Saturday, January 21, 2012

The Mysterious Carnet.

While sitting around a campfire with other Overlanders it is often not long before the subject of carnets is brought up. Whether it is someone thinking of going to a country where a carnet might be required or stories of some fellow traveler opting to wing it without a carnet and the adventures they had travelling with an armed guard from the port of entry directly to the nearest border. In all our travels and campfire chats I have never met anyone who had ever even seen this mysterious document. It is almost as if it is the Holy Grail of Overlanders, or that is the way it seemed to me.

So when we started serious planning for our expedition, the carnet, or to use its more formal name Carnet de Passage, was one of our top priorities. A carnet broken down to the simplest terms is a passport for your vehicle to enter a country without paying import duties at the border. Most countries in Africa require either a bond guaranteeing that you will not sell your vehicle in their country or payment of the import duty before you can enter their country with your vehicle.

A carnet guarantees that if you don’t export the vehicle from the country you are entering, the export duty will be paid by the issuer of the carnet. The issuing body of the carnet, in our case CAA (Canadian Automobile Association) calculates the highest import duty of all the countries you will be travelling to and then either requires you to buy an insurance bond or make a cash deposit for that amount.

In our case there were several countries that required 100% of the value of the vehicle as their import duty, others required as little as 50% so CAA charged us 100% of our vehicle’s value. You might think that you could come up with a made-up value and have that suffice. No such luck. The CAA makes good use of Kelly’s Blue Book and the NADA Used Vehicle Guide to get an extremely accurate value. Once you have returned from your trip and have had the carnet correctly stamped you must return it to CAA and then they will release you from the carnet and either return your cash deposit or if you bought the insurance they will send you back about 40% of your premium.

To get our carnet we contacted CAA in Ottawa and they pointed us to their website where we downloaded the application. We attached a couple of photos of the truck with the camper on it to the application, wrote them a check for the processing fee and sent them via Fedex to Ottawa. Within a couple weeks they came-up with the bond or cash payment price. We then sent them the payment and within another 6 weeks we had our carnet.

The cover is quite simple as you can see:

The individual pages are the heart of the document. They consist of 3 parts. The bottom part is detached by customs when you enter a country and they stamp and sign the left hand side of the top part. Then the middle section is detached by customs when you leave a country and they stamp and sign the right hand side of the top section. This is the most important task that needs to be done when you leave a country. They won’t ask for the carnet when you leave only when you arrive so it is up to you to get it signed and stamped upon exiting a country.

The back cover page lists the countries that the carnet is valid for.

As you can see the carnet is only valid for a year, but it is possible to renew it.

We were very pleased to have a carnet when the vehicle arrived in East London and so was the customs clearing agent as it made his job much easier. I am not sure what it would have cost or how long it would have taken to clear customs without the carnet, but with it all fees including the agents fees, customs fees, dock fees and stevedore fees it came to under $700.00 and it took about a day to complete all the necessary paper work and of course the inspection of the camper.

Not bad I thought.

Bush Baby with Jonathan, our agent, on the docks in East London right after they had released her to us.

Bush Baby in the courtyard of the Guest House in East London. We had just added the Left Hand Drive sticker and the South African flag.