A rifle and a shotgun leaning on chairs in Africa

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 import 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 and calibers 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 be required 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 rounds 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 choose the most direct route to your destination. There are persistent rumours 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 important to check this detail with whichever carrier you decide to fly.  It is equally important to contact your airline again before the flight, and let them know you’ll be travelling with a firearm.

Basic Rules for Transportation of Firearms and Ammunition

Firearms must be transported in a lockable hardcase. Make sure that you have copies of all relevant documentation and the keys for the locks readily available should any officials ask for the case to be opened and the documentation presented. The bolt must be removed and left in the gun case if you are traveling with a bolt-action rifle.

Some airport officials can be difficult when it comes to travelling with reloaded ammunition and it is therefore advisable to only travel with factory loads. If not in their original factory boxes, you should consider leaving the empty original boxes in your check-on luggage should you encounter a problem you will be able to prove to the official the origins of the ammunition.     

Some airlines require your ammunition to be in a separate locked container in your checked baggage whilst others require the ammunition to be locked in the gun case. It is important to check this detail with whichever carrier you decide to fly.

Black powder enthusiasts must arrange a supply of black powder and percussion caps with the outfitter in the country where you intend hunting. It is strictly forbidden to transport these items on the plane.  

Paperwork for leaving the country

Most countries require special permits for their citizens to cross the border with firearms and return. A permit that allows you to keep and bear a particular weapon within the country is usually not considered sufficient to take the weapon, cross the border, and return. This applies even to the otherwise barely noticeable borders within the European Union, to say nothing of travelling to Africa. Generally, you are going to need to obtain a ceparate permit. Relevant rules differ from country to country, and we have space here only for the nation that the majority of hunting tourists come from: the USA.

US Citizens Travelling Outside the USA with Firearms.

All persons who intend to travel from the United States to a foreign country with firearms and/or ammunition are reminded that both the permanent and temporary exportation of these items are subject to federal export licensing regulations.

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 such as cameras and binoculars, etc. Although a US Customs form 4457 is accepted by the African countries as proof of ownership it is not accepted as a legal document for the temporary exportation or importation of firearms into or out of the USA.

A CBP  Form 4457 is used to register personal items (not professional or commercial articles) of foreign origin before traveling abroad to facilitate duty-free reentry of same articles upon traveler’s return. This Certificate may not be used to declare the permanent or temporary export of firearms, ammunition or other defense articles (as defined by the United States Munitions List which requires the electronic reporting of export information in accordance with 22 C.F.R. 123.22.

Although Form 4457 does not expire and may be used multiple times, it is recommended that the date stamp on the form not be more than 6 months old. South Africa specifically will not accept forms that are issued over six months back. It is also important, whenever possible, to have have a dated stamped form 4457 issued in the same year that you plan to hunt.  

Your can find additional information about the importation and exportation of fireams from the US from the following sources: 

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

You need to send your outfitter a Letter of Proxy to allow them to apply and obtain your firearm permit on your behalf. The outfitter will send you the applications form, which you must complete and return to them well in advance of your trip to ensure that the documentation will be available at the airport/border crossing on your arrival. 

Notarised copies of your passport photograph/details page and notarised proof of ownership of the firearm(s) (firearms license or permit, or US Customs Form 4457 for Americans) is also required. The application fee costs $250 per firearm, and there will be an additional ammunition tax fee payable at the border (in local the Botswana currency only) on arrival.

A hunter can bring no more than 2 rifles and 1 shotgun, with no more than 50 rounds of ammunition for each firearm. The maximum weight of ammunition per hunter allowed on the aircraft is 11 lbs/5 kg. Handguns, semi-automatic and military style weapons are prohibited. 

Hunters traveling to Botswana through South Africa with no interline baggage transfer or overnighting in Johannesburg will be required to complete the South African firearm importation procedure. See the part about South African temporary firearm importation for further 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

Application for your temporary firearm import permit must be submitted well in advance of your arrival so that the permit is at the airport on your arrival. This permit application must be made, by the hunter, to the Cameroon Consulate (Embassy) in the country where you reside. 

The application documentation needs to include proof of ownership of your weapons (US Customs Form 4457 for American hunters or a gun license/permit for other nationalities). The documents must include the details (make, calibre and serial number) of the firearms you intend to take to Cameroon. A copy of your passport photo/details page is also required. There is also a consular fee of $553 to be submitted with this application. 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 is best to make enquiries before submitting. 

International hunters are considered tourists and must be in contact with an outfitter to ensure the right procedure is followed and they will provide any requested supporting documentation for the temporary import permit. Application for a tourist visa must be made at the same time. All applicants must be over 20 years old. Once issued the permit must then be sent to the outfitter to obtain your hunting license. This process requires the submission of two signed application forms, 2 passport-size photos and a medical certificate indicating your physical fit and mentally healthy to hunt in Cameroon.

To prevent any delays, payment must be made by money order, certified check, or cashier’s check payable to ‘Embassy of Cameroon’. Other forms of payment will not be accepted resulting in the rejection of your permit application. 

No more than two firearms per hunter are allowed into the country. A maximum of 50 rounds of ammunition per firearm is permitted into the country. Handguns, semi-automatic and military-style rifles are prohibited. 

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 & greet service at the airport to assist in the clearing of the guns at entry and departure and help you with overnight stay and connecting flights. Non-experienced hunters should make use of this service.

Ethiopia

Applications for a temporary firearm import permits must be made well in advance by your outfitter so that the permit is at the airport on your arrival. Your outfitter will request the specified documentation and firearm details from you, along with the required payment fee.   

This documentation will include a notarised copy of your passport photograph/details page and proof of ownership of firearm. US Customs Form 4457 for US hunters or Firearm Licence/Permit for non-US hunters must be submitted. These documents must include the firearms you intend bringing to Ethiopia.

Hunters may only import 2 firearms into Ethiopia with a maximum of 120 rounds of ammunition per firearm. However, keep in mind that the maximum weight limit of 5 kg/11 lbs is permitted onto the aircraft. Only ammunition for the specific firearms you are importing may be brought into the country. Automatic, semi-automatic or military style firearms are prohibited. However, hunting handguns are permitted.  

Hunting licenses will only be issued once the temporary firearms license has been successfully processed. The outfitters representative will meet you on arrival at the airport with the firearm documentation and escort you through customs, on arrival and departure.   

Mozambique

A temporary import permit application must be made by your outfitter, on your behalf, at least two months prior to your arrival.  All official correspondence takes place in Portuguese and an importation fee will be charged for each firearm. Your outfitter will also be responsible for applying for a tax exemption with Customs at your port of entry in Mozambique, to ensure that you do not need to pay any import duties. 

The list of required documents is typical, and includes a certified (notarised) 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). 

Mozambique allows no more than four firearms per hunter, with a limit of 60 rounds of ammunition per firearm for the specific firearms being imported. 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 with a special license.

Outfitters use airport service providers to assist clients with the importation and exportation of rifles at the port of entry. They will also escort the hunting party through customs and immigration.  Hunting licenses must be obtained prior to your safari and will only be processed once the firearm import permit has been issued.  

Hunters traveling to Mozambique through South Africa will need to obtain a 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. These forms may be downloaded from the internet or sent to you by your outfitter. To obtain your temporary firearms permit, complete the simple form and send it to firearmairport@nampol.na. The firearm registration process is free and will be permit will be at the airport on your arrival. The process is free. 

There is no limit to the amount of firearms you may import into the country. However, the Namibian Professional Hunters Association recommend that you limit yourself to a maximum of two rifles. 80 rounds of ammunition per firearm and only ammunition for the specific imported calibres firearms may be imported. Handguns, semi-automatic and automatic firearms are prohibited. Another forbidden weapon type is the crossbow.

Although proof of ownership is not necessary for the firearm import procedure, it is strongly advisable that you still carry your home country firearm licence/permit or US Customs Form 4457 while hunting in Namibia.

Hunters traveling to Namibia through South Africa with no interline baggage transfer or overnighting in Johannesburg will be required to complete the South African firearm importation procedure. See the part about South African temporary firearm importation for further 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 specialised company to handle your permit application. This service is highly recommended as you will arrive tired and be the last person to be served as those with completed paperwork are dealt with first.  This service will cost you approximately $120 depending on the service provider used. You may opt for the more expensive VIP service at $215 where you will be met at the plane and escorted through the whole immigration and firearms import process. If a third party/service provider makes the application on your behalf, the following additional documentation must be provided: A letter or a form authorising the third party to make application for a permit on your behalf and a copy of your flight itinerary.

You need to complete and submit a SAPS 520 application form. These forms can be found on numerous outfitters websites. 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. Please note, a notarised copy of a document must be stamped and signed by a notary, stating that the document is a true copy of the original.

You can download the SAPS 520 Application Form, which is 8 pages along with the SAPS 520 Instructions on how to complete the form. A SAPS 520(a) Application Form must be filled in by hunters in transit through South Africa that require a multiple entry import/export permit while traveling to their destination and on their return journey home through South Africa.   

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 calibres. You are not allowed to bring more than 200 rounds of ammo per firearm and only ammunition applicable for those firearms may be imported. There is 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-defence 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.

In-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.

On arrival at Johannesburg (Oliver Tambo) International Airport (Terminal 1), the firearms will be removed from the aircraft by security staff and brought to the baggage hall where you must identify them. The firearms officer will then carry it to the firearms office. There, the firearms will be kept under lock and key. The hunter will first go through Immigration, then collect his luggage, proceed through customs and then move on into Terminal 1 and the South African Police Services firearms office. There the hunter will be issued with his firearms after a check to ensure that the serial numbers and make correlate with the personal data of the hunter. The final step is the issuing of the SAPS 525 or temporary import permit.

On departure, the firearms are checked in at the check-in desk and tagged for the flight. You then carry them through to the firearms office, which is located before the main security check area. The officer will check the serial numbers and ammunition. The firearms are left with the officer at this office and will be loaded onto the plane. Once you have completed the firearm check-in process you can then proceed through security and immigration into the departure hall. 

More detailed information is available in the SA Firearms Control Act 2000.

Tanzania

A temporary import permit will be 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. If it is not, you will not be allowed to take your firearms out of the airport.

You will need to provide a notarised 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 in the case of electronic submissions.  There is an application-processing fee of $300 per firearm.

Three firearms per hunter and 200 rounds per rifle may be imported. However, keep in mind that the maximum weight of ammunition per hunter allowed on the aircraft is 11 lbs/5 kg. Ammunition will be counted on entry into Tanzania and a tax will be most likely be charged on all used rounds on departure from the country. Automatic weapons and handguns are strictly forbidden. The respective minimum calibres for a plains game hunt is .240 and dangerous game (Lion, Elephant and Buffalo) is a .375 H&H Magnum.

Hunting licenses must be obtained prior to your safari and will only be processed once the firearm import permit has been issued.  

On Arrival at Dar es Salaam International Airport you must go through immigration to the baggage hall where you will be met by your outfitter’s company representative with your firearm permit. Having retrieved your baggage and firearms, he will escort you to customs where the officer will check that the firearm serial number correlates with that on the firearm permit and count the number of rounds in your ammunition.  

On Departure from Dar es Salaam International Airport you must ensure you leave plenty of time to complete all the firearm formalities before your flight. The outfitter’s representative will meet you at check-in and take you to the firearms office. He will present your firearm export permit to the officials who will once again check the serial numbers and your remaining ammunition. Once this process has been completed, you take the firearms and check them in with your baggage.

Uganda

Your outfitter will apply for the temporary rifle import/export permit on your behalf. You will need to supply the following certified (notarised) documentation. A copy of your passport photograph/details page and proof of ownership of the weapons (copies of gun licenses/permits, or, for US citizens, U S Customs form 4457). This document must include the details of the rifles (make, mode, calibre, serial number and the amount of ammo) you intend to use during your safari. A letter of invitation from your outfitter with all these details will be submitted as part of the application. This application must be made well in advance so that it is available at the airport on arrival. There is no charge for this service and a copy of the permit will be emailed to you. Ensure that you take at least two printed copies of the issued permit with you should an official request this documentation.    

A maximum of 2 firearms per hunter may be imported into Uganda and there is no restriction on the amount of ammunition that can be imported other than the permitted airline allowance of 11 lbs/5 kg per hunter. Handguns, semi-automatic or automatic firearms are prohibited. Silencers are not permitted for hunting.

Zambia

Hunters must apply for their firearms import permit in advance, so that it be at the airport when you arrive in the country. There is a $200 processing fee. The application process includes the completion of a Temporary Firearm Permit Application form along with the submissions of a certified (notarised) 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 the airline 11 lbs/5 kg limitation per hunter. Currently a US$2 is charged for all imported ammunition. You may not bring in handguns, semi-automatic firearms, and firearms of regulation military design/calibres into the country. 

An outfitter’s representative will meet you on arrival at the airport with the firearm documentation and assist you to clear your firearms and customs formalities on arrival and departure from Zambia. 

Hunters traveling to Zambia through South Africa with no interline baggage transfer or overnighting in Johannesburg will be required to complete the South African firearm importation procedure. See the part about South African temporary firearm importation for further details.

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. There is no limit to the number of firearms you may import but only a maximum of 100 rounds per firearm is permitted. It is possible to import a hunting handgun, but hunting with handguns is allowed only in 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 theoretically 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.


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

  1. What about if i plan a safari on my own through Multiple African countries and like to bring or buy a Revolver and a winchester rifle but not for hunting but just for self defence just in case ??

    1. That could be a fantastic experience, but it doesn’t look you can legally bring in or buy firearms “for self-defense”. As far as we’re aware of, no African country allows import of firearms for self-defense purposes, only for hunting, organized athletic events, etc.

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