Once you have determined what firearms you will be taking on your safari, you should obtain a US Customs and Border Patrol Form 4457 – Registration for Personal Effects Taken Abroad. This form is available on the CBS website by clicking here: http://forms.cbp.gov/pdf/CBP_Form_4457.pdf
My suggestion is that you fill out two of them, one form for the firearms that you will be taking with you and one form for your other valuable belongings that you may take along. This second form should include your binoculars, cameras, laptop, tablet, cell phone, and valuable jewelry such as an expensive watch, necklace or ring.
By having these items listed, you may avoid questions of ownership when reentering the US and avoid having Customs impose import duties on them. You are typically allowed to bring back $800 in goods duty free when traveling overseas. This form listing your personal effects may never be required, but is invaluable if problems arise at the border.
The Form 4457 will be needed to import temporarily import your firearms into many of the common safari destinations including South Africa, Zimbabwe, Namibia and others.
Prior to traveling to Africa, you will need to take these forms and the goods listed on them to a US Customs office to be reviewed and signed and sealed. You may be a couple of hours from the nearest airport that has a Customs office, but this must be done prior to traveling to Africa. I would suggest listing all firearms that you may someday take on an overseas hunting trip to help avoid having to make another trip. Make sure that the Manufacturer’s Name, Caliber and the Serial Numbers of your firearms are listed on the form. MAKE SURE THE SERIAL NUMBERS ARE CORRECT! Make copies of this signed form and take several copies along with the original with you on your safari. You will not be allowed to take your guns into the country without this form!
Your firearms should be packed in a sturdy padded lockable rifle case. DO NOT PUT YOUR AMMUNITION IN THE CASE WITH YOUR FIREARMS! You firearms case should be lockable. You must declare that you are traveling with firearms when checking in your luggage at the airport. If possible, check your luggage through to your final destination. This might not be possible if staying overnight in a guesthouse in Johannesburg, SA and then continuing on the next morning to your final destination.
Purchase a set of TSA approved locks and lock your gun case. You may be asked to open it at the airport for inspection. Make sure your firearm is unloaded. Have the breach open and face up for easy inspection. If it is a bolt action, remove the bolt but be sure to leave it in the case with your firearms. DO NOT PACK YOPUR AMMUNITION IN THE CASE WITH YOUR FIREARMS!
Your ammunition should be packed in a separate sturdy lockable case and packed in your other suitcase. You may NOT carry ammunition in your carry-on luggage. Try this and you may miss your plane to Africa. Check each of the airlines websites that you will be flying on for their luggage weight and firearm policies. They may differ from your international flight and it is better to find out now, rather than be a surprise in the middle of your trip. Most US airlines have a weight restriction for ammunition of 11 lbs.
You may be able to pack your binoculars, rangefinder and a few other items in your rifle case, but don’t overdo it, as I have been hassled by officials in Africa for having too many non-firearm related items in my gun case.
Many countries require that you obtain a visa to enter the country. Namibia and South Africa do not. Visa information for the countries that require a visa are listed under the VISA & FIREARM REGULATIONS BY COUNTRY tab. Be sure to apply for your visa early enough to avoid rush fees or causing yourself to be denied entry into your destination country. You may want to utilize the services of one of the companies that specialize in helping you acquire your visa.
Do not fly to or through England with a firearm! British laws pertaining to firearms are a royal pain and should be avoided at all costs! It is possible to book straight through Heathrow and change flights, but possible flight delays requiring overnight stays or airport transfers are risky! The best routes to Southern Africa are directly to Johannesburg from Atlanta on Delta or from Washington (Dulles) of New York (JFK), and then on to your hunting destination. Another good route is through Frankfort, Germany and then on Lufthansa to destinations such as Windhoek, Namibia and Dar es Salaam, Tanzania. Traveling through Amsterdam offers good access to several Southern Africa countries, but this route requires advance notification and approval to travel with firearms in your possession.