Borders need not be feared but actually treated as part of the whole African experience. However, they need to be approached in the right way and with the correct mindset. A seemingly simple document problem might lead to being turned back or delayed. Try to cross any border early in the day before the busy time when the officials are overworked.
Border officials have the power to block your entry or exit from their country and should be given a lot of respect.
The ubiquitous Police checkpoints are found all over Africa even in developed self-drive countries like Namibia. Often they will wave you through especially when they see you are a tourist. However, you should be ready to stop at the first sign and the etiquette is different in every country. Having your driving license ready helps and taking off sunglasses, turning down music is polite.
Veterinary Check Posts
Because of the prevalence of diseases like anthrax, TB and foot and mouth disease in cattle in many of the African counties you will frequently come across vet check posts that try to control the spread of these diseases. Every check post is slightly different but most prohibit the transit of uncooked meats and other raw foods. This can make it frustrating when you have stocked up for a BBQ and you lose the steak! Check on your local maps and also ask locally about the rules. You may have to have your vehicle sprayed and even walk across disinfectant mats.
Importantly before you depart from the vehicle hire location you should be familiar with all the documentation for your vehicle, especially if you are crossing borders.
Documents may include – Police Clearance on the vehicle, a TIP (temporary importation permit) if it’s a foreign-registered vehicle, an authorization from the car hire company (or hire agreement) or owner, an insurance certificate that specifies the countries you are driving through by name, a logbook and in some circumstances a Carnet de Passage (CdP) if you are overlanding further afield.
Always get passports checked first before clearing the vehicle through customs and don’t forget to get a checkout gate slip if required.