affairs on Ben as British passport holder, make sure that you avoid arriving around lunchtime. Regarding our Carnet, it was due to expire which obviously left us with no choice but to buy a TIP at the border which was a simple process.

TANZANIA

Currency: Tanzania Shillings

Border Post: Tunduma

Border Requirements: ZA sticker, Warning Triangles, Red & White Reflective Tape on front and rear bumper, fire extinguisher & Carnet de Passage.

Payments: Road Tax (US$25) OR 56,056.25 TZS.

Third-Party Insurance: 120,000 TZS for local insurance (30 days) or $100 for 3 month COMESA (valid in all countries that we were heading to & had been). This was the first time that we had heard about it & it worked out a lot cheaper.

Visa: No Visa Required for SA Passport holders. US$50 for UK Passport Holders.

Last Minute Thoughts: Yellow Fever Certificate upon exit of your Tanzania visit.

This stood out as one of the most challenging & frustrating border posts. The only words to describe it are ‘pure chaos’. It is a one stop border post, so drive past the Zambian border post and show your carnet to an unofficial-looking official. Prepare to be chased by about 20 local border touts yelling at you where you should park, offering black market currency exchanges, insurance, help. You name it, that service will exist.

Everyone was demanding money from us from every corner, saying that we needed an 80km/h sticker on our car (complete rubbish) and then after sticking it on our back window, completely unknown to us, demanded US$20. It might be a good idea to pick one tout to help you & decide on a fee beforehand as the procedure can be overwhelming and confusing.

After parking your car, head to the building on the right of the road to get your passport stamped (both departure & entry) & pay your visa fees if necessary.

Leave this building & head directly opposite to get pay your road tax & get your carnet stamped. This is where it got frustrating. A compulsory US$25 road tax is payable at the border HOWEVER we were informed that they no longer accepted cash for this & it was only payable via a local card. NO foreign cards were accepted. Therefore a local guy will pay for it on his card & you will have to pay him back in TZS. After endless asking around to see if this information was all true as we found it terribly hard to believe that only a local could pay your road tax fees for you, we eventually caved in & did it this way as time was running out. If anyone could shed light on this, that would be great 🙂


KENYA

Currency: Kenya Shilling

Border Post: Isebania

Border Requirements: ZA sticker, Warning Triangles, Red & White Reflective Tape on front and rear bumper, fire extinguisher & Carnet de Passage.

Payments: Road Tax (US$50) or 5,200 KES.

Third-Party Insurance: We had obtained COMESA and therefore did not price any local insurance.

Visa: No Visa Required for SA Passport holders. US$50 for UK Passport Holders. US$100 for US Passport Holders.

Last Minute Thoughts: Yellow Fever certificate upon exit of your visit to Kenya.

I really hope that this has helped anyone who is in the planning phase of an overland trip & as I said, this is merely based on our recent experiences driving from South Africa to Kenya. If anyone has updated information or recent experiences/advice when crossing into these countries, I’m that sure everyone would benefit from hearing them 🙂 Safe Travels!

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  • Romy de Jongh

    Hi Nicole!
    First of all I want so say to you that you give me a lot of inspiration! Thank you for that!
    I’m going to Uganda in 3 weeks and I know that’s an Malaria coutry
    I was wondering what you guys took or did to protect yourself to this…

    Keep up the good work
    I’m a real fan! 😉

    • Nicole Eddy

      Thanks Romy 🙂 We didn’t take any antimalarials as Winter is not malaria season. I did however end up getting Malaria from Malawi but we were slacking off with covering up at the end of the trip so it was my fault. You are going into Summer however so double check on some forums if the specific area you are going to is a malaria-area, and whether previous travellers recommend it for Uganda as most doctors would obviously say yes.

  • tompotlatch

    Good information, Nicole. The visa situation is interesting. You sort of got a weird kind f traveler’s revenge on Ben. When you visit the UK, Canada or the USA with Ben, you have all those visitor visa application hassles and costs to put up with. Ben just gets on the plane on those trips.

    In Africa, it’s really a reversed situation. Your SA passport gives you easy entry to Southern Africa countries and Ben gets all these charges for tourist permits.

    I will be interested to see where park entry and camping fees are headed. A couple of years ago, my son and I took a rental Toyota 4X4 from JNB to Kruger Park, Botswana, Zimbabwe and Namibia. It seemed to us that the classic age of simple, cheap overlanding was really over when we saw the park fees. RSA parks are still reasonable, but other countries are really sticking it to overlanders.

    • Nicole Eddy

      Thank you for your comment 🙂 Funny about the visa revenge, although I do wish that my fees for visas were only US$50, but for once, having a SA passport was so valuable. Southern Africa park fees are all still very reasonable, especially if you’re camping. RSA & Namibia are certainly the cheapest by a long shot and although we thought that Zimbabwe was expensive, it was nothing until we reached East Africa…which will certainly deter me from visiting East African safari parks again as a South African.

      • tompotlatch

        Thanks for your response. It seems to me that for Kenya and Tanzania, they are now going down the Maldives route for tourism — where your destination becomes ultra luxurious and aimed at the worldwide one percent. With all the very expensive luxury camps taking over tourism in the Kenya and Tanzania parks, camping overlanders are suffering from the way the tourism market is developing. I’m pleased that camping is still a still a good travel option in the RSA.

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