Updated January 2020
A Carnet de Passages en Douane (or CPD) is an internationally recognised document permitting the holder to temporarily import motor vehicles into certain foreign countries without paying duties or posting bonds. The vehicle must be returned to the origin country to avoid penalties.
To cut a long story short, they’re very useful in much of Africa and essential in Egypt; Iran Pakistan, India and Indonesia (see map below, but it’s not definitive). A CPD will help get into Australia and New Zealand too, but if you can complete your trip without getting one (by avoiding the above places) so much the better. It is possible to visit some of these places and not show a CPD, but that requires some luck, persuasion or lodging deposits/paying fees. As is happening in Ghana, recovering a deposit when you leave by some remote border may not be so easy.
Carnets were designed to stop a vehicle being imported and sold without paying huge import taxes. Most overlanders aren’t intent on selling their vehicles abroad, and most countries in the world are content to stamp your passport with your vehicle details or issue their own inexpensive temporary vehicle importation permit (TVIP) which adds up to the same thing as a CPD. Fewer than a dozen countries demand them (see map). You can go right through the Americas, northwest Africa and across northern or around Southeast Asia without a CPD.
Following deregulation or privatisation in 2016, EU nationals now apply to Germany’s ADAC, from just €230 and a deposit. Your CPD is issued in as little as ten days.
In the UK CARS have taken over the franchise with similar fees and swift issuing times.
For Canadian and American nationals the service has been handed over to Boomerang Carnets in Illinois who do the job from around $1000. Both the ADAC and Boomerang can provide a quote, even if you don’t come from the listed countries.
In South Africa it’s still the AA of SA,
In Australia contact the AAA in Canberra.
Carnets essentially guarantee covering the cost of the highest level of duty on your vehicle in the countries concerned, should it not be re-exported. Egypt, Iran, Pakistan and India (on the map, above) have long been in the most costly zone where duties are up to 800% of vehicle value – let’s call it ‘EIPI’. But where once having those countries listed on your CPD required depositing up to a staggering eight times the value of your vehicle, the ADAC currently asks no more than 100% and as little as 30% for non-EIPI places.
Of course, the valuation of your car is open to interpretation. With the latest changes you now simply pay the deposit into the ADAC bank (for example) which is returned in full when your carnet is discharged at the end of your travels.
With Boomerang in the US, unless you lodge a bond in cash (minimum $5000), what they call a Loss Prevention Security is less, but incurs fees of 20%, similar to when the RAC was doing CPDs in the UK.