Ins and outs of a Carnet de Passage

You cannot travel across borders without a passport. A Carnet de Passage en Douane (CPD) can be seen as a ‘passport’ which allows your vehicle to be temporarily imported into a foreign country while you overland.

What exactly is a Carnet?

Most people refer to a Carnet de Passage as a Carnet or CPD. It is an international customs document which offers a guarantee to a foreign government that the vehicle identified in the Carnet, if granted temporary importation status, will be removed from the country within the specified time limit. In the event that the vehicle is not removed within that time frame, the country may claim from the authority who issued the Carnet all duties and taxes that would be required to permanently import the vehicle to that country.

Normally a Carnet is valid for a maximum period of one year from the date of issue. If a South African registered vehicle is being shipped or flown out of South Africa on a temporary basis, the Carnet will facilitate customs formalities for both the export and re-importation of the vehicle into South Africa.

A Carnet is recommended for all African countries on the southern and East Africa route, but it is compulsory for Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt. We have, however, heard reports of travellers who managed to buy a Temporary Import Permit (TIP) upon entering Kenya.

A Carnet normally makes the formalities during border crossings easier for travellers but some countries (like Uganda) do not accept or recognise a Carnet. Even if you have a Carnet you may still be expected to buy a TIP at a small charge.

Where do you get a Carnet?

Automobile Clubs worldwide affiliated with FIA (Federation Internationale de l’Automobile) issue Carnets.

The Automobile Association of South Africa (AASA) is the only authorised issuer of FIA Carnets to citizens/permanent residents of South Africa, Botswana, Namibia, Lesotho and Swaziland.

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Normally a Carnet is bought in the country in which the vehicle is registered but it is possible obtain a Carnet from a different Automobile Club, e.g. if you are a foreigner who buys a vehicle in South Africa. (See the last section of this blog on ‘What if you are not returning the vehicle to the point of exit?’)

How does it work?

A Carnet may be purchased as a 5-page, 10-page or 25-page booklet. You use one page per country, each time that you enter. If you enter a country a second time (e.g. on your return trip) you will need a new page for that country. The fee for the booklet varies between R3 000 and R4 200, depending on the number of pages and the duration of the Carnet and a deposit/bank guarantee is also required.

You must apply for the Carnet at least two weeks, but preferably one month, prior to your departure, but be aware that it will only be issued to you a few days before you leave. A Carnet will be issued for a maximum period of one year; if you want to extend your trip, AASA will issue you with a new Carnet. A fee will be charged and your cash deposit/ guarantee will be carried over to the new Carnet.

While you overland, make sure that the stub of each page is stamped upon entry and exit of each foreign country.  The Certificate of Location on the last page inside the Carnet should be endorsed by SA Customs (if you are returning the vehicle to SA) on entry, confirming the final destination of the vehicle. It is proof to AASA that the vehicle is back in South Africa. (It may also be stamped at your nearest police station.)

What does it cost?

If you obtain a Carnet in South Africa: for most countries a refundable deposit/bank guarantee of R10 000 is required if the value of your vehicle is below R380 000. If it is between that and R500 000, a 10% deposit of the vehicle value is required, if the value of your vehicle is between R500 001 and R800 000 a 50% deposit is required and if the value exceeds R800 001 a 100% deposit is required.

The deposit for Ethiopia is R20 000. For Sudan and West Africa countries you pay 10% of the value of the vehicle (minimum R20 000). For Egypt you have to deposit the equivalent of 200% of the value of your vehicle. This prevents many overlanders from including Egypt in their itinerary!

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Non-SA citizens or permanent residents will automatically be required to lodge a 100% value of the vehicle as a guarantee. Go to the AASA website for full details on the pricing per country.

You don’t pay this deposit per country, but the maximum payable amount once-off. For instance, if your itinerary includes Ethiopia, Kenya, Tanzania, Namibia and Zambia you will pay the maximum amount (R20 000 for Ethiopia) plus the booklet fee.

Getting your deposit back

Once you have returned home from your trip, you need to courier the Carnet back to the AASA head office or take it into the office where you acquired your Carnet in order to have the cash deposit / bank guarantee discharged and credited to you.

What if you are not returning the vehicle to the point of exit?

Many foreigners who do an Africa overland trip prefer to buy a vehicle in SA and drive it to Europe. If they intend to return to South Africa, they can obtain a Carnet through AASA. However, if they don’t intend returning the vehicle to South Africa, they can obtain a Carnet through their home automobile club.

For instance, the General German Automobile Club (ADAC) issues Carnets for Europeans who buy a SA registered vehicle and will not be returning to SA to discharge the Carnet. They can discharge the Carnet in Europe.

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The amount of the refundable deposit/bank guarantee in this case depends on the countries to be visited and the vehicle type and value. This varies between 5 000 and 60 000 Euros for a Carnet that is valid for all African countries (including Egypt). Typically the Carnet fees for an Africa overland trip would be around 600 Euros.

The bottom line

For some countries a Carnet is compulsory. For other countries where it is not essential, it may ease the border crossing but some countries will still expect you to get a TIP, irrespective of if you have a Carnet or not.

Some travellers will be put off by this additional layer of cost for their journey, bearing in mind that many vehicles cross most borders without one, while others will prefer the sense of security and comfort that a Carnet provides for overlanding.

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13 thoughts on “Ins and outs of a Carnet de Passage”

  1. Hi my partner and I want to relocate to his home country Kenya from South Africa. We want to take our car over to Kenya permanently. How do we go about it?

    1. Contact the Automobile Association in South Africa or Kenya for information

  2. Hello good people,

    I Intend to drive from Kigali, Rwanda to South Africa through Botswana and stay for a couple of months working and sight seeing. The vehicle is Rwandan registered and is LHD. Do I need a CPD or would a TIP suffice to enter SA and if the TIP will suffice, does any one know how much one pays for it ? I ask because the deposit on the CPD for the vehicle seems a little prohibitive.

    Looking forward to your advise.
    Thanks in advance

    1. A TIP is sufficient for stays under six months, thereafter the CPD is required.

      1. Awesome !!! thank you so much for the clarification. One last question; Is the TIP free or do I pay for it and if so how much ?

  3. Hi, I am a South African citizen, working in Zambia on a 2 year work permit. I came in 4 month ago, with my own vehicle as i did not have to pay the duties and taxes (1 vehicle only allowed) Can I purchase a vehicle in SA for my wife and drive it up to Zambia so that she has a car to drive here until we return to SA in the the next 20 months? Can we keep the SA Number plates to avoid paying tax and duties while the car is in Zambia?

    1. Hi Barry, I am not aware what the expat rules are when you have a work permit. But for normal tourist visas you need to temporarily import your vehicle, however they grant only one month at the border which can be extended up to three months once you are in the country and only close to the expiry date. I had to do this once when I stayed longer than one month. Funny thing is that even though we are allowed in the country for three months they would only issue one month at a time at the border. Maybe you would be allowed to extend your TIP for the duration of your visa, that is what they did for me but obviously within the limitation of a tourist visa. Its worth asking but you would have to visit the correct official.

  4. I want to take a vehicle and a trailer with me to Africa. Do I need a seperate CDP for both the vehicle and the trailer?

  5. Karin,
    I am a bit confused with the way I must go.
    I recently bought a vehicle in RSA that came into the country in June 2007.
    The previous owners had CDP that expired one year later, June 2008, but they never returned the vehicle to Europe, as they fell in love with Africa and stayed.
    They also failed to register it in RSA, as it wasn’t in a running condition, and was stored in a barn for the past nine years.
    I am fixing it now, but what will be the way forward to legalise it locally ?
    Another problem I can foresee, is the left hand drive, although it came into the country just before the new legislation regarding such vehicles.
    Maybe there is some advice that could be shared with me?

  6. Hi there,i have travelled Africa the last 20 years for Overland Truck companies and we always used a Carnet.So much easier at the border and less paperwork.
    Currently i am in Malawi working and brought my landie up from SA.I did not have a Carnet when i left as i know TIP is enough.However on entering Zambia i had to pay a Bond of $250 to ensure that i do not sell the car in Zambia,if i had the Carnet then this would have been waived.I understood that this is something quite new.
    I since got a Carnet as i intend returning to SA next March and travel through Zambia.

  7. Dear Karin,

    Just to let you know, we received our CDP this week for our overland trip starting in September in Cape Town, and needed to pay €200,– instead of €600,– as mentioned (plus €3,50,– for registered mail inside Europe).

    It took the people from ADAC just a week to send it to us! So extremely fast!

    Tip: when you are a member from an automobile club is just costs €200,– for the CDP. Otherwise you have to pay €300,–. With membership costs from the Dutch ANWB at €15,– it is a no brainer to became a member somewhere…

    Kind regards,

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