We struggled with the decision to get a Carnet de Passage en Douane, but before I get into that, here is a brief description from the Canadian Automobile Association:
The Carnet can be thought of as a passport for your car. It offers a guarantee to a foreign government that the vehicle identified in the Carnet, if granted temporary importation status, will be removed from the country within the time limit imposed by the respective jurisdiction. In the event that the vehicle is not removed within the imposed timeframe, the country may claim from CAA all duties and taxes that would be required to permanently import the vehicle to that country. Using the Carnet is an alternative to leaving a cash security deposit with a foreign government. It allows free movement and unencumbered access between foreign countries. Most countries, but not all, allow this option. A Carnet is valid for one year from the date of issue. The carnet is available to CAA and AAA Members and non- members resident in Canada or the U.S. and to others who have a car registered in either Canada or the U.S. Others must apply to the auto club or carnet issuer in their country of residence.
CAA is the only authorized issuer of the FIA Carnet to Canada and the U.S.
Not every country requires a Carnet, an ever changing list can be found with various automobile associations and on Horizons Unlimited, but most of Africa still does. The way the Carnet works is you send an application, along with two pictures of your vehicle to the automobile association you plan to work with. On the application you list the countries you plan on traveling through. Each country has a minimum customs deposit that must be logged upon entry. The automobile association takes the highest deposit requirement from your planned route – a percentage. So, the deposit amount can be anywhere from 120% of the vehicle value to 800% of the vehicle value. So your route and the value of your vehicle determine how much your Carnet will cost.
We began to research which countries really needed Carnets and found a variety of advice and stories. We found that Egypt is definitely 800% of the vehicle value, and that even after paying for a Carnet we would still have to lodge a 500 EUR deposit on Egyptian plates. More research uncovered the possibility of getting an Egyptian Triptick at the border for somewhere between 500-2000 EUR. As time passed by, this story became more factual as other travelers passed through Egypt successfully on the Egyptian document. Other countries along the Eastern route also required Carnets, the next most expensive being Kenya. We read many stories of people getting in (bribes) with no Carnet only to be stopped by other police within the country to have their cars impounded until they paid the customs deposits. That was the story in many countries. I did read some (lucky) success stories, but in the end we decided that a trip across Africa is adventurous enough without having to haggle with and bribe your way across every border only to spend the rest of the time in that country hoping not to get caught.
We contacted the Canadian Automobile Association and worked with the very professional and competent:
Mrs. Suzanne Danis
International Documentation Specialist
Canadian Automobile Association
500-1545 Carling Avenue Ottawa ON K1Z 8P9 Canada
Tel: 1 613 247 0117 X 2025
Fax: 1 613 247 0118
The CAA has a cost calculator which is based off of your own input as to your vehicles value. Using Kelley Blue Book or the likes you can make a close guess, but the CAA, as other associations, has their own way of determining your vehicles value. We didn’t want to pay a deposit only to find out that we couldn’t afford the Carnet and were able to file the application with Mrs. Danis without the deposit so that we could see what the CAA would value our truck. We applied for all countries, but Egypt and the Carnet came back affordable. It is important to note that the CAA will ask for a picture of your car from the right front and rear left, it is up to you to fill them in on any conditions that will devalue the car further. In our case the truck has severe rust underneath and I provided pictures bringing the total truck value down. This is the exact opposite game as selling your car. In the case of a Carnet you are trying to devalue the car in their eyes.
The next decision is how will we pay the deposit; will we pay a full cash deposit, or will we apply for an insurance indemnity? We took the indemnity which is definitely not the best option, period, it was just the option that made the most sense for us. With the indemnity you lose a percentage of your deposit, but the deposit is far less than the full deposit that must be lodged. If you lodge a full deposit you get the entire amount back as long as you process each ticket of the Carnet properly. There are 25 pages (optional) with several slips per page. Your truck must be stamped in and out of each country listed on the Carnet and then returned from to the country of export to receive the full deposit back. The indemnity works the same way, but you deposit less, and receive only a percentage of that deposit back. It sounds stupid to do the indemnity, but it has to do with cash on hand and other issues. The indemnity just worked the best for us in this case.
We paid the indemnity deposit and had the Carnet in hand within 5 days and that included shipping it to Germany. We are quite pleased with our transaction.