Appendix D. Paperwork & Politics. (1974)

The administrative complications of a journey such as this are vastly increased by the decision to drive one's own vehicle.

Whether or not a vehicle is taken, each member of the party will require a full passport, plus visas for those countries which require them. Many Eastern European countries offer two types of visa; a Tourist Visa obtainable from the Embassy in your own country, or a Transit Visa obtainable at the border. Transit visas are often rather more expensive than tourist visas (fees are typically about $US5), and are valid for only 48 hours. In practice, "48 hours" means that you may spend two nights in the country, so you can enter in the morning and leave in the evening, to get 3 days' travelling. Tourist visas are issued for longer periods. However, tourists are frequently required to spend a certain minimum daily sum of money in the country, for the duration of their visas (see our experiences with Czechoslovakia). Eastern European countries seem chiefly interested in tourists as importers of foreign exchange! Hence, if you are only passing quickly through a given country, a transit visa may be preferable. A stock of passport-size photographs should be carried, for use on transit visas, etc.

Travellers' cheques are, of course, far safer than hard currency. They are commonly available in Sterling, US dollars, Swiss francs, and Deutschmarks. Some travellers have experienced difficulty in changing Swiss franc cheques in some countries. The Afghanistan Bank takes several hours to change anything! Several banks charge a flat-rate commission on exchanges, regardless of the actual sum involved. However, there is usually a ceiling (typically around $US20) on the sum of any one transaction. Hence the Afghanistan Bank, for example, will not accept a £20 note.

Many countries require a full declaration of all currency brought into the country, which is (theoretically) reconciled with exchange-office receipts and currency in your possession on exit. You may wish not to declare all your hard currency on entry, so as to be able to use the black market if necessary; especially in Afghanistan. Do not use the black market in Eastern Europe; many black marketeers are police agents, and penalties are heavy. Few, if any, black market operators will accept travellers' cheques.

Health regulations vary from time to time; but in general you will require inoculations for smallpox, cholera, T.A.B., and (for Indonesia) yellow fever. Tetanus jabs are not mandatory, but are highly desirable.

The use of a vehicle imposes a large number of additional complications. If the vehicle is registered in a member country of the European Community, its registration and insurance (to minimum legal liability only) will be automatically valid in all other Community countries, no additional formalities are required. Outside this area, few countries now require a Carnet de Passage; most are content to endorse the driver's passport, and to require that the vehicle be re-exported within (usually) three months.

Within Europe and Scandinavia, insurance companies can supply a "Green Card", which is an insurance policy valid in all countries (except the USSR) up to and including western Turkey. Eastern Turkey (east of the Bosphorus) is in Asia, and so falls outside the scope of the Green Card. Throughout Asia, insurance is commonly purchased at the border of each country, typically costing some $US5 per month. This is far cheaper than trying to arrange an 'all countries' policy with a Western company.

Iran, Pakistan, and India require either a Triptyque or a Carnet de Passage for a motor vehicle. This is a Customs document, permitting the vehicle to be temporarily imported under Customs bond. A Triptyque is purchased at the border, for a few dollars, and is valid for 15 days in Iran, or 7 days in Pakistan. It is, effectively, a "transit visa" for the vehicle.

For a longer stay than the Triptyque permits, a Carnet will be necessary. This is a book of 25 Triptyques, each usable for up to 6 months in any one country, and is obtained in the country of your vehicle's registration. The procedure is most tedious, requiring a bank guarantee for the maximum rate of duty for which your vehicle (and contents) could be liable. In Iran, this may be up to 2 times the new value of the vehicle, regardless of its actual age or condition. The guarantee can be obtained via an insurance company, who typically charge some 3% of the guarantee value. The Carnet itself is then issued by the R.A.C., or other national motoring organisation in the country of the vehicle's registration.

The detailed procedure is as follows:

  1. Apply to the motoring organisation concerned, specifying the vehicle to be used, and listing the countries to be entered. They will then indicate the value of the guarantee required.
  2. Obtain such a guarantee, from either your bank or an insurance company. Certain companies specialise in this type of cover (the motoring organisations can usually recommend one), and charge substantially lower premiums than the major companies.
  3. Submit this guarantee, with the issue fee (about $US5) to the motoring organisation, who then issue the Carnet.
Each page of the Carnet has three sections. On entry to a given country, the first section is detached by the Customs officer, and the remaining two sections are stamped. On exit, the second section is detached, and the final (counterfoil) section is again stamped. Hence, at the end of your journey, each page is either untouched, or has only the counterfoil remaining, with both entry and exit stamps.
The Carnet must then be returned to the issuing authority, who then discharge the guarantee.

It should be borne in mind that, if the Carnet is not properly discharged, the traveller (rather than the insurance company) is personally liable for any duty assessment. The insurance company accepts only the risk that they may not be able to trace you, once they have paid out the duty!

It is extremely difficult to dispose of a vehicle outside of its country of registration. Free markets in foreign-owned vehicles operate in Kabul and Katmandu, where you can sell to another foreigner, and the police will then transfer the liability from your passport to the buyer's. Under no circumstances is it possible to sell to a national of that country. If you do sell your vehicle, be most careful to ensure that your Carnet is properly discharged, and return it immediately to the issuing authority, otherwise you may find yourself liable for duty.
International Driving Licences will be required outside Europe. These are, in effect, a certified translation of your national licence, in several foreign languages. They are obtained from national motoring organisations. In England, two forms are issued, valid in different groups of countries. We each required both!

Copyright © 1974 - 2004 David R. Brooks

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