African border posts have a notorious reputation, but it is not as bad as everyone thinks as long as you go prepared and have no illusions.
Most border trouble comes down to inexperience or impatience – not only in Africa, but throughout the world. The key is to prepare well beforehand and remember, every successful border crossing pans out differently in each country. Regulations change all the time and is rapidly outdated. There are general tips that you can follow to ease your encounter at the border post, so consider some of the following tips:
SO, THIS SAID, WHERE DO I START?
Right at the beginning. Planning, planning, planning and some more planning! Start doing your homework well in advance, because it might take some time to get your ducks in a row and quacking.
The number one place to start will be at your documents. Without a passport, the trip is not going to happen …..
- A valid passport with at least two unused pages for all the stamps and does not expire within the next six months.
- As a South African citizen, you do not need a visa for the following neighbouring countries: Botswana, Lesotho, Namibia, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Swaziland. If you are in doubt check with your capable local travel agent, as regulations do change.
- If you travel with children under the age of 18 years you will also need their birth certificates and the non-traveling parent’s consent, if this might be the case.
- Your South African driver’s license should suffice in the neighbouring countries, but when you travel further afield it is a good idea to obtain an international driver’s license. They are obtainable from the Automobile Association.
- Make a list of all the serial numbers of your electronics before leaving home. If possible, make a copy of the documentation. It makes declaring it at the border post a lot easier. A scanned version I keep as my backup should any item or copy go missing.
- Arrange with your bank beforehand that you will be traveling outside South Africa otherwise the bank might block your card, presuming that fraudulent transaction are done. I normally submit to the bank the dates within which we are going to travel as well as the different countries to avoid frustration and embarrassment when paying.
- Cards work mostly in the bigger cities only. If you venture to the rural areas make sure you have enough cash on you. We once arrived at Rakops (Botswana) en route to Central Kalahari Reserve, where we had to refuel, and the garage did not have a card machine. The only ATM was without money for the past two weeks! Nice, nice, nice ….
- The South African Rand is accepted widely for instance in Mozambique, Swaziland and Lesotho, but do not always bargain on it.
- Yellow fever is a typical must-have inoculation, which normally has to be administered by a travel doctor a few weeks before your departure. It is valid for 10 years. If you visit countries in Northern Africa this is compulsory. There are also various other shots such as cholera and typhoid, although we never deemed it necessary. With common savvy, you can avoid a lot of these diseases. In our 20 odd years’ of traveling the African continent we have never ever contracted any of these threatening diseases.
Remember to always carry your Yellow fever certificate with you.
- Check with your medical aid whether they will cover the costs if you need to be repatriated after a serious accident. This is not automatically covered in all medical schemes.
- Remember malaria is rife in Africa. Speak to your doctor about prophylaxes and precautions.
- Note: We found that lots of garlic as well as gin and tonic keep them mostly at bay.
A wise person will always find a way. ~ Tanzanian proverb