South Africa to Mozambique

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Wed, August 01, 2012 17:21:31

Girondo Border crossing in the Kruger - Limpopo National Parks

We decided to cross the border at Girondo in the Kruger NP. This is supposed to be a quiet and easy crossing, and we also wanted to spend time in both Kruger and the Limpopo NP. As the crossing is inside the park you do of course have to pay the park entrance fees to both parks to use this border. And in order to cross the border from RSA to Mozambique, you need to have a booking for a campsite in the Limpopo NP (Mozambique)????. If you cross to Mozambique without having an overnight stay in the Kruger you need to produce proof of booking of the site in Mozambique. This is to prevent this border crossing being used for heavy traffic and smuggling. Be aware that Kruger NP does not allow day visitors to bring alcohol into the park, so if you want to bring alcohol to take with you into Mozambique, you need a stamp from the park office at the gate to prove you are staying overnight. First surprise of the day: This proved to be a challenge as we planned to cross the border with our friends from Norway in a rental car, and they were at a different campsite inside the park. We didn’t have a copy of the printout from the confirmation that was sent to us by email. We were however able to talk our way in with our red wine, but it took us quite a while. The day visitor permit for Kruger is 395 Rand for two people and the vehicle.

Border post entrance on the South Africa side

At the border we met our friends, went to the park office for our stamps (to check out of the Kruger part of the park). Normally you get this stamp as you enter Kruger (based on the booking of a campsite in Limpopo (see above...)), but both our friends coming from the south (they checked into Kruger the day before for an overnight stay on a camp in Kruger), and us that couldn’t get the stamp because of the missing booking, got the stamp at the park office at the Girondo border crossing after showing the booking for a campsite in Limpopo.

Park office first door on the right (up the "ramp"), Immigration bahind in the corner, and the Carnet was processed with the police officewr in the booth on the left hand side by the gate (in front of the white car).

Then to the second surprise. When we had the park entrance papers stamped, we proceeded to the Immigration office with our passports to get a South African exit stamp. The four of us, Malin and I and our friends from Norway, all entered South Africa from Botswana on the same day. Our friends were in front of us at the counter, they got their exit stamps, and the passports were handed back. Our turn. We gave the immigration officer our passports, and expected the formalities to be quick and easy. Not so. “There is a problem”. What? This is supposed to be South Africa, and not some banana republic. The comment came as a total surprise. We looked at each other and replied to the officer that there was absolutely no problem. We had been in the country for five – 5 – days, and our passports should be exactly as the passports of our friends in front of us.

No, no. We had overstayed our visa with two days, and for that we needed to pay a fine of 1000 Rand (about 130 USD) each. So what the he## happened here??? According to the immigration officer this is common knowledge and completely normal when you get a visa to South Africa: If you leave the country they do not cancel the visa. This means that when you reenter the country, as we did after spending six weeks in Namibia and Botswana, we still had three – 3 – days left on our visa from when we first came to South Africa. When we arrived at the border between Botswana and South Africa five days earlier, the immigration officer took the passports, stamped them, and gave them back, without saying a word. Yes, I know it is our responsibility to check the stamps carefully. I will do that next time. But the thought that something should be wrong didn’t even occur to us.

According to the immigration officer at the Girondo border the visa rules would have been explained to us carefully when we entered the second time. It was not. We would normally be offered a transit visa for seven days. We were not. This information should be all over the immigration offices. It was not. Nobody I’ve talked to have ever heard about this rule. Before crossing a border we always check the Norwegian Foreign ministry’s info pages about visas and requirements. There was no info about this. We argued for a long time that this was a mistake made by the South African Immigration, and that we should not have to pay a fine for this. If we had been made aware of the rules, we could easily have made it through in the three days we had left. There was nothing they could do, of course, so we accepted the fine. The condition was however, a bit different than we expected. It has to be paid before we can get a new visa to South Africa. So if we don’t plan on going back to South Africa, we can just forget about the whole thing. The down side is that if we have a medical emergency of any kind south of Sahara, South Africa is probably our best chance.

Later, when we found internet, Malin set out to find this information on the webpages of the South African “Homeland Security”. We have still not found it. A complaint is on its way to the embassy in Oslo. I do not feel like paying that fine.

Well. After we had signed that we accepted the fine, everything went smooth. We got the exit stamp (with a “must pay 1000 R” on it), and we proceeded to the gate with the cars. There the police were waiting for the last check, and to stamp our Carnet. Not the fastest guys in the world, but we were eventually waved through and drove 30 meters to the parking on the Mozambique side.

Drive past the building and park on the right (South Africa border in the background to the right of the building. Pic is taken out of the door after we parked).

Because of the little incident on the South African side we were now quite late. It was around 0230 in the afternoon, and the border closes at 0300. And here they did not speak much English. Fortunately, Portuguese is a kind of similar to Spanish, but it still was a pretty slow process.

First we started with our passports (as usual). The normal tourist visa is valid for 30 days and costs 80-85 USD per person. At this border crossing it was 85 USD. From here we split up. Malin go for the park office to purchase the entry permits, and I move to the next guy behind the counter for the vehicle permit. Here I also made a small mistake. As I was in line with my friend from Norway with a rental car from South Africa, the guy behind the counter prepared a Temporary Vehicle Permit for both our vehicles, also the Patrol. I should have understood that this would not be necessary for a vehicle traveling with a Carnet de Passage. Anyway, the TVP was only 10 Rand (1.3 USD), and I also chose to process my Carnet. The senior officer wanted to have a look at the vehicles, and we went with him to check out the cars. He looked in, but didn’t really seem to care. As he was just about to return to the office a younger officer with some knowledge of English showed up, and started asking about my jerry cans and if there were fuel in them. I told him that I had fuel only in one, and that was apparently okay. Not sure if it would have been different if I had all full, but it could be worth checking if anyone else is crossing into Mozambique anytime soon. Inspection passed.

Malin sorted out the Limpopo National Park entrance fees, 195 Rand for two days, and we were ready to go. The time was 0315, and we hurried out the gates as fast as we could after a final check by another officer of our paperwork.

Also worth noting is that there were no third party / liability insurance (for vehicles) available at the border as it says in some info. It is, according to the guys at the border okay to drive in the park without, and it can be purchased at the park office in Messingir (where you normally will exit the park). We got our Mozambique insurance there.

The park office is to the right just after the Limpopo entrance/exit gate.

The insurance can also be purchased in most larger towns in Mozambique, but then you risk ending up in a police checkpoint before you get there and can buy one. I think it can also be arranged from some insurance companies in South Africa, but we did not look into this as we knew we could get one at this border crossing.

Because of the two park entrance fees this border crossing is more expensive, but it is also considered to be relatively easy and hassle free. And on the road from the park and out to the coast we only saw a couple of police checkpoints. None showed any interest in us.


Costs South Africa:

- Kruger NP entrance (day visitor pass): 395 Rand

Costs Mozambique:

- Visa: 85 USD per person

- Carnet de Pasage: Free (or Temporary Vehicle Permit: 10 Rand)

- Mozambique Insurance: 150 Rand

- Limpopo NP entrance (2 days, camping not included): 195 Rand

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Botswana to RSA at Pont Drift

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Sun, July 22, 2012 20:47:09

Crossing borders within the Southern African Customs Union is normally very quick and easy. This time it was even too quick and easy, but we didn’t realize this until it was too late...

Together with our friends in their rented Nissan 4x4 with roof top tent we crossed the border between Botswana and South Africa at Pont Drift. The physical border is the Limpopo River, and when we crossed it was completely dry. If you want to cross at a different time of year make sure to check about the conditions before driving in here.

Park on the right, office to the left.

We parked outside the immigration office at the Botswana side. After filling in an exit form (passport info), they stamped our passports, and we drove across the river to the South African side. It took maybe 10 minutes for the four of us.

The dry river is dry this time of year. In wet season this border crossing is closed.

Border entry point at South African side. Drive through and park before the gate between the immigration office and the customs building. Immigration to the right (pic below).

After parking we had to wait in line for a couple of minutes as a small tour operator had just arrived with a bunch of guests. A friendly immigration officer took our passports, stamped them, gave them back, and we were ready to drive through the gate. At the gate there is a customs officer, but she had no wish to check our vehicles, and we were waved through into South Africa. The whole process took less than 30 minutes.

There are however two things worth mentioning here. Firstly, the Carnet de Passage that does NOT have to be stamped between the countries in the Southern African Customs Union: Namibia, Botswana, and South Africa. There has been no paperwork required for our foreign registered vehicle, other than maybe a customs officer writing down our registration number in a book as we drive in or out through the gate.

Secondly, and we learned a VERY important thing to remember. And this is something we had no idea about, or never read about on the Norwegian Foreign Ministry’s information pages: If you RETURN to South Africa BEFORE the 90 days of the visa have expired, you are not given a new 90 days visa. You only get what is left of the previous visa. The problem is that YOU ARE NOT INFORMED AT THE BORDER!! They stamp the passport and give it back, and as we have got new 90 days automatically at EVERY country we have been to the last two years (even USA) we did not check… Yes, I know it is our responsibility, but I don’t really think it would hurt if the immigration would be kind enough to mention this when they process your entry. Anyway, we did not notice, and this gave us an unpleasant, quite rude, and also expensive border crossing when we were to leave South Africa for Mozambique only five days later.

More about that in the next border crossing update!


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Botswana to Zimbabwe and back again at Kazanane

Border crossingsPosted by Malin Tue, June 26, 2012 09:56:33

We decided we wanted to have a look at the Victoria Falls, and from Kazangula in Botswana it is not far. First we thought about parking the car in Kazangula and catch a bus across the border, but this turned out to be more expensive than actually paying for our own vehicle at the border. And we like to drive our own car and not having to move on somebody else’s schedule.

The other reason for taking the car out was that when we crossed the border into Botswana at the tiny border station at Dobe, was that they didn’t have the proper paperwork for the vehicle. That meant that we never paid for liability insurance or road tax when we drove into Botswana. After checking around with other travelers, we learned that this is never checked, and you can probably get away with never paying. It is not checked when you leave the country either (but if you are involved in an accident, you could be in trouble if you are not able to solve everything at the scene). Leaving Botswana with our Patrol, and then cross the border back into Botswana would provide us with the required papers. This seemed to be a good plan as we still wanted to spend some time in Botswana.

So! To the border crossing. Checking out of Botswana took us about 5 minutes. The border station looks new and there were no touts around. We parked outside, walked in to the office, stamped our passports, and had the Carnet de Passage stamped out of the Southern African Customs Union (it is not necessary to stamp the Carnet when crossing the borders between South Africa, Namibia, and Botswana). Immigration and Customs are in the same building just next to the parking.

On your way out on the Botswana side there is a gate with a stop sign, but there was no one around.

Into Zimbabwe was also quite easy. We had heard that the visa for a single entry was 55 USD per person, but when we handed in the entry form (which you have to fill in) they asked us for 30 USD per person. You pay there and then to the immigration officer and get a receipt. Good to save money where you can, but unfortunately we were so surprised that we forgot to ask if this was because we had asked for 14 days and not 30 or 60 as we normally do when entering a country. I guess it could also be different depending on your nationality, and we know other travelers that have paid 55 USD for the Zimbabwean visa.

The slowest part of this border crossing was for the customs officer to fill in the vehicle details into his computer. Still, not nearly as slow as at some of the Central American borders. Eventually we got the Carnet processed, and we had to pay 55 USD for a road tax (10 USD), liability insurance (30 USD), and for the “carbon tax” (15 USD). Make sure to get the receipt to show at police check points. Driving out from the Zimbabwe border, we were stopped at the gate where three different people were asking questions, more or less at the same time. I guess they are from different customs departments, and after looking at our passports and vehicle papers they waved us through without any further inspection. We did however notice a minibus with backpackers that was being checked thoroughly. A question we got asked from both the immigration office and the people at the gate was why did we not have any kids?!!?

Total time of crossing this border was 50 minutes. From the border it is about 80 kilometers to Victoria Falls, and the speed limit is 80 kmh. There is no road sign for the limit, but we asked the customs officers. Normally there is a police check point about two kilometers after the border. We had heard some stories about police officers looking for money, but we didn’t have any problems.

And back again

Driving back from the Victoria Falls we went through the above described steps in reverse order. Going from Zimbabwe into Botswana was even faster as the Carnet processing only took about 10 minutes. Total time was about 25 minutes.

You park at the border building, walk in with your passport and you’re Carnet, and you’re through in a couple of minutes. At the Immigration desk you also get a “receipt” (small paper note with a stamp from Immigration) that you need to bring with you to the Customs desk. When Customs is done with the carnet they also stamp this note, and you bring it to the guard at the exit gate (when driving out of Zimbabwe). There are no costs for exiting Zimbabwe.

On the Botswana side is the first stop a tire/shoes disinfection point. You have to walk out and step on a rag soaked in disinfection fluids (and they sometimes ask you to bring ALL of your shoes), the car has to drive through a “bath” (a couple of centimeters of this disinfection fluid) to clean the tires. The guard looking after this post also wants to take a look into the car to check if you bring red meat or fresh dairy products. It is not allowed to bring this into Botswana.

From the disinfection point you proceed to the Immigration and Customs building. Park on the left. Inside you need to fill in the entry form, and it is all straight forward. When they ask for “address in the visiting country” we normally put down the next camp site. They never question it. We asked for 30 days, and they gave us 47 (?).

When processing the Carnet they asked if we had been in the country before. We said yes as truth was, and they were a little puzzled when we didn’t have any receipts from paying road tax and insurance from the last time. We explained that we never got any, and they wanted us to pay for a multiple entry road tax/insurance for the vehicle. As we had been in Botswana before we accepted, but when we got to the counter (2 meters away) it turned out that there was no communication between them, and we were charged only for a single entry. A single entry is 110 Pula (about 15 USD). Road Permit is 40 P, Insurance is 50 P, and a Road Fund, whatever that is, is 20 P. I think the multiple entries would be about 50 Pula more.

And that was it, we were back in Botswana.


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Namibia to Botswana

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Fri, June 15, 2012 10:08:24

Tsumkwe to Dobe

We knew there was a road, and we had heard that it should be possible to cross the border at Dobe. The problem was that we couldn’t find any info about the border crossing on any official web site neither in Namibia nor Botswana. In some maps there was written “opening hours” so we believed that we could get through. We asked other travelers, and several said they had heard that it should be possible, but nobody we talked to had actually driven across. Finally a friend back home in Norway told us he had crossed this border some years ago, so we decided to give it a try.

Dobe and the area around is in our guide book described as the most remote area in the whole of Botswana, and in the Tracks4Africa map we found several interesting things that we wanted to check out. Firstly, the road itself is interesting as there is not much around. Secondly there was supposed to be a 70 meters deep sinkhole not too far from the border, and thirdly, the Drotsky Cave is on one of the ways leading into Botswana from the border. More about these places in the next blog post.

From Tsumkwe in Namibia we drove towards the border just after lunch time. The idea was to arrive at the Botswana border just after the border guard/customs officers had had lunch and not be hungry. Strange strategy? Well, the border to Botswana is probably as strict as the Chilean one when it comes to food. You are not allowed to bring meat or any meat product into Botswana. Same with fresh dairy products, and we had heard stories about customs “shopping” for food. Especially at the quiet borders where only a few vehicles pass per day. Consequently, we finished most of our food before arriving, and we crossed fingers for meeting a nice guard.

Namibia and Botswana are members of the Southern African Customs Union, and there is therefore no paperwork necessary for the vehicle. We know that some travellers insist on having their carnet stamped out and in at every border, but as far as we have understood, this should not be necessary. Anyway, for us this doesn’t really matter as we are going back to South Africa before crossing into Mozambique. We’ll make sure to get an exit and entry stamp at that border.

Namibian customs and immigration.

We pulled in and got our exit stamp in our passports. They wanted us to fill in en “entry/exit-form”. Took about five minutes in total and we were on our way. No costs.

A couple of hundred meters on, we came to a stop at this gate: Botswana! A guy in an overall let us through, and our tires were sprayed with some kind of disinfection liquid. Probably not too good for the paint, so mental note to self about getting a car wash as soon as possible.

And it was not only the tires that needed disinfection. They only wanted us to wash our sandals, though, so not a big deal. Other travellers have had to take out and wash all the shoes they have in the car.

Another guy came over and asked if we had food with us, and wanted to have a look in the car. I showed him our fridge, and asked if I could keep my half liter of milk (about the only thing left). No problem. Long life milk was fine. Same with margarine and cheese, and milk chocolate was also okay. Then I showed him the box in the back with dry food where he lifted up a bag of pasta, put it back down, and that was it. Everything okay!

Through the next gate was the Botswana Immigration. The office is the tiny house on the left.

We were asked to fill in an entry form, and we always make sure to put down more days then what we think we’ll need in the country. Within what we know we can get as Norwegian citizens, that is. For Botswana we should get up to 90 days visa at the border upon arrival. We had planned to be in Botswana for maximum 30 days, but as we want a buffer in case we have problems with the car or get sick or something, we normally double the time we want. At a couple of borders in Central/South America this is also useful for negotiating how many days you can get without paying “extra”. And sure enough, here they only wanted to give us 30 days. After some questioning for our side, we learned that we could extend this in Maun for an additional cost. As we knew that we normally should be able to get 90 days, we didn’t give up, and eventually they let us have our desired 60 days. They stamped the passport, and after registering our entry in a thick book (we saw that we were the second car that day (at 2 pm)) we were ready to go. No costs!

Total time to cross the border was about 30 minutes, and then we drove into Botswana...

More soon!


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South Africa to Namibia

Border crossingsPosted by Espen Thu, May 24, 2012 21:36:21

This was our first overland border crossing on the African continent. Travelling in Africa and Asia requires in many cases a Carnet de Passage. I have of course heard of travelers that have been able to travel across Africa without one, but in order to do things right and relatively easy at the borders, the Carnet is the way to go. We weren't sure, by the way, if we had to stamp our vehicle out of South Africa and into Namibia. The reason for this is the Southern African Customs Union, and it turned out that our passports was the only thing they looked at. In other words, there is no vehicle paperwork between South Africa and Namibia, and we are expecting it to be the same between Namibia and Botswana.

So. What was this border crossing like? Fast and easy. No touts waiting at the border. Drive in and park in front of the customs building. As you drive in you get a note with three "points" you need to go through. The person handing you the note is "step 2" (???), and the note is stamped.

Point 1 is the immigrations. The door to the far left on the building. When we were there there was no line, and it took about 5 minutes. Maybe less. The above mentioned note is stamped, and you are told to move on to "point 3", which I think is the police. That is behind the door to the far right. The door in the middle is "point 2", but those guys seems to prefer standing at the border entrance and just handing you a prestamped note. Fine with me. At the police office they look at at you passport, and stamp the note. Get back in your vehicle, drive to the exit gate, and hand in your stamped note to the guard there. He will probably ask you some of the standard border questions (where are you going, where are you coming from, etc), and try to sound like you are just about to get shot. After a couple of questions, he will go back to talking normal, and was actually quite funny. We were on our way in a couple of minutes. Total time on the South Africa side was about 15 minutes including using the restrooms.

The Namibian side was also very easy. Here, however, a coule of guys came over as we parked outside and wanted to help us through. And as usual, we told them thanks, but no thanks.

Park outside the Customs building and go the the door with "Immigration" written over it in big letters. You can't miss it. As I mentioned above, the Carnet is not required to cross between South Africa and Namibia, but you do need to get a proof for paying your fee to the Road Fund Administration. this is the Namibian road tax, and we got a picture of the rates for those interested:

For a normal car or SUV the price is 220 Namibian Dollars (= 220 Rand), about 30 USD. You can pay with N$ or Rand. The permit looks like this:

Leaving the border, there is one last gate out from the Namibian Customs, and in front of us there was a South African vehicle being searched. We were waved through, and nobody looked in our car at all. Namibia here we come!


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