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Hi everyone! This forum is such a brilliant resource, I was happy to come across it. I am a 25 year old British woman working for a few months in Kenya with my 26 year old female friend before we travel down to South Africa over the course of eight months (starting Feb). We arrived in Kenya a month ago and having never been on a motorbike before much of our travel has been on the back of bikes. We have loved it so much that rather than travel by buses down to South Africa (through Tanzania, Malawi, Zambia, probably Zimbabwe, Botswana and South Africa) we are considering learning to ride a bike and travelling down that way. Would be an incredible adventure and offer so much more freedom.
We are already getting carried away with the idea so before we get really excited I thought I would ask the experts on this forum and see how feasible it was. We have a friend here with a bike who is happy to assist us with bike maintenance lessons, finding driving school and all paperwork but we though you lot should be the first port of call. My main questions are as follows, but if anyone can think of any other issues I haven't touched on please let me know.
1.) We have until end of Feb to take our test and get all necessary paperwork on top of working full time. Is this doable?
2.) Our budget for a bike is 1,000 pound sterling, about $1,400 dollars. I Know this doesn't sound much but bikes are massively subsidized by the government in Kenya (to create motorbike jobs for youths), so if you know about Kenyan prices does this sound enough for a reliable one? We are not bothered about speed just reliability and a bike that can comfortably take two plus two large bags. Any recommendations?
3.) How safe do you think it would be for two females to do this journey? We woulod generally be on main roads apart from when we are settled in one place for a while, at which time we will do a little exploring.
4.) We have a fair idea of road conditions in Kenya now, but any ideas about the other countries?
5.) How easy will border crossings be? Do we have to get import waivers for each country and how do we do this?
6.) We would like to sell the bike when we get to South Africa, Will this be easy?
I think that's it for now. We would really, really like to do this but any advice you could give really matters to us.
Most of the bikes sold in Kenya tend to be small capacity utility machines which are also physically quite small so it may be a bit of a tall order for long distance travel two up with Luggage.
You may be able to find a more suitable bike from a traveller trying to sell to pay the airfare home.
I haven't been to Tanzania or Malawi for a while - do the Malawis still insist girls don't wear trousers? If you able to ride the bike confidently then I don't think doing the trip on a bike would be any more difficult than backpacking. Most of the same common sense rules about personal safety, security for your luggage and valuables apply. As you say, the whole journey can be done on main roads, other drivers and wild animals are the main problem but you'd probably be in just as much danger in a bus or hitching a ride in a car.
Can't help with prices or driving licences. As far as customs paperwork is concerned I think your first port of call in the Kenyan AA.
I agree with what Magnon said about the size of he bike rising two up. But basically the main roads shouldn't be too hard on the bike. Besides that, a smaller bike is light and thus easy to pick up if you drop it. This is bound to happen... (Me too ;o)
Check with he South African embassy, whether you need a carnet for the bike. Coming from Europe the customs check the carnet before you may enter the country. This applies to Namibia as well.
Re security: As soon as it is dark, stay at your lodging, unless the locals consider it safe to walk around. When travelling (esp. in Africa) never get money from an ATM at the place where you are going to stay for the night. Always do this en route and travel on. The reason is that there are so many unemployed, and they sit around on public places and they see everything. I was robbed on a fenced in and guarded campsite in South Africa a couple of years ago in a situation like that....
None the less - just do it. It is so rewarding and Africa is sooo different to other places
Hi Jenny and Emma
As one half of a female duo that set off from England and successfully rode to India on a shared motorbike with just two months riding experience behind us, I say
"Yes, it's doable"
By the way we continued to Australia and came home across Africa (Cape Town to Cairo). However we were on a BMW 800cc bike, so it was very big and heavy but good for carrying two people.
Lots of people travel successfully on smaller bikes and the roads you'll encounter going to South Africa will all be tarmac if that's what you want. Our route took in Namibia, Botswana, Zambia, Zimbabwe, Mozambique, Malawi (we wore trousers and there was no problem) and Tanzania.
Safety - you're as safe as you make it, just follow the usual common sense stuff, listen to your intuition about situations and people and you'll be fine.
Check the list of countries that demand Carnets- if none of them do and you don't get one (they can be expensive and a bit of a hassle to get) then you just turn up at Customs for each border and get temp import permits for each country, a bit of patience is required and it's up to you if you pay bribes or not (I never do). There always seems to be quite a bit of chat about carnets on the paperwork section of the HUBB so take a look there for which countries, try asking people who have been on recent trips through Africa.
I don't know about selling bikes in S Africa- I'm sure if you ask the South African Communities here on the HUBB, they can advise about that.
So I would say it is all feasible including time span, your only issue will be getting a bike that can carry the two of you and your gear comfortably.
Have a great time, it's definitely the BEST way to travel
take a look at my website for words and pictures about my journeys and feel free to ask more questions.
Hi, the route you’re planning is well traveled by the tourist trade. Head for the snake park in Arusha to meet overland drivers who are back and forth over that route almost weekly, plenty of advise for the cost of a . South Africa have a strict policy against permanently importing used vehicles, you can get a 30 day temp import at the Botts boarder from memory that covers botts namib and SA.
OK so I don’t advise breaking the law but I know some people that have carved a RAC (or AA) stamp out of a potato, blew the ink out of a pen and stamped all the boxes in their international driving permit.. hey presto you have a bike license.
I cheap Chinese motorbike will breakdown but that’s half the adventure, flag down the next truck or pick up and get a lift to the next city for repair.
My tips take the time to see Zanzibar and don’t ride at night, ever. far too many donkeys / elephants etc etc on the road.
Thank you so so much for all your advice and encouragement- it's made us even more enthusiastic about the plan.
It's especially encouraging to hear from Tiffany who it sounds like was in a similar situation to us and had an absolutely incredible adventure. I've never heard of a carnet before- is that the import exemption document? Did you need them for your route through Africa?
Now we have the "yes it is doable" from you lot we shall get on with the research. e.g. whether a Kenyan licence would be valid in other countries, whether we can renew the 30 days in S.Africa, how easy to sell inh South Africa etc.
Our internet access here is shocking so we can't even browse this forum properly, but we will be in a major town at the weekend so can get on the case then and find out all the information we need.
A Kenyan drivers license should be valid in any country, especially in Africa in general. An International Lic, required in many countries, to me is a joke as it is a purchased item, make sure its stamped Motorcycle, too. Rarely are these items looked at, as most want to see a passport. But a ticketed offense warrants the license, and a mixed pair (British International lic and Kenyan Drivers may cause confusion). The only time I had to have a different drivers license (and plate!) was China, where I had to take a written test.
Hi Jenny and Emma,
I recently completed the Kenya-Cape Town section of my London-Cape Town ride, on a little 250cc Yamaha.
For London-Kenya I was with my son-in-law, also on a 250 Yamaha, and he paid 700 pounds for his bike in England.
(My daughter was also with us, and she and I paid more than 1000 each for our bikes, but her husband's bike showed you don't have to).
My son-in-law only got his bike licence a year before our departure, and his bike about 3 months before departure. So he had 3 months experience at the start, and was fine.
You can read about our journey here: www.horizonsunlimited.com/tstories/thomas
My route from Nairobi was Uganda, Rwanda, Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zimbabwe, Botswana, Namibia, SA.
All as safe as houses, but everyone on the road says take more care the closer you get to S.A.
You can do it all on tarmac if you want to, or can have off-road adventures as well.
My main ones were visiting Lake Tanganyika at Kigoma and Ujiji, and crossing the Namib desert.
Our bikes were British registered, so needed carnets nearly all the way. I can't advise on what's necessary for bikes from Kenya.
The main thing though, is that when I was planning, everyone says "don't spend too long thinking, just go and do it!"
And I can see now that's pretty good advice.
Thanks for all your replies. We have started pricing up bikes and researching hard. However it seems that we may have come across a major stumbling block that will make the trip impossible financially...
Is it actually possible to sell a motorbike bought outside South Africa in South Africa is you are not a South African citizen??
I spoke to someone at the South African Automobile Association yesterday who told me there was absolutely no way we could sell, even if we paid import duty as we are not South African citizens.
I've read other things that say you can sell if you pay lots of import duty, but unsure of what this import duty will be and whether this is the case.
Does anyone know for sure which is correct and if the import duty thing is right, what % of bike value this is likely to be??!
If we can't sell we have friends in South Africa, could we legally transfer the bike to them and not receive any money? Then they could sell it for us.
Any advice or info or point in the right direction gratefully received. Am going to post this in other sub-forums too.
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