Africa Trip Planning (Vehicle Documents)

The documents required for vehicles throughout Africa vary although there are a few basics that remain fairly consistent for most of the continent. Remember that some of the documents required by police and/or border officials are also sometimes subject to their own personal interpretations, whims and moods (maybe even as to how much a particular matter, or person may yield in "fees").  As I mentioned on my other posts about documents, make sure you have a good number of copies, with at least a few sets certified and then scans e-mailed to your own e-mail address. Please contact me if you need a more detailed breakdown and planning for your specific vehicle.
Note that these documents below are the minimum requirements which also may change for different countries. It's important to verify and confirm requirements for vehicles before travelling. 

Carnet de Passage 

Probably the most convenient of all the vehicle documents issued by an automobile association. For UK registered vehicles, this is the RAC (link to RAC Carnet FAQ's) that issues this document. Described by them very fittingly as a passport for your vehicle. The document has two tear-off sections; one taken at the border of entry and the other at the border of exit (this is sent to the entry border as acquittal, in most countries anyway). Above these the control strip has a place for the entry and exit stamps and officials' signatures. This normally negates the necessity of temporary import documents for the vehicle.  
Note: vehicle taxes/levies are many times based on the gross weight and/or engine capacity specified on your carnet. If you need to cross rivers etc. with a ferry, the specified weight is of course also very important.

**some countries do not require/recognise a CdP and only require a Temporary Import Permit (TIP)

Photo from Wikiwand


The issue that can produce the most hassles and potentially result in quite a bit of "fees". Through East Africa the COMESA insurance, generally referred to as a "Yellow Card" is required. The countries for which it is valid will be marked in the relevant boxes. In West Africa, the equivalent is the "Brown Card" ECOWAS  insurance. Both of these can be obtained by getting vehicle insurance in one of the region's (COMESA or ECOWAS) member countries at an insurance company, additional payments per country is then levied and subsequently endorsed the regional insurance. Keep in mind that some countries will require a 3rd party insurance be purchased at the border regardless whether you have the COMESA or ECOWAS cards. In addition to this, you can of course have insurance from the country the vehicle is registered in as well; this is generally fairly expensive for travel in Africa though.

Vehicle Registration 

Certified copies (keep the originals locked away) must always be available. Both border officials and police can ask for them - and they do regularly!
Note!! if you are using/renting somebody's vehicle, you'll need a letter from that person or company authorising you to use the vehicle, also stating what purpose it's being used for, duration of use and through/to which countries.

Example of the permission letter

Certificate of Fitness 

A vehicle fitness certificate is also required and this generally needs to be done every 1-2 years. Some African countries will do a fitness certificate for foreign registered vehicles - some cheap, some expensive...bottom-line, you need it.

Entry permits/Road levy 

Some countries will charge road levies and or vehicle permits upon entry. Depending on the country, some levies are charged by period and others by destination. In the latter case, you would be obliged to pay road levy again from that location to the next destination. Ensure that these documents (many times in the form of paper discs) are visible and/or readily available for inspection.

>> CHECK THE VEHICLE DETAILS on every single document and that it corresponds exactly with the vehicle, owner and driver details...and I mean every digit of an engine and chassis number etc. This is a great potential money earner for the cops and/or officials!


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