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I gather that different South Africa car rental companies have different policies on taking vehicles out of the country, and that most allow it for Lesotho and Swaziland but need to give a letter granting permission to take the car across the border, which costs extra.

That's fine, but I can't find any car rental website for South Africa that mentions this in their options, terms or FAQs or that gives any facility to add this to an online booking. I've found accounts from people who've done it (example on TripAdvisor forums) but they seem to all be people who just turned up and hired a car at the desk at the airport. I'd like to have something booked in advance, and pick it up somewhere other than the airport.

How do you obtain permission to take a car through Lesotho from a South African car rental company when booking online? And how do I know in advance while choosing between car rental companies how much it'll cost?


Here's what little I've managed to find:

  • Avis South Africa have an incredibly vague note that this "could create some complications. At Avis, cross border travel options can be made available upon request", then a vague mention of "local agents".
  • First Car Rental have reasonably detailed info in their FAQs, even including the fee for Lesotho (R750) and other countries. They say "A letter of authorisation must be requested at the time of reservation for all cross-border travelling", but don't give any more info on how to request such a letter. It also mentions needing "An affidavit from the police" but it's not clear if this is something they provide or something I'd need to get from the police separately.
  • I haven't found any car rental comparison site that has anything about cross border travel policies. Closest so far is Rentalcars South Africa, which acknowledges that cross-border travel is a thing and that company policies vary, but cops out and suggests flying then renting a car in each country... their terms and conditions contains this which seems to be generic but isn't entirely clear:

    Cross-Border fee - ZAR 1,320.00 including tax... Customers must inform the car hire company of any cross-border travel


Update: I found some more detailed info in AVIS's terms and conditions under "Cross Border Rentals; this document seems to become available only when you start the booking process, possibly based on your country of origin (that, or I did a very bad job of finding them on the first attempt). They don't say anything about how to get it, but they do quote:

Additional One Way Cross Border Fee... ZAR 1330.00 (incl tax) into Lesotho

Based on it, I'm trying just doing the booking online then sending a follow-up email requesting cross-border permission. I'll update this with what happens... Wish me luck...

  • Not yet an answer, but in the FirstCarRental FAQs, there is this: "A letter of authorisation must be requested at the time of reservation for all cross-border travelling. First Car Rental needs 4 days advance notification for Zimbabwe as authorities now require the original registration documents for all vehicles crossing the border." firstcarrental.co.za/about-us/faqs/car-hire-faqs.html ... This suggests that the authorization comes from the rental agency, and would like be a request you make in the comment section when reserving. – Giorgio Sep 19 '16 at 23:54
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    As for the letter from the police, the authorization from the rental agency may cover that; see here klcbt.co.za/new-regulations-for-drivers-crossing-sa-borders – Giorgio Sep 20 '16 at 0:01
  • Again, not an answer, from Europcar.co.za terms and conditions: (1) A letter of authorisation must be requested from Europcar at the time of reservation for all cross border travelling. (2) Europcar will not be held responsible if a Renter is refused entry into another country. (3) All foreign registered vehicles will have to pay a Cross Border Charge at the Border. The Renter is responsible for the payment of the Cross Border Charge. (4) Vehicles are only permitted into Botswana, Lesotho, Swaziland, Namibia and Mozambique. – Giorgio Sep 20 '16 at 0:19
  • @pnuts agree, and nothing I've found (yet) suggests an added fee, particularly in light of the cross border charge. – Giorgio Sep 20 '16 at 0:31
  • Anecdotally I can support the info given in Dorothy's link above. I rented a car in SA in order to drive up to Namibia (on business) and was asked to show a letter from the car rental company at the border. I didn't have one, but was probably lucky in that the law wasn't being properly enforced at the time (and I was traveling to Oranjemund which, although in Namibia, is really only accessible from SA unless you're driving a 4x4). The police officers at the border let me through because they knew I'd have to come back that way. – brhans Sep 20 '16 at 19:41
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Just got back and it all seemed to work fine.

To get the permission letter, basically you just:

  1. Scour the terms and conditions documents for the South African branch of each hire company to find each company's price and policy.
    • In some cases (e.g. AVIS) the terms and conditions documents vary depending on the renter's nationality, so can't be reliably be found with Google alone; links become available when you've filled in the first page of the form and given your dates, nationality, etc.
    • For Swaziland and Lesotho, companies mostly seemed to allow it for a fee of something over 1,000 rand; policies and prices for other neighbouring countries were more varied.
  2. Sort it out at the desk. You can send them an email requesting it in advance, but there's no need to. All they do is, when sorting your paperwork when you turn up to collect the car, they print off a standard letter on company letterhead basically saying "To whom it may concern, everything's fine, this person isn't stealing our car", then fill in your details and the car's details by hand, then hand it over with all the other paperwork.

I emailed in advance to request permission for Lesotho, and then decided while at the desk that I wanted Swaziland too. The only difference was, it was the guy at the desk who said "And you still want a letter allowing you to go into Lesotho?", and it was me who said "And I also want a letter allowing me to go into Swaziland".

They got the message from my email, but having told them in advance didn't make any real difference.


Using the permission letter is pretty simple:

  • When crossing into Lesotho one of the officials on the South African side, while checking I'd stamped my passport, said "That's an AVIS car, isn't it? Do you have the letter?" then just glanced at it. It's clearly a pretty common situation.

  • When crossing into Swaziland, they didn't even ask to see it. I'd certainly recommend having one anyway, don't want to risk being mistaken for a car thief... It's also possible that they didn't ask because I was visibly holding a big bundle of AVIS paperwork along with my passport etc.


Random tip: if you're crossing into Lesotho at the border near Maseru and it's busy, don't do what I did which was drive past all the full parking bays looking for an empty one to stop and get my exit stamp, then end up stuck unable to reverse or turn around in the tight space between end of the parking bays and the border itself, with an impatient horn-blaring truck stuck right behind you and about 20 South African police and border officials looking on shaking their heads... (though this clearly happens quite a lot: a laughing official let me use the staff car park after wryly saying "This is your first time here, right?").

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