Vehicle registered in home country?

Should you deregister your own vehicle in your home country or have it officially redeemed? Both can cause problems.

In the end, we decided to have our camper van registered in Switzerland and therefore drive here in southern Africa completely legally. The only thing that is “illegal” are the non-original CH plates – but the originals travel in the vehicle. A theft prevention measure. Disadvantage: The road traffic fees in Switzerland and the compulsory liability insurance, which is of no use to us here, have to be paid. We have decided to take this step in order to avoid any complications of a legal nature should we be involved in an accident, for example. If license plates are lost abroad, it gets really complicated. Although we would be issued new license plates without further ado (on presentation of a police report), these would have to be collected in person in Switzerland … Keeping the original number and accepting the financial consequences also prevents the risk of another vehicle suddenly driving around in Switzerland with “our” license plates …

As already mentioned, the disadvantage of the “legal solution” is that road tolls and the fee for liability insurance apply, even though they are of no use. If we decide to leave the vehicle in southern Africa for longer than three to four years (which many Swiss and Germans do), then one day a letter will arrive from the Road Traffic Office of the Canton of Zurich requesting a vehicle inspection. Shipping the vehicle home just for this reason would be financially costly, simply ignoring it would mean that you would be wanted by the police. Then it would definitely be too complicated … In this case, you would be driven into illegality, would have to deposit the license plates in Switzerland and drive around Africa illegally, so to speak, because it is not possible to redeem them here (as right-hand drive and not duty paid).

Driving here in Africa with deposited license plates, which certainly works without any problems, has the disadvantage, on the one hand, that you don’t really know what kind of legal risk you are taking. If it bursts, will the insurance companies still pay? What happens on the police side? No, you really don’t want to be “locked in” here. For example, we would not have been able to take out fully comprehensive insurance for our camper without officially registering the vehicle, as the state and insurance companies in Switzerland are interlinked in this respect.

Carnet des Passages

A Carnet des Passages is mandatory for African countries, otherwise you would have to pay customs duty on your vehicle in every country you travel through. The Carnet smoothes the hurdles at customs. It is valid for one year and can then be renewed. To renew the Carnet des Passage, travel out of the South African Customs Union (South Africa, Namibia, Botswana) with the old carnet before the old carnet expires and have it stamped. The next day, you enter the country with the new Carnet des Passages and return the old Carnet to the issuer.

Once you have entered the South African Customs Union – e.g. stamped the Carnet when receiving the vehicle in a Customs Union port – you no longer need to have the Carnet des Passage stamped in and out when crossing borders within the Customs Union. You only have to have it stamped out if you leave the customs union – e.g. to Zambia or Zimbabwe – and of course have it stamped in again there.

Swiss vehicle registration document

Police officers and border officials are looking for the sticker on the windshield that proves that the vehicle is officially registered. Of course, we don’t have such a sticker (except for the German Euro 5 sticker). Now some clever guy at Botswana customs wanted to see this sticker, which we don’t have. We therefore handed him a laminated copy of the vehicle registration document, which he then read. When he read the inspection date of the vehicle registration: Expertise: 26.05.2015 / ZH – he was of the opinion that the ID had expired …. Expired, also sounds like expertise …

For tactical reasons, we have loaded our Sprinter down to 3.49 tons. In southern Africa, the total weight limit of up to 3.5 tons does not apply, but different rules apply from 3.5 tons , for example for the fees in the national parks (Botswana). It has also proved to be a good idea to pay not only the camps but also the entrance fees for the (Botswana) national parks in advance. So far, this has spared us any discussions about which weight and therefore fee class our vehicle falls into.

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