Overlanders Bits ‘n Bobs

The main aim of our blog is to keep a record of our trip for ourselves, to capture some of the details as they happen and also to share our trip with family and friends. We know travel blogs can be useful sources of information for other people planning similar rambles so we have put together a few things for other travellers that we hope are helpful (and a bit of fun) and intend to update it as we head north through Africa.  We have found lots of great info from other blogs, which has been really helpful, notably www.tincaninafrica.com and www.catsitchyfeet.com

We will list the countries in order of our travels which started in March 2012 in Australia.  We are currently travelling in southern Africa and our plan is to go up the east side of Africa to Egypt, then onto Turkey and across Europe ending in the UK.

At the time of our travels the AUS $ is worth roughly the same as the US $:

 

GENERAL COMMENTS (for Africa):

Some general observations and suggestions you may or may not find useful-

Don’t do anything in a hurry – things WILL take longer than you think and often you wont even know why- everything from sending an email, getting fuel, checking into a camp site, waiting for service somewhere…. everything.  Try to choose a time when you don’t care how long it takes and if you can’t do that… take a deep breath and adjust your expectations.  It doesn’t matter how long it ‘should’ take, it will take as long as it takes. Balance this with being politely pushy at times but choose those times because if it’s every time you will be frustrated and exhausted a lot.

People seem very friendly and curious about us – unless we are tucked away in a ‘lodge’ or similar camp site, we generally have people watching, pointing and staring at us.

Be prepared to have your heart a little bit sad- there is a lot of need and most of it you can do nothing about – but look into local charities and consider donating to them, buy from artists, buy fruit and veg from roadside vendors, tip parking attendants and try to stay places that employ locals and seem to treat people well. With a small amount of effort its easy to find places to stay that contribute in a positive way to locals communities.

23 Feb

Patience, respect and a sense of perspective- seems to work all the time (so far)

Crossing borders- have your papers, passport, and a pen each ready when you go in (you normally need to complete a form and there is rarely a pen).  Things will go much smoother if you decided in advance how you will handle people approaching you (to sell items, sell you insurance, guide you through the border, exchange money etc etc) so you are not discussing things while everyone is standing there watching you.  If you are going to exchange money- know the exchange rate.   The best way to get rid of money sellers is to just say confidently “we have (fill in the blank currency) and/or insurance already, thank you.  So far borders seem to all accept local currency and US dollars for visa and other fees. Don’t expect them to have change. Make sure you get a keep a receipt for EVERY charge you pay, in some places you will be asked for proof we have paid various charges when we have been stopped at road blocks.

Road blocks – We have been asked for passport, drivers license, insurance, road tax receipt, proof you paid various fees at border, carnet (called different things like temp import permit) at various points. Don’t worry, it’s usually only one or two of these, not all!  Much more often though we have been asked all sorts of things, are you married, where are you going, how did you get your vehicle here from Aus, do you like our country, have you been here before, do kangaroos really keep their babies in a pouch…. etc etc. More often than not we have felt the questions were curios and friendly rather than official. Keep you DL handy and always say hello or good morning/afternoon sir or madam as they approach and more often than not they wave you through.  It’s always handy to know where you are going to and from (prob the most commonly asked question and saves time to just have a few names of places that make sense).

So far (up to Tanzania) we have found ATMs that accept Visa and MasterCard, although its common to have to try several as some don’t accept international cards or MasterCard and they often run out of money.

Learn a few words in the local language (even if most people seem to speak English, its likely not their language) a hello or thank you in local language gets a smile from even the surliest of immigration officers and brings peeling laughter and starts conversations (in English) with other people.

13 March

You usually pay for 3rd party insurance at or close to the border, we purchased a ‘Yellow Card’ in Zambia which supposedly covers us for all East African countries (aside from Mozambique) all the way up to Egypt. The cost for ours was approximately US$80 and was calculated using the number of countries and length of time we need coverage for.  It should be a saving for us as we have paid approx $30 for insurance where required for individual countries up to and including Zambia.

You will almost certainly need US $, for border crossings, visas and sometimes national park fees and in Zim it’s the currently. It’s also used to get Sudanese Pounds. In most/all countries they will only accept US $ later than 2006 and are pretty fussy about the condition of the notes- if they are very worn or have any tears they will not take them.

We are travelling on a British and an Australian passports, visa requirements and costs listed below may vary for other nationalities and of course may change.

 

AUSTRALIA: (March-October 2012 – 35,268km)

Ave fuel cost per litre: AUS$1.66

Approx camping cost: ~$20 national park camping, $30-50 caravan parks

Cost of beer out: ~$7.00

Highs/lows:  So many highs – camping between dunes on the Canning and feeling the perspective of isolation.

Comments:  Our Canning Stock Route fuel consumption was 12.3 l/100km (15% higher than trip average).  We shipped Landy from Perth to Durban with CarGoOnline, they were great to deal with, cost us $3,890 for Aus export and shipping costs (20″ container), then an extra approx $1,400 import/wharf costs at the SA side.

Landy waves: 70

SOUTH AFRICA: (Nov/Dec 2012 – 4,560km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = ~8.5 ZAR (Rand)

Ave fuel cost per litre: ZAR12

Approx camping cost: ~ZAR190

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS $2.00

Border formalities: Flew in and met vehicle in Durban

Highs/lows:  Feeling overwhelmed at that first glimpse of the cheetah in Hluwehluwe …….. and the adrenaline of a close elephant encounter at Addo.

Comments:  We found we needed proof of address to get a SIM card for both phone and internet, might be worth seeing if that’s the case if you pick one up at the airport? South African National Parks (SANParks) offers a Wild Card which allows access to many regional conservation areas and all national parks. If you plan to spend much time in national parks have a look at their website to see if its worth getting one. Most national parks offer camping and we found the SANParks camping facilities excellent.

Favourite Camp Spots:  Aardvark Guest House and Camp, amazing facilities close to main gate of Addo Nat Park, S33.53439*  E025.69624*.  Camping right on the coast at Tsitsikamma National Park Campground, S34.02198*  E023.88514*.  Sani Backpackers at the bottom of the Sani Pass, funky little place with cafe, S29*39.719′  E029*27.400′.

Landy waves: 27

LESOTHO: (November 2012 – 790km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: Maloti fixed to SA Rand (see above)

Ave fuel cost per litre: Didn’t buy any

Approx camping cost: ~ZAR150

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1.

Border formalities: Easy border crossings, don’t need carnet, ZAR30 road levy at Sani Pass on the Lesotho side to enter.

Highs/lows:  Sharing time with the friendly locals up in the mountains.

Comments:  Be warned back roads take a long time in Lesotho, probably averaged less than 20km/hr up Sani Pass and to Mokhotlong.

Favourite Camping Spots:  St Johns Lodge, a simple place overlooking village, they will get a fire going for hot showers, S29*20.793′  E029*01.176′.  Malealea Lodge, homey community minded lodge, near village, the community fund can always use donations of clothing and first aid supplies, S29.82823*  E027.60124*.

Landy waves: 3

 

NAMIBIA: (December 2012 – 6,245km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: Namibian dollar is fixed to SA Rand (AUS$ 1.00 = 8.9 N$)

Ave fuel cost per litre: N$11.4/litre

Approx camping cost: Ave N$250 (ranged from 160-420 per night for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1.80

Border formalities: Crossed at Reitfontein, very easy, took half an hour all up, N$220 road fee for Landy.

Highs/lows:  Seeing and walking among the sand dunes at Sossusvlei in the early and late light.  Shock to the senses at Cape Cross seal colony.  A lion encounter in Etosha and national parks in the Caprivi Strip, (esp camping at Nambwa near Divundu).

Comments:  Camping with great facilities is abundantly available throughout the country. Not many paved roads, but dirt roads are generally in great condition. ZAR (SA Rand) is accepted as legal money in Namibia. While in Namibia it was time for a major service on Landy and we came across the Landrover garage of Johann Strauss (Steinfeld Garage) located about 45km south of Keetmanshoop on a farm (S 27 01.832′, E 18 12.794′) they did a great job, very experienced and thorough, highly recommended.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Quirky simple farm campsite, near mechanics listed above, no shade though S27*14.848′  E018*18.290′.  Helmeringhousen Hotel, camping on site, little oasis in a hot stark area, great beer garden, apple crumble and sunset walk up the hill behind the hotel, S25*53.486′  E016*49.406′.  Nambwa 4×4 Camp, in the Caprivi Strip, one of our favourite spots, basic but right on the river, not accessible during heavy rain, we saw lots of wildlife, S17*52.620′  E023*19.080′

Landy waves: 29

BOTSWANA: (January 2013 – 1,331km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: Botswana Pula AUS$ 1.00 = 8.3P

Ave fuel cost per litre: P9.88/L

Approx camping cost: There was a very big difference in the cost of camping in Botswana. For example outside of NP we paid about 100P per night for both of us but inside NP we paid up to US$100. per night for both of us!

Cost of a beer out: ~ A$2

Border formalities: Crossed at Mohembo/Shakawe, very easy, took half an hour all up. Border costs: Road permit 120P, Road Fund 20P and 3rd party insurance 50P. Where we crossed they accepted N$ for charges as well as Pula but of course at not the best rates.

Highs/lows:  Elephants at Savuti, and seemingly having the national parks to ourselves.

Comments: As we have already said national parks in Botswana are very expensive (it was about A$140 per day for two for park fees and camping).  From what we understand for Moremi and Choebe (which includes Savuti) you MUST have a camp site booked and permits to enter or you wont be permitted entry. We organised this in Maun (and heard you could also do it in Gabarone and maybe Kasane although we are not sure). The campsites are privately run and you must book and pay for the campsites first and then go to the NP (Department of Wildlife and National Parks) office to organise permits to enter the NP. If you go to the NP office in Maun they will give you a map and list of which companies run the different camping sites. It took a few hours for the whole process and was easy. The DWNP office in Maun is well signposted and open seven days a week.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Savuti Campsite, a favourite for us as an elephant walked though camp, but the site was good, looking over the Savuti Channel, S18*33.862′  E024*03.714′ (very expensive but all the campsites in the National Parks we visited were).

Landy waves: 10

 

ZIMBABWE: (Jan/Feb 2013 – 1,372km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: Zim uses US$ (AUS$ 1.00 = 1.03 US$)

Ave fuel cost per litre: US$1.35/litre

Approx camping cost: US$20 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$2

Border formalities: Crossed at Vic Falls from Botswana, easy, took just over an hour, mostly because of a big group ahead of us.  UK double entry visa US$70 (single entry $55), Aus double entry visa US$45 (single entry $30).  Carbon tax US$15, road access fee US$10 and third party insurance US$30 (carbon tax and 3rd party insurance valid for 30 days).  Entered Zim the second time at Chirundu from Zambia, we did not have to pay for carbon tax and other fees as they were still valid.

Highs/lows:   Warthogs waiting for traffic on the main road in Vic Falls town, having Manna Pools National Park to ourselves, just us and the ellies.  Time spent in Harare.

Comments:  Zim has felt very friendly and safe throughout.

Favourite Camping Spots:  A good place to camp in Harare is in the car park (also a grassy area for tents) of the Small World Backpackers, friendly place, walking distance to shopping centre and a longer walk to the city centre, S17*48.181′  E031*01.779′.   Bvumba Mountains, in the grounds of a nursery/backpackers great view, quiet and low key, S19*07.078′  E032*46.356′.

Landy waves: 2

 

ZAMBIA: (Jan/Feb 2013 – 1,353km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 5.5 Zam Kwatcha

Ave fuel cost per litre: Zam K5.57/litre

Approx camping cost: US$20 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1.6

Border formalities: went into Zambia twice, both easy crossings with no problems, the first time we crossed at Vic Falls from Zim and could pay in US$ or Kwatcha – US$80 each for double entry visas, US$32 3rd party insurance valid for 30days, US$20 road tax, US$30 carbon tax, we were then stopped for a council tax fee K20 (we didn’t have any change so paid with a ZAR50 note we had left over).  The insurance was purchased from an insurance broker at the border who we had to ask around for after we had gone through immigration.  The second time we crossed at Chipata from Malawi – no extra fees apart from council tax at K30.

Highs/lows:   Zambians are so friendly, Vic Falls, South Luangwa Nat Park.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Wildlife Camp near South Luangwa Nat Park, great spot on the river, friendly staff, food expensive, S13*06.569′  E031*45.226′.

Landy waves: 7

 

MOZAMBIQUE: (Feb 2013 – 1,418km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 30.2 Moz Meticais

Ave fuel cost per litre: Met41/litre

Approx camping cost: Met450 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$2

Border formalities: Crossed at Machipanda (near Mutare) from Zimbabwe, easy crossing but took extra time as visas required photo and fingerprints to be taken.  US$76 each for visa and US$23 3rd party insurance, could pay in US$ or Meticias.

Highs/lows:   Vibrant colour and mixture of African, Arab and Portuguese heritage.  Seeing people being pushed through deep water crossings as though it was a normal part of the journey.

Comments:  Roads north of Gurue in Northern Moz were very slow going and we had to turn around at a couple of flooded river crossings, we were traveling in the wet season.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Near the entrance to Gorongosa Nat Park, worth noting as there seemed to be a lack of camping in this area and there are no signs for this place, S18*58.924′  E034*10.702′.  Gurue Pension in Gurue town in northern Moz, can camp in car park, very basic but worth noting as not much camping around, S15*28.001′  E036*58.679′.

Landy waves: 0  (we hardly saw any cars!)

 

MALAWI: (Feb 2013 – 1,414km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = ~550 Malawi Kwacha (exchange rate is changing fairly quickly)

Ave fuel cost per litre: K~45/litre (the most expensive fuel we have had yet)

Approx camping cost: K5,500 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$0.80

Border formalities: Crossed into Malawi twice, the first time at Chiponde from Mozambique, easy crossing took 40mins all up.  We did not have to get visas, and there was no other costs (3rd party insurance covered by yellow card).  Our second crossing was from Zambia near Chipata, once again no problems and no visa required for 30 day entry, no costs.

Highs/lows:   Definitely lake Malawi, lots of smiling children.  Great camping spots on the lake.  No lows.

Comments:  Very easy travelling, roads in good condition and lots of campsites.  We found diesel everywhere, but recently before there has been shortages.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Cape McLear, Eagles Nest Camp south end of Lake Malawi, fantastic spot right next to the lake on the edge of a friendly fishing village, S14*00.748′  E034*51.049′.  Lilongwe Golf Club, nothing overly special but very cheap and quiet right in the city,  S13*59.661′  E033*46.143′.  Near Livingstonia, called Lukwe, perched on a ridge with great views, fresh salads, good place for peace and quiet, S10*35.135′  E034*07.673′.  FloJa, northern lake Malawi, lovely spot on the lake, money supports locally run pre-school, S10*12.764′  E034*05.744′.

Landy waves: 1

TANZANIA: (Feb-March 2013 – 3,267km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 1666 Tanzanian Shillings

Ave fuel cost per litre: Tsh 2040/litre

Approx camping cost: Tsh 20,000 (for us both, not including national parks)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$2

Border formalities: Crossed from Malawi to Tanzania at Songwe, no problems, visas cost US$50 each, $5 road levy, and $20 foreign vehicle. permit.

Highs/lows:   Stone Town on Zanzibar and driving through Ngorongoro and the Serengeti.  Low was the price of the national parks, but we knew that was coming and we were glad we went.

Comments:  Stay alert and clear of the crazy buses that race along the roads, they wont stay clear of you!  It takes longer than expected to travel, due to the frequent 50km zones through villages and police with radar.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Dar Es Salaam, Mikadi Beach – camping on the south side of the river, basic backpacker hangout on the beach, we felt comfortable leaving Landy there while we went to Zanzibar (at KSh8,000/night for parking with power), S06*49.148′  E039*19.259′.  Northern coast, south of Tanga, Peponi Beach Resort, relaxing spot, good food, great well priced dhow trip,  S05*17.179′  E039*03.943′.  Near the border with Rwanda, can camp in local guesthouse car park, not a great spot but was handy for us,  S02*30.006′  E030*51.161′.

Landy waves: 14

RWANDA: (March 2013 – 632km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 661 Rwandan Francs

Ave fuel cost per litre: RWF 1050/litre

Approx camping cost: RWF 10,000 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1.15 (large beer)

Border formalities: Crossed from Tanzania to Rwanda, easy border, we paid no border charges (using a British and USA passport we did not require a visa).

Highs/lows:   Although not a high, but necessary and important, were the genocide memorials.

Comments:  Not much camping in Rwanda, roads are in excellent condition.  Rwanda is very easy, clean and most things work well.  This was the first country that we could not get cash out with a MasterCard, Visa only.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Kigali Youth Hostel, camp in grounds, includes light brekkie and WiFi  S01*57.042′  E030*05.600′.  Gisenyi, northern Lake Kivu, camping in car park, very friendly and nice place, S01*44.023′  E029*16.393′.

Landy waves: 2

UGANDA: (March 2013 – 1,062km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 2,746 Ugandan Shillings

Ave fuel cost per litre: UGS 3,650/litre

Approx camping cost: UGS 20,000 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1 (large beer)

Border formalities: Crossed from Rwanda to Uganda, easy border, we paid US$50 for visas and UGS 54,000 road tax (had to be in shillings).

Highs/lows:   Walking through the forests gorilla and chimp tracking (if you can afford this it is so worth it).  Seeing the Nile for the first time.

Comments:  Back to lots of good camping after Rwanda.  Roads can be shocking, bit of pot(hole) luck.  Contrary to what we had heard we could get cash out on our MasterCard in some bigger/international banks.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Lake Bunyonyi, Kalebask guest house, a spot looking right over the lake, peaceful place to soak in the gorilla trek, S01*16.106′  E029*56.301′.  Nature Reserve Community Campsite, a fantastic spot overlooking the crater Lake Nkuruba (not far from Kabale Forest) very basic but great location, S00*31.100′  E030*18.150′.

Landy waves: 2

KENYA: (April 2013 – 1,884km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 89 Kenyan Shillings

Ave fuel cost per litre: KSh 1.09/litre

Approx camping cost: KSh 1200 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$ 2.70 (large beer)

Border formalities: Crossed from Uganda at Busia, easy border took 1 hour to cross, we paid US$50 each for visas and KSh 3,434 road tax (could be in shilling or US$).

Highs/lows:   Highs: Without a doubt the Massai Mara (we were very lucky in seeing many lions and cheetahs), met some great people in Nairobi and western Kenya.  The different ethnic groups in northern Kenya were fascinating.  Lows: We were disappointed the rain made roads impassable towards Lake Turkana, and due to the elections (mot many travellers around) we couldn’t find any other vehicles to travel with on the Marsabit to Moyale road which would have eased the tension we felt about security and getting stuck fast in the mud, although not a low it was stressful.  Traffic in Nairobi, it takes forever to get stuff done.

Comments:  We got our Sudanese visas in Nairobi, to get this we required:  Letter of introduction from our embassies (for us the Sudanese embassy would not accept our letters as they did not have “Consular Section Embassy of Sudan Nairobi” written at the top of them) 2 passport photos each, KSh 5,000 per application, and a photocopies of the following: our passport ID pages, carnet and a credit card.  Letters of introduction were free at the Australian embassy and cost KSh 6,300 at the British embassy.  The Sudanese embassy closes for lunch, in theory you could do it all in a day, but with the Nairobi traffic two days should be enough.  We used a Land Rover dealership/garage in Nanyuki in central Kenya called CMC, it’s located on the main road in the middle of town, can’t miss them. It was a bit expensive but the work was good.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Jungle Junction, Nairobi, overlander hot spot, great for info swapping, mechanics and large shopping centre fairly close by (The Junction) S01*17.326′  E036*45.629′.  Sandai Guest House, near Nyeri, very basic camping facilities with views of Mt Kenya, near homey, friendly guest house, S00*17.565′  E036*57.069′.

Landy waves: 3

ETHIOPIA: (April 2013 – 2,473km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 19.5 Ethiopian Birr

Ave fuel cost per litre: Birr 17/litre

Approx camping cost: Birr 175 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: ~ AUS$1

Border formalities: Crossed from Kenya to Ethiopia at Moyale.  We got our visas in Australia before we left.  Not possible to get a visa at the border (tested by a cyclist we met who had to ride back to Nairobi to get a visa!), very easy border, at Ethiopia they checked our VIN and asked what electrical items we had with us (this was recorded on a form that was checked when we left the country).

Highs/lows:   Very friendly people, once you get chatting, amazing scenery through the mountains, great cuisine to be had everywhere, such a different culture and history from eastern and southern African countries.  Churches al Lalibela were a real highlight.

Comments:  Roads are good.  Although banks are common ATMs are not, we used our MasterCard at the Dashen bank, but their ATMS only worked about half the time, Visa was a little more widely accepted and you could get cash out over the counter for a small fee.  This is the first place that we regularly came across petrol stations with no fuel.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Moyale- handy hotel, nothing to get excited about but you can camp around the back near the rooms, can’t remember the name, but it has two golden statues out the front, entrance on the main road in town N03*32.658′  E039*02.882′.  Dorze, up in the mountains near Arba Minch, peaceful and great views, good ginger tea (shai)  N06*10.922  E037*34.802′.  Lalibela, Seven Olives Hotel, right in town, can camp in the car park, let you use a room for hot shower, good food at restaurant, N12*02.108  E039*02.814.  Addis Ababa, at the Baro Pension, car park camping but good location in town, N09*01.840′  E038*45.222′.  Tim and Kim’s, Lake Tanna, maybe the only place in Ethiopia you wont be stared at while camping, run by friendly Dutch couple, great place to relax, N12*13.776  E037*17.920′.

Landy waves: 1

SUDAN: (May 2013 – 2,107km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 6 Sudanese Pounds

Ave fuel cost per litre: SDG 1.85/litre

Approx camping cost: SDG 80 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: Alcohol illegal

Border formalities: Crossed at Metema from Ethiopia, at 5 hours, our longest border crossing so far.  Ethiopia customs close for lunch (1-3pm when were there), can’t get a visa at the border we got ours in Kenya, see above.  On the Sudanese side expect to be patient but also insistent (especially at customs) to get through.  You are required to register within 3 days of arriving in the country, we were able to register at the border and needed a photocopies of: our passport photo page and Sudan the visa page, one passport photo each, a fee of SDG217 each and patience.  Customs charged us SDG13.75 for the carnet stamp.

Highs/lows:   Highs:  being able to bush camp in so many places, the lovely hospitality of people.  Our first pyramids and temples, watching the Meroe Pyramids at sunrise.

Comments:  We got our photography permit in Khartoum, at the Ministry of Tourism Antiquities and Wildlife, this requires a passport photo and to show our passports, it took about 10 minutes and there was no charge, it is basically a list of what you can and cannot photograph. GPS cords for the office are: N15*34.815′  E032*03.997′. Lots of roadblocks, keep your passport handy.  Take plenty of photocopies of your passport for Sudan.  Roads in great condition, few people and cars.  Not sure if you can find an ATM to accept foreign cards, we didn’t try but our understanding is because of US sanctions this is not possible.  Take US$ to change money, best rates on the black market, we asked the YHA where we stayed in Khartoum and got a good rate, can also change in Wadi Halfa if needed.  We could not get diesel in the north until we got to Wadi Halfa and then they only let us have 50 litres max.

Ferry Info Wadi Halfa to Aswan:

We used Mazar Mahir as our fixer in Wadi Halfa Ph: +249122380740 Email: mazarhalfa@gmail.com  We would recommend Mazar, he was friendly and efficient and knew how to get it all sorted. He has plenty of experience with overlanders. We contacted him a few weeks in advance as we knew the date of the ferry we wanted. At the moment the ferry leaves on Tuesday and it seemed to us the barge “timetable” is irregular but Mazar got our landy on a barge that left on Monday so it was waiting for us in Aswan, its worth asking Mazar about this.

The ferry and barge cost a total of US$364.00  (paid in dollars or SDG) which was for everything including us (2nd class) landy, port fees etc. Mazar’s fee was of course extra. He said to pay him whatever. We paid him US$30.

The ferry isnt as bad as we heard/expected. Its long, dirty and hot but people are nice and you surely are not expecting a holiday cruise! We took books, food, loo roll and a mat to lie on/save our space. If you dont get a cabin we would highly suggest finding a shady bit and guarding it. There is food and water for sale on the ferry if you need extra. We took some SDG and just changed the left overs in Aswan.

In Aswan we used Kamal as a fixer. He also was nice and got the job done. Mazar contacted him for us before we left Wadi Halfa and he was waiting when the ferry came in. The cost on the Egyptian side was 885 EGP for everything (including customs, number plates, insurance etc which Kamal sorts) and we paid Kamal US$ 40 (which is what he said he charges). We didn’t negotiate on the price but it may be possible.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Really enjoyed the bush camping near the Meroe Pyramids, find a spot in the hills on the far side of the pyramids from the main road.  Dongola, Candacha Nubian Guest House ran by a really friendly family, very clean facilities, camping in the car park, we had a great trip on the Nile and swimming with the kids, N19*11.054′  E030*28.546′.

Landy waves: 2

EGYPT: (May-June 2013 – 2,581 km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 7 Egyptian Pounds (LE)

Ave fuel cost per litre: LE 1.15/litre

Approx camping cost: LE 80 (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: Alcohol not as easy to find as you might think but found in most places if you know where to look AU$1.70

Border formalities:  Where to start!  Coming from the south you enter Egypt from Sudan via a ferry, see Sudan section above for details.  Charges to enter Egypt were LE 575 for customs and LE 310 which covered Egyptian driving permit, number plates and 3rd party insurance (they did not accept our yellow card), these are all required before you can leave the port.  Visas were sorted on the ferry and were US$15 each (30 days), take the right change.

Leaving Egypt- at the time we left there were two viable options for us, getting a ferry to Turkey, or driving to Israel and getting a ferry to Italy.  We chose to go to Turkey.  Keep in mind that this is almost exclusively a trucking route and they are not used to dealing with travellers.  We booked the ferry with Sisa Shipping in Turkey, their route goes from Port Said to Iskenderun.  We did not come across any other companies doing similar routes.

Shipping details: We contacted Saba Ipek (from Sisa Shipping in Turkey) on 00902164442954. We paid US$910 for Landy and two passengers without a cabin- the breakdown was US$180 per person without a cabin or US$320 per person for a two bed cabin. Our landy cost US$550 (motorbikes cost US$230).  We organised payment via a transfer (in British Pounds) into Sisa’s UK account.  You can also purchase tickets and make arrangements through Sisa’s agent in Port Said, UET Shipping,  contact Ahmed Salem on 0201066619189 or email: operation@uet-shipping.com

We found both Sisa and UET generally friendly and when things were going ok it was fine but for us lots of things went wrong, some of which couldn’t be helped by the agent or shipping company, but when things went wrong we found it difficult to work with both Sisa and UET, they were very inefficient, didn’t follow up on things and difficult to contact.  We made it out in the end but we would suggest you take the initiative and push hard when needed to make sure you get on the boat with your vehicle.

Sisa Shipping told us the ferry service called twice a week with a 20 hour journey time. In our experience we were on the boat for 48 hours (with a 30 hour sailing time) and with delays on both the Egyptian and Turkish sides we don’t see how it could run twice a week! Each time we were told either by Sisa Shipping or the Egyptian agent a day or time for departure they were way off, far too optimistic! Be prepared to be a little pushy, very very patient, remember the big cultural differences in how things get done and maybe even expect a delay and be pleasantly surprised if there is not one! Unfortunately in the end we cant say we were overall happy with Sisa because they said they would cover some of our costs we incurred due to extensive delays and when we got in touch to organise that we never heard back from them. We had no other choice though by the time things started to unravel, we just needed to get to Turkey!

Our ferry was the Aqua Hercules and once we got on (which we were so happy about finally getting on)  it was a nice modern European type ferry. Cabins were available, we saw one and it seemed nice.  The main reason to get a cabin we think would be for the private loo, the communal ones were overflowing (literally!!) within a few hours so you can imagine what they were like after two days! Without a cabin you have access to table and chairs  for sitting and the floor for sleeping. We were served three meals a day which were basic but very adequate. There was also free unlimited drinking water and tea. Once on the boat there is nothing to spend money on (besides your Turkish visa if you don’t get it before hand). We had access to our vehicle the whole sailing, which was great!

We used a fixer to get us out of Egypt as well. I must say we heard stories about getting in and out of Egypt and thought they were exaggerated but we firmly believe a fixer is worth it! We used Eslam (contact him on eslam_elshamaa@windwoslive.com or 00201289220002).  He speaks good english in person although it’s a bit tricky on the phone. We paid him 1500LE and to be honest don’t know what went to whom and for what but it covered customs, getting the carnet stamped, return of plates and storage of our landy for a few nights (once the delay started we had to cover that) and his fee, it was all inclusive aside from 500LE for a shipping order which is meant to go directly to the agent, although we were never charged that (no idea why).  Eslam never turned up on time (but no one we met in Port Said did) but did as he said he would and was overall good to work with and someone we would recommend.  He does not work for the agent but does his own thing. We met someone else who had a different fixer who was a bit cheaper but they had to keep paying other bits and pieces so no doubt it was the same.  We were required to get there and clear landy through customs at least two days before the sailing date (Eslam sorts all of that). Once this has happened he returns your number plates and your vehicle is kept in a customs compound at the dock.

Highs/lows:   Highs:  Abundant and extraordinary history and culture, warm people, especially in rural areas, driving through the deserts, especially the White Desert.  Lows:  the bureaucracy and inefficiency in trying to get anything done. The horse drawn carriages in Luxor asking you every three seconds if you want a ride! But tourism was very down and they  must be desperate for work so cant blame them really. Not a low but bartering for nearly everything and prices changing all the time can get a bit tiring after a while. 🙂

Comments:  When we were in Egypt there were near daily protests in most major cities and we received a lot of travel warnings. The revolution was foremost in everyones mind with security and politics the main subject of conversation.  People were in touch telling us to be careful but we found Egypt safe and people friendly and struggling from so few visitors. We did leave just before things really kicked off and Morsi was removed. We cant say about post Morsi but when we were there we found it great, we had heard of how crowded things get but had almost everywhere practically to ourselves!  The Red Sea resorts are always safe so don’t shy away from those! We had heard there had been major fuel shortages over the last few months, we had to look around and came across many closed petrol stations, we did however find fuel in every town we looked for it, although there can be a fair wait for it, get it while you can.   If you are short of time or have a deadline leave plenty of time to enter and exit Egypt, it is not the place to assume things will go quickly or smoothly.  Everyone we had met had delays at one end or both, and so did we.  In Aswan we were lucky and only had to wait a few hours, but we have met people who waited weeks.   Due to a series of things going wrong we were seriously delayed in Port Said for nearly three weeks!  We met a few people who spent the majority of their 30 day visa getting in and out.  Egypt is still worth it though.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Not camping, but great guest house in Aswan called Ekadolli Nubian Gesthouse, N24*03.372′ E032*51.631′ spotless, friendly, reasonably priced and you can have a beer.   In Luxor we stayed just on the west bank of the Nile at Al Salem Camp N25*41.765 E032*37.733′ a basic camp, with a great location and friendly hosts.  Bush camping in the White Desert was great. We also stayed in Landy at a great camp in Dakhla Oasis, refreshing swimming in the oasis fed pool, N25*31.028′ E028*57.417.   In Port Said we got to know the Hotel de la Post very well, reasonably priced and cleanish, place across the road has free wifi, N31*15.734′ E032*18.638′.

Landy waves: 0!

TURKEY: (June 2013 – 2,228km)

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 1.79 Turkish Lira

Ave fuel cost per litre: TL 3.98/litre

Approx camping cost: TL 30  (for us both)

Cost of a beer out: approx AU$3.35 (large thankfully)

Border formalities: While in Egypt we got an E-Visa online, for British passport it was US$20, for Australian it was US$60, although it says you don’t have to, we printed them out and we were glad we did, as we were asked for them on the boat.  It would have been easy to buy these visas on the boat with US$.  On arrival to port (and once we finally got off the boat) we had to get some paperwork done for Landy, and got a stamp in one of our passports for it, we needed proof of insurance and registration papers but there was no cost. We bought green card insurance (3rd party insurance for Landy) while we were in Egypt so we would be covered for Turkey and the whole of Europe.  It was very expensive, we paid about 450 Euro but the price depends on the vehicle value and duration of policy.  Some green cards only cover EU countries so check that extra countries like Turkey are covered if you need them, we purchased ours from Assurantiekantoor Alessie, who are based in the Netherlands after looking at a few other providers. They were efficient and easy to deal with via email.

Highs/lows:   Highs:  Jumping in the sea and being able to wear shorts and t-shirts again, brilliant fresh food, even at service stations.  The east meets west in Istanbul.  Low: the eye watering price of fuel, coming from Au$0.17 to Au$2.20/l !

Comments:  Free wifi everywhere, even some petrol stations.  For us Turkey was a headspin coming out of Africa, easy, plenty of banks and cash machines, fuel available everywhere, amazing roads, clean, lots of camping, especially near the Med.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Kizkalesi camping N36*27.883′ E034*09.188′ very basic, but clean and a great view right on the Med overlooking two castles.  Kas camping N36*11.927′ E029*37.965′ bit more expensive but great location, swimming and easy walk to town.  In Istanbul we wanted to be in the city and stayed at a great hostel in a double room with ensuite, reasonably priced for a great city, easy walking to some of the big sights, we could even park Landy outside at the end of the small dead-end road for free (there are other guesthouses there too if the hostel is full) N41*00’21.6″ E028*58’52.7″.

Landy waves: 1

EUROPE: (June 2013 – 5,491km) we are including all of Eastern and Western Europe together as we travelled through pretty quickly.  We went through the following countries: Greece; Macedonia; Albania; Montenegro; Croatia; Slovenia; Austria; Germany; Belgium; France and the UK.

Exchange rate at time of travel: AUS$ 1.00 = 0.70 Euro (Macedonia, Croatia, Albania and the UK are not on the Euro)

Ave fuel cost per litre: Euro 1.41/litre

Approx camping cost: Euro 10-30 (for us both, with the exception of Croatian cities where camping cost us 200-335 Kuna = AU$ 40-65!)

Cost of a beer out: approx AU$ 1.70 in eastern Europe to Au$ 5 in western Europe.

Border formalities:  We did not need visas for any of the countries we travelled through, borders are great, drive through and we didn’t even need to get out of Landy!  Our last actual border crossing was between Croatia and Slovenia, then we only passed signs when entering a new country.  At the actual border crossings we were asked to show our registration papers and the green card insurance.  We took the ferry from Calais to Dover into the UK, very easy to book online, they go all the time.

Highs/lows:   Highs:  Swimming in the Adriatic Sea in Croatia and Montenegro, walking the city walls of Dubrovnik, driving through the snow over the Alps in Austria.  Beer, hot chips and chocolate in Belgium.  Lows:  Having to scoot across quicker than we had hoped.

Comments:  Roads are good, everything is accessible (in fact there is too much of everything!) Europe is all easy, and when you get to western Europe maybe too easy. There are a lot of toll roads so be prepared to pay or to drive on smaller less direct and slower roads.  Deserves a whole trip on its own.

Favourite Camping Spots:  Kotor Bay, Montenegro, N42*28’18.1″ E018*42’24.7″ nice location, very friendly.  Escalles, France (near Calais) N50*55’08.7″ E001*42’40.8″ easy short drive to ferry, lovely coastline.

Landy waves: 10

5 thoughts on “Overlanders Bits ‘n Bobs

  1. Hi guys – great Web site. Just found you from twitter. Many thanks for mentioning our site. Just delighted that you found it so useful. Enjoy the rest of your trip.

  2. Hey guys – just found your Web site through twitter. Like it a lot! Many thanks for mentioning our site, delighted it had been useful. Enjoy the rest of your trip. Taniya

    • Hi guys! good to hear from you guys, after all we have known of your trip since well before we left on ours! We still find your blog useful! All the best for the rest of your journey.

  3. Perhaps the best travel blog I ever read! And I have read many by now … The decor of your Landy, ceiling detail, Useful for real. Since the compressed information country by country – really worth reading and useful! Congratulations to a real big trip!

    • Hi Karl,

      Thanks for getting in touch and for the compliments on our blog! Very nice to hear and we are glad you found it interesting. Please feel free to get in touch if you have any questions.

      All the best.

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