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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
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  #1  
Old 17 Feb 2010
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Experience with 'fixer' service along Africa's east coast?

My wife and I are 4x4'ing it from Cape Town to Egypt...

We are shipping our truck from Canada..

We're looking to see if anyone has any experience with companies that offer 'fixer' services at border crossings? Helping to ease tariffs (bribes, etc) and paperwork.

We're also interested in experiences people have had with armed security services through Sudan and Egypt? (or any place else that is recommended along our route? I think Zimbabwe had some issues last year?)

The route we are taking is roughly:
South Africa
Namibia
Zimbabwe(Just to stop off at Victoria Falls and the Devil's Pool)
Zambia
Tanzania
Sudan
Egypt

And then ...
Cyprus
Greece
Italy
Austria
Switzerland
Germany
Switzerland
Luxembourg
France
Netherlands
Britain
Scotland

And then shipping the truck home. All told, about 4 - 5 months.
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  #2  
Old 18 Feb 2010
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Hi Don,
We're going the opposite way to you, currently in Khartoum going south on three motorbikes.

We've had nothing but positive experiences in Egypt and Sudan with officials and fixers.

More info here:
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/thomas

In particular the following postings:

Sudan and arrival in Khartoum
Knock knock
On Looking After Us Foreigners
Into Africa
New Numbers Please

You need to use the tourist police to get a vehicle into Egypt. But it's free (tip appreciated). But you pay for everything else, customs, road tax, insurance etc etc.

Also you need the fixer at Wadi Halfa. Not free but not extortionate either. There are two of them and in our opinion they do a good job, very friendly and efficient.
Two 4X4 travellers on a tight budget tried to do it without him. If you ask him (we did) he says it is possible to do it yourself without his service. But we gave up.
The two 4X4 travellers had a real good attempt at it, but eventually had to give up. But the fixer gave them a reduced rate for their troubles.
We came to the conclusion you can do it yourself - IF you speak fluent Arabic.
The Wadi Halfa fixer even arranged to get me a CD of the particularly good music being played in a cafeteria close to the main hotel in town.

We have met a number of people going the other way, northbound. None has mentioned the need for a fixer south of Sudan.
The general advice seems to be that borders get easier the further south you are.

Cheers
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  #3  
Old 18 Feb 2010
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thanks for the reply. Is it hard to find fixers? Is there a customary way they advertise themselves?
Also, what's a reasonable tip over there 10USD? 20?

How has security been on your route so far? There were travel advisories for Khartoum I was reading on a UK travel site.


Don

Quote:
Originally Posted by McCrankpin View Post
Hi Don,
We're going the opposite way to you, currently in Khartoum going south on three motorbikes.

We've had nothing but positive experiences in Egypt and Sudan with officials and fixers.

More info here:
http://www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/thomas

In particular the following postings:

Sudan and arrival in Khartoum
Knock knock
On Looking After Us Foreigners
Into Africa
New Numbers Please

You need to use the tourist police to get a vehicle into Egypt. But it's free (tip appreciated). But you pay for everything else, customs, road tax, insurance etc etc.

Also you need the fixer at Wadi Halfa. Not free but not extortionate either. There are two of them and in our opinion they do a good job, very friendly and efficient.
Two 4X4 travellers on a tight budget tried to do it without him. If you ask him (we did) he says it is possible to do it yourself without his service. But we gave up.
The two 4X4 travellers had a real good attempt at it, but eventually had to give up. But the fixer gave them a reduced rate for their troubles.
We came to the conclusion you can do it yourself - IF you speak fluent Arabic.
The Wadi Halfa fixer even arranged to get me a CD of the particularly good music being played in a cafeteria close to the main hotel in town.

We have met a number of people going the other way, northbound. None has mentioned the need for a fixer south of Sudan.
The general advice seems to be that borders get easier the further south you are.

Cheers
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  #4  
Old 18 Feb 2010
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The fixers at Wadi Halfa are related, uncle and nepphew I think.
Ask in town at the hotel for the 'helper' for the vehicle barge, or drive to the Customs shed at the port (about 5 miles from Wadi Halfa town) and ask there. You will be introduced/directed to one of them. I think one was called Magdi, the other had a similar name I think.
Their charge was 50US for a car, 40US for a bike. Including all the taxes.
I don't know where the tourist police office at Aswan port is. (In Nuweiba it was next to the ATM in the port compound). But if you ask for 'Tourist Police' you'll be shown their office I'm sure.
Our policeman dealt with the importation of three vehicles together and we tipped him 100 Egyptian pounds. We've heard of 30 or 50 for a single vehicle.
We've had no security issues so far. Here in Khartoum and Sudan in general it seems as safe as houses. There are lots of police always around, some alarmingly-armed by British standards (tripod-mounted machine guns on the pavements!)
In Khartoum at night it's dark - no street lights or lights from shops, but plenty of taxis.
It seems Sudan, in the north anyway, has a reputation of being one of the safest African countries to visit.
As a foreigner you're instantly recognised and welcomed by everyone, in a caring way. Sudanese want foreigners to visit their country.
And as a tourist you'll find it difficult to travel to any dangerous areas.
Ditto Egypt, where in Sinai and some other areas the movements of tourists are constantly logged by having your Egyptian number plate noted at all the checkpoints.
Also in some areas, armed police guard all hotels where foreigners are staying.
So it feels pretty safe everywhere. In one hotel we even had a policeman wrap himself up in blankets to spend the night right next to our motorbikes!

Don't know how you're getting from Egypt to Cyprus, but if via Syria, children in large groups can be troublesome. If adults are around they will shoo them away for a while. But then you'll have to contend with them yourself if you're still there (waiting outside a shop for instance), by keeping them occupied or they will get bold enough to start to try to 'borrow' things they can get their hands onto.
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  #5  
Old 18 Feb 2010
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We were planning on getting to Cyprus via ferry from Port Said..

Had a question about the Wadi Halfa barge - do you remember what they charged for a truck? I think I read $50USD somewhere, but it changes..

Also, does it run every day or once a week?

I am following your trip page now - I'm very interested in your feel for how the security is.. We are bringing a 3 year old with us, so we're very conscious of safety.
I have even gone so far as to have an estimate done to armour my Land Rover (which will be hilarious - it's already slower than just about everything - cost is approx $15k USD for level 7 protection, which will make the glass really thick! At least it will drown out some of that engine and drivetrain noise.. )
It's a rebuilt 1968 Land Rover Dormobile. One of only 4 or 5 in Canada. I've had it rebuild with a Defender 200tdi engine and an automatic transmission and transfer case from a Disco 1.

Also curious about what you need to declare at border crossings? Do you need an itemized list of all your kit? Medicines, electronics, etc? I always felt that would be kind of weird - like advertising how much you're worth to a predator if the border staff are unscrupulous.


Cheers!

Don


Quote:
Originally Posted by McCrankpin View Post
The fixers at Wadi Halfa are related, uncle and nepphew I think.
Ask in town at the hotel for the 'helper' for the vehicle barge, or drive to the Customs shed at the port (about 5 miles from Wadi Halfa town) and ask there. You will be introduced/directed to one of them. I think one was called Magdi, the other had a similar name I think.
Their charge was 50US for a car, 40US for a bike. Including all the taxes.
I don't know where the tourist police office at Aswan port is. (In Nuweiba it was next to the ATM in the port compound). But if you ask for 'Tourist Police' you'll be shown their office I'm sure.
Our policeman dealt with the importation of three vehicles together and we tipped him 100 Egyptian pounds. We've heard of 30 or 50 for a single vehicle.
We've had no security issues so far. Here in Khartoum and Sudan in general it seems as safe as houses. There are lots of police always around, some alarmingly-armed by British standards (tripod-mounted machine guns on the pavements!)
In Khartoum at night it's dark - no street lights or lights from shops, but plenty of taxis.
It seems Sudan, in the north anyway, has a reputation of being one of the safest African countries to visit.
As a foreigner you're instantly recognised and welcomed by everyone, in a caring way. Sudanese want foreigners to visit their country.
And as a tourist you'll find it difficult to travel to any dangerous areas.
Ditto Egypt, where in Sinai and some other areas the movements of tourists are constantly logged by having your Egyptian number plate noted at all the checkpoints.
Also in some areas, armed police guard all hotels where foreigners are staying.
So it feels pretty safe everywhere. In one hotel we even had a policeman wrap himself up in blankets to spend the night right next to our motorbikes!

Don't know how you're getting from Egypt to Cyprus, but if via Syria, children in large groups can be troublesome. If adults are around they will shoo them away for a while. But then you'll have to contend with them yourself if you're still there (waiting outside a shop for instance), by keeping them occupied or they will get bold enough to start to try to 'borrow' things they can get their hands onto.
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  #6  
Old 18 Feb 2010
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We were planning on getting to Cyprus via ferry from Port Said..

Are you sure? Do you have details of that? I didn't think there is one at all and hasn't been for several years.
And I think you are being a bit too paranoid about the safety angle if you are considering armour plate.
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  #7  
Old 19 Feb 2010
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Don what truck are you taking on the Wadi Halfa-Aswan barge? How big (length, axle weight etc).

Sorry to tell you but it is considerabely more than 50usd for a truck! It takes nearly 2-3 days to cross if fully laden and waters are choppy.

If there is nobody else around to share the barge you will have to charter it, and its not cheap. If youre not prepared to charter the barge, make sure you know other vehicle owners who want to cross at the same time as you, or you might have to wait around for a few days for tohers to turn up.
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  #8  
Old 19 Feb 2010
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security is generally good. Sudan for example had some of the most friendly helpful people throughout our trans africa trip. Alot of it is state of mind. I appreciate you are concerned about having your 3 year old along but you don't need to start armouring a landrover. Your best defence is simply to be open and friendly. Your 3 year old will alter the dynamic further and you end up mixing with all sorts of people. Our 2 1/2 year old is brilliant at it. Just goes up to people and says hello, doesn't matter where in the world we are.

In terms of fixers, you really don't need for the majority of the trip. The east coast is comparitively easy, the borders are straight forward. You need help lining up the barge but other than that, its pretty straightforward. No you don't have to provide itemised lists or anything like it. They either wave you through or come and have a look. Longest it ever took was five minutes and wanted to open a couple of boxes. If you do have expensive stuff or anything you aren't sure about, just bury it away under the other kits. Once you have shown them two or three boxes that only have cooking kit or sleeping bags then they are usually satisfied.

Barge from Wadi Halfi doesn't run regularly. Ferry for foot passengers and possibly bikes does but barge only goes by arrangement so you could end up sitting round waiting for a few days - ie because it may not be in wadi halfi when you arrive so you have to wait for it to come back.

Have fun
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  #9  
Old 21 Feb 2010
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Quote:
Originally Posted by McCrankpin View Post
Don't know how you're getting from Egypt to Cyprus, but if via Syria, children in large groups can be troublesome. If adults are around they will shoo them away for a while. But then you'll have to contend with them yourself if you're still there (waiting outside a shop for instance), by keeping them occupied or they will get bold enough to start to try to 'borrow' things they can get their hands onto.
You ain't seen nothing yet: the kids in Ethiopia (the dreaded You Yous) can be really irritating, and in some towns, like Gonder, it is actually worth hiring a "guide" just to chase them away. In some parts, they enjoy lobbing stones at you.

Throughout sub-Saharan Africa if you bush camp near villages, you will always have a crowd of kids (and sometimes adults) sitting and staring at you.

Most of the time they are absolutely harmless and won't nick anything - it's just that you're entertainment and a novelty in their lives.
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  #10  
Old 28 Feb 2010
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Wadi Halfa ferry goes once a week. Takes more or less 24 hours.Southbound departure is Monday, don't know northbound.
Don't know cost of a truck on the barge, but it's 100s of USD.
The barge goes separately, takes longer. Wadi Halfa we found was a nice place to stay a while.
We are now in Gonder, Ethiopia. Brilliant so far.
Children no problem, we follow the best advice we received from northbound travellers, smile and wave first, say something in English, and they are great.
We bush camped between Sudan border and Gonder. Brilliant.
Children came along in the evening to say hello, watch a while then say goodbye and leave. One adult came to ask if we needed anything. Same in the morning.
Bought supplies in nearby village, surounded by children straight away wanting to wave, shake hands and talk. It's important to connect with them and respond positively, then no problem. Then you find, unbelieveably, like the ones that came along to our camp site, that they are actually a little shy, the adults more so.
Eventually adults approach as well, and on two occasions this included a teacher who spoke English and could translate and relate more to the children.
Then the long goodbye process as maybe 20 or 30 children, some just starting to walk, want their hand shaken again!
In Gonder a bit different, no shyness, but again a positive connection with them is needed and a smile and a cheery goodbye and they leave you alone.
By observation, some tourists seem to have difficulty making that positive connection with the children, no smile, no wave, turn the other way. That makes them more determined I think.
But it's early days in Ethiopia yet!

No need for armour plating. Isolating yourself from the people makes that connection harder. We met a Brit in Khartoum coming to the end of a complete circle (anticlockwise) of Africa, in an old open-sided landrover, open to the elements, and he reported no problem. Very outgoing sort of chap, I think that's what's needed.
I think your three-year-old will like the attention of all the children in Ethiopia, on our experience so far!
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  #11  
Old 28 Feb 2010
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P.s.

PS. Definitely no fixer required on Sudan/Ethiopia border. Everyone very helpful and friendly. People will try to act as a fixer but just say you don't need them and don't intend to pay anything.
Lot's of police around to watch the bikes while you are in the offices.
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