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Shipping from Israel to Greece

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Wed, September 04, 2013 00:28:19

Coming up the east coast of Africa there are at the moment very limited options for finding your way to Europe without container shipping. The ferry that used to run from Egypt has been canceled, and the other routes from Egypt through Libya or east via Syria are closed because of unrest or sivil war. This leaves Israel and two ferries, and these reach three ports on the European mainland.

From Haifa there is a Ferry going to Greece via Cyprus. You can take the car to both destinations, and from Cyprus you can take a another ferry to Turkey. If you take the Ferry all the way to Greece, you land in Lavrio just south of Athens. The third option is a Ferry from Ashrod to the west side of Italy. This is more expensive and takes almost a week, but take you straight to Central Europe.



The ferry from Haifa was smooth, and the "border"/port to Greece was very easy.
Contact in Haifa is Rosenfeldt Shipping. Alice Rozner will book you on the ferry. We came to the office the day before the sailing to pay for the tickets. It is 690 € for the car and 300 € per person. You get a cabin, and we were 6 passengers on the ferry. All meals are included and quite good (at least from an African point of view). Make sure you have the European Green Card for proof of insurance (but you should have this to get into Israel as well.)

Before driving onboard you have to register at the port office. It is just across the road from the shipping company, and it took us 30 minutes the same day as we payed the tickets. They charge 1308 Shekels (about 280 €) port fee. Less (about 100 €) if your car weighs less than 1400 kilograms. This fee will be the same if you enter through Haifa.

To find the office can be tricky, but here are the instructions: Walk up the bridge/ramp (Number 5), past one unmanned gate, and walk over to the gate with a security checkpoint. Check in. Take right across the small footbridge to the nearest building (10 meters). Inside, walk down the stairs one floor, take right from the bottom of the stairs, then first to the left, at the end turn right, and go through the door to an office cubicle/counters landscape. Ask the first person you see how to pay the port fee. Easy :-) A paper/receipt you get here has to be taken back to the shipping office.




We were told to show up next day at 1500 sharp at the same gate as where we went for the port fees. Drive up the ramp and wait. A guy from the shipping company takes you into the port area, through immigration (got a few questions about why we went to Sudan, but no problem at all ("its the only way", seems to explain it)), and then clear customs. There is a few stops and a few hundred meters driving around port to get the exit stamp and to cancel your temporary vehicle import. You drive your car onboard, and park basically just next to the cabins. You have access to the car at all times. Passports are handed in to the crew/captain.



The ferry stops at Cyprus for 6-8 hours, and you can go off and see Limasol (not drive). I don't know much about customs here, but I know they charges for the port and the paperwork. More cargo was loaded, and we were told that during winter the ferry was normally full from Israel transporting trailers with fruits and vegetables to the European market.



Driving off the ferry for the last leg home...




In Greece you drive off the ferry and park. It took about an hour to get our papers as there were a lot of cars (people on holiday) from Cyprus. No passengers though. When we got the vehicle paper (some kind of Bill of Lading, I believe), we got our passports and we just drove out. No inspections, no costs.

Easy! :-)

Espen

Contact info:

Alicia Rozner
A.Rosenfeld Shipping Ltd. (Haifa, Israel)
Reservations Dept.
T + 972 4 8613 671
F + 972 4 8537 002
alicia@rosenfeld.net

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Taba in Egypt to Eilat in Israel

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Mon, August 12, 2013 19:47:36

Crossing the border to Israel is another one of the infamous border crossings in Africa. Many travelers have told us about hours and hours of questioning and waiting. Some even say that they don’t even want to try as chances for getting a visa is slim. Some overlanders we knew well drove through Israel a few months before us, and they reported back that the crossing is slow and tedious, but that it’s not really a problem. As you know from previous blogs, our first plan was to cross from Egypt to Jordan, and then from Jordan to Israel. As we were delayed first into Egypt, and then stopped by the demonstration and unrest, we decided to try to ship out from Egypt to Turkey. This didn’t work out as planned, and the only option left to us was to drive across the Sinai, and ship out from Israel. Now we were even more delayed as we’d been waiting in Port Said to arrange the shipping out of Egypt, so we saw Jordan being postponed to a later trip. We drove to Taba and started the process of leaving Egypt. T&he main road ends in the border station..

Compared to the customs in Aswan, the Taba customs came close to be referred to as efficient. Everything is relative in this world. We were three cars driving together, and this slows down the process considerably as the officials for some reason like to get all three of us through a certain step in the process before moving on to the next one.



After driving into the customs zone, and pay 2 EL each (about 35 cents), you take a left a few meters after the gate (and just in from of the Immigration Office) and park on a big parking lot to the left of the Immigration building. Proceed to the building on the other side of the parking lot.



Walk in through the door in the center of the building, and turn right to find the customs office. And the very first step was for the guys at the customs to call and get the guy with the stamps to come to the office. This never stops to amaze me… Anyway. There is a form to fill in, and to process the Carnet you have to pay 21 EL.

Next step is to go across the hall to the police office (in through the main door and to the left). While we were in the customs office, and engineer was outside to get the vin number from the Patrol. Also here he needed to “rub” off a print on the vin number stamped into the frame of the car. In the police office another form has to be filled in, and then you can hand in the Egyptian transit license plates. The fee is 10 LE. We got receipts for the costs.

From here proceed to the Immigration office. Note that this is the only border where we’ve processed the vehicle before our passports. We walked back to the Immigration building and got the exit stamp in our passports. You leave on the other side of the immigration building, but it is okay to walk around back to the parking lot. Paperwork finished!

But the most meaningless and annoying part is still to come. Before they let you drive over to the Israeli side, they need to inspect the vehicles. Every overlander we’ve talked to say the same. In our case there were two officers going through the whole car. There was a third one coming over and asked Malin to open the backdoors, but she said no, as we like to see what is going on. Each of us watched one customs officer. We’re not sure why it is important for them to do this on exit and not on entry, as there was no inspection in Aswan upon entry. We suspect it is because it would be embarrassing for the Egyptians if the Israelis find things they don’t, but who knows. And because they wanted to inspect all three cars before letting any of us through, we spent about two and a half hours on the Egyptian side. Much of it waiting for the inspection of the two other vehicles.

Finally we could drive across to the Israeli side. Here they have a system where only one car can drive in at the time. Before they let us in they collected our passports and vehicle papers, and looked under the car with a mirror. And as overland vehicles generally are so full of stuff there was only enough space on the parking outside the customs building for two cars. The British guy was “stuck” at the gate while we and a German couple emptied our cars into plastic boxes and “shopping carts”. Fortunately we were mentally prepared for this, and we knew beforehand that EVERYTHING has to come out of the car. I’ll say it again: absolutely everything that is not permanently bolted in place goes out! Knifes and dangerous looking tools, like an axe, is collected, and we were told we would get these back at the exit gate. When everything is out, all this goes through a luggage scanner. It really is incredible how much crap is collected over three years of overlanding… The car also goes through a vehicle scanner, and a customs officer makes a manual/visual check in a closed garage. You are not allowed to drive the car in, and you are not allowed to be there to monitor the inspection. This is slow and time consuming, but everybody involved are very professional and polite. Everything is thoroughly explained, and you’re even offered soft drinks from the custom officers. At no time were we worried about our stuff or things “disappearing ”. When everything has gone through the scanner, we proceed to the Immigration in the same building.

Malin and the retired German couple got their three months tourist visas right away. It took about two minutes. They do not stamp your passport, but give you a small printed piece of paper with the visa. British guy and I were told we had to talk to another officer before we would get our visas. I was called into another office and a nice lady asked me a couple of questions about our trip. The Sudanese stamp in my passport was mentioned, but when I explained that this is the only way to drive through Africa (eastern route) it was not an issue. They wanted my father and my grandfather’s name so they could run a security check on me, and I believe it was the same for the British guy. We waited about 15 minutes for the security check to go through, and she came out with our visas.

When the visas were ready we went back outside and started loading everything back into the car. 30 minutes later we drove towards the exit gate, and parked there. In a building just to the right of the gate, is the desk that issues the temporary vehicle permit and where pick up your vehicle papers. They do not process the Carnet. European insurance companies can issue a so called Green Card, and we had picked up ours when we were home. If you don’t have this you need to buy an Israeli insurance here at the border. There is another building on the left just before the exit gate where you can buy this. In the same building it is also possible to exchange money. We got our temporary vehicle permit and were ready to go. There are no costs at the Israeli side of the border, unless you need to pick up local insurance. I don’t have the prices for the Israeli insurance, but it is quite expensive. I think one of the other guys said he paid over 100 USD for three weeks.

When we drove up to the gate, a guy handed back our kitchen knifes and the axe. The whole process on the Israeli side took us at least four hours, so in total for crossing this border it was nearly seven hours for the three cars. If we’d been alone it would be less, but you should count on five – six hours and make sure to have some snacks or food available. Anyway, we were in Israel!

Espen



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Sudan to Egypt on Lake Nasser

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Wed, August 07, 2013 21:23:54

Usually we post the border crossing info only on our unurban.no website, but this one was kind of different. It also turned out that we have a new record in time to get the car into a country. USA with 7 days is now down to second place… The Sudan – Egypt crossing over Lake Nasser is famous for most of the wrong reasons, and the Egyptian customs is also well known for its bureaucracy and corruption. And yes, we found out for ourselves.

Firstly, keep in mind that you’re not allowed to drive across the border between Sudan and Egypt. At least, this is what we’ve heard from all overlanders we’ve met. It is not entirely correct, but for practical reasons, this has been the only option for a normal size 4x4 overland vehicle for years and years. There are roads, and local trucks drive this from time to time. It is also possible to get a permit if you have a truck that is too big for the barge, say a large MAN 4x4 or 6x6 truck camper. However, this is both time consuming and very expensive. A while back there was some talk about opening the border also for tourists. For the last months we’ve heard that this will be any day now, but when we came to Wadi Halfa in Sudan the border was still closed. We could of course pay our way, but it would still be at least three weeks waiting for the permit from the Egyptian military to drive the road from the border to Aswan. And the price would have been double from what it costs to put the car on a barge and ourselves on the ferry.

So we decided for the ferry. The ferry leaves every Tuesday from Wadi Halfa. In June the ferry runs twice a week due to local holidays. This is a passenger ferry only, so the car has to go separately on a barge. The barge leaves when it is full, or when the captain thinks he has enough cargo to make a decent profit. This will of course also depend on the price you’re willing to pay. We called a recommended fixer a few hours before arriving in Wadi Halfa, and four days before the passenger ferry should leave on the next Tuesday. We agreed to meet at 0800 the next morning in town. The fixer showed up, two hours after we had agreed to meet. I’ll be honest anough to say that the first impression wasn’t the best. For some reason the fixers seem to think it is important to brag about how many overlanders they know and have helped. They do also like to tell us that they know many Norwegian overlanders, which we know for a fact is a lie. Eventually getting down to business he gave us correct prices and seemed to know what he was doing. We agreed on prices and how he would proceed with the paperwork. He got copies of all the necessary papers, and we went back into the desert and camped for a couple of days. Tuesday morning we were told to meet him back in town.

During these couple of days, a British overlander also came to Wadi Halfa. We’d met him a couple of times along the way from Ethiopia, and he had called ahead to another fixer and booked shipping for this date about a month in advance. Make a mental note of this.

Tuesday morning we met our fixer outside the local police station in the center of town. We filled in a form, and he took our passports and went inside. We waited in the car. The British guy was also there, and his fixer did the same thing for him. Worth mentioning is that the two most known fixers in Wadi Halfa, Magdi and Masar, are uncle and nephew, and they work together in the same company. Anyway! Our fixer came back with our passports and we drove to the ferry. The port is a couple of kilometers north of town, and there is a checkpoint a few hundred meters before the terminal building. Our fixer had our tickets and the papers for the port, and we drove in. The cars were parked inside a fenced area “behind” the passenger terminal. We were told to leave all our stuff there, and walk around to the front where we would begin the process of checking out of Sudan. After an hour waiting we finally had our exit stamp, and we were back in the fenced compound behind the terminal building where we parked the cars. We packed some clothes, sleeping mats, sleeping bags, water and some snacks, and waited for the bus that would take us to the pier where the ferry was docked. Around three o’clock we were on the ferry. Our Patrol and the British Land Rover Discovery were left in the hands of our fixers, with the promise of being loaded on the next barge, probably later that same day. Docked next to the ferry was a barge with a big American pick-up truck with a massive camper. We later learned from the owner that they had to pay quite a bit extra because, “this truck was so big that they couldn’t fit other cars on the barge”. Well, it was quite big, and we didn’t think more about it. The passenger ferry left around five in the afternoon, and we installed ourselves as best as we could together with all the other passengers. The capacity was pushed to the limit, and I’m not talking about the limit that the ship builder had in mind when they built it, but more like the physical limit of keeping the boat floating. It was packed with people.

It is baking hot, and staying inside is not very comfortable. There is of course no air conditioning. Most people stay on deck, and so did we. We had a tarp and some rope and made it as comfortable as possible. The trip takes close to two days (15-20 hours), and a meal is included.

The ferry trip was relatively uneventful, but not unpleasant. We arrived safely in Aswan the next day, and the ferry across Lake Nasser is somehow a part of the eastern overland route through Africa. That said, now I’ve done it, and I don’t think I’ll be doing it again anytime soon. Coming into port at Aswan, we saw a fully loaded barge anchored up next to where the ferry docked. On a closer look we noticed a Landcruiser under all the boxes. Not good. In Wadi Halfa we met a South African couple coming south disembarking from the ferry we were leaving on. They told us that they were expecting their car, a Landcruiser, in, probably the same day. Our fixer in Wadi Halfa confirmed this and told us that our Patrol and the Land Rover were going on this barge back to Aswan. Great…

Can you spot the Toyota?

The fixer that met us in Aswan took us through customs. It was mayhem going through with all the people and cargo from the ferry, but an hour later we were officially in Egypt. This fixer told us the same thing, that the barge in the port was the one going to Wadi Halfa to pick up our car. It would of course leave almost right away and be back here in a couple of days. Not much we could do about it, so we went to a hotel and checked in for a few nights. Little did we know that we would be staying in this hotel for more than a week.

Two days later we get a phone call from our Aswan fixer. Our car is now on a barge at the port. They did manage to put a second car on the same barge as the big American truck camper. Instantly we assumed it couldn’t be the Patrol. After all, the British overlander in his Land Rover Discovery had booked his shipping almost a month before us, and we assumed that he would have the space on the first available barge. We went to the port and on the barge was the Patrol. Yes! We don’t know what happened, but we found out from the Swiss couple who owned the camper that they were using the same fixer as us. It could be that simple. But the two fixers work for the same company, so it still doesn’t make sense. Another thing we learned was that our fixer was getting married a few days after we left on the ferry. We were speculating if this was the uncle’s favor, giving away his client’s space on the barge so that our fixer could leave Wadi Halfa for Khartoum to get married. Or we simply got lucky. Who knows?

Well, at least we felt lucky for about the 15 minutes it took to drive the cars off the barge and up to the customs office. As we’ve pointed out in earlier border crossing blogs, we like to have all our papers sorted out and in order. And so it was this time. We have been travelling for a long time, and when we flew back to Norway for work, we made sure to extend our Carnet de Passage so it would be valid for the time it would take us to drive back to Europe. We used the extended Carnet for Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, and Sudan, but of course, Egypt has to come up with some rules of their own. We were told by the Customs Officer that this Carnet would not be accepted without a stamp from the Egyptian Automobil Association in addition to our Norwegian extension stamp. The problem it turned out, was that the extension stamp was only on the front page of the Carnet, not on the individual pages inside. A junior officer suggested that they could take a copy of the front page and attach it to file, but the officer in charge had made up his mind.


Driving up the ramp from the barge. To drive out, you have to go through the gate and up to the building you see on the right side of the pic. This is the customs and immigration offices. Walking up from the ferry you go through the blue gate to the right.

Under: parked outside the customs and immigrations building




We called the Egyptian Automobil Association and asked what this was all about, and a very helpful lady told me that this was not a problem, and as soon as she got a confirmation from the Automobil Association in Norway, she would send a fax to the customs in Aswan stating that my Carnet was valid. Excellent! Unfortunately this was on a Saturday afternoon, and in Norway everything is closed during the weekend. Monday morning I was on the phone with Oslo, and it took them only a few minutes to send the confirmation to Egypt. They also explicitly explained that the extension stamp goes only on the front page, not inside.


I called back to the helpful lady, and she told me she would check her fax right away and get back to me. Nothing happens. I call back, and this time she tells me she is sorry, but that I would have to talk to her manager. He explains that this is not possible at all, and that I have to pay 2500 EL, about 350 USD, so that one of his men can come to Aswan from Cairo to stamp my Carnet, or I have to come to Cairo to have the Carnet stamped at the Automobil Club office for a fee of 300 EL, about 43 USD. To do this I would need to book an overnight train ticket or plane ticket, a hotel in Cairo, and then a ticket back south to Aswan the next day. After being told that this should be no problem, I’m getting pretty angry about the whole thing. Something isn’t right here, and I call the fixer and start asking questions. Eventually I learn that the guy in charge of the Carnet de Passage in the Automobil Club in Cairo used to work in Aswan, and is a friend of the Customs officer. If this is true, the organization behind the Carnets, TIA in France, should really take a look at this. On the other hand, Egypt is probably one of the last countries in the world that actually requires this document from travellers. According to Egyptians we’ve talked to, visiting vehicles from the neighboring countries are issued temporary import permits as everywhere else in the world. Looking at TIA’s website, the newest information I could find was from 2004. Personally I don’t think the Carnet de Passage will be around for much longer.

I get back on the phone with the Norwegian Automobil Association, and they promise to write me a new Carnet and send it by DHL the same day. I don’t have to pay for the new Carnet, and the DHL fee is a lot less than what it would have cost me to go to Cairo or have the guy bring the stamps to Aswan. Issuing a new Carnet and have it sent from Norway to Aswan also takes about the same time as it would take me to go to Cairo or to wait for the guy from the Egyptian Automobil Association. I guess this is why Europe is Europe and Egypt is still Africa…

Thursday at noon I have the new Carnet in my hands in Aswan. I call the fixer and we all go to the port. The senior officer is nowhere to be seen, and the younger officer processes the Carnet, we pay the port fees, parking fee, and insurance, and three hours later we put on our temporary Egyptian license plates and drive out from the port. It is a good feeling, but it has taken nine days of our 30 day tourist visa, and the whole thing just because of a corrupt and incompetent customs officer. Egypt deserves better.



ToDo Info:

Fixer in Wadi Halfa, Sudan: Mazar, telephone: +249 122380740, email: mazarhalfa@gmail.com

Fixer in Aswan, Egypt: Kamal, telephone: +20 (0) 10 053 22669

We booked the sailing from Wadi Halfa to Aswan. The prices we got from Mazar are as follows:

* Car on the barge: 220 USD

* Customs fees: 30 USD (we’re not exactly sure about the price for the barge and custom fee. We have heard different prices, and we agreed on a total price. We paid about two-thirds in Sudanese pounds and the rest in USD (6,5 Sudanese Pounds to 1 USD))

* Per person on the ferry: 40 USD

* Fee to fixer: 30 USD

* Total costs in Sudan: 360 USD



Costs in Aswan:

* Tourist Visas for Egypt: 15 USD per person (Note: The passports are collected in a box when you board the ferry in Wadi Halfa, and you get them back in Aswan)

* Custom in Aswan DOES NOT accept extended Carnets unless it is extended in Egypt!

* Custom fee: 520 EL

* Insurance, license plates, and driver license: 250 EL (we heard 230 from other travelers)

* Parking at the port (as we were delayed): 190 EL (it is about 30-35 EL per day, and you pay about half to the police and half to customs).

* Fee to fixer: 40 USD or 300 LE

* Entrance to port: 10 EL per person to the police


Good luck! smiley

Espen




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Malawi to Tanzania at Songwe

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Sun, September 16, 2012 19:46:06

As far as I know there is only one border crossing between Malawi and Tanzania. At least on the maps. Songwe border post is on the M1 main road between the two countries. We arrived just before lunch on the Malawian side.

This is the second border in Africa where “helpers”, or whatever you should call them, start chasing after you a hundred meters or so before you reach the entry gate to the border post. Here it was money changers and a couple of insurance sellers. If we can avoid it we never exchange money on the street. Official visas are normally paid in dollars, and at most border crossings it is not too far to the next town with an ATM. The last few years has seen an explosion of these machines all over. In some cases, the insurance at the border has to be paid in local currency (or the dollar exchange rate at the insurance company is terrible). Then you have to either get money from a bank or official exchange office in the country you are leaving (or another traveler coming the other way), or exchange money at the border. At least, at this border we’d heard that there was an official exchange office.

Well. We drove into the border area ignoring the “helpers” shouting outside our windows. Exiting a country is normally the fastest part, and we parked just to the left of the gates (where you see the truck in the distance). Immigration and Customs are in the building to the right of the gates, straight ahead in the pic. No parking fees or anything, even if people come over and want to help (we didn’t really pay attention to what they were saying, just parked, locked the car, and walked into the Immigration office). Had to fill in an exit form for Immigrations, but the stamps came quick. Desk to the right was Customs, and one officer had to take the Carnet into the office in the back to have it stamped and punched into the computer by another official. A little slow, but came back with our Carnet 10 minutes later. No inspection. We drove through the gate to no-man’s land after about 25 minutes.

We’d heard about an official Money Exchange office, but the only one we found close to the Malawi side was for customers of a certain bank, or something. They couldn’t help us.

A couple of hundred meters on we drove over the bridge separating the two countries, and drove in through the entry gates to the Tanzanian border post. The gate into the Tanzanian border area is open, and you just drive straight in.

Just after the gate we saw a sign to some run down small buildings with “Exchange” and “Insurance” written on them. We decided to walk back after processing the papers.

This picture is taken out of the window to the right, just after driving in through the gate to the Tanzanian border post. The Exchange office is the second building to the left, but it was the same rate as a guy sitting inside (!) the Immigration/Customs building.

There is only one big building at the border. Turn left just after the entry gate, and park outside.

Inside the Immigration is to the far left. Fill in entry form, and get you entry visa. Price is 50 USD per person (Norwegian citizen), and it is paid at Immigration desk. We didn’t get a paper receipt, but they wrote “Paid 50 USD” next to the visa stamp in our passports.

Next thing was a guy that wanted to check our yellow fever certificates. We found this a bit strange as we weren’t coming from a yellow fever area, but we heard from other travelers that they actually had to take the vaccine at the border for the price of 50 USD per person if they wanted to get into the country (this was however at a different border crossing).

Finally, and things hadn’t taken too much time so far, was the Carnet for our car. We knew from other travelers that there is a 20 or 25 USD road tax in Tanzania. At this border they show us that we have to pay 5 + 20 USD, and the 20 USD is supposedly a monthly fee. Make sure you don’t say that you are staying longer than you actually plan to do. This is paid in an office in the back. With the receipts, we get the necessary stamps on our Carnet, and are ready to go. No inspection. Just the insurance is left to organize. The customs officers tell me we can buy insurance in the street just outside the gate in Tanzania, the office we saw on our way in is closed.

We drove to the gate, showed our papers and receipts, wrote our license number into a huge book, and went to look for insurance…

The insurance we were looking for is something called COMESA or “Yellow card”. It is liability insurance valid for Libya, Egypt, Sudan, Ethiopia, Eritrea, Kenya, Tanzania, Uganda, Rwanda, Zambia, Malawi, Burundi, Congo, Djibouti, Zimbabwe, and Swaziland. We’ve been looking for it further south along the way, but we haven’t been able to find a place to buy it. We should perhaps have looked harder to avoid spending time trying to sort it out at a border.

Anyway! The people trying to sell us this insurance are of course the same people that have been on us the whole time since we arrived at the border. Not very reassuring. They show us one office with no name or even a signs saying “insurance”. And of course, the price they give us is ridiculous. Fortunately we had info saying that a six months insurance could be bargained down to 100 USD. After a lot of huffing and puffing a couple of phone calls to “the boss” this was okay. I then asked for a 3 months policy. Not popular. “That is the same price”! Sure… I decided to invest the time and walk around and just ask people in the other stalls/shops along the road. Eventually I ended up back at the border where I started talking to one of the immigration officers. He called an insurance agent he knew, and told me the price should be 80 USD for a 3 months policy. A couple of minutes later this guy showed up on a bicycle, and took me to another office. It turned out that he didn’t have more forms for the COMESA, so he called one of the guys that had been around. He showed up with the COMESA paperwork, and almost an hour after I started, I walked out with an insurance valid for eastern and northeast Africa for three months.

I'm not sure if it is a pint in explaining where the "insurance office" was. They told me that they could not put up a proper office with a logo and prices listed on the wall because they would be so heavily taxed by the government. It seemd they used other offices as a cover, and showed up with the necessary paerwork on request. Not sure though. The office where I got my COMESA was down a path along the fence of the border post. In the picture above, it is down to the left directly after the gate, and it is only a footpath. 50 meters down there is a building on the right with a "public office"-looking logo. Sorry that I don't have a picture. This is where I met Jonathan (info below)

Maybe I should’ve just bought the 100 USD 6 months COMESA and saved me half an hour, but it is so annoying that everybody wants to cheat us. The first price I got for 6 months was 160 USD, so I guess it was worth spending the time.

At least here is the result:

Up to 3 months: 80 USD (according to the guys it was the same for 1 to 3 months)

3 to 6 months: 100 USD

6 to 12 months: 180 USD

The guys I ended up buying from was Jonathan Mwasumbi (Real Insurance Co) and Jerison Anangisye (NIC – National Insurance Co). You can ask around for them, and the prices should be as mentioned above. Another note on the COMESA is that it is cheaper to buy it in some of the countries further north, but this doesn’t really help you much when coming from the south.

But we’re in Tanzania!!!

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Mozambique to Malawi

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Tue, August 28, 2012 22:31:09

The slowest border crossing so far in Africa was when we crossed from Mandimba in Mozambique to Chiponde in Malawi a couple of days ago. No difficulties, really, but it reminded me a little more about some of the borders we crossed in Central America. It was also the first border crossing in Africa where we have had money changers trying to find business, and there were many!

The money changers started chasing after us already in the town of Mandimba a few kilomters before the border. We told them we weren’t interested, and filled up with fuel for our last Meticals.

From paved streets in town, we turned onto a narrow, potholed road going to the border. At first sight it looked a little chaotic with a line of trucks, but we did as we always do, drive on until we see the Immigration office or a proper gate. A little bit further past the trucks we found both and parked directly outside the Immigration and Customs office (left hand side).

Getting our exit stamps from Mozambique was quick and easy. We filled in a tourist form (name and details of the trip), and the immigration officer checked our visas and stamped us out. Next counter was customs, and he took care of the Carnet for the vehicle after I had showed him where to write what and which part of the Carnet customs would normally keep. It took us about 15 minutes.

When we got back in the car, we drove over to the gate leading into no-mans-land, and the guard opened the gate and let us in without even talking to us. Two kilometers further on, you’ll get to the Malawian border post.

This wasn’t as obvious as the one in Mozambique, but not really too complicated. There was no sign on the buildings visible from the car when we drove in, so we parked on the side of the road and went out to take a look. The immigration and customs turned out to be in the building on the right hand side, just next to the gate (to the right (with the flag) in the pic above). As usual we start with Immigration. The officer asked us a couple of questions about where we came from and where we were going, and then gave us a tourist form to fill in. After completing the form he granted us 30 days visa (maximum for a standard tourist visa) and stamped our passports. For Norwegian citizens there is no cost for this kind of visa, and I think this should be the same for most Europeans, North Americans, and Common Wealth nationalities.

With the passports ready we moved across the room to Customs. The first thing we noticed was a printed paper taped to the inside of the window over the counter saying “documentation fee 5000 Kwacha – no exceptions” (15 USD), and I thought, here we go… To my surprise the officer knew exactly what the Carnet was and how to fill it in, and there was no charge. I even asked if this was it, or if there were other fees or taxes I would need to pay in order to drive legally in Malawi, but he told me that with a Carnet there was nothing more except a third party insurance that was required. Excellent! We had read different things, and a 20 USD road tax was mentioned. We left the office, and went in search for the insurance company.

There is supposedly only one insurance company present at the border. 30 days liability insurance for a normal car (our Patrol was described as a “sedan” and not a “pick-up/truck”?) is 7500 Kwacha (27 USD). An alternative would have been to find the COMESA insurance which is valid for Eastern African (and even some Northern, Central, and Southern) countries, but so far we have not been able to find a place where they sell it. It should be possible to find in Malawi, but they could not help us at the insurance company at the border. We also ended up having to exchange a few USD in order to pay for the insurance as the insurance company could only give us a really lousy rate (like 30% under actual). Try to pick one that seems to be polite and who is a likable guy.

The insurance office is the one under the sign ”Prime Insurance”, and is on the left hand side of the road, just before the gate.

Malawi is also the first country since Belize where we needed to put a sticker on the windshield. One of the guys from the insurance company came with us to the car and took care of that.

With the papers processed and the new insurance in place, we got back in the car and drove up to the gate. The guard came over to my window and asked if he could see the TIP (temporary import permit), and when I told him I had no TIP but a Carnet, he answered, “ah”. “And you have stamped your passports?” – Yes, of course. “And you have remembered insurance?”. Absolutely. “Then welcome to Malawi, and have a good day!”. And he opened the gate.

Total time, including the money exchange and insurance process was about one hour and 15 minutes. Not bad compared to some of the borders in Central America, but still the slowest in Africa so far. Also worth mentioning is that all the border officials were very nice and polite.

Espen



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