Adventure Travel: Preparing for an Overland Trip

Overlanding refers to traveling by land from one destination to another. It is not simply your weekend road trip, but usually involves a large distance and most of time you’ll cross more than one country. Marco Polo’s travel from Venice to China serve as an example of an adventurous overland trip. Nowadays, solo travelers or groups plan overland trips as a form of adventure holidays.

The Route

The first thing you’ll need to do is choose your route. You’ll need to think about how much time you have and see if your route is doable during that time. True overland journeys avoid air travel, unless the purpose is only to get you to the start of your destination or get you home afterwards. You can use ferries for short jaunts, such as crossing from Spain to Morocco, but most overlanders would consider it ‘cheating’ if you use sea travel to bypass a country you would have otherwise had to cross on land.

When you know what route you’ll be taking, google for blogs of others who have gone before you. Reading about others’ experiences will help you know if public or private transport is best for your route, how much things cost, and any potential hold-ups you could face along the way.

Visas and Regulations

When your world map has the master route drawn on it, you’ll need to do some serious homework on visas and other regulations that might stop you in your tracks. Travel to many countries involves visa formalities, which are not always easy, cheap or straightforward.

Do you get a visa on arrival? Can get a visa on arrival at all land crossings? If you have to get a visa beforehand, does the visa start from the stamp date or your entry date into the country? Is the visa long enough to allow you the traverse the country? Will having stamps in your passport from other countries prevent you from getting a visa in one of your destinations?

If you have an Israel stamp on your passport and you plan to travel in the Muslim world, you’d better get a new passport and forget going to Israel again until the end of your journey. Then, with stamps from Syria, Pakistan, and Iran, you might have trouble getting into Israel.

If you plan on taking your own vehicle, you also need to look at each country’s rules regarding them. Is your vehicle right-hand drive or left-hand drive? Some countries do not allow vehicles with the opposite of the local law. You’d hate to drive for four months and get stuck because you’ve overlooked this small detail.

Money & Finances

Bring plenty of cash and have at least two back-up plans to get money. Anything can happen during an overland journey, and it’s best to be prepared. Take cash in easily tradable currencies like pounds sterling, US dollars, or Euros. Take some of all three if you’re worried about the current financial situation. If the US dollar comes crashing down overnight, you won’t have enough money to get yourself home.

ATMs can be used in major cities in most countries, but your bank may charge a high fee such as $5 per transaction. Check all of this with the bank before leaving. Consider getting another debit card that doesn’t charge a fee, or use it only in case of emergency.

Credit cards can’t always be used to purchase what you need on your overland journey, but they can be used as a backup in case you need to get a flight home at short notice. Traveler’s checks have pretty much phased out in favor of ATMS, and in many developing nations you’ll have trouble cashing them anywhere besides major banks. Even that may be done at a hefty fee.

Above all, do your research and know what you’re getting into. Keep your ear to the ground and listen to locals as you travel. If even the locals advise you that an area is too dangerous for you to cross, consider changing your route. Overlanders need to be flexible and adventurous, but also cautious and wise.

Photo by indigoprime.

4 Comments on “Adventure Travel: Preparing for an Overland Trip

  1. The above article is really the good and wonderful example of adventure and thrilling overland journey trip and it describes all the procedures to follow for travelers for having an enjoyable long driven journey.

  2. Overland travel rocks! Both self-drive and group tours. In your money and finances section you make it out to be extremely expensive, but it is totally possible to do them on a budget. I just wrote a blog about the cheapest ways to travel the world and overland trip (group overland travel) and self-drive road trips were both featured. I rate that if you plan well enough in advance you can do both extremely cheaply. Correct?

    Also – you’re totally right about the ATM bank charges – I just came back from travelling through Namibia, Botswana and Zimbabwe and i was charged R45.00 PER transaction – no matter how small. Also, the ATMs were extremely unreliable with the ones in Victoria Falls ALL running out of money. What a mess!

    The blog I wrote on cheap ways to travel:

    • Thanks for sharing Dalene! My section on money and finances is focused on emergency cash, because when you are traveling overland things can be quite unpredictable. An Italian traveler who broken down in his RV still owes us over $2000 for repairs on his vehicle, money we never should have lent him and now, four years later, do not ever expect to get back. He was in Pakistan with virtually NO money to pay for repairs or plane tickets home when his mother was gravely ill. Yes, overland travel can be inexpensive, but I believe all travelers should have a back up plan to get themselves home quickly or repair vehicles if necessary. It may be an emergency bank account or a credit card that is reserved for such situations.

  3. I completely agree Heather! One of the things that makes travelling overland so much fun is the adventure and unpredictability… but you need to be packing some cash for when those bumps in the road rear their heads…

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