Carnet de Passages en Douane

Note to the reader: if you’re looking for some semi-amusing tales, this post isn’t for you. If you’re looking for info. on a CPD, please read on.

Image result for carnet de passages image

There’s a lot of incomplete, and sometimes misleading, information out there on the broad subject of the old Carnet de Passages en Douane. I’m hoping the below is all you will need – and you can get on with planning the rest of your epic trip. I know I spent an inordinate amount of time accumulating pieces of information from a multitude of websites and online forums/groups, and that’s time I’m never getting back! What I wanted is below – and I’d be interested to hear, via your comments, on whether I have missed anything.

What is a Carnet de Passages en Douane?

Wikipedia describes it as:

The Carnet de Passages en Douane (CPD) is a customs document that identifies a traveller’s motor vehicle or other valuable equipment or baggage. It is required in order to take a motor vehicle into a significant but diminishing number of countries around the world.

Whilst correct, I think this misses the point somewhat. A CPD is also a bond, or insurance, against you importing a vehicle into a country and not paying that country the required import duty. It is also worth knowing that it is a physical booklet, with multiple pages, with details of you and your vehicle, which must be presented both when exiting a country* and when entering the next.

* a country which requires a CPD, for example Egypt currently

Terminology check

Thanks to a nice Swede called Emil, I now know that the abbreviated form is CPD. Not CDP. It’s a common mistake, which I made as well. I guess the common thinking is that the often shortened form of “Carnet de Passages” should be CDP. However, the full name is “Carnet de Passages en Douane”, hence the CPD. Good, we’re now at least using the correct terminology.

Why would you need a CPD?

Some countries have an issue with people driving cars over their borders and not paying import duty. To prevent this, those countries demand a CPD. This official, internationally-recognised document is, in effect, a bond or insurance against the bearer selling the vehicle in that country and leaving with the winnings. You, the vehicle owner, pay one of a list of official carnet issuers a large sum of money for your CPD. When you and your vehicle enter a country using your CPD, one page is stamped. Once you leave the country, another stamp is added to that page to prove the vehicle has left. Once you finish your trip (or no longer need your CPD to enter any further countries), you return your filled CPD (by secure post!) to the issuer, who will promptly refund you your deposit. If you don’t remove your vehicle from a country where you used the CPD to enter, your carnet issuer will have to pay the sum which is due to that country. In this event, the issuer may demand additional funds from you, depending on the small print of your CPD.

Do I really need a CPD?

Often the answer is ‘no’, but a CPD is mandatory for some countries. If you need a CPD for only one country of many on your trip, you have a choice to make: do you use the CPD for all countries, even when not mandatory, or do you return it as soon as you leave the mandatory country? Each to their own, and you may need that deposit money back ASAP, but keep in mind that a CPD can hugely ease getting your vehicle into a lot of non-mandatory countries. You can waste days at borders, so it’s a significant risk.

Which countries require a CPD?

I’m afraid this is not the place to record this, as I will not be constantly updating this document and this list will be subject to constant change. You’ll find lots of other websites listing these countries – you just may need to do a little digging to determine whether a CPD is necessary or merely advisory. Remember, it’s not in a CPD issuer’s interest to make this clear – though most appear to be there to help rather than make money.

Are there different types of CPD?

Not really, no. The only difference is they come with a varying number of pages, as per your request, up to 25. Each issuer will give you exactly the same document – they don’t have their own unique document – so from this perspective, at least, there is no reason to choose one issuer over another. The base document is issued by the FIA, who are the international body governing all things automobile.

Different payment methods for a CPD

These generally fall into two categories:

  1. Large deposit, smallish fee
  2. Large fee, small deposit

Personally, I think you would be either crazy or stupid to use the second option. Why pay more? Don’t have the funds to cover the deposit? Speak to your bank and get a loan – add on the interest to the fee and you’re still much better off, financially, than paying a large fee.

How much will it cost?

Firstly, we’ll have to tackle vehicle value. So let’s use our own real-world example.

We have a fantastic 1996 80 Series Land Cruiser, which cost us a lot of money as it is in excellent condition and it has been professionally prepared for long-distance, overland travel. However, when you apply for a CPD you don’t give this figure as the vehicle value. You take the depreciated, used value of your base, unmodified vehicle model. You only need to reach a value which is believable to the customs officers at the borders – and they won’t care about your expensive rooftop tent, suspension modifications, fridge freezer or bling stereo. Just the base value of your make and model, for the current age. Don’t go too low, mind, as this entire exercise is to make sure you can get your vehicle into countries. Don’t go shooting yourself in the foot – it’ll hurt.

So, for a 1996 HDJ80 Land Cruiser with a 1HD-FT engine and manual gearbox, we decided £6k was the correct number. Use second-hand vehicle websites to help find the correct price for your base vehicle, with mileage being a key factor.

So, now you have your estimated value, you can take that to one or more CPD issuer and discuss pricing. Remember the two payment options, above (the smart one and the stupid one…).

What really affects the cost?

The countries you are visiting, plain and simple. Egypt causes a dull ache in the nether regions, demanding the CPD covers 200% of the value of the vehicle. Now, this doesn’t mean a £12k deposit (using our example, again) is needed for your CPD. The CPD issuer uses an insurance company, and that insurance company will drastically affect the price of the CPD. We used TCS, the Swiss auto club, as our issuer and they currently have a minimum deposit amount of CHF 10k for Egypt (just under £8k at time of writing). Their fee (smart payment option, remember) is currently CHF 330 for a non-member, plus a reasonable secure-delivery cost.

Choosing an issuer

If your vehicle is registered in the UK, you can go with either Cars Europe, who are the official issuers of the UK jurisdiction, or TCS, the Swiss auto club.

The German ADAC auto club stopped issuing CPDs to UK-registered vehicles towards the end of 2017.

TCS must ask permission from Cars Europe to issue a CPD to a UK-registered vehicle, as it is technically their jurisdiction. I have no reason to believe they would ever say no.

So why did we use TCS? Their fee was less (roughly £300 vs £500) and they could deliver the document to us within 4 days, not 2 weeks (they actually state 4 weeks on their website).

In general, speak to your country’s official auto club and they should be able to help you out. Unless you have a UK-registered vehicle, of course. Folklore has it that the RAC used to rip us Brits off when issuing CPDs, and they were forced to stop doing so. So they just stopped issuing them altogether. Thankfully, Cars Europe stepped in to save the day – and charge more than the going rate. Cars Europe will also try to get you to pay £50 per additional driver, where they will issue some random letter which has no legal significance whatsoever. If you feel this would benefit you in some way, go right ahead and pay for one. Or just type up something yourself and find an official-looking stamp online. Personally, I don’t see what it could help with, unless you are planning on crossing a border without the registered owner of the vehicle being present (as their name needs to be on the CPD). Even then, the border guards won’t recognise the authority of the issuer – they may just fall for something which looks official, though.

What do I need to provide?

Documents: A scanned copy of your passport, your vehicle registration document and driving licence. Send them as attachments in an email to the issuer, after making an initial enquiry. Or put them in a folder of a file-sharing platform, such as Google Drive, and share the URL with them – which is my preference.

How long will it take?

If you have all the documents the issuer needs, you could have the CPD booklet in your hands in 4 days, perhaps sooner if you really need – this is if you use TCS, other issuers will vary.

How do I use the CPD?

Here’s something I struggled to find, and I feel it’s very important. Lots of border officials aren’t familiar with CPDs and if you aren’t sure what needs to be done, when both entering and exiting a country, you can get yourself into a bind. An incorrectly processed CPD could lead to you not getting your deposit back.

Each page in the CPD booklet has 3 sections: a stub/counterfoil, and two tear-off sections (stub at the top, middle ‘exit ticket’ and bottom ‘entry ticket’). The stub of each page will always remain with you, within the booklet. The stub must be stamped on entry into a country, and that same page stub must be stamped on exit from that country. It cannot be a different page – one page per country which deals with entry and exit. The bottom tear-off section will be taken by the border officials when you enter their country. When you exit that country, the border officials will remove the ‘middle’ tear-off section.

One other important point of note is that you will need to get the stub on the first page stamped at the port/border before you cross into the first country you will use your CPD for. In our situation, this was at Salerno port in Italy. I didn’t know this at the time and hadn’t a clue what was going on due to the language barrier, but thankfully they knew what to do and stamped it. This may be optional, but best you get it done I feel.

Checklist on entering a country: bottom section is torn off by the border officials and remains with the border officials; middle section remains with you, untouched; stub/counterfoil must be stamped by the border officials to prove entry, and remains (as always) in your booklet.

Checklist on exiting a country: (bottom section will already have been taken when entering this country); middle section will now be torn off and kept by the border officials; stub/counterfoil must be stamped by the border officials to prove exit. THIS IS THE MOST IMPORTANT BIT – ESPECIALLY IN YOUR LAST COUNTRY.

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