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sub-Saharan Africa Topics specific to sub-Saharan Africa. (Includes all countries South of 17 degrees latitude)
Photo by Michael Jordan, enjoying a meal at sunset, Zangskar Valley, India

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Photo by Michael Jordan
enjoying a meal at sunset,
Zangskar Valley, India



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  • 1 Post By markharf

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  #1  
Old 6 Nov 2011
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Driving in West Africa without an international license

Hi, I'm going to be travelling through West Africa for the next few months, primarily by hitching / whatever transport I find, but I'm also keen to rent a motorbike somewhere at some point. I have a driving license, but no international permit, and won't be back in the UK to get one before starting the trip. I'm wondering how much hassle I'd be likely to get without one...? Which countries are the greatest hassle when it comes to document checks, and how often would they ask to see a license in addition to a passport?
Is it worth the risk, or am I likely to be stung with a big fine if I get caught?

I've biked through a fair few Asian countries without any kind of license and always got away with it, but from all I've read Africa will be a different kettle of fish entirely when it comes to police looking for the slightest excuse for a backhander.

Any thoughts?

Cheers!

Matt
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Old 6 Nov 2011
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I was asked for the licence only in Ghana. The police force there was a lot more professional than in Senegal,Mali or Burkina, with nice uniforms and machine guns, they certainly looked the business and I wouldn't like to try to bribe them. But I'm sure if you stay calm and have a nice story, you could talk yourself out of trouble anywhere.
I would like to know where you are going to rent motorbikes, I'm not aware that there is one motorbike renting company in the whole of West Africa, but I could be wrong. Easier would be to buy a chinese moped/bike, they are new between 450 and 650 euro.
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Old 6 Nov 2011
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I carry an international license in addition to my home license, endorsed for motorcycling. You can also buy phony international licenses on the internet: just Google and use your best judgment. I don't pay bribes in any case, but there have been times when having a license seemed to help get the men in uniform off my back.

No one asked for papers on my last 2 week trip to Ghana, riding various legal and quasi-legal rented bikes. One was registered and plated as government-owned, and the police tended to look at me funny but didn't ever stop me, which was good--the man who rented it to me just gave me a phone number and said not to worry. I don't know whether the police and soldiers are getting more professional or I'm just getting better at brushing them off when they stop me (which they sometimes do).

You can always rent bikes: just put out the word at whatever place you're staying or any moto repair shop and offers will come. The problem is finding a bike which suits you which has been adequately taken care of. I've paid from US$10 per day (in Guinee) up to about US$40 per day (in Accra) for bikes ranging from 125 to 600 cc's in anything from piss-poor to excellent condition. YMMV.

I know of one place currently in the business of renting bikes in Ghana: see kamac ventures Ltd . I had mixed experiences with Karl's company, and getting in touch was somewhat problematic, but I believe his heart is in the right place. Private message me if you're serious and I'll put you in touch with his mechanic, which is what really matters.

There have been other rental places in Ghana in the past, and there are at least a few in The Gambia and used to be at least one in Guinee. There's probably one in Lome too, and who knows where else?

Fun way of getting around West Africa if your nerves can handle it.

Mark
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Old 6 Nov 2011
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Thanks a lot for your replies. Sounds like I wouldn't be taking a massive risk without the nternational permit.

I hadn't banked on an official rental... in the past I've always asked around, as Mark describes. I haven't ruled out buying something (cheap) and attempting to sell it further down the line. That might be a whole new thread, but if anyone has any tips on attempting it I'd love to hear from you. Or does the required paperwork prevent it? It at least sounds like the carnet won't be a problem out west...

The route's flexible, incidentally... Ghana's about the only country I'll be ruling out, since I won't have a visa.

Thanks again.
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Old 7 Nov 2011
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I don't think you have to worry about an international drivers license.. I carried one when I came down and tried to present it whenever asked for my license (only at borders), but they would actually never accept it (after all, it's hand written and doesn't look too professional). It got rained down somewhere in Benin I think, so I threw it away. Never a problem.

Also, they hardly ever ask for the license at all.. like I said at a few border crossings, but no more than a handful. On the road I was asked for it Nigeria, Gabon and Tanzania, nowhere else.

Good luck!
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Old 7 Nov 2011
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I suppose that the only real problem may be if you are involved in some sort of accident. The law may come down heavy on you , even if it was not actually your fault if someone gets hurt. But if you are a gambling man, place your bets.
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Old 7 Nov 2011
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I have been asked a few times at checkpoints for my licence, but much more so when applying for visas en route. If travelling with your won vehicle I found that a fair few embassies wanted a photocopy of my IDP.....so something worth bearing in mind. This was 3 years ago however so may be different now.
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Old 6 Jan 2014
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Interesting thread - I had been wondering about getting an IDP for a trip to Uganda in the next few weeks. (Obviously, I would take the photocard and paper version of my UK car/bike driving licence.

In the past I've bought IDPs for trips to the further bits of "Europe" (Morocco, Istanbul, Belarus) but no official has ever had any interest in them whatsoever. I take the point about them being useful when applying for visas and moving your own bike through borders but for renting within a single country it sounds like I'll risk it without an IDP

As ever, ta for the info
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Old 7 Jan 2014
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IDP

Dont worry about a IDP especaly if you on a bike,
i was asked 1 time in 6 months, for a IDP and thats because the Ghana police were looking for small technicalitys to ask for a bit of DASH , just blag or pay...or print one out.....but if u have a real euro licence then you dont rely need to worry....

i dont know about bike rental sorry, but the chinese ktm/ kawasusuki/fake copy bikes ( not a ktm in any way) are cheap and plentyfull to buy for between 500 and 1000 usd
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Old 7 Jan 2014
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In my experience last year, it was necessary to have an IDP.

Particularly in Senegal and Guinea I was asked for it on numerous occasions by road traffic police, and for obtaining insurance at the borders between Mauri/Senegal and for getting the ECOWAS insurance in Senegal.

It's only £5.50 in the UK.
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Old 7 Jan 2014
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I was only ever asked for an international license a few times in all my time in Africa, and I was able to get away without it every time. So I'd say don't bother.

What I would suggest would be a couple of fake licenses. If I ever did West Africa again (unlikely) I'd get ten cheap knock off licenses and just use those at checkpoints. It will make you feel a lot more comfortable in the oft situation when the idiot in uniform is withholding it until you pay him some ridiculous fine.
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Old 9 Jan 2014
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Take your uk driving license with you and explain them where it says, that you are officially allowed to ride a bike. Additionally i would check out how a uk international driving license looks like and set it up with photoshop, print it out, make it look a bit used and then make several copies ! The german one is pretty easy to replicate, a friend of mine has done so as he was on his trip already and had no issues with it in western africa in several controls and embassys/borders. There are stamp makers in every city that will set you up with every design you can think of in no time for cheap, just give them a photo of the desired stamp and there you go ...

Cheers,
Chris
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Old 9 Jan 2014
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Just curious to ask: how much are IDPs in other countries?

Like I say, it's only £5.50 pounds in the UK.
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Old 9 Jan 2014
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In Belgium 15€ valid 3 years!!
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Old 9 Jan 2014
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave The Hat View Post
Just curious to ask: how much are IDPs in other countries?

Like I say, it's only £5.50 pounds in the UK.
In The Netherlands @17,-

Cheers,

Gee
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