You have made it to the border post! Now you need to keep calm and work through the process. Remember each country has its own rules.
- Which border post? In all our years of travel we found that it is much easier to enter/exit at smaller border posts. At the bigger border posts, the officials are sometimes tired and irritated and will take their time to work through the processes. Our experience is at the smaller posts they are friendlier and welcome a chat while doing their work.
- When? Try to avoid peak times, if possible, like month end, late Friday afternoon or popular public holidays like Easter. Everybody is in a hurry and the queues are longer, the tempers flare quicker and willingness is shorter.
- Be positive! No matter how frustrated you get, try to smile and be friendly. They are only doing their job. A positive attitude goes a long, long way.
- Take your own pen. Pens are rarely supplied at most border posts. If you have your own, you can get a jump in the queue while filling out the form.
- Keep it simple. A clear plastic folder works wonders to keep all the documents together.
- Step out of your vehicle. When you get swamped by all the touts, step out of your vehicle, pick one, and tell him that you will contract him if he makes sure all the other touts disappear, agree on a price beforehand to go with you to customs, immigration, third party, police clearance and sometimes the health department. In some places, the third party office can be a container hidden behind other buildings and difficult to find. Keep a watchful eye here on your tout!
- Keep your eyes on your stuff. Even though the border officials may be above board, opportunistic thieves and pickpockets spot you long before you spot them. Make sure your vehicle is locked. We have a standard habit of one of us stay at the vehicle while the other do the paperwork and then rotate if necessary. Rather be safe than spoiling your trip from the word go.
- Money matters. Know the current Rand // USD exchange rate before you arrive at the border. There are APPS available for this purpose or phone a friend if needs be. If possible, use local currency and give exact It is easy to “not have change” available and is sometimes a standard answer (and can be very profitable)
- Never flash the amount of money you have on you – be discreet. If you need to change money at the border, count it slowly and make sure you received the right amount. There are “experts” out there with very swift hands. We rather exchange Rand // USD before we leave home to avoid the risk of using money changers.
- Some borders do take bank cards, but on the other hand this is a great way to get your bank card cloned. Officials are not always willing to offer a card machine due to the “not have change” rule. As in many situations – use your discretion!
- Check the stamp. Before you leave the counter make sure that the date stamps are correct. You won’t be able to change anything easily once you leave.
- Obey the rules of the road. The areas around border crossings are particularly happy hunting grounds for traffic police. Remember to stop at stop signs and stop behind the line even though they eagerly wave at you to come forward.
- Remember that as soon as you cross into another country you are on roaming charges for your cell phone. If you plan to phone a lot rather buy a local SIM card – it is a lot cheaper.
Do you have any questions? We will gladly give advice if you ask the question.
This is Part III in the series of articles. Remember to read Parts I and II as well.