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How to Prepare for Crossing Borders

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Question:

What is your strategy for crossing borders when on a long overland
journey? Do you have a set procedure that you follow? Any tips?

Suggestions for crossing land borders?

Dave’s response:

My biggest strategy would be to map it out. Mark your starting destination, and then your end destination. Work out two routes from the start to the end by the following method. At some stage you’ll come across a country or more that need visas beforehand. Find a country before this one that you can get this sorted out in. Work out what can and can’t be achieved in this country. And from there, work out a second route as a back up in case you can’t get visas, or unrest etc breaks out preventing you from going through.

I did this in Turkey. It was my base for a while. Should I not get my Iranian or Pakistani visas, then I would have gone for my second route of through central Asia and the ‘Stans.

Turkey was my focal point as there were a lot of land borders there, and a lot of embassies, thus making it an ideal location to find alternative routes if need be.

As for land border crossings. I really enjoy them. Watch your pockets. Have some small dollar’s to hand, and preferably some local cash too. But not large amounts. Keep all else out of sight. Sometimes you’ll be asked for a “processing fee” which won’t be in any guidebook.

Keep you eyes open for signs, and walk causally as if it’s not your first time. You usually get crowds of money changers, border “helpers”, transport people and anything else imaginable coming up to you asking to help you one way or another. Or worse still, to tell you everything is closed, and not possible. Don’t take anyone’s word for it. Research beforehand and know your route and any potential problems. Knowing a few hellos and no thank you’s can help in the local language.

Lastly, don’t be afraid to ask at your border area guesthouse, they can usually offer great advice on how to cross without a problem. Just be careful they are not trying to sell you a tour.

Dave has been traveling on a continuous overland journey for the past five years, find out more about his travels and overland travel information on his website at The Longest Way Home.

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Filed under: Border Crossing, Travel Preparation, Visas

About the Author:

Wade Shepard is the founder and editor of Vagabond Journey. He has been traveling the world since 1999, through 76 countries. He is the author of the book, Ghost Cities of China, and contributes to Forbes, The Diplomat, the South China Morning Post, and other publications. has written 3054 posts on Vagabond Journey. Contact the author.

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Wade Shepard is currently in: Cincinnati, Ohio, USAMap