The last border that I drove (or more accurately, was driven) across was from the U.S. to Canada. No forms needed to be filled out, no money paid, and no major questions about the content of the camper van that we were in, other than whether we had firewood (not firearms, firewood!). It took all of 2 minutes, well maybe 3 as I did get a stamp in my UK passport.
borders within Africa is somewhat different. I mostly cross borders in the air,
but have done a few by road now. Last Tuesday was the first time that I’d
driven myself from Kenya to Tanzania, and to be honest, I was a little anxious
about this experience (or what it might be) beforehand. However, armed with
instructions of the various offices to go to, plus a copy of my passport photo
page, as advised by Nairobi friends who cross the border at Namanga quite
frequently, I set off. The road down is beautiful, ie smooth! Amazing to have
such a long stretch without needing to swerve repeatedly to avoid potholes.
There were a few cows along the way crossing the road, that I needed to slow
down for, and a few speed bumps in towns, but other than that, the driving part
was smooth sailing. And the scenery stunning. Potholes did however appear once
I got to Namanga town. I’d decided to get petrol there, except that there
wasn’t any! Thankfully, not too big an issue, though it did turn out that the
next petrol station (at least, that I noticed) was about 2 hours away.
stop was before a barrier which I wasn’t sure if I was free to drive through
or not. Here, I was assailed by guys trying to sell me vehicle insurance for
Tanzania. I’d actually got this ahead of time, so didn’t need it. The price
that they quoted when I asked, was less than I’d got in Nairobi, but then, a)
was it a legitimate insurance company; and b) would the price have been the
same had I not aready got the insurance…. I left them behind, and went into the
first building, where I needed to write the particulars of my vehicle in a
book. I’m still not overly sure why, as it turned out that this wasn’t the
place to fill in the customs form. That came next. (Turned out on my return, that this was the police post.)
drove through the barrier into what can only be described as a frontier town.
Road lined with trucks, with multiple small businesses alongside it, including
of course Customs and Immigration. The first of these was my next port of call.
Here, I did get the customs form to fill in, which was then given an
authorizing stamp. I was instructed to get a copy of it and of my passport
(hence the small businesses along the way!). I enquired at one of the stalls,
and was led down a back alley to a little office where an entrepreneur ran some
sort of business, but on the side, did photocopies for people using his printer
/ copier. I’d been warned that I could be charged 100 times the usual rate for
this (not exactly much choice, and where I’d usually go was a 2.5 hour drive
back up the road!). So, I thought I’d done pretty well when he only charged me
10 times the usual rate!
Kenyan immigration hall, there were no Exit Declaration forms to fill out,
which apparently didn’t make any difference. I’ve often wondered what happens
to all these forms that dutifully get filled out every time I enter, and leave
Kenya. Where do they all get filed? And if it doesn’t make any difference not
having them, then why……? So, finger prints scanned and exit stamp in my
passport, I drove the car onto the next bit, which is the Tanzanian side of
stop was Immigration. They did have forms which needed filling in. Well, rather
scrappy bits of paper really, asking for the usual details: Name; Passport
number; Date and place of issue; Date and place of birth; Occupation; Address
in Tanzania. After about 10 minutes, and $50 paid over for a visa, I was set to
to import my car into Tanzania. Another form to fill out relating to the car,
with pretty much the same details that I’d stated on the Kenyan export form, a
copy of which (plus copy of my passport) had to be handed over. (The skeptical
side of me thinks that that requirement is just because they’re in cohoots with
the guys doing the photocopying!).
after about 40 minutes from start to finish, it was all done.
my vehicle insurance (which no one had asked to see), export and import forms (stamped
of course) in hand, I drove out of ‘No Man’s Land’ into Tanzania. I expected to
be stopped at a barrier by someone to ensure that I had all the necessary
stamps, visa and papers, but that didn’t happen. How easy would it be to bypass
part of the system if you didn’t know what to do?! And what trouble could you
get into later on if you did that?
And so, I
entered Tanzania in my vehicle, the Kenyan plates clearly declaring to the
world that I wasn’t from there, having only encountered helpful officals rather
than the officious ones that I’d feared I might.