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!Espen