For many people, their holiday excitement starts months before they actually hit the road. Planning accommodation, routes and stopovers are part of the fun, but everything can come crashing to a halt if you’ve missed a crucial bit of paperwork such as a border letter. This is a letter that you need to present to officials at South Africa’s border posts when crossing into another country. It confirms that you have been given authority to drive a car, trailer, boat, jet ski or caravan into another country for a specific time frame. If your car is not financed you won’t need a border letter from the bank but you will need other documentation such as the vehicle registration proving the car is yours or you have permission from the owner to take the car over the border. Border officials will ask that you provide them with a vehicle registration certificate or a certified copy of this document. However, financed vehicles will need a border letter from the bank that will serve as permission for the vehicle to cross the border.
“Even the best-made plans can be ruined if you’ve forgotten to get your border letter and certified copies of your vehicle registration,” says Rudolf Mahoney, Head of Brand and Communications at WesBank. “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. The South African government has been actively enforcing laws that require motorists to present extensive documentation when leaving the country. These laws apply to all vehicles – those that are financed as well as those that are paid off – and are designed to crack down on stolen vehicles being taken out of the country.
Before planning a cross-border trip drivers should phone their insurance companies to establish that their comprehensive insurance policy covers cross-border travel. They may need to include details of the country they are travelling to. Some neighbouring countries may request that drivers have international insurance, travellers need to confirm whether their comprehensive insurance policy covers cross-border travel, if not international insurance can be purchased at the border post. Failure to do so puts drivers at risk should their vehicle get stolen or damaged outside South Africa’s borders. Additionally, laws in those countries might hold drivers financially liable for any damage caused.
Any driver who crosses the border in their car is required to have a certified copy of the vehicle’s registration (or licence) papers. Drivers who own their cars can take their original registration documents to a Commissioner of Oaths to get these documents certified. Those whose vehicles are still financed can request a copy of the registration papers from their bank, and make arrangements to get this document certified.
Financed vehicles can only be taken out of the country with permission from the financing bank. WesBank has made the border letter and vehicle registration process easier through its online self-service portal. Here drivers can download copies of their vehicle registration papers as well as digitally request a border letter. Border letters will still need to be certified.
Drivers who are not the registered owner of the vehicle they’re using will need all of the above documentation, plus two additional documents: a police affidavit and a letter of authority from the registered owner, granting permission for the vehicle to cross the border for the agreed time frame. Drivers of rental vehicles must also obtain a letter from the rental company giving full consent for the vehicle to be 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,” said Mahoney. “Drivers who are uncertain of what they need can contact their financing bank for assistance.”
Here’s what you need to know to get across the border:
- A valid driver’s licence and passport – The driver of the vehicle needs to have a valid driver’s licence and passport. Check that your passport has not expired before you travel.
- Contact your insurance company – When planning to cross the border, drivers should contact their insurance companies to ensure their comprehensive insurance policy includes cross-border travel. If not, travellers can purchase international insurance at the border post gate.
- Vehicle registration documents – A driver will be required to have a certified copy of the vehicle registration or the 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 car 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.
- Stickers, triangles and safety gear – It is compulsory for any South African vehicle, caravan or trailer to have a ZA sign displayed when it crosses any of the borders. Some countries require you to place the blue and yellow warning triangle or the T-sign on your caravan or the trailer towing your boat. Other neighbouring countries require you to have a set of red warning triangles in your possession as well as reflective jackets. Double-check what stickers, triangles or safety gear you need before you depart.
If you are not a fan of queues, there are several ways in which you can request your border letter from WesBank. You can either use the self-service facility on the WesBank website or email the Customer Care team to assist you. Please visit www.wesbank.co.za, log in and request your border letter using the self-service portal. You can also email your request to email@example.com, the subject line of your email should read ‘Admin Department – [your name] – [your email]. You can expect to get your response within three days, so the earlier you request your border letter the quicker it will arrive in your email inbox.
CROSS-BORDER HOLIDAY TIPS: WHAT TO PACK AND HOW TO PREPARE
Before you embark on your long journey make sure that your car is in a tip-top condition. If you travelling across South Africa or into our neighbouring borders it is good idea to book a quick service to check that your brakes and shock absorbers are ready for the bumpy roads.
Most of the time breakdowns are caused by minor problems that can be solved by having the right equipment in your car. Never leave home without:
- A charged cellphone, with your road-side assistance number on speed dial.
- First aid kit.
- Warning triangle and reflective jacket.
- Tow rope.
- A multi-tool.
- Jack and wheel spanner.
- Jumper cables.
- Tyre compressor, in case of tyre puncture.
- A bottle of water, in case your engine over heats.
The day before the trip ensure you fill up with your tank and check your tyre pressures (including your spare wheel). Alternatively you can do your final checks on the morning of your departure. It is also a good idea to leave before the sun rises to take advantage of the cooler weather and quieter roads. Give yourself enough time on the road to reach your destination without rushing, and allow for fuel stops and bathroom breaks. Travel safe and enjoy your holiday getaway!