Carnet de Passage – What Is It? Where do You Need It?


Note that this information is for people who are traveling with their private vehicle (not a rented or borrowed vehicle; additional paperwork may be required but I don’t have that information).

To put it simply: the Carnet de Passage is a passport for your car. It entitles you to enter countries (that signed this convention; German and Brazilian vehicles take note on South Korea at the bottom of this page) by car without paying import taxes. You can’t use it as an import document (e.g. when bringing your car in case of emigrating); the Carnet de Passage is specifically designed for travelers, like a transit/temporary import document.

How Does a Carnet de Passage Work?

  • You go to your Automobile Association (AA) and apply for the Carnet de Passage.
  • The Carnet de Passage is valid for 1 year, and depending on your AA it can be used for either 10 or 25 countries.
  • The fee for this Carnet depends per country (in 2003 we paid US $150-200).
  • Depending on your vehicle and the countries you want to visit, the AA calculates a deposit (which can vary from 1,000 to 10,000 US dollars) that the AA keeps for the duration of your journey. Some AAs work with a bank guarantee as well.
  • Each entry into a country uses one page. On entering and exiting the customs sign and stamp the document. It is your own responsibility to collect these stamps. Some customs have never seen this document before and you’ll have to guide them through the procedure.
  • When you return to your country with your car and Carnet de Carnet with all stamps, the AA will return your deposit. It is as simple as that and as far as we are concerned the system works just fine.
  • If you are still traveling after a year you will have to buy a new Carnet de Passage.

The Automobile Association

The Automobile Association in Germany (ADAC) has lots of info in English on the Carnet de Passage. The ADAC gives a different vision on the need of Carnet for South American countries than I present in this blog (see below). I think the right conclusion is:

  • The ADAC supplies the official regulations on the subject.
  • In this blog post we share our experiences.

There have been problems with some Automobile Associations, I believe in England, but I don’t know any details of it. Join the Facebook page Overland Sphere to find the discussion on the subject.

China & Thailand

An important exception is China. Thus far it has not been possible to enter China with a vehicle independently. You need a travel agency to organize this for you in advance and expect to pay a lot of money. Think about at least 150-200 US dollars per day (yes, per day!), just to obtain the proper papers to enter China. These Facebook pages may be good resources for you: Overlanding Asia & Overland to Asia.

Only recently, I believe late 2016 or early 2017, Thailand has sharpened its rules for foreign vehicles. I don’t know the details, but again check the Facebook Asia Overland pages I just mentioned under China for updates on this.

Carnet de Passage for Europe to Asia (2003-2006)

What we experienced during our 3,5-year journey:

  • Iran, Pakistan, India, Singapore demanded a Carnet de Passage. Don’t be fooled by stories that you can enter India without this Carnet de Passage; you can’t.
  • In other countries such as Bangladesh, Malaysia, Thailand, Laos, Cambodia and Vietnam our Carnet de Passage facilitated the border procedures but the Carnet was not required.

Carnet de Passage for South America (2007-2106)

During our 9-year travel on the continent, we didn’t need a Carnet in any of South America’s 13 countries. See more about the Temporary Import Document, which you do need in all of them. The exception is French Guiana for owners of a European car – because French Guiana is Europe, no papers required at all).

Carnet de Passage for Far East (2016- today)

  • South Korea: no Carnet de Passage needed; you will get a Temporary Import Document on arrival. Read about the shipping and paper procedures here. Germany and Brazil did sign the Geneva Convention (they signed the Vienna Convention) and as a result these vehicles are not allowed to drive in South Korea. To check if anything has changed, contact Wendy Choi (more on her below; wendychoi2 [at] Gmail [dot] com).
  • Japan: no Carnet needed when you ferry to South Korea; you’ll get the TID on arrival. Read about the procedure here. We understand that you do need a Carnet when you ship your vehicle to Japan in a container. More on shipping and paperwork for Japan here.

This information may be outdated. What are your experiences? Please share them with us in the comments below so other travelers can benefit from them. Thanks.

(Originally published in 2012 / updated in 2017)

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10 thoughts on “Carnet de Passage – What Is It? Where do You Need It?

  1. No need for a carnet in Peru, Ecuador, Colombia and Venezuela (as questioned above)… only the vehicle title and a passport is required to get the temporary vehicle import papers at the border.

  2. hi everyone, i m daniel, from italy, but i live now in australia!! i want buy a new bike in thailand, and i will start from there my new trip in the world!! i will go out the thai, i need the carnet de passage with my bike from thai? if yes, how much cost? and with which one agency? thanks

  3. I want to travel via motorcycle from cape town to cairo, in order to receive my deposit back from AA, would i need to ride all the way back to cape town to get it? or is there another way to do this?

    • Where do you plan on going after Cairo? You will need to get it stamped out of Egypt in any case. And every AA works differently. We could stamp out of Argentina for example and drive into Uruguay and not use the Carnet but enter via the Temporary Import Document system. We then send foto’s of the stamped Carnet back to the ADAC and got our deposit back. I would suggest you contact your AA and ask them about it.

      • Depending on finances, i’d like to sell the motorbike or ship it back to Australia. I am just trying to wrap my head around this so correct me if i’m wrong. When i buy the motorcycle in South Africa, I will also buy the Carnet de Passage along with registration and insurance and from there, I can use those documents to travel freely up towards Cairo (also entry & exit costs for each country), but what will happen to my deposit that I gave the AA in South Africa if I hope to fly back to Australia from Cairo? Will i need to sell the bike and send photos/receipts to AA so they can transfer it and give me my money back?

        Thank you

        • Roughly it boils down to this: the Carnet exists because vehicles needed to visit/transit countries, without the hassle of officially importing them. The general idea is that the vehicle returns to its original country. If you do not return to the original country, you will either need proof of importing it and paying taxes, or scrapping it and you will likely get your deposit back. The deposit works like a security. If you stamp into a country and not out (always remember to collect both in and out stamps at the borders), you will likely loose your deposit and that country will claim it in order to recuperate its loses of importation tax, as you have maybe sold it without proper importing it. But again, every AA works differently, so please contact the South African AA from whom you will get your Carnet, and ask them how they handle things.

          • Ok i just emailed them. Thanks so much for your help, its given me a better understanding now. Take care!

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