Monday, 19 November 2012

Trip Preparation

The below is a summary of all I have learnt over the last couple of years planning this trip, I hope it is helpful, it is as yet incomplete, but I will endeavour to add to it as I get time on the trip.

Useful Sources
I have made use of many sources for planning the trip, but some of the most useful have been:

The Hubb – Horizons Unlimited – a site primarily for bikers but summarily used by overlanders – a fountain of searchable knowledge –

4x4 Cafe – catalogue of info about planning an overland trip – I found looking at the spec of cars for sale particularly useful –

GapYear4x4 – blog of a couple who did London to Capetown a couple of years back, which is the definitive source for border crossings –

Carnet to Passage

The Carnet is essential for taking your car to most African countries. It acts as a kind of passport for your car, and involves a bond, held in your home country, to prevent you importing the car without paying import duty.

The issuing body in the UK is the RAC. The process is very simple, and they are more than happy to talk you through it on the phone. Try to arrange at least one month before you leave.

The most important thing to consider is the value of your car. The bond you need to hold will be a multiple of that (note, this is book value, rather than market value, which can be much lower in older cars)

The best way to find out the book value is to buy a copy of Glasses guide, but the only place I know you can buy these is at a DCA car auction (though your local car dealer will have one for their own use).

The bond multiple is 2 or 3 times the value for most countries, but for Egypt, it's 8x, so if you plan to go through there, buy an old car!

There are three ways to hold the bond.

1. Arrange a bank guarantee through your mortgage provider (if you own a house)
2. Find a lot of cash
3. Take out bond insurance with RL Davidson (again though, all arranged through the RAC)

The insurance option costs 10% of the value of the bond (ie if going to Egypt, value of car x 8 x 10%), but you get half of it back when you return the carnet after your trip


We only got Ethiopian visas before travel, and expect to be able to do the rest at borders. We'll see how that goes!


There are 3 ferries involved in our trip:

Dover - Calais: Easy – you could even take the train if you were feeling flash

Turkey (Iskenduren) - Egypt (Port Said)

This ferry has primarily come into existence to serve truckers no longer able to navigate the route to Africa via Syria, so will hopefully be short lived.

There is an excellent post on the Hubb by Ben, which you can see here:.

Some thoughts / additions from our experience:

The optional $60 charge by the travel company to navigate customs is exorbitant, but you need to bear in mind that nearly everyone else just pays it, so there is no system / support for those who don’t

Some notes which should help you navigate:

You need to secure 2 stamps in your passport before you can join the ferry
  • The customs stamp (car owner only)
  • Visa exit stamp

The process you need to follow after arrival at Liman B (to be safe I would aim to be there by c.9am on the day of departure – even though the ferry is unlikely to depart before dark, it will be easier to get the paperwork done earlier in the day):

Arrive at gate and park up behind the portacabins

Take car insurance / ownership docs and passports to customs official (light blue uniform)

He will review these docs, check over the car, and then will probably get security to escort you to where you will wait for the ferry (these security guards are from a company called Securitas and wear transparent uniforms)

Once at this car park, expect no more help / direction, you are on your own!

From around 9.30am, you will start to see a medium sized blue bus running people back and forth (it may park behind the waiting room building so keep a keen eye)

Get on this bus with all your documents, it will run back the way you came, past the Liman B entrance, and over to Liman A

There, exit the bus, show the guards your passports and ask for customs / Gumruk

You will then need to walk away from the port for c.5 mins, before taking the first right, follow this around until you see a very tall building with a blue frontage – customs is located on the 9th floor (this is open 9-5, with an hour closure for lunch 12-1 – it’s also outside the port complex, so you could probably have a go the day before)

Show your insurance, ownership docs and passport here to get a customs exit stamp

Return to your car via the same bus

You will then need to get a visa exit stamp from the police – here we showed our passports without a stamp, and were ushered off to the right place, but if that doesn’t work, the police are in the furthest office at the back of the block of buildings where the waiting rooms are (about 5 mins walk)

These guys speak a bit of English, and are helpful, but for some reason wear no uniforms
After that, follow the crowd / Ben's directions and you’ll be fine!

Aswan (Egypt) – Wadi Halfa (Sudan)

This is the only way to get between Egypt and Sudan (there is a road, but no land border at present).

There are lots and lots of posts about this on the hubb, but this is the one I found the most useful:

Roof Tent (and getting on the roof)

Having deliberated long and hard about getting a roof tent for the trip, I am so glad I did. It’s really simple, and comfortable, and has the added benefit of allowing you to camp in RV parks / car parks where there is only a hard surface.

They are very pricey, but you can save a lot by shopping wisely on ebay, where a stream of decent tents comes up at 2-3 per month.

A couple of lessons I learnt in the process which I didn’t read anywhere before buying:
  • These things are massive, and unlikely to fit in the back of any car – if buying second hand you need to have a roof rack / bars / a big van to put it on / in to get it home
  • Getting it on the roof is a 2/3/4 man job (they are 65kg and very large), though if you’re struggling to get enough friends around, and you have a tailgate, there is a way you can just about get it on the roof on your own
  • See video here on how to get a roof tent on the roof with only one person – effectively involves flipping it on to the tailgate, then on the rear of the car (which you protect with a tarp of similar), then slide it on to the back of the roof bars / rack, before levering it onto the top – worked for me! -

No comments:

Post a Comment