I used a significant number of books to research the possible routes on the trip - see the reference Books section below. However, most information was gathered through the SA Bird Net list server. While it is mainly about southern African birding, many of the subscribers have travelled extensively in Africa, and are able to help, or provide contacts of others who can help. For details on the list server, go to www.xxx.za
The following is a brief list of the documents that I obtained for the trip, and the requirements at the various borders. I often heard of horror stories of people being held up at border posts for hours, but have yet to experience this myself. Allow 30 to 45 minutes to cross through any border, and be prepared to visit up to 6 different officials who each fill in your details in various registers. However, all were most pleasant and friendly on the whole of the trip.
I should also record that during the whole trip, no-one asked for - or even intimated they might be interested in - a bribe.
Before leaving I obtained a variety of documents from the AA. First was a ten-page carnet. This is not actually needed for Zimbabwe or Zambia, so it is rarely necessary to apply for the more expensive 25-page version.
I also obtained an international driving license (required one in Zambia), and an International Certificate for Motor Vehicles (which was never required, but might be in Sudan)..
I arranged about 20 ID photos, as these are often required at border posts for visas, etc - but I only used two getting the second Ethiopian visa in Djibouti.
I arranged a comprehensive medical insurance through Europ Assistance which, while not required on the trip, was required to get a visa to Djibouti, and is a good idea to carry. Remember to make sure the contact details are easily visible should you be unconscious!
Other than that, I arranged visas for Tanzania, Ethiopia and Djibouti through the respective embassies (France for Djibouti). I was, of course, travelling on a South African passport.
South Africans do not require a visa, but must pay the toll for the new bridge, which was R41-40. One the way north I used a temporary vehicle import permit, which is very quick and simple to use, although one must declare all ones personal belongings. From previous experience I have a typed up and photocopied list, which is countersigned by the customs officers. There is no charge for the vehicle import. On the way back I used the AA carnet as I had spare pages left - and to my amazement they then asked me to fill in details of the contents on a separate form. Clearly this is the only country that understands how a carnet is supposed to work - it is only for the vehicle. While I was impressed with this at Chirundu, it was made up for the fact that the customs officer at Beit Bridge had never seen a carnet before, so I had to full it out for her - and stamp it. I took out a 3-month insurance policy for less than double the costs of a 30-day policy.
You cannot change money at the border, but several of the new large service stations near Beit Bridge and Masvingo have small forex bureau that can change money cheaply and quickly, even using a credit card. A credit card can be used to buy petrol in many areas, including at Makuti near Chirundu.
An Ethiopian trip: 27/11/1999 to 17/01/2000Giles Mulholland 31 January 2000