Documents & visas
Morocco - not needed by British citizens
Mauritania - this is getting more difficult and seems to change regularly. Currently you can get a one-month visa at the embassy in Rabat, but it starts from the date of issue, not the date of entry. At the border they issue three-day transit visas for E10; these can be easily extended in Nouakchott (E15) or in Atar at Camping Bab Sahara (E10) - see Notes and tips.
Senegal - not needed by British citizens
Gambia - not needed by British citizens
Mali - we got ours in Nouakchott, Mauritania, as we heard it was quicker and easier here than in Dakar. It took about two hours, 6500 ouguiya (about E18), 2 passport photos, photocopy of passport. Very straightforward. You can also get it in Rabat - valid for one month (you must arrive within three months).
Burkina Faso - we got a seven-day transit visa at the border, 10,000 CFA. You can get the Visa Touristique Entente at the French embassy in Nouakchott (Mauritania) for E60 or possibly in Bamako - probably cheaper. This covers Burkina Faso, Cote D'Ivoire, Togo, Benin and Niger.
Ghana - got in Ouagadougou, Burkina Faso. 15,000 CFA and 4 passport photos each. Collect next day at 2pm. GPS: N 12 22 43, W01 30.39.
Togo - we got a seven-day transit visa at the border, 10,000 CFA. Note that if coming from Ghana, the visa is only available at the Aflao/Lome border.
Benin - two-day transit visa issued at the border, 10,000 CFA. This can be extended for 30 days in Cotonou for another 12,000 CFA.
Nigeria - got in Accra, Ghana. Note that the embassy has recently moved and is not correct in the 2007 guidebooks (and hadn't been updated on the web when we were there). GPS: N05 36 25/W 00 12 00. We were issued a three-week visa, valid for up to three months from date of issue, US$100. We didn't have a letter of invitation, but asked for an interview. They made a bit of a fuss but eventually told us to come back on Monday (we applied on a Friday, so effectively next day). Apparently this embassy is particularly open to bribes - surprise surprise!
Cameroon - the only places to get this are Dakar (Senegal) or Lagos and Calabar (Nigeria). We didn't fancy either of the Nigerian options (although lots of people seem to get it in Calabar without problem) so got ours in Dakar (GPS: N 14 39 46/W 17 26 07). US$100 for one-month visa, valid for up to three months from date of issue. You usually have to collect it the next day, but we managed to get ours done same day as the guy was really friendly. Note: we were also able to use this visa as proof of onward travel for our Ghana and Nigeria visas.
Gabon - we got in Yaounde (Cameroon), GPS: xxx. 45,000 CFA for one month, multiple entry. Note: the embassy has a dresscode and won't let you in if you're wearing denim, shorts etc. Visa took two days to issue.
Congo - we got in Yaounde (Cameroon), GPS: N 03 53 44/E 11 31 12. It cost 70,000 CFA - ouch! We were told to come back next day but persuaded them to do it same day (for that price it's the least they could do). No problems though, friendly and helpful - although we've heard it's best not to wear jeans etc. Note: you can get a seven-day visa in Libreville for 20,000 CFA, next day.
DRC - we got in Yaounde (Cameroon), GPS: N 03 52 55/E 11 31 25. Cost 45,000 CFA. Had to leave photocopies of our passports at reception in exchange for an entry pass. Very easy application, no questions asked, but the visa takes two days to issue. Note: this visa is also cheaper in Libreville, takes 48 hours to issue.
Angola - nightmare! Before we left England we met with the Angolan ambassador in London who assured us there would be no problem getting the visa in Africa and even gave us a letter of invitation. First we tried the embassy in Lome (Benin) GPS: N 06 07 15/E 01 12 27 (Rue Duisberg) but it was shut for three weeks over Christmas. Next we tried the embassy in Abuja (Nigeria), GPS: xxx, and met with a very nice lady who told us unfortunately they no longer issued tourist visas but said we would get it no problem in Libreville - she even made a phonecall to check (just to get rid of us). When we arrived in Libreville (Gabon), GPS: xx, xx, we were given various excuses: they have no vignettes for the visa, the consul wasn't there, we must go to Pointe Noire or Kinshasa etc etc. The embassy in London had already faxed through our documents to Libreville, but only after three hours of arguing were we allowed to even make an application; we were told to come back on Friday. On Friday, still no visas. We might have waited longer but the Monday was an Angolan holiday and we'd already wasted so much time that we would have to transit Angola quickly anyway. If we had waited we may have eventually got our visas, but I think they were just playing a waiting game - knowing that we would give up. So we went down to Matadi (DRC), GPS xx, xxx, and arrived on a Thursday to get our transit visa, only to find the consul had been called away on 'urgent business' and would not be back until Monday. On Monday morning we got our five-day transit visas in three hours.
Visa requirements: US$80 + 1000 CF per person; 2 photos, letter to consul asking for visa with details of what you are doing + you fill in an application form. We were called in for a short 'interview' where they asked random questions including: how often do you pray?, what is your father's brother's name?, what is the governing body that authorised your marriage? Note: they specify the dates that the visa is valid (rather than saying five days from date of entry), so if you're not leaving until the following day make sure you tell them.
Note: they tell you that it is possible to extend your tranist visa in Luanda, but we know people that tried very hard to do this but were told the rules had changed. We made it through Angola in five long days (see Notes & tips) and they gave our passports a very careful check at the Namibian border - we're sure they would have tried to fine us. We know of people that outstayed for three days and managed to talk their way out of the fine, but best to go to the smaller border crossing as the one at Santa Clara is very busy.
Nambia - not needed for British citizens, hooray
Botswana - not needed for British citizens, hooray
South Africa - not needed for British citizens, hooray
- we got ours from Down Under Travel Insurance as this seemed to be the cheapest. They offer a very basic insurance that covers medical emergencies and repatriation. We didn't think it was worth getting contents insurance because most of the companies only cover items worth £50 or more and you need to provide a receipt.
Personal vehicle Insurance
- we got cover for fire and theft with xxx. You can also get insurance that covers accidental damage but this is very expensive. More info to come...
Third party vehicle insurance
- Europe and Morocco: covered by Green Card.
- Mauritania: you can buy it at the border but it's expensive. The owner of Camping Baie de Levrier in Nouadhibou can organise if for you (4500 ouguiya/E12 for 10 days for a 4x4), but there are lots of local offices that are probably cheaper. There is a checkpoint shortly after the border but if you tell them you'll buy insurance in Nouadhibou it should be fine - they're more interested in cadeaux. Most of the checkpoints around the country ask to see your insurance documents.
- Senegal: buy it at the border because there are road checks on the way into Saint Louis and they'll fine you E30 if you don't have it. At Diama you have to buy a minimum of one month costing E35 for a 4x4, but in Saint Louis you can also buy the 'Brown Card', which means the insurance is valid for lots of other West African countries, see below.
Carte Brune: valid for ECOAS countries (Economic Community of West African States): Benin, Burkino Faso, Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Comores, Cote D'Ivoire, Equatorial Guinea, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo. We got ours from the Axa office in Saint Louis. Their local agent, Babacar Coulibaly, is very helpful and said if you contact him in advance he could arrange for the insurance to be sent to you before your trip. Contact details: Rue Blaise Diagne, Saint Louis; T(221)961 89 62; firstname.lastname@example.org. It cost us 38,000 CFA/£38 for four months' third party insurance.
- Carnet de passage en douane - a document for your car that allows you to bring it into the country without paying import duty - make sure you get it stamped on the way in and the way out (for more detail see our other website www.overlandtooz.com). the only place you can get one in the UK is from the RAC. We used ours from Mauritania onwards.
- In some countries (Morocco, Mauritania) they will issue you with a 'laissez passer' at the border, which does the same thing. Keep hold on to the green bit of paper they give you as you have to show it on the way out.
- Carte Grise - vehicle registration document.
- ICMV - international registration document (in case they don't recognise the Carte Grise).
- MOT certificate - we got asked for this ('visite technique') quite a lot in Cameroon and Gabon.
- In theory you also need to have valid UK road tax if you're not actually exporting the vehicle.
International driving licence
- available from the post office or DVLA, £5, but most of the time we showed our UK licences and they accepted those.
'Fiches' for checkpoints
- to speed up the bureaucracy at checkpoints from Western Sahara through to Senegal, it's worth printing out about 25 A4 sheets with the following details: family name, name, date of birth, place of birth, nationality, passport number, date of issue, date of expiry, place of issue, profession, marital status, permanent address, father's name, mother's name, purpose of visit, coming from, going to, driving licence number. It saves them having to write it all down.
- it's also useful to have loads of copies of your passport, as well as copies of your driving licence, vaccination certificates, carte grise etc.