The 6 steps to crossing a border safely

How much would you pay for your liberty?

Border crossings in Africa can be intimidating places. Whether you are crossing a border via land, arrived via sea or have just landed in a plane, many points of entry into an African country seem haphazard and disorganised.

Experience of crossing many border posts in Africa support the first impressions of corruption, lawlessness and stifling bureaucracy.


The 6 steps to crossing a border safely

  1. Prepare your documentation beforehand. Have passport- sized photos available and carry your Yellow Fever vaccination certificate. Have the correct visa, a passport with at least three clean pages and an address of where you will be staying. 
  1. Carry plenty of cash, some in the currency of the country you will be visiting. Have both small ( for tips) and large ( entry or Customs fees) denominations. Carry at least US $ 500.00 in a secure money belt or distraction safe in your luggage.
  1. Dress according to local custom. Do not overdress but look like a local national  returning home.
  1. Keep calm when being frisked or interrogated by border officials. Let them feel that they are in charge. 
  2. Once through baggage reclaim, take a pre- booked taxi to your hotel or friend’s house. Even better, follow your company’ s meet – and- greet protocol.
  1. If you are stopped by a policeman ( fake or not), you need to exercise caution. Adopt an unassuming stance, be relaxed and ask if you had done anything wrong.

Do not offer a bribe, pull out your wallet or make an  accusation about possible corruption.

Assess the situation and say:  ” I am so sorry. I am sure that there is a fine I have to pay for this. How do I go about paying it?”.

To find out more about crossing borders and entering African countries safely, join one of our H.E.A.T. courses. 

H.E.A.T. tip: When asked for your papers at a makeshift roadblock, maintain eye contact as you hand over your documentation. If the documents are handed back to you but you are not waved through, place a  $5 bill in the last page and hand back the document. Repeat the process with small cash increments until you are allowed to pass.