That was our intention
It is the first time that we will drive with our Mercedes Vario 4x4 outside of Europe. We will start in March 2020 and will come back with our vehicle in autumn 2021, including a winter break in Armenia. So our trip will consist of two parts. In 2020 we will drive to Georgia and Armenia, leave our vehicle there in a safe storage and fly back to Switzerland. In 2021 we will continue our trip to Iran in March 2021, provided that the overall sitation in that region is stable. If Iran is not possible, then the plan is to drive around around the Caspian Sea.
Mid of March 2020: We have to postpone our trip to 2021
Due to the worldwide Corona virus outbreak it is not possible for us to drive to Caucasus. On all routes to Turkey (either via Austria/Hungary/Romania/Bulgaria or Slovenia/Croatia, Bosnia, Albania) there are quarantine rules. Because of our dog a quarantine is a no-go for us.
We intented to re-shift the trip to Scandinavia, but then Norway, Denmark and Poland announced travel restrictions. A remaining option for us was Portugal/Morocco, but then the ferry between Spain and Morocco stopped its service.
So best is to sit out this storm until its over, and then to restart our trip to Caucasus in 2021.
Beginning of March 2020: Corona virus and refugee crisis
Unfortunately the situation worsened in the last days: The Corona virus made its way to Europe, and one center is in North Italy, where we have to drive through to
get to Croatia. Fortunately Albania and Turkey did not report any Corona cases so far (as per beginning of March). The borders of Iran are currently closed.
We hope that this virus issue is solved when we enter Iran in spring 2021.
Furthermore, the borders between Greece and Turkey are closed to the refugee crisis. We don´t know at the moment, whether or not we can pass the borders to Turkey
per end of May. We intend to start our trip as planned and to explore Montenegro and Albania first, and then decide in May on the next steps. In the worst case we have to drive back home.
Before March 2020: Preparations
Until our departure there is a lot to prepare:
We have made copies of all our official documents and laminated the copies. Normally this is accepted in Police controls etc., so you can keep your original documents at a safe place. We also applied for an international driving licence in our home country. Some countries ask for it.
Networks and information sources
It helps to know where to get useful information. For all technical questions we use a specific Mercedes Vario forum, where we access to Vario enthusiasts and experts. There are also Mercedes Vario expert groups on Facebook in case we need any technical advice. Regarding the countries to be visited there are groups on Facebook (overlanding asia, overland to asia) and there is a good forum on Caravanistan.com. And sure, we are using travel guide books for our preparation.
Vehicle maintenance and equipment
For such a long journey it is essential that the vehicle is in an excellent technical condition. Our Benny enjoyed a full maintenance before the winter break and is now ready for departure. It is also useful to know where Mercedes Benz (MB) truck dealers are along your route. There is an MB network in Turkey, Georgia and Armenia. In Iran MB is not longer present. So it makes sense to take at least some spare parts with you, in case we have to do some maintenance in Iran. We will take all filters, liquids and lightbulbs with us. We know there is a MAN truck workshop in Iran which also services other truck brands. So this should work. For all other potential breakdowns it is almost impossible to take all potential spare parts with you. In this case it is good if you have an established relationship with a Mercedes Benz truck dealer in your home country, who is willing to send spare parts via courier if needed.
Our equipment is more or less complete already, thanks to the Iceland trip 2019. We already have two spare tires on board, as our tire format 9.5 R17.5 is not used
Our nearly 10 years old sausage dog will join us on our way to Caucasus. It is the first time for her that she visits countries outside of Europe. We already have
the EU pet passport and our dog is microchiped. Also all vaccinations have been done properly. What still needs to be done, is to get a doctor´s certificate and to do the rabies serological
Make sure that your healthcare insurance covers all costs abroad. It is also useful to have a written confirmation of your insurance coverage in English in case someone asks for it. Make also sure that you have the neccesary vaccinations. Turkey, Georgia, Armenia and Iran are high risk countries for rabies according to the WHO.
The European international motor insurance card normally only covers Europe and the mediterrainian countries, so Georgia, Armenia and Iran are not covered. This
means, we have to buy local third party liability insurances as soon as we arrive in these countries. A full coverage insurance (covering also damages to your own vehicle) for the world is rare
to find for overlanders. We have found a solution with our Swiss insurance company. If you want more information, send us a mail.
For Iceland we took about 100kg of food with us, as Iceland is very expensive and the food variety is limited. For Caucasus we don´t take much food with us, as the living costs in these countries are low and you get fresh food (vegetables, fruits etc.) almost everywhere in good quality. But be sure, that we have enough Swiss chocolate on board ;-)