Looking to rent a splitter van, cargo van, mini splitter in London (UK)?

Post Pandemic, a few of the usual characters sadly closed their doors. Here are some of our favourite companies that are operating at the moment in London (and Brighton) that can fix you up with a great van for your tour.

If your tour is taking you to Europe, all of these companies can provide European insurance for their vehicles. Make sure to check out our blog post on carnets and crossing the border from the UK to EU!

Vans for Bands (VFB)

Vans for bands offer a range of vans, and tour busses (nightliners) to suit your touring budget. Their main office is based in Oxford, You can either pick your van up there (which means a train from Paddington to Oxford, and then a taxi to the site: approx £80 total) or you can pay to have the van delivered to a location in London, including Heathrow airport (approx £150).

Their vans are good quality and come with tow hitches. You can also rent trailers from them.

Blacklight Tours

Blacklight tours operate out of Shoreditch, East London. The vans are great, and the company is very flexible. You can even book a van with a driver to take you to and from airports / train stations to your shows or accomodation.

All their vans are ULEZ compliant (saves £12.50 per day in London), and 9 seaters are exempt from congestion charge in central London.

Civilised Car Hire

Civilised car hire operates out of SE5 Camberwell in South London. They have range of splitter vans and cargo vans.

Terminal Studios

Terminal studios now offer splitter vans. They’re located in Bermondsey, South East London.

Oosh Tours

Oosh tours are located in Brighton and have a range of splitters, mini splitters and cargo vans. If you’re looking for a van last minute in London and everything is booked up, it’s worth giving Oosh a call as it’s pretty easy to get to Brighton and back from London.

H&H Van Hire

Based in NW5 North London, H&H do 6 seat crew vans, 9 seat minivans and cargo vans of all sizes for a reasonable price.

If you have any other favourite companies in around London please drop a comment with the name of the company!

Brexit has changed the landscape of EU touring for UK artists. One of the questions we get asked the most is What is a Carnet and why do we need one? Hopefully this blog post can help answer some of your questions!

What is an ATA Carnet?

An ATA (Admission Temporaire/Temporary Admission) Carnet is a temporary international customs document that facilitates the temporary import and export of goods. Essentially they are a ‘Passport for Goods’ or the equipment you take on tour, enabling you to import and export them without paying import duty or VAT.

The carnet consists of a book of vouchers and counterfoils. It has a front and back cover, inside of which are counterfoils and vouchers for each country you will visit.

Once a carnet is issued it can be used for multiple trips within a one year time period from its issue date.

The vouchers act as receipts for importation and re-exportation and are kept by international customs officials. The counterfoils are stamped by these customs officials and are kept by the carnet holders.

Covering Pages

These contain the information about the goods, registered users of the carnet, and notes on the usage of the goods.

General list

A list of all goods (or pieces of equipment) covered with this carnet, with serial numbers and approximate values.

Counterfoils

These are used as evidence for the carnet holders in case duties and taxes are claimed at a later stage.

Vouchers

These are used as receipts, and are detached from the carnet and kept by customs officials.

Yellow, white and blue counterfoils and vouchers

  • Yellow certificate sets (counterfoils only) are the Registration of Goods that will return to the country of origin. A yellow certificate set includes an exportation counterfoil and a re-importation counterfoil.
  • White certificate sets (includes counterfoils and vouchers) are used by foreign customs. A white certificate set includes a white importation counterfoil, a white importation voucher, white re-exportation counterfoil and a white re-exportation voucher.
  • Blue certificate sets (includes counterfoils and vouchers) are used by foreign customs to track goods that are within their borders but have not cleared customs. These goods are in transit. A blue certificate set includes two blue transit counterfoils and two blue transit vouchers.

For a nice visual of the carnet, check the official ATA carnet website: https://www.atacarnet.com/carnet-document

After you have finished with the tour, the Carnet must be returned to the chamber of commerce by which it was issued.

Why does my band need a Carnet?

The ATA carnet is now the document most widely used by the business community for international operations involving temporary admission of goods. The ATA Carnet system is used in 78 countries and territories.

The main benefits of a carnet are:

  • Simplifies customs clearance of goods in exporting and importing countries by replacing customs documents that would normally be required;
  • Provides a financial security for customs charges potentially due on the goods that will be used in the countries visited;
  • Helps to overcome language barriers and having to complete unfamiliar customs forms

Without a carnet, you run the risk of being fined, having your equipment impounded, and paying import duties.

What does an ATA cover?

There are 38 categories of goods covered by ATA Carnets. The most common uses are:

  • Commercial samples
  • Professional equipment
  • Goods for trade fairs or exhibitions

In short, guitars, audio and lighting equipment, electronics, wardrobe, set design, trailers, and anything else non perishable involved in the tour would fall into these categories.

ATA Carnets do not cover good to be hired out or sold for commercial gain, perishable or consumable items, or goods for processing or repair.

How do I get a carnet?

We use Rock-It Global for our carnet applications. To apply you will need a list of all of your equipment you will be taking on tour, and the value and serial numbers associated with each piece of equipment.

The price of a carnet is around £400 + VAT. Note that a carnet can be used for multiple trips during a 12 month period.

It’s my first time using a Carnet! What do I do?

See our post CROSSING INTO THE EU FROM THE UK for a case study on a recent tour with UK Psych Rock band Los Bitchos.

First up, armed with carnet in hand, you’ll want to visit the customs office of the country where you received the Carnet (the UK for us at Chuckwalla Touring!) before you depart. This could be an inland border facility in the UK if travelling by bus or van, or a customs office inside your departure airport if travelling by air.

The customs official will fill out a yellow counterfoil for exportation out of the UK.

In the goods section of the Yellow counterfoil, specify what pieces of equipment you are carrying with you on this trip. You don’t have to carry everything on your general list of goods each, just mark what you are carrying (eg. If you have 100 items on your general list, but are only carrying the first 20 mark 1-20).

When you arrive in your destination country, you will hand the carnet to a customs official. They will fill in a white voucher and counterfoil for importation into the destination country.

When departing to another country, customs in the country of departure will fill out a white re-exportation voucher and counterfoil, and in the country of arrival customs will fill in a white importation counterfoil and voucher.

If arriving back to the UK, customs will fill out a yellow re-importation counterfoil.

What happens if my Carnet is lost or stolen?

You should obtain written confirmation that says the customs authority where the Carnet was lost or stolen will accept a replacement carnet. Contact the chamber who issued your Carnet, who can then send a replacement Carnet on request.

Any questions, please leave us a comment or contact us by email / DM on IG, we’d be happy to help!

Recently we went on tour with Los Bitchos, a London based psych rock band to Europe. This was our first trip to Europe post Brexit and there were some important changes to the UK / EU border crossing.

For this blog post we are describing the steps to make a Eurotunnel crossing from the UK to France and back, using the passenger service, travelling in a 9 seat splitter van (thanks Ricky from Blacklight Tours!).

To make this crossing you will need an ATA Carnet. An ATA Carnet is a customs document that facilitates the temporary export of goods overseas, and is valid for up to one year. Inside this carnet will be a list of all of the equipment you are transporting.

For more information about carnets, view our post ATA Carnet FAQ’s.

Also, pack a Hi Vis! Wearing a Hi Vis is mandatory at the UK Inland Border Facilities (IBF) so make sure to pack at least one in your tour kit. The wait times can be long, so best to pack a few extra if the band want to make toilet trips while you wait.

Exportation from the UK:

Sevington Inland Border Facility: https://goo.gl/maps/8rF2vqhMYzWhxNZZ8

To open your carnet, you’ll need to visit an inland border facility inside the UK.

On this trip we used the Sevington Inland Border Facility (IBF) located in Ashford, 20 minutes drive from the Eurotunnel entrance coming from London. To speed up the process you can book an appointment 3 days in advance here. This can help if the IBF is busy on the day you intend to travel. You can check how busy an IBF here: https://www.gov.uk/guidance/check-if-there-are-any-delays-at-an-inland-border-facility

We arrived in a 9 seat splitter van and were ushered to the back side of the building, where the officials made a parking space available to us.

Take your carnet and a form of ID (passport for example) to the outbound (export) office. There are officials around that you can ask for directions if you are unsure of where to go.

If its your first time using the carnet, you’ll need to sign the Green front page and fill out a Yellow exportation voucher. If in doubt, ask the officer you are dealing with for assistance.

At the export desk you will fill in a short form with your vehicle registration, allocated parking spot number and phone number. The customs official will keep your paperwork and hand you a receipt. Head back to your vehicle and wait for a text.

About an hour later we received a text to collect our paperwork. Head in to collect the carnet (remember to bring your slip!) and drive to the Eurotunnel.

This process took about an hour in total. Note: Our equipment was not inspected, this could add significant delays so plan accordingly!

Importation in to the EU from the UK:

Aduanas Calais / Douane: https://maps.app.goo.gl/CrCX2ji9hJ8tVSce9

When you arrive in France, exit the Eurotunnel and follow the orange signs to French Customs (SIVEP / Douane). You can also use the above google maps link to make life easier, as the orange signs can be hard to spot!

Drive up to the gate and ring the buzzer. Say you have arrived from the UK and are carrying a Carnet, they will open the gate. Drive around the back to the truck park and then walk to the office with your Carnet and ID.

Fill out the carnet and sign it, then hand it to an official. They will give you a ticket and call you over when the process is complete.

This process took about 30 minutes.

Re-exportation and re-importation from EU to UK

France:

Calais Eurotunnel terminal: https://goo.gl/maps/pFucj2NPuXPzsz5e8

On the way back, the carnet can be stamped at the euro tunnnel passenger terminal in Calais.

Head to the Eurotunnel check in. After checking in, stay right and enter the tourist terminal (not the border control!). Park up and walk to the terminal. There is a small customs window in between WH Smith and the Toilets. Hand them your ID and the Carnet. The will process the white re-exportation voucher.

UK:

Stop 24: https://goo.gl/maps/fcQWj1tN7RG1YCBK7

On this trip I used the customs facilities at Stop 24 to stamp the carnet. To save time you can book an appointment here. 

Enter Stop 24. Go to the customs desk (see photo) and hand them your carnet and ID. They’ll text you when the paperwork is ready to pickup. This process took about an hour. Our good were not inspected.

Other notes

It is important to carry a Carnet, I wouldn’t risk a trip without one. We were pulled up twice by customs officers within the European union and asked to present our Carnet. I think there is a heightened awareness of customs officials when they see a band travelling in a UK van.

Summary

That’s it! To summarise, the process is not complex but can be time consuming. I would factor in an extra 2 hours on your trip from UK – EU for traffic and carnet processing, and 90 minutes on your trip from the UK to the EU.

If you have any questions feel free to leave a comment or reach out to us by email or IG. We’d be happy to help!

First time touring in the USA? Here are some quick tips and gotchas from the Tour Managers at Chuckwalla Touring.

Advancing Shows

In your advance specify you want fees wired to your booking agent and include their details otherwise you’ll end up with checks. There’s a wire fee for bank transfers in the United States so promoters assume you want a check to avoid it but it’s a hassle for international acts.

Carnets

You’ll need an ATA Carnet to enter / exit the USA with equipment. It’s like a passport for your equipment to clear customs without paying duties and import taxes on anything that will be re-exported within 12 months.

Check out our blog post on Carnet FAQ’s and our case study on entry and exit with a carnet for more information.

Crossing into Canada

If you are travelling on a non USA / Canadian passport you won’t need a work visa to play shows in Canada, but the promoter for your first show on each crossing into the country will need to write you an invitation letter which you will print and present to the Canadian border officials upon entry.

If you’re driving, the border crossings in and out of Canada can get really busy during the day. If possible, we like to cross in the evenings or early in the mornings after shows. Typically the customs offices are less busy for your Carnet, and there is little to no traffic.

Travel Insurance

Get it. Health care costs in the USA are no joke! Often you can get a coverage for the whole band for the duration of the tour that might end up cheaper than individual policies.

Domestic flights / Airlines

Where possible, Southwest is a great airline to book your domestic travel on when touring as your first 2 pieces of checked luggage are free with your ticket.

  • Southwest is first come first serve, so make to sure to check in ASAP otherwise you might loose your seats or space for checked luggage
  • Early check in can be purchased. Often this is worth the extra cost as you will get priority boarding and be able to select the best seats for your band members before the plane fills up. Super important when your band are carrying instruments like violins / horns / guitars etc to make sure there is space in the overhead lockers

Travelling With Instruments

If your band is travelling with instruments that they do not want to check in the luggage hold, it’s good to know this FAA rule, called The Final Rule.

This rule requires that carriers must allow a passenger to carry into the cabin and stow a small musical instrument, such a violin or a guitar, in a suitable baggage compartment, such as the overhead bin or under the seats in accordance with FAA safety regulations.

In other words, the airline must try to fit the instruments on the plane in the overhead luggage lockers or wardrobes before they are allowed to force you to gate check them.

I’ve gate checked horns, guitars etc and touch wood they have been fine, but it’s always good to avoid if possible.

A good line to try if you’re having trouble taking instruments on board is:

“Sir / Ma’am I looked up the model of this aircraft online and noticed that it had a luggage wardrobe. Would it be possible to store my instrument in there?”

Driving

If you’re driving on tour in the USA, here are some fast tips

  • Always have cash in the van or bus for Toll booths, most do not accept cards
  • All states in America allow you to turn right on a red signal at a traffic lights, but watch out for New York and Montreal which are two major North American cities which ban right on red
  • You don’t need always an international driving permit to rent a car / van, see here for states that require an IDP
  • All van rentals require that you have a liability insurance. This is included in some USA residents motor insurance, but it might not cover vans used for commercial work. If you don’t have this insurance you’ll need to take out the companies policy, so make sure the company you are using can provide this
  • Watch your timezones! You’ll be driving across timezones so make sure to account for this when calculating your drives
  • If you see a police officer in a lay-by on a highway, you must change lanes to give them one lanes gap. Apparently this is a traffic offence!
  • Bandago are great for van rental on longer tours as they have van stock in lots of cities around the country. If you break down or smash a window they’ll be able to get a replacement van to you faster than other companies
  • Watch out for caps on miles / day on your van hires. It’s rare that a hire comes with unlimited miles in the USA
  • If you need a trailer, rent from U-Haul. they’ll run you about $20 USD a day and are good quality. Beware that not all van rental companies will cover towing under their insurance, so make sure to double check (Bandago does!)
  • If you are towing with U-Haul, you will need to purchase a pad lock and a light adapter for the brakes / indicator lights on the trailer. Ask your van rental company if they have any spare light adapters and padlocks for U-Haul trailers. They often have spares and could save you $40 (cost of new parts from U-Haul)
  • One way hires can be stupidly expensive, but if they are unavoidable try to get quotes from Bandago for your van, and SIR Backline for your backline. They both have locations all over the states which can help logistically

Mobile Phones and Data

Even if you have a great roaming plan on your current phone contract, it’s good to have a USA number for promoters to call.

We like to head straight to the local T-Mobile store after landing in the USA to pick up a pre-paid sim card. You can get unlimited talk, text and data for $40 USD / Month, and everything can be set up in store. These sim plans will also work in Canada.

Tipping

  • Keep cash on hand for tips! General rule of thumb is 15 %, but this can change from state to state.

Note: All Chuckwalla staff and employees are fully vaccinated against COVID 19

After a hiatus from touring in the United States due to the world wide pandemic, we jumped back in to the fray in December 2021 for a run of East and West coast dates.

The tour presented some challenges, as there were mixed vaccination status’s between band members. We also had vaccination passports from multiple countries.

During the advancing phase I learned a few key things around touring in the USA at this time.

Terminology:

  • PCR test: A nasal swab conducted by a third party that typically takes 24 hours to return a result from a laboratory. 
  • Antigen test (Rapid): A different kind of nasal swap, that returns a result in a matter of hours
  • OTC (Over the counter) tests: Tests that can be purchased from pharmacies that you can conduct, they will give you results within 15 minutes

Entry to the USA:

As of December 2021, the USA requires a negative Antigen (Rapid) or PCR test conducted by a third party within 1 day of your departure flight. This can be tricky to organise depending on your country of origin. Check in with any band members that their tests are within the 1 day time frame specified by the government, and call their airlines to confirm current regulations.

Touring with fully vaccinated artists is easy!

If you and the musicians you work with are fully vaccinated, there are very few regulations for performing artists in the USA. You may be asked to wear masks when not on stage or in the green room, and venues will ask to see vaccination certificates on entry, though in practice even this is quite relaxed.

Touring with unvaccinated artists is possible:

The most important thing to note is to be open and honest about this situation in your advance. All the venues and promoters on our tour were able to accomodate unvaccinated crew members. Only one promoter presented a strong opinion on this matter, the rest were relaxed and easy to deal with.

A general rule of thumb is that an unvaccinated band member needs to provide a PCR test from 48-72 hours before doors to the promoter.

Logistically this can be quite tricky, especially if your routing between cities is tight timing wise. Here are some tips if you find yourself in this situation:

  • Many USA airports have rapid PCR testing available on site that return a result within 45 minutes to 2 hours. This comes at a cost of around $250-$350 USD (eg. XpresCheck)
  • Every city has multiple locations where you can get rapid test results (including PCR tests) within 24 hours (next day by 2pm), though in practice our results would turn up around 2 hours after the test was taken. These cost around $60 – $90 USD.

These results can be emailed to you for proof, or you can request a hard copy. All the promoters on this tour were happy with emailed proof of a negative result.

Some promoters / venues accept rapid over the counter tests as proof, and can even provide these tests for you upon entry to the venue.

Other promoters / venues do not mind that any of your crew may be unvaccinated and will not ask for a test.

General COVID courtesy:

Be kind, wear a mask whenever you are working alongside venue staff.

Have some OTC rapid tests available for band members who might feel under the weather, or for when new band members jump on the tour.

If anyone has had exposure to COVID 19, remove them from the tour immediately for at least 5 days and retest before they join the tour again.

Ways to limit exposure to COVID 19:

On this tour I limited green room access to band only to limit possible exposure to COVID 19.

If a band member had a special request for someone to be granted backstage access, that person would have to be vaccinated and provide a negative over the counter test result.

Other than the above, there is only so much you can do. There is a risk of exposure at any live event, or flight that you take. The members of this band were ok with that risk, and many had already contracted COVID earlier in the year.

That’s about it! Pop a comment if you have any questions.