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Important Documents


There are a number of documents that are important to have on an overland journey. Organising these documents can take some time, so make sure to plan ahead and you’ll be good to go!

Carnet de Passage

A carnet de passage ‘en douane’ is a document that allows a vehicle to cross international borders without customs charges. Basically, it promises that the owner will take the vehicle out of the country when he or she leaves, with penalties attached.

Not all countries require a carnet de passage. Because it is a rather expensive document, it’s a good idea to check into whether you will need one on your particular journey. The Overlanding Association has created a world map of carnet requirements, which I have included below:

To get a carnet de passage, you must apply through the procedures set up in your home country.

Because Maggie is registered in Botswana, a SACU (South African Customs Union) country, we will have to apply through the Automobile Association in South Africa, which has full details on pricing and how to apply.

And also because Maggie is a SACU registered vehicle, we have decided not to apply for a carnet until we leave southern Africa, heading for Zimbabwe. This way, we can possibly save ourselves some money and hassle, as the carnet is only valid for one year.

International Driving Permit

Out of all the preparation needed for an overland journey, getting an international driving permit (IDP) could possibly be the most simple step.

An IDP is a document that allows the holder to drive a vehicle in any country that recognises IDPs. The IDP must always be accompanied by a valid driver’s license.

In the US and UK, IDPs are easy to obtain. In the US, I went to the local AAA office, and with a payment of $25, walked out with my IDP 15 minutes later. Similarly, in the UK, IDPs are issued by the AA or the Post Office.

Just a note that it is important to apply for the IDP in the country where your driver’s license has been issued.


See our page on Researching Visa Requirements.

Third Party Insurance

Another really important requirement is that the vehicle be insured with a basic ‘liability’ policy, one that protects you in an accident with another person’s vehicle.

Obtaining third party insurance while overlanding in foreign countries can be a bit tricky, because often insurance policies in one country do not protect you while driving in another. And it would be a hassle to purchase insurance in every country you drive through.

But with some preparation, you can make sure that you’re covered for the whole of your journey.

Because Maggie is registered in Botswana, we obtained a third party insurance policy from Regent insurance company, which covers us in most SADC countries, including:Botswana, Lesotho, Malawi,Mozambique, Namibia, South Africa, Swaziland, Tanzania, Zambia and Zimbabwe.

Once we leave this zone, however, we will need to obtain a ‘yellow card’ – an insurance policy issued by COMESA that covers a number of countries in eastern and central Africa. This will require us (we think) to buy a local insurance policy when we reach a COMESA country, and then purchase the COMESA as an ‘add on’ to cover us in the remaining countries.

Check out the Overlanding Association’s handy world map of insurance zones below.

Other documents

Here is a list of other documents that may come in handy when travelling overland:

  • Registration / ownership documents for the vehicle
  • Visa application forms
  • Passport sized photographs
  • Vaccination cards – especially yellow fever!
  • Travel insurance
  • Photocopies of identity documents, such as passports


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