Be prepared when crossing the border this Easter

You have the right to be excited about your road trip this Easter, but make sure that you have all the documentation with you ahead of your trip or you could miss out, finds Angelique Ruzicka.

If you’re planning on crossing the border to another African country this Easter it’s essential that you get the necessary documentation in order before you make your trip or you could be turned away, warns Rudolf Mahoney, head of brand and communications at WesBank.

“Even the best-made plans can be ruined if you’ve forgotten to get your border letter and certified copies of your vehicle registration,” explains Mahoney. “We’ve made the process of getting these letters as easy as possible, but sometimes motorists just aren’t aware of what is required by the officials at the border posts.”

Driving across the border is not as simple as having a valid passport and driver’s licence. In recent months, the South African government has been actively enforcing laws that require motorists to present extensive documentation when leaving the country. These rules apply to all vehicles – whether or not they are financed – and are designed to crack down on stolen vehicles being taken out of the country.

“While not new, these requirements are now being strictly enforced at the borders. Although they might seem inconvenient, they are there to avoid cross-border theft,” says Mahoney. “Drivers who are uncertain of what they need can contact their financing bank for assistance.”

What you need for your travels

Here’s what you need to have in order before you cross any South African border:

  • Driver’s license and passport – The driver of the vehicle needs to have a valid driver’s license and passport.
  • Adequate travel insurance – When planning to cross the border, drivers should contact their insurance companies to arrange for their comprehensive policies to cover cross-border travel. Failure to do so places drivers at risk of no cover should their vehicle get stolen or damaged outside South Africa’s borders. Additionally, laws in that country might hold drivers financially liable for any damage caused.
  • Vehicle registration documents – A driver will be required to have a certified copy of the vehicle registration/vehicle license. If the vehicle is financed you will also need a letter from the bank giving you authorisation to take the vehicle across the border, with the dates of your trip indicated. Both the bank letter and license papers should be signed by a Commissioner of Oaths. If you are not the registered owner of the vehicle, you will need an affidavit from the police giving you authorisation from the financial institution/owner to take the vehicle out of South Africa.
  • Rental vehicles – Drivers of rental vehicles must have a letter from the rental company giving full consent to take the vehicle out of the country. You do not need police clearance for this.

Financed vehicles can only be taken out of the country with permission from the financing bank. Find out from your bank ahead of time how they are able to organise you the necessary paperwork.

With WesBank, for instance, customers can download the border letter and vehicle registration through its online self-service portal. You can also email your request to service@wesbank.co.za, the subject line of your email should read ‘Admin Department – [your name] – [your email]. This is a free service.

There may be other reasons why you will be prevented from crossing the border in your car. “If it’s a new car and it’s financed, one to two debit orders need to have come off first before you are able to cross the border with it. If you are in arrears you may also not be allowed to get the documentation unless you’ve made an arrangement with your bank to pay back the arrears,” says Mahoney.

If your vehicle is not financed you won’t need a border letter from the bank. However, border officials may still request that you produce proof of ownership. They will ask that you provide them with a vehicle registration certificate.

Where can I find more information before I travel?   

  • The Automobile Association (AA) has a cross border information platform, which provides information about all the necessary paperwork that you’d need if you are travelling over the border for the holidays. The AA also has useful tips and a handy checklist that you can go through if you are planning a road trip.
  • Worried about a breakdown? Remember that if your car is under warranty you could also qualify for certain services like roadside assistance. Hyundai Roadside Assistance, for example, will tow your vehicle to the nearest Hyundai dealership or authorised service facility if your vehicle is inoperable, even for non-warranty-related tows, such as accidents. So call your dealership to find out what you qualify for if you’re worried about suffering a break down while on your trip.