To Africa with Guns: All You Need to Know About Bringing in the Firearms for Your Safari

Even in the old days you couldn’t simply get your gun and travel to another country to hunt – it required at least declaring your weapons at the customs and paying a sometimes hefty due. In the modern safety-obsessed world things didn’t get any easier. But they are not too hard, either. This post gives you all essential information about travelling to Africa with a gun. It begins with the general remarks, and then the details on every particular African country represented on BookYourHunt.com

General remarks

All African countries require you to obtain a temporary firearms permit, mostly in advance. In many cases your outfitter applies for it on your behalf. Many countries collect a fee that sounds more like a tax than a compensation for processing costs. Handguns, fully automatic and military pattern weapons are almost universally banned, the number of guns you can bring is limited, and so is the amount of ammo for each gun, too. Archery gear mostly doesn’t require any permit, however, some countries ban crossbows. You will require to provide proof that the firearms in queistion are really yours; for people from countries with gun control laws it means a copy of the regular gun license or permit, US citizens use Customs Form 4457.

Don’t change your mind

Once you’ve filed the applications, you typically can’t change your mind and bring a different gun. Even if you have the time to file another application, there’s a high risk of confusion; for instance, officials can deny you the entry to the country because the details of your rifle don’t match the old application they have on hand.

Mind the details

Pay special care to the serial numbers of your weapons. They must be correct, and most countries require them to be matching on every part of the firearm. A minor typo in the serial number will make your import permit invalid, and could get you in serious problems. Also, bring in precisely the number of ammunition you quoted in your application form. For most countries, only the ammunition for the rifles specified in your permit is allowed.

Airline rules

Airline rules are important, and may be tougher than those of the country to which you’re travelling. It especially concerns the maximum weight of ammunition allowed on board. Get the latest regulations from the airline you intend to travel before booking tickets and applying for the permit. It may be better to use a slightly more expensive and/or convenient, but more gun-friendly carrier or route. There are persistent rumors that some staff of European airports deliberately misplace or damage hunting guns. Travelling to Africa often involves complicated logistics, with some of your flights actually handled by different airlines – make sure to find out the rules for each of them. It is equally important to contact your airline again before the flight, and let them know you’ll be travelling with a firearm.

Paperwork for leaving the country

Most countries require special permits for their citizens to cross the border with firearms and return. For Americans, it means the US Customs Form 4457; it’s advised to fill in two of them, one for your weapons, the other for the rest of your personal belongings. This form also serves as proof of possession, so you need it anyway for entry permits to most countries. Other countries have different regulations, make sure you get them.

This is the typical picture, but there are numerous exceptions and differences between the countries. Below we’ll deal with the rules for hunters who want to hunt in Africa with their rifles country by country, in alphabetical order. Mind that this list covers only the states that are currently represented at BookYourHunt.com

Botswana

The application is made by the outfitter on your behalf. The outfitter will send you the applications form, which you fill in and return to them well in advance of your trip. You also submit copy of your passport, and copy of proof of ownership of the firearm(s) (firearms license or permit, or US Customs Form 4457 for Americans). The application fee costs up to $200 per firearm, and there’ll be an additional ammunition tax fee payable at the border (in local currency only).

A hunter can bring no more than 2 rifles and 1 shotgun, with no more than 100 rounds of ammunition for each weapon. No semi-automatic weapons, and rifles for established military calibers such as .308 are restricted as well. As for handguns, there’s a general ban on their import, but there could be an option to bring in a designated hunting handgun on special permit, contact the outfitter about it.

Hunters typically travel to Botswana through South Africa, and in this case may have to obtain South African In-Transit Permit. See the part about South Africa for details.

Burkina Faso

Temporary import/export permits are arranged by the outfitter on behalf of the hunter. The process is usually described as “quick and easy”, still, one should allow a reasonable amount of time for it. The outfitter will send you the application form which you’ll have to fill, specifying the details of your weapons. The application fee depends on the length of your stay, number of rifles, etc., but is said to be typically on the order of 50 Euro. A representative of the outfitter has to be present at the airport or other point of entry, so as to clear you through the customs.

No more than two firearms are allowed per hunter. Different sources quote different amount of ammo that can be brought into the country, from 40 to 50 rounds per rifle. There isn’t any clarity either whether shotgun ammo can or can’t be imported, so it’s best to make sure from your outfitters. The differences may result from the fact that permits are issued by the local authorities rather than on a national level. Fully and semi automatic weapons, as well as handguns, are forbidden, except semi-automatic shotguns for bird hunters.

Cameroon

Cameroon firearms permit must be obtained personally by the hunter through the Cameroon Embassy in the relevant country. Your will have to submit the proof of ownership of your weapons (gun license/permit or US Customs Form 4457), copy of hunting license in the hunters country, two passport-sized photographs, and pay the fee. The details differ from embassy to embassy (in some countries, for instance, the embassies require the permits to be officially translated to Cameroon’s national language) so it’s best to make enquiries before submitting.

A trophy hunter is considered as a tourist and has to be in contact with an outfitter who will provide further documents for the temporary import permit. The permit is delivered at the same time as the visa and both are marked in the passport. In addition a separate document with the specifications of the rifle(s)/ammunition is given. When entering the country, 10 copies of this document should be brought with the original.

No more than three firearms (two rifles and a shotgun) are allowed, with no more than 50 rounds of ammo per each. Handguns and semiautomatic rifles are not permitted.

Customs clearance at Douala Airport can be tedious and time consuming. At Yaoundé airport it is somewhat quicker since the airport is smaller. Some outfitters provide a meet & great at the airport to assist in the clearing of the guns at entry and departure and help you with overnight stay and connecting flights. It is advised that non-experienced hunters use this service.

Mozambique

The temporary import permit is obtained by your outfitter on your behalf. The list of required documents is typical, and includes a copy of your passport, a number of passport-size photographs, and proof of ownership of rifles (US Customs Form 4457 for US citizens, the firearms license/permits for everyone else). The processing fee is circa 150-300 USD.

Mozambique allows no more than four firearms per hunter, with a limit on the amount of ammunition (enquire from your outfitter). Semi-automatic rifles, and rifles chambered for regulation military rounds such as 5.56 mm NATO or .308 are not allowed. Handguns for hunting purposes can be imported by special license.

Some hunters travel to Mozambique through South Africa, and in this case may have to obtain South African transit permit. See the part about South Africa for details.

Namibia

Namibia has the freest regulations for a travelling hunter than any other African country. You obtain your temporary firearms permit by filling in a simple form on arrival to the airport. It is possible to download the form and fill it in beforehand (but not sign it until you’re in presence of the relevant official). The process is free. There is no limit to the amount of firearms you can bring, but there’s a limit on ammo (no more than 100 rounds per rifle). Hunting type semi-automatic rifles are allowed, but military designs and rifles for military calibers are forbidden. Handguns are not allowed either. Another forbidden weapon type is the crossbow.

Hunters who travel to Namibia through South Africae may have to obtain South African In-Transit Permit. See the part about South Africa for details.

South Africa

South Africa has perhaps the most complicated and the most strict rules for temporary import of firearms. You can file the application in advance, or on arrival at South Africa. There is no fee, except when you chose to hire a specialized company to handle your permit.

You must submit the application form SAPS520. Special care should be taken when filling this form. You must use black ink only, and fill in only Page 2 Section D – Type of Permit  (tick 5 for temporary permit), Page 2 Section E – Particulars of Applicant – parts 1 to 25.4, Page 4 Section G – Import/Export Details – parts 1 to 9.2, and Page 5 Section 1 – Details of Firearms – all parts, and Page 6 Section 1 – Declaration by person who is lawfully in possession of the firearm – parts 3 to 4.4. Do not pre-sign the document. In addition, you must provide a notarized copy of your passport (photograph and signature pages), notarized copy of the document proving the ownership of the firearms, and a letter of invitation from your outfitter.

For the U.S. citizens, as an alternative to a notarized copy of the US Customs Form 4457, South Africa also accepts as proof of ownership an affidavit from your local sheriff’s office, or the invoice from the shop that sold you the gun. Hunters from most other countries are required to provide, in addition to the notarized copy of their firearms license/permits, a notarized copy of the official statement by the relevant police or customs office that the hunter is allowed to take the weapons out of the country.

IMPORTANT! Please note, though US 4457 forms have no expiration date, South Africa rules require the 4457 form be dated within 6 months of arrival in South Africa.

A maximum number of firearms to be brought into South Africa is four, but they all must be of a different caliber. You are not allowed to bring more than 200 rounds of ammo per firearms. There’s an age limit, too – no person under 21 years of age can bring in firearms into South Africa. All serial numbers on a firearm must match. Handguns for self-defense purposes are not allowed, but dedicated hunting handguns can be brought in for hunting purposes on a special permit. To obtain this permit, you must provide, in addition to other documents, a statement explaining why you intend to use a handgun for hunting. The same rules apply for semi-automatic shotguns.

Transit passengers who travel through South Africa and stay overnight in transit, or do not have inter-airline firearm handling service, are required to obtain an In-transit Permit. This permit is obtained in the same manner as the normal temporary import permit.

Tanzania

The temporary import permit is obtained by the outfitter on your behalf. You will need to send your firearm details to your outfitter well in advance so the proper paperwork and permits will be ready for you on arrival. You will need to provide a copy of the photo and signature pages of your passport, proof of ownership of the weapons (copies of gun licenses/permits, or, for US citizens, U S Customs form 4457. Add six passport-size photograph for paper application, or one for electronic submission.  In addition, Tanzania recently introduced a new requirement to import firearms for safaris: Hunters must now provide photographs of the firearm and of the serial number for any guns brought into the country. There’s a fee for processing the application, which will come up to about $150-200, depending on number of firearms, etc.

Three rifles per hunter and 100 rounds per rifle may be imported, and one shotgun in addition to it. Automatic weapons and handguns are strictly forbidden.

Zambia

You must apply for your firearms import permit in advance, so that it be at the airport when you arrive at the country. There’s a $200 processing fee. The application includes the copy of your passport (details & signature pages), and proof of ownership of the specified firearms (a copy of firearms license/permit, or, for U.S. citizens, U.S. Customs Form 4457).

The maximum amount of rifles that are permitted to enter in Zambia is 3; there’s no limit on ammunition except airline limitations. It is not allowed to bring in handguns, semi-automatic firearms, and firearms of regulation military design/calibers.

Zimbabwe

Application for a temporary firearm import permit for Zimbabwe can be made on arrival at the port of entry. There is no fee for issuing a firearm permit. It is possible to import a hunting handgun, but hunting with handguns is allowed only on certain game areas. It’s recommended to apply for the handgun import permit via your outfitter. Fully automatic rifles are forbidden; hunting (non-military design) semi-automatic rifles are possible, but it’s not advised to bring them.

Firearms import into Zimbabwe is fairly easy and straightforward, but traveling to Zimbabwe through other countries with firearms is not. According to EU Regulation (EC) No 314/2004, the importation of firearms and ammunition, including those for hunting/sporting purposes, from the E.U. into Zimbabwe is prohibited. European and British airlines will not carry firearms of any kind on flights direct to Zimbabwe. If you want to take firearms into Zimbabwe and you are flying from an EU country, it will be necessary to get two sets of tickets issued; one set for Johannesburg and another set for the onward flight to Zimbabwe. Canada has also implemented a ban on all firearms going to Zimbabwe, which includes hunting firearms. Because of this, you will likely travel through South Africa to enter Zimbabwe, and you will have to go through the process to clear your firearms in South Africa, which has strict firearms import procedures, and then re-check them for your flight to Zimbabwe.

 

Disclaimer.

Please note that the information in this post is not an official juridical statement, but only meant to give you a general understanding of what it takes to travel to Africa with a gun, to help you plan your trip. Rules and regulations may change, so when you get to plan your trip, double-check and make sure you’ve got your data straight from official sources. Contact your outfitter when in doubt. BookYourHunt.com doesn’t bear any responsibility for any consequences of your action or inaction based on the information provided in this post. Unless it convinces you to go hunting to Africa and everything goes great and you have the hunt of your life as the result, then we get all the credit.

Now that you know how to get your guns to Africa, why don’t you go and find the hunt of your dreams!


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