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.