Tuesday 18 June 2013

Viven : The fiche de passage

Dear Viven,

If you are traveling across Africa as we are, you will absolutely require a folder of fiches de passage.  Like the carnet de passage there is no good way to translate it into English, but the fiche is essentially a list of all your pertinent details (and those of anyone you are traveling with) on a single piece of paper.  Police, soldiers and gendarmes will ask you for a fiche at checkpoints and borders, and keep it for their records (which are either a real extensive matrix of travel knowledge, or just physical proof that they’re actually doing their jobs).

The authorities of some countries, such as Senegal and the Gambia, required no fiches from us at all, while in others, such as Mauritania, the gendarmes at every checkpoint asked for it.

The sample fiche below has worked for us so far.  It may be a good idea to add your profession, as this is the single-most asked question at all checkpoints and borders (possibly to root out unwanted journalists and activists).  In the Western Sahara the Moroccan gendarmes and police always checked our passports for our stamped-in visa entry number, which they wrote on the fiche, so you may want to add this to save time, though it was never an actual problem with those officials we encountered.

Other pieces of information you may want to add: vehicle make and model, purpose of visit (if you can, always say work instead of tourism), place of birth as well as the date, passport place of delivery and issuing authority, and if you want to really get all you might be asked for, the full names of your father and mother.  One gendarme in Mauritania stated that our fiche was incomplete without passport photos attached, but this was an extreme case, and after saying this he started to fish for a bribe, which we refused and were let go (which so far has always been the case).

Though it depends on where you’ll be going, on our route it is a good idea to write the fiche in French, or French and English.

Here’s what you should have on your fiche:

Date (with a space left blank to be filled out)
Lieu (Place, with a space left blank)

Nom (last name)
Prénom (first name)
Nationalité (nationality)
Sexe (gender)
Date de naissance (date of birth)
Numéro du passeport (passport number)
Passeport date de deliverance (passport date of delivery)
Passeport date d’expiration (passport date of expiry)

Propriétaire du véhicule (vehicle owner)
Numéro d'immatriculation (licence plate number)

Write the personal details of all travelers on the same sheet.

Prepare to need quite a few of these.  At the time of writing we have given out 20 (16 in Mauritania, 3 in the Western Sahara, and one in Guinea-Bissau), and expect to give as many, if not more, in the months to come. 

Hope this helps,