Planning - Cape Town to Singapore


New Overlander
Oct 30, 2018
Good day

I'm considering a trip from Cape Town to Singapore and could use some advice. This journey appears to be possible, even though I haven't found information on anyone doing it, but I have read about people travelling from London to Singapore, from Cape Town to London, etc. My idea is to acquire, restore and/or upgrade, and equip a relatively old Defender 110 (mainly to reduce Carnet fees). I'm looking at the early 2000s, or late 90s, possibly older, if I can get it in good condition.

My proposed route (provisional):

South Africa -> Botswana -> Zambia -> Malawi -> Tanzania -> Kenya -> Ethiopia -> Sudan -> Saudi Arabia -> United Arab Emirates -> Iran -> Turkmenistan -> Tadjikistan -> China -> Vietnam -> Thailand - Malaysia -> Singapore

Anticipated problems:

1. LHD vehicles are banned in South Africa. RHD vehicles are banned in Saudi Arabia.
2. Safety concerns in Kenya, Sudan, Saudi Arabia, Xinjiang.
3. Fuel availability and quality.
4. Passport with valid US visa, showing recent travel to the United States. Could be a possible concern in the Middle East.
5. Returning or disposing of the vehicle at the end of the journey. I do not intend to backtrack the route.
6. High Carnet de Passage deposits.
7. Don't have a valid Chinese driving license.
8. Bringing old vehicle into Kenya.

Possible solutions:

1. Buy RHD vehicle, then drive to Botswana and have vehicle converted to LHD. From what I've researched, it appears to be quite possible to convert a Defender 110 in this way. Alternatively, install dual controls as some driving schools have - I don't know if this is even possible on a Defender 110, much less whether its recommended. Otherwise, negotiate with Saudi customs somehow or find a way to have the vehicle moved in bond across the country while I take alternative transport.
2. Keep up to date on travel advisories, stay far away from Northern Kenya, Northern and Southern Saudi Arabian borders, and stick to the main roads in Sudan. Move through these areas as fast as possible. Consider taking an alternative route into China (Uzbekistan -> Kazakhstan -> Mongolia perhaps) to avoid Xinjiang area.
3. Install long range tank. Carry plenty of fuel in the back. Plan to reach places with 50ppm Diesel. My Range Rover manual says I can mix biodiesel to 50ppm, but I'm not sure whether the same would apply to the Defender.
4. I'm hoping officials will overlook US travel. Alternatively, I'll do this trip just after my current passport expires (I might need extra pages anyway).
5. First prize would be either shipping the vehicle back or selling it. I'm not sure whether a CDP can be returned to another country if I pay import duties there. Worst case, drop it off at a scrapyard, potentially forfeiting CDP deposit.
6. My only strategy for CDP so far is keeping the value of the vehicle low and trying to avoid high deposit CDP countries. Egypt isn't on my list. I might skip Malawi. I've heard that some people in Iran offer a service to post a bond to avoid the 500% CDP. My local AA doesn't validate for Iran anyway. That leaves UAE, Malaysia, Singapore. CDP situation in UAE and Malaysia isn't clear, but since Singapore also requires 200%, it looks like I'm stuck depositing 200% of the vehicle value. Unless I permanently import the vehicle to Singapore and sell it, but somehow I feel that would cost a fortune given the price of cars in Singapore.
7. I can fly to China before my trip to obtain a local drivers license. I understand visa needs to be valid for more than 90 days, but that's quite possible as I have visited China several times in the past and have gotten 180-day visas before.
8. The part about cars over 8 years old is not clear. I'm not sure whether this applies to CDP, nor whether it applies to a vehicle in transit. Might have to contact Kenyan authorities.

Any advice on this undertaking would be appreciated. Mainly whether the route is a good idea (should I make some alterations?), whether the vehicle is a good choice, and which would be the best ways to overcome these (and other) problems along the way.