Around the world in an old VW Beetle
World Rallies

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In short by parting with a hell of a lot of money and also with a lot of luck!  The Chinese authorities insist that travellers must be accompanied by a guide so we had to pay a tour company a small fortune.  In return they screwed up most of the paperwork and sent a racist guide whose English was appalling!  Then when we reached Lhasa the guide refused to continue and wouldn't give us out permits. (I don't recommend NAVO tours!)

Tibet was so amazing that I don't regret including it on the tour despite all the problems but getting across the border is a lottery, even with a competent tour company.  The Chinese often close the border without warning and, when entering China via Tibet, the Chinese visa and permits cannot be applied for until you reach Nepal.  Normally I try to support companies in the host country but this back-fired on us in China and NAVO only seemed interested in taking our money.  It was an Australian owned company who helped us out when NAVO let us down and I would recommend anyone else wanting to transit Tibet and/or China to use a tour company based intheir own country, not in China.  If any westerners have had a positive experience with a Chinese over-landing company then please let me know.

How did you get into Tibet?

Loads!!  Our first breakdown was at the Channel Tunnel, before we even made it out of the UK!  The starter motor stopped working but the Channel Tunnel recovery team showed us where to hit it so we could carry on.  It was replaced by the Crazy Canuck drag racers in Belgium.  There were many more breakdowns, some minor, some major, including a full engine strip down in Nepal!

People also ask if I do my own repairs. Not unless it can be fixed with gaffer tape or WD40; I'm pretty rubbish when it comes to mechanical repairs but always manage to find help somehow.

Did you break down much?

NO!!!!!  Would you sell your child?!  Pedro and I have more adventures planned!

People do often approach me who want to buy a Baja or build one though.  A good place to start looking and for advice in the UK is the Baja Club.  They also organise a few events and meets at shows throughout the year, including running the off-road course at Santa Pod Raceway.

Is Pedro for sale?

Pedro and I get to a lot of shows, mostly in the UK.  

Most months we can be found at Petrolhead Nirvana night at London's Ace CafĂ© which is on the second Monday of every month.

Fiona films The Supercar Event for the Children's Trust every year and Pedro can be found on display alongside the supercar starting grid.

We can often be seen at Goodwood events or at VW shows (for Santa Pod shows look no further than the Baja Club off-road course.

Details of upcoming events and photos after the event can be found on Pedro's facebook page.

Where can I meet Pedro?

People often tell me they are going to do a big overland rally but then it transpires they've never heard of a carnet; the document they will need to pass many of the world's land borders.  So what is it?  In short a vehicle passport.  When you travel overland the authorities of many countries regard your vehicle as being temporarily imported and require you to pay an import bond as insurance that the car will be exported again when you leave the country. 

A carnet is required when travelling in Africa, Australia, New Zealand, Far East, Middle East and is recommended for travelling in South America. 

The RAC is the only issuer of the Carnet in the UK and is available to anyone normally resident in the UK.  Non-residents need to apply to the issuing motoring authority in their country of residence.

The issuer of the Carnet becomes responsible for customs duties and import taxes on your vehicle if for some reason you fail to export it after entering a country.  For RAC to issue a carnet you must give a UK address and a copies of your passport and vehicle registration documents.  A security deposit is also required which is calculated based on your vehicles value and the countries you plan to visit.  If you are unable to provide a bank guarantee for the full amount (it can be up to 800x the value of your vehicle) then it's possible to take out an insurance indemnity instead(as I did for Pedro).

For more information and the application form see the RAC website

What's a carnet and do I need one?

I get asked this a lot but I can only tell you which visas I needed at the time I travelled.  The world, it's borders and the requirements for each country change a lot, sometimes on a daily basis.  When I needed visas at short notice for the Mongol Rally I used Travcour visa agency to obtain them for me.  I was so impressed by their service that I've used them ever since.  They also put me in touch with an agency who provided the  'Letter of invitation' required for an Iranian visa.  Their website gives up to date information on worldwide visa requirements.

What visas do I need?

Short answer; get in the car and drive!  It really can be that simple but only if you have no commitments at home and are travelling to, and through, countries that don't require visas or a carnet.

Start small, join a rally like the Plymouth - Banjul Challenge where you have a little support from the organisers and fellow ralliers.

If you really want to jump in at the deep end with a big trip or have already been on some smaller road trips and would like to go all out, then do your research!  Read everything you can by other people who have travelled where you want to go.  The full story of my journey from the UK to Singapore is available in the book Beetle Drive, sold through Amazon. 

How can I do a rally like yours?

I knew I wanted a Baja style Beetle but there aren't too many around in the UK and every one I looked at was rusty.  There were a lot more on offer in America, where the style originated and the UK pound was very strong against the dollar at the time; it was like a half price sale, which helped me justify the shipping cost.  My favourite was located in San Francisco.  As luck would have it I had three friends living nearby.   The owner wouldn't sell to a foreigner so Daryl (who I'd met in the Sahara) bought the car on my behalf then sold it on to me and arranged all the shipping!  He drove Pedro to the port in LA and shipped him to Southampton where the custom built roof rack and side bars were added by Dreamshack.  Here's Pedro at his previous home in California, looking rather naked!

Where did you find Pedro?

I get asked a LOT of questions about my travels, some sensible, some not.  Some people are just curious, some are interested in heading off on a similar banger style rally themselves and want to know how to get started.  Send me your questions and I'll do my best to answer them here.

Frequently Asked Questions