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
- 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