Vehicle Documentation

Carnet de Passage en Douane

A virtually essential travel document for the vehicle allowing temporary import, duty free, into countries rather than paying a deposit against import duties; keep very secure. Make sure the customs official completes the individual sheet correctly as not all, especially at the quieter crossing, are au fait with carnets and the procedures.


Costs involved in getting a carnet are large and vary according to the nominal import duty charged by the country against the vehicle’s worth. Almost all the African countries have 150% import duties (e.g. a £10,000 vehicle will attract a £15,000 import duty) but Kenya is 200% and Egypt a massive 800%.


There are various methods of providing security: bank guarantee; insurance indemnity; or cash deposit and most of the costs involved are refunded once the correctly completed carnet is returned to the issuer. We opted for the insurance indemnity as it required a lot less up-front cash.


The carnet is valid for a 12 month period but can easily be extended. As it happened, our vehicle remained in South Africa beyond its 12 months, with the shipping agent, but he arranged with the South African customs to get it extended without problem. The carnet is a complex document; the UK issuing authority is the RAC and they are very helpful – full details on their website.


Should you not be the vehicle owner you will need a letter of authority from the owner giving all drivers permission to have the vehicle.


UK Vehicle Insurance

Normally not valid for foreign travel to Africa: we cancelled ours as of the date of delivery to shipping agent. Probably possible to arrange cover, but no doubt at a cost. Minimum legal cover is provided in each country we visited by various methods. We knew we would have no cover for own fault damage, theft (a very real risk), and fire; also little chance of making a successful third party claim against an at-fault driver. This was accepted as a risk associated with the trip and if, for example, the vehicle was hijacked that would be the end of the adventure. As it happens we had no accidents or mishaps but could be a distinct possibility, judging by the manner of driving of some drivers.


UK Test (MoT) Certificate

Not valid abroad (outside EU) and no means of renewing it so we let ours just lapse.


UK Vehicle Tax

Taking the vehicle abroad for more than 12 months is considered permanent export and the DVLA require notification. For periods of less than 12 months – we SORNed (Statutory Off-road Notification) our vehicle from the date of delivery to the shipping agent and got a refund on the remaining months. Remove the expired tax disc from windscreen if you still have it, as an expired one will confuse officials. It is possible to renew tax abroad but current insurance and MoT are required and seems to be unnecessary apart from making return easier.

There is much official confusion regarding the situation regarding SORNing (apparently vehicle should be in UK) and if out of UK for more than 12 months. You are advised to make your own enquiries - at least you will know the pitfalls! 


Vehicle Registration Document V5C

Take original and various copies.


Documentation on returning to the UK 

Assuming the above documents have expired on return to the UK the problem of transporting from the shipping agent to home arises. Insurance can be obtained to cover the journey and it is possible to drive without MOT and Vehicle Tax but only if the journey is directly to and from a pre-arranged MOT. We opted to have ours delivered by vehicle transporter, at a cost obviously, as we knew the vehicle would be off the road for a while whilst it was prepared for its MoT and we still had the oil in the coolant problem.


UK Driving licence

You will need a valid photo licence (card and paper section make up a valid licence) covering the period of the trip; renew prior to leaving should it have an expiry date during the trip. Photo licences are valid for ten years only, even though entitlement to drive is until the age of 70.


International Driving Permit

Obtainable from the RAC and cost £5.50 for each one; you can have more than one. A very handy document for production at the numerous African police checks and means that if unlawfully seized you still hold a valid UK licence or spare IDP to continue. Document never queried at any police check. Zanzibar does not accept domestic licences and you will need a Zanzibar permit or International Permit.