Notes and Tips...
- The Traveller's Handbook - Wexas (7th edition)
- Vehicle Dependent Expedition Guide - Tom Sheppard
- Land Rover Haynes Manual
- Istanbul to Kathmandu - Lonely Planet guide
- The Wrong Way Home - Peter Moore
See also - Planning section
- Side of road driven on
- Check you UK insurance coverage - ours covered us all the way to Hungary.
Everybody we talked to in Romania said we didn't need to buy a green card;
they simply wouldn't sell us one! We never got to the bottom of this. They
sell you a green card at the Bulgarian border if you don't already have one.
- Take a copy of the Financial Times with you when you go - or at least the
currency section - this will give you an idea of the exchange rate of the
country you are about to enter and will surely be more up to date than the
rates in your guidebook
- Take the BBC World Service frequency charts - these are available on the
- Water purification is very important - we found the best solution to be
a combination of chlorine and filtration. In this manner, all viruses and
bacteria can be combatted (one on its own will NOT catch all). We are using
20 litre black plastic jerry cans (prevents algi growth), to which we add
Aqua Clean Tabs (available in caravaning shops) - these are chlorine; it is
not recommended to use iodine or silver over long periods. We then have a
ceramic candle filter attached to a small pump to dispense the water from
the cans as needed. Our particular chlorine tablets are designed to purify
25 litres per tablet, but in countries such as Iran, Pakistan and India we
have been adding two tablets per 20l can for safety.
- When manouvering, don't trust anyone other than one of your own party.
Locals will happily wave you forward until you have completely crushed your
roof tent on that car park ceiling!
- Don't expect to find too many European campsites open during the winter
months (although you can find some).
- Currency table - to come
- Cost of Living
- Whilst you may be able to drive as fast as you like on the German autobhans,
speed limits are strictly enforced on all other German roads.
- In Czech Republic, Slovakia, - remember to buy a 'vignette' for the motorway
- fines up to £100 - it would appear that you buy these in advance for
the stretch of motorway that you're intending to use. For Hungary and Turkey
they use the 'toll' system where you pick up a ticket and then pay for it
- European motoring organisations are often happy to supply maps and info
(e.g. campsites) if you write to them in advance.
- German is more widely spoken in Eastern Europe, particularly Hungary, and
a German phrasebook would come in handy
- Most tourist sites, especially camp sites, are shut during the winter
- Everyone is very conscientious about obeying the speed limit - suggesting
- Bring a German phrase book if you don't speak German
- Again, many campsites closed in winter - tourist info can provide a very
useful map of the countries campsites, complete with facility details and
year round opening times (not always accurate - phone to check).
- The roads in Romania are terrible so don't expect to get anywhere in a rush.
Road surfaces in cities are non-existent, and HGV's litterally have to crawl
through the potholes with you behind them.
- At the border you will be given a leaflet explaining driving security in
Bulgaria i.e. don't drive at night
- At the border you will have to pay various taxes: on the Romanian side -
ecology tax and bridge tax, on the Bulgarian side - motorway tax and disinfectant
- You will also be given a 'statistic' card which you must remember to get
filled out and stamped everywhere you stay
- At the border you will need your Carnet for the first time - make sure you
get it filled out properly - one person fills it out, then another stamps
it and retains the bottom section.
- The roads in Turkey are in very good condition (with the odd exception -
'Batman' is not worth the effort!)
- From Malatya onwards you will come across a lot of army road blocks - not
always obvious. Make sure you stop at all road blocks unless waved on. You
should encounter no problems. They are there to combat smuggling (so we are
told, although the PKK probalby has something to do with it too). If stopped
they will just take your passport and vehicle details.
- Visas are available at the border = £10
- Everyone in Turkey is a millionnaire - careful with the 500,000 and 5,000,000
notes - they look very similar
- Apparently Monday morning is not a good time to cross the border as that's
when trade starts again after the weekend
- Get rid of all signs of alcohol - no presents or gifts. Alcohol is is regarded
as seriously as drugs or guns. We don't know of anyone that has actually been
checked, but apparently Iranian jails are not the most pleasant of places.
- Dress Code (women) - See Planning/Iran - What
to Wear section
- You will probably be getting used to millitary road blocks, and Iran is
no different, particularly in the west. Most major towns seem to have them
at their boundary, but they are no problem. They usually take your passport
details, number plate and destination details if they stop you (some just
stop you for a chat!).
- The driving in Iranian cities may appear horrific at first sight - not an
inch to spare between vehicles - but there is good cooperation amongst drivers
and as long as you keep moving, things flow along quite well. You quickly
develop a sixth sense about what the other road users are about to do, and
this is the key to survival!
- The other key to survival is liberal use of your horn. The horn is used
in place of mirrors as an "I am here" message. It can be very grating
at first, but remember not to take it personally, and stick to what you
are doing. When on the open road, always use the horn when passing to
let them know you are there, because mirrors are simply not used (as if to
make a point, most cars that have a wing mirror will fold it in to the side!).
- Iranian roads are superb, and you can cover enourmous distances. Coupled
with the fact that 100 litres of deisel costs about $1 makes this a great
place to bring your car!
- There are large numbers of trucks on the roads, and they all love the sight
of another truck, even if you are only 1/10 their size - the constant tooting
and headlight flashing is no more than an enthusiastic hello
- If camping, take advice, because much of Iran is unmarked military land.
- It is very difficult to get travellers cheques cashed in Iran so take plenty
of cash (US dollars are best)
- Pakistan is currently excluded from the British Carnet (much to the Pakistanis
indignation!), but there is a fairly simple way around this which we used.
On arrival at the border, they can provide you with a customs officer to escort
you to Quetta (one day across the Baluchistan desert), where you seek permission
from the customs inspector to continue your transit - this will be granted
under further escort. The escort rides in the vehicle with you (make sure
you have room), and cost us a total of approximately $70. We then took a further
4 days to reach Wagah.
- The Pakistanis love their trucks more than any others, so again expect plenty
of flashing and tooting. The truck drivers on the whole are very courteous.
However, this doesn't extend to the rest of the population, who are impatiant
nutters! Be extremely careful on corners because they don't quite seemed to
have grasped the importance of slowing down round bends and this leads to
numerous accidents, which can all too easily involve you (as we discovered).
- Watch out for speed bumps, especially at level crossings and around villiages
- they can be very difficult to spot, and very severe.
- Females will probably feel more comfortable if they keep their "Iranian"
clothes on. Although it is not a requirement to cover the head, it is still
important to respect the muslim codes (we didn't actually see a single woman
until we reached the Punjab!). Nic stayed covered all the way through to avoid
any unwanted attention.
- Again, bring dollars to change, but be aware that there are not many places
that you can change them, particularly in the west. You can change them ok
at the Taftan border and in Quetta.
- Expect a 10-12 hour drive throught the Baluchistan desert from Taftan to
Quetta. Much of this is over potholed single track desert road, before heading
up into the mountains where the road surface is variable, there are usually
two lanes, and you should expect cars either on the wrong side of the road
or sliding out of control on every corner - take care! Leave at sunrise, because
as we discovered, driving into Quetta in the dark is blinding since headlights
are proudly displayed on full beam by an endless stream of cars and trucks.
- For driving in India, see all the above notes, but add to this the sheer
quantity of road users coupled with the fact that unlike the previous countries
there is simply no cooperation between road users and a staggering lack of
common sense. The net result is that if you are moving at all, it will be
at the pace of the slowest thing on the road, which is generally a cow! Expect
long days of low mileage. We wouldn't reckon on covering more than about 150
miles in a day.
- On the plus side, we didn't come across a single military road block.
- It is virtually impossible to find any privavy in India for camping. If
you do camp you can expect a large crowd to scrutinise your every move. The
crowds will usually disappear as it gets dark, so we found the best thing
to do was to look for a suitable camping place just before dusk.
- This is a fantastic place to take a well earned break after the rigours
of the road so far, as well as restocking your supplies. You can find virtually
everything you need here.
- It is an absolute breeze to drive here after India!
- There are currently frequent road blocks to combat the Maoist problem. However,
they are not interested in western travellers and will always wave you straight
through. When you encounter a queue at such a road block, it is perfectly
acceptable (often encouraged) to drive straight up to the front (but make
sure the guards see who you are and wave you through!). No one seems to mind,
even if you find yourself blocked head to head with a bus coming the other
way - with plenty of friendly help a path through will soon be found.
- From Kathmandu to the Chinese border at Kodari is only a 4-5 hr journey,
and you can easily find cheap guest houses at Tatopani, 5 minutes before the
- See Planning/How to get through China page - it
is impossible to take your vehicle into China without organising it through
an agency. This section of the journey is unfortunately very expensive and
- Remember that Chinese time is 2 1/4 hours ahead of Nepal (as it's standardised
for Beijing time), so if you are meeting a guide, take this into consideration.
- Expect some appalling roads throughout China. Wear and tear can be heavy
- Hotels are divided into those that are licensed to put up foreigners, and
those that aren't; no prizes for guessing which are cheaper! However, often
the unlicensed hotels will put you up, at a considerable saving to you, so
it's always worth asking.
- Expect loud karaoke late into the night in cheap hotels!
- Dual pricing is rife in China; we found our guide very useful for assertively
bartering down room prices, and reading the Chinese menus rather than the
marked up English ones.
- Communication can be difficult as few people speak a word of English and
even fewer seem to be able to understand you if you try to speak Chinese.
A phrasebook would have been useful on many occasions - you can at least show
the text to people.
- Despite what our Lonely Planet may have stated, Laos is 1 hour behind Chinese
time, not ahead
- Entry into Laos appears to be rather unregulated. We didn't need our Carnet
for entry - in fact, they scratched their heads when we produced it and came
to the conclusion it would be simpler to just wave us on in!
- The roads in Laos are considerably better than a few years ago, but be careful
of the monsoon as this takes out the roads no matter what.
- Road travel in Thailand and Malaysia is an absolute breeze.
- Boarder crossings are also extremely straight forward, especially in Thailand.
Thailand does have one quirk though - although they are no longer signatories
to the Carnet system, they will still stamp it. However, they will also issue
you a docket stating that you will take the vehicle out of the country within
28 days or pay an enourmous fine - this is the vital document.
- On arrival in Thailand, there is a small Pepsi stand on the right hand side
of the road just past customs where vehicle insurance can be purchased.
- Again, insurance can be bought just over the crossing into Malaysia - try
to ensure that this insurance is also valid for Singapore. Once you have you
insurance it is necessary to visit a small blue roofed building here and collect
an ICP (International Circulation Permit).
- Whilst we didn't visit Cambodia (due to a complete lack of information),
it is now quite possible to take your car in.
- Remember, right hand drive vehicles are not allowed into Vietnam.
- A very useful Drive Singapore book is produced by Insight Guides.
- After China, Singapore is probably the most difficult country on this route
to take a vehicle into. We had to enter on foot and visit the AA (many miles
away) to purchase an ICP (International Circulation Permit) and insurance.
Rather bizarrely, the AA also had to endorse the Carnet pages that we were
about to use for Singapore!! Apparently, without this the Carnet would not
have been stamped when we brought the car through customs.
- We then had to return to Malaysia and re-enter with the vehicle. This is
another headlong charge into bureaucracy, and well nigh impossible without
the ICP, valid insurance and a pre-endorsed Carnet. Once your Carnet has been
stamped, an Autopass card (see following explanation) has to be purchased
from the Land Transport Authority situated with customs.
- Singapore uses an electronic car taxing system, all of which must be paid
using a pre-paid Autopass card (like a cash Debit Card). Firstly, a foreign
vehicle must pay a daily VEP (Vehicle Entry Permit) from Monday to Friday;
this is paid on departure of the vehicle. Secondly, the country is dotted
with ERP (Electronic Road Pricing) gantries, particularly in the CBD, which
are active a various times of day. Should you drive through one of these when
it is active, it either deducts the toll from your Autopass (which must be
mounted in an IU (In-vehicular Unit) on your windscreen) or imposses a hefty
fine. The IU's are electronic receivers that must be rented/bought and installed
on your windscreen if you are going to drive through active ERP gantries.
You would be far better off planning your journey such that you don't use
the ERP's; then not only do you avoid any further extortionate charges, but
you also forego the need to pay and install an IU. For instance, we arrived
through customs after 19:00 on a Friday; not only are all of the ERP's inactive
for the weekend until 07:30 Monday morning, but also VEP fees are not payable
from 19:00 Friday until 02:00 Monday.
- To add to the complications, Singapore also uses a unique parking coupon
system. Books of coupons must be purchased from newsagents, petrol stations,
etc, and displayed in the windscreen. This is particularly prevalent in the
CBD. Infuriatingly, the coupons come in rather small denominations, so paying
for just half a days parking in the CBD will completely fill your dashboard
with coupons! We were constantly out to put up fresh tickets.
- To minimise the staggering outlay for just having your car on the island,
plan your shipping carefully such that you can arrive and take your car to
the container depot as soon as possible whilst avoiding any active ERP gantries.
We found that the container couldn't be packed sooner than 1 or 2 days in
advance of the ship arriving. Bear in mind that weekends are virtually toll
free (apart from parking charges). Note that the ERP's in the CBD are switched
off between 10:00 and 12:00 during the weekday mornings, so this gives a window
of opportunity to drive to the container depot.
- We were informed that, in order to drive our car within the Free Trade Zone
to our container warehouse, we had to first remove our number plates. Otherwise,
we would have had to get towed to the warehouse; we're still not sure of the
precise reasons, but it was much cheaper to just get out a screwdriver.
- See the 'Shipping' section for details on Australian
- Once the pitfalls of Australian Customs and Quarantine have been negotiated,
you have to take you vehicle to the Inspection Centre to get it inspected
for road-worthiness and registered. Along with the registration, third party
insurance is issued. This is obligatory.
- We received conflicting advice about a permit to move our vehicle from the
container depot to the inspection centre. Normally, a permit to move the car
has to be obtained from the Vehicle Licensing Centre; this provides third
party insurance for the trip. However, the Department of Transport and the
RAC advised us that this was not required for a temporary import on a Carnet.
Nevertheless, the Vehicle Licensing Centre deemed it was necessary since it
provided the minimum requisit third party insurance for the (short) journey.