• Trip Report: To Tanzania & back with the kids

    In August this year we (2 families with 5 young kids) had an amazing 26 day road trip to southern Tanzania, via Zimbabwe, Mozambique and Malawi, returning via Malawi, Zambia and Botswana.

    Attached is a detailed trip report, covering our route, the daily road conditions, border crossing experiences and costs, our accommodation and a few pictures. Unfortunately, the full report is a bit big for a thread posting, so I’m going to try and attach it to the thread.

    Below are a few excerpts and a bit of a summary to give you a sense for what’s in the report. The links will only work in the trip report itself!

    I hope that you will find the report useful, and thank you to everyone who posted reports that I used in my planning of this trip!


    The table below is a summary of the entire journey. In the attached trip report, each accommodation is linked to the website, while the ‘Overnight’ location is linked to the relevant section of the report with a write-up on the road conditions, the accommodation and anything else you might find useful or interesting.

    The ‘Country’ links are links to the border crossing descriptions and summaries.

    The group: Two families; 4 Adults and 5 children; aged 8 [x2], 7 [x1] and 4 [x2]
    The countries: South Africa, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi, Tanzania, Zambia, Botswana
    Total distance driven: Around 7700
    Days away from home: 26 days
    When: August 8th to September 2nd 2013
    The vehicles:
    1x Nissan X-trail, 2008, Petrol
    1x Toyota Prado, TX, 2010, Diesel


    Travel Notes:
    If you’re heading north, take US Dollars with you. A good mix of high and small denomination notes. Some folk will advise you take new notes, not old, but quite frankly, in Zim half of the change you’ll receive will be in the oldest, dirtiest notes imaginable, but so don’t think that the age of your notes originating elsewhere should be too much of a concern.

    Since you don’t really want to carry all the money you’ll need for the entire journey’ it’s advisable to draw USD or local cash wherever you have the opportunity, rather than relying on being able to pay for anything by credit card.

    Also, before you leave, write down all the relevant currency exchange rates. This way you’ll have an idea whether the money changer you’re dealing with is even in the ballpark of reality.

    Take copies of all your documents with you, in a couple of flip files, with the following printed on the front in big letters [thank you to the person on 4x4community who made this suggestion!] – it’ll be extremely useful to have this on hand when you’re filling in border forms:
    • Passport numbers and expiry dates of everyone in your group;
    • Birth dates for everyone in your group;
    • Vehicle(s) registration numbers;
    • Engine number & VIN number;
    • Details and series numbers of all valuables, plus approximate worth.
    Although we never needed them, I would advise taking certified copies of everything. That way, if you do lose an important document, you might have something to work with.

    It’s a good idea to keep all your border receipts with you in the vehicle, because you may be asked to show your TIP [temporary import permit] or insurance at a roadblock.

    Documents you’ll need:
    The AA website has a bunch of info on every country, which was useful: http://www.aa.co.za/travel/into-afri...formation.html
    - Vehicle Registration papers
    - Vehicle Licence papers
    - Police clearance certificate [we were asked for this in Tanzania]
    - If you don’t own your vehicle outright, get release documentation and affidavits from whoever owns it.
    - Yellow fever certificates [we were never actually asked for these, but we should have been]
    - We also took copies of insurance letters for our general insurance cover.
    * On the note of insurance – be sure to check with your daily insurance company whether you are covered at all, whether there’s an additional charge [which there will probably be if you’re a non South African living in South Africa], and what additional conditions you’ll be insured under.
    - We did not take copies of the birth certificates for our children, and were asked for these when leaving South Africa. In the end we were allowed to leave without these, but next time I might take copies along just in case.

    If you’re returning to a country, take twice the number of entry forms on your first entry, and fill these in before you re-enter the country. This will save a bit of time on re-entry.

    Passports & VISA’s:
    As of July 2013, South Africans do not need visas for any of the countries we visited. Prior to July, visas were needed to enter Tanzania, but that has since changed.

    UK passport holders on the other hand are not so fortunate. Visas are required for all countries except Botswana and Malawi.

    Other stuff to take:
    A full medical aid kit with extra syringes
    Various tools and useful things you might need on a long road trip
    An extra malaria net or two

    Stuff we forgot to take:
    Bath / basin plug
    Basic flu stuff [nurophen cold & flu]

    On the whole, we had no problems with Fuel, but we were diligent in filling up regularly. We had a small scare in Southern Malawi as there was no fuel in the two stations between Cape Maclear and Salima, but there were a number of garages in Salima with Fuel. The other place which could be tricky is Ruaha in Tanzania, simply because the park does not sell fuel [except in dire emergencies I think], and it’s a 90km drive to Iringa to get more. Just plan ahead and you’ll be fine though.

    Unfortunately, while I was paying attention to how much was being spent, I wasn’t quite as diligent in recording the actual per litre price of fuel. As a result, Mozambique & Malawi’s prices below are rough estimates!

    Very Rough Diesel Price Summary:

    Day 1: Johannesburg to Masvingo, Zimbabwe
    Distance: 822km
    Left just after midnight, arrived 5:30pm
    Points of Interest:
    - Beit Bridge border post [South Africa : Zimbabwe]
    - Elephant & Lion lodge [on the Bubyi river]
    - Great Zimbabwe Ruins

    Roads: The SA roads were fine, although we somehow managed to lose the N1 when we hit Polokwane. Pay attention to the road signs [or switch your GPS on]!
    Once we were over the border, the roads were fine all the way to Masvingo. They are a bit narrow, with a small shoulder, but there’s very little traffic. To reach the Great Zimbabwe ruins we turned right a few km before Masvingo, and the road lost it’s shoulder, but was otherwise perfectly fine.

    Accommodation: Norma Jean’s Lakeview Resort
    Having read one or two poor reviews on Tripadvisor, we were very happily surprised. The rooms were great, and the staff were welcoming and happy to go the extra mile for anything we needed. The gardens and views are spectacular.
    Water: Hot
    Towels: Not provided
    Bedding: Provided
    Staff: Fantastic
    Electricity: Full
    Food: There is a restaurant where we had a good breakfast. For dinner we did a self-catered braai. The staff made the fire for us, and made sure we had everything we needed.
    Setting: Beautiful, and really well positioned to visit the Great Zimbabwe

    Travel Notes:
    We left Johannesburg @ around 00h20 and arrived in Beit Bridge at around 6am and joined the people queue to leave South Africa. The queue move pretty swiftly, and we had church group of some sort singing traditional songs and dancing in front of us which was entertaining and helped to pass the time.

    We hit one roadblock just outside the border post, but this was just a routine documents check for one of our cars.

    The Elephant & Lion lodge is on the road to Masvingo, at the Bubyi river, about 2 hours north of the border – it’s a great place for a lunch or brunch stop. Since we’ve been on the road since midnight, we took a nice long break for a few hours and enjoyed some lunch & cold beers in the shade. After the cold of the Johannesburg winter, the heat and sunshine of Zimbabwe was fantastic.

    2 Hours on from the Bubyi river, we turned off towards the Great Zimbabwe. I’d not been there in 20 years, and it was as amazing and wonderful now as it was back then. There’s a ‘new’ tea room & museum which look nice, but which were unfortunately closed by the time we were ready for a drink [it was after 5pm]. If you’re lucky enough to visit one day, give yourself a good few hours, and be sure to take the walk to the section at the top of the hill – the stone walls and views are breath-taking.

    From the ruins, we had a short 5 minute drive to Norma Jeans resort which was a welcome arrival after our longest travel day of the trip.

    The Beit Bridge border crossing:
    This will be the most detailed border crossing summary in this report, simply because it was the worst of the whole trip. The SA side took around 1 hour, and the Zim side a further 3 hours.

    On the SA side, the queue was long, but moved along reasonably swiftly. That said, a better queuing system would definitely add some value there…
    At the immigration counter we were asked for the accompanying birth certificates for our children [each had their own passports], but after some discussion we were allowed to leave without these. We were never asked for birth certificates again.

    On the Zim side things got a bit chaotic. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to persuade my 8 year old to go through there again. My advice for anyone planning to go through Beit Bridge, is to prepare yourself for a bit of a mess, and to have patience. If you do this, you’ll be fine. If you go into it expecting it to be smooth sailing and speedy, you’ll go mad.

    The Zim border building is divided into two sections. The right hand side is immigration, and the left hand side is customs [TIP forms and vehicle payments]. Both have extremely long queues. If you can, send two people left with all the vehicle details and a wallet, and two people right with the passports. As soon as someone reaches the passport counter, then the second person can call everyone else to the front to the queue to get checked. This way, the two people in the vehicles queue can go one-at-a-time to the immigration window, without losing their place in the vehicle queue.

    On the customs side, you’ll need to fill in a pink TIP form. Note – if you are leaving Zim through another border post, tell the clerk when you sort out your TIP on entry – this will save you some pain when you leave the country. We didn’t know to tell the clerk, and had a bit of a discussion with the border officials when we needed to leave.

    What we paid [per vehicle]:
    • R100 Vehicle fee [might have been the bridge toll?]
    • $10 Road access fee
    • $15 Carbon tax [3000 CC vehicle]
    • $30 3rd Party Insurance

    This article was originally published in forum thread: Trip Report: To Tanzania & back with the kids started by BrucetotheBush View original post