Vehicle and modifications for wilderness and overland travel.
“If you think you are too small to make a difference you haven’t spent a night with a mosquito”
We purchased a Land Cruiser for our Africa expeditions as it is the vehicle of choice for most UN and NGOs working in Africa so parts and service was readily available. We strongly believe that the Land Cruiser 80 Series is truly the best and toughest vehicle to take across Africa.
No matter what the vehicle faced she went up the steepest roads, down the worst roads, cruised over 1000s of miles of corrugation, over the biggest rocks, deepest mud and rushing waters. She stopped at nothing except the gas (petrol) station.
The Land Cruiser in Africa
We purchased it in South Africa and it was modified by Stuart Bailey who did a magnificent job. It we had to do it again we would change nothing. Unfortunately, we were unable to import the Land Cruiser into Canada and sold her in South Africa. We felt like we had lost a best friend; we loved that cruiser.
Choosing an Overland Vehicle for the Americas
As strange as it may seem, North America does not have the selection of off road expedition vehicles found in Europe, Africa or Australia. It was a tough decision deciding how we were going to get a vehicle that would meet our needs without breaking the bank.
Finally, we decided to go with a truck with pop up camper scenario, as we planned to be on the road for up to 3 years. How did we choose?
Criteria for Choosing a Truck
- Payload: Does the truck have the payload capacity for a camper and all our equipment and supplies. Weight to power ratio is important.
- Off Road Capability: You will need a reliable and safe 4X4. Can this truck survive the roads and conditions we may encounter?
- Serviceability and ability: Will it be simple to find spare tires and parts? Will it be easy to repair? Is this a “global vehicle” with representatives in most countries we are planning to travel to?
- Fit into shipping container: Can this truck with a camper fit into a shipping container? We plan to ship the vehicle as we travel between continents, so it needs to be shippable in a cost effective way.
- Affordability: Can we afford this truck?
- Cab interior suitable: Can we make the inside of cab livable for extended driving and many months perhaps years on the road?
- Comfortable to drive: We have a 3 hour limit rule for driving so we each take turns driving, switching drivers every 3 hours. The truck must be comfortable for both drivers to drive.
- Safety and Security: What is the safety record like and is it easy to upgrade the security should we need to.
- Stick to what we know: Diesel or gasoline a big question, but we decided we know gasoline engines so we are going to stick with what we know despite most recommending diesel. It was also our experience in Africa that we could always purchase petrol (gas) but not always purchase diesel.
- Modifications: What modifications do we need? We do not want to add modifications or equipment that we will not need, as this is a waste of money and adds to curb weight.
- Maneuverability: Could we travel on those narrow tracks, across the river on that flimsy ferry, and may even fit into a parking space?
- Left hand drive: As most of our future travel plans will be in countries for left hand drive vehicles we would not consider a right hand vehicle. Our experience driving on the “wrong” side of the road adds to the stress of driving in poor and dangerous conditions
- Weight and size of truck: The truck must be able to cross small/primitive bridges or be put on small rafts or ferries.
VEHICLE AND MODIFICATIONS FOR WILDERNESS AND OVERLAND TRAVEL
For an excellent article, “Choosing an Overland Vehicle” go to https://www.silkroute.org.uk/equipment/choosevan.htm
VEHICLE EQUIPMENT REQUIRED
- Fire Extinguisher: Mandatory in some countries. Officials asked us to show it to them and of course it is excellent idea to have one.
- Red Warning Triangles: Mandatory in some countries. Once again, we were asked about them.
- Recovery Gear: Gear to help you get yourselves and your vehicle out of tight spots. We used recovery gear, a high lift jack and sand ladders in Africa.
- Spares: This depends on your vehicle and the ability to acquire spares while on route. It’s a good idea to carry a full set if you can. We went through 3 sets of tires and had a total of 14 punctures (80,000km/50,000m). Certain roads “eat” tires (e.g., Nairobi to Isiola).
- Mechanical Tools: Good tools are essential. We even had to lend tools to the bush mechanics who worked on our cruiser.
- Sunscreens for Windows: Invaluable for keeping the vehicle interior cool when parked and adds to security if others cannot see inside vehicle. I strongly suggest you get ones specially made for all your windows that are easy to put up and store.
- Window Cleaning Supplies: Yes it matters. Bugs and dust are an everyday occurrence. Make a habit of cleaning windows every day especially if planning to take photos through windows.
- Spare Key: Keep one hidden on the outside of the vehicle.
Make sure all the details on all documents match. Check all the documents before you leave home as errors do occur.
Vehicle Registration and License
You must have an official looking document at all border crossings.
Keep the registration and insurance documents with the vehicle at all times. It is compulsory in some countries that the documents are kept with the vehicle.
We recommend that you get your vehicle documents and registration translated into the language(s) of the countries you will be traveling through (e.g. West Africa – French; South America –Spanish, Portuguese, French).
Photocopy all the vehicle documents. Many officials will accept the copies rather than filling in all their forms and you make them happy.
International Driving Permit (IDP)
According to the Canadian Automobile Association: “The International Driving Permit is a special licence for tourists, authorized by a UN treaty among nations of the world, for the purpose of allowing motorists to drive vehicles in international traffic without further tests or applications. It is proof that the holder possesses a valid driver’s licence issued by a competent authority in their country of residence.
It provides the holder with an extra photo ID. Provides translation of your valid Canadian Drivers licence since the IDP is printed in 10 languages (English, French, Spanish, Russian, Chinese, German, Arabic, Italian, Scandinavian and Portuguese.) Most Car Rental agencies will request an IDP even though one is not required to drive in their country.”
International drivers permits are only valid for one year. They are usually available from your local automobile association, “An IDP cannot be post dated, extended or renewed. Each time a new IDP is required, the applicant must complete a new application form, produce a valid Canadian driver’s licence, provide 2 new photographs and the fee.”
You must have your valid national driver’s license. This is the one that is usually requested by police and border officials but most will accept the IDP. If your driver’s licence expires while you are travelling, you will need to make arrangement to get a new national driver’s licence.
We purchased vehicle insurance through Campbell Irving in London. Several insurance companies offer international insurance on vehicles; however, make sure they will cover the countries you plan to visit. We were turned down by several “international insurance companies” when they heard our intended route.
3rd Party insurance
This is compulsory in some countries. What you need will depend on the specific countries you are traveling through. Some border crossings have insurance offices where you can purchase the 3rd party.
3rd Party Insurance In Africa:
- COMESA – 3rd party insurance for several East Africa countries and can be purchased at the borders.
- ECOWAS – Carte Brune insurance for 15 West Africa countries
- CEMAC – Carte Rose insurance for Central Africa
If you are involved in an accident do not expect the insurances to pay out. You will need your own 3rd party insurance if you want actual coverage.
Africa Carte Grise (grey card)
This is an international certificate required in West Africa for vehicles. The vehicle registration papers can be shown in place of a carte grise; however, they will require a copy of the registration papers be translated into French.
CARNET DE PASSAGE (CARNET)
What is a Carnet?
- Think of it as the vehicle passport. A Carnet allows travelers to temporarily import a vehicle or motorcycle for a limited period of time without the need for payment of customs duties, sales taxes or leave a cash deposit at the border. It is in essence an international guarantee for payment of customs duties and taxes to a government should the vehicle not be re-exported from that country.
- All persons who will be driving the vehicle are required to have their name on the document. It is strongly suggested you include all drivers in case of an emergency and one driver is not available.
- Many border officials do not know how to fill in the carnet and will require your assistance and it is important and your responsibility that it is filled in correctly.
- Apply for the Carnet as early as possible as it can take months to get.
- For the most updated information on which countries require a carnet contact your nearest automobile association. There is a lot of out of date information about Carnets on the Internet.
Where to Obtain a Carnet?
Canadian Automobile Association no longer offers this service. For Canadians and USA citizens contact Boomerang Carnets in Barrington Illinois, USA
Carnet HelpLine 1-800-282-2900
Mobile Carnet HelpLine 1-847-638-8325
The contact information form can also be used for enquiries located at: https://www.atacarnet.com