Sudan

Obviously with ongoing conflict in various regions travel advisories remain fluid and some parts of Sudan have extreme travel advisories against them. Check local government warnings and do your own research thoroughly before any travel.

Sudan is a country that has quite literally been torn in half by civil war and conflict, with the North and South being split into two distinct and independent states since 2011. It is a huge shame this truly beautiful and astounding land has been so heavily scarred by war and violence, as there really are amazing experiences to be had here for the intrepid traveller, and you can’t help but think what the country could become.

There are severe travel warnings and restrictions for large parts of Sudan by most governments advisory agencies, including the Darfur region and Southern Kordofan which still sees heavy fighting, but there are some areas where life continues as it always has and it is relatively safe to travel. For those travellers who make the sometimes considerable effort to get a visa and stick to the relatively safe areas, then you will have a truly memorable trip that revels in the spirit of true independent travel and adventure. You won’t see any package tourists here, you won’t see any travel agents offering all inclusive package tours to sectioned off complexes. Travel in the Sudan is real travel, and it is this sense of adventure and discovery that is perhaps one of its biggest attractions.

Culture And Etiquette.

The North of Sudan is predominantly Muslim, and it is wise for any traveller to respect and adhere closely to any cultural or religious norms, specifically dressing appropriately. Christianity and indigenous animist religions are more common in South Sudan, but the conservative social and cultural norms still apply.

The Sudanese can be extremely friendly and hospitable, especially since tourists are a relatively rare sight here, and English is widely spoken, although you will have a much smoother and richer experience if you attempt to learn some Arabic too.

What you need to know

Visas.

Most nationalities will need a visa to enter Sudan, and these can be difficult to obtain depending on your nationality and relatively expensive. If you can it is usually easier to obtain one by applying to a Sudanese embassy before you leave home. If you don’t do this, then one of the easiest options is to obtain a visa from the Sudanese embassy in Cairo, be prepared for long waits and an expensive bill (around $100 USD) or to obtain one from Aswan. You will also need a letter of introduction from your own country’s embassy, which again is quite expensive depending on your nationality, and not every country will provide one. Citizens of the UK, Europe, Australia and the USA should be fine, but the situation is fluid so check on your own embassies website beforehand.

If you do manage to get a visa then you will still have to register your visit with the authorities within 3 days of arrival. Register with the police in Khartoum or your hotel may be able to do it for you for a fee. This fee is worth it to save yourself the missed day of queues and bureaucracy.

Health.

As for any destination, routine vaccinations including measles, mumps and rubella (MMR), diptheria, pertussis, tetanus and varicella for example  are always recommended.

Hepatitis A and Typhoid are strongly recommended for most other travellers to Jordan as there is a risk of these diseases in this country. A polio vaccination is also strongly recommended if you have never had a booster shot since you were a child, or were never vaccinated. Meningitis (Meningococcal disease) is also strongly recommended if you have never been vaccinated, as Sudan is part of the ‘meningitis belt’ of sub Saharan Africa.

Yellow fever is a risk in Sudan, and it is highly recommended that you are vaccinated against this for health reasons, but it is also a requirement of entry that you show proof of yellow fever vaccination before you enter the country and if you travel to any other country after Sudan.

Hepatitis B and rabies are only recommended to those travellers who are in at risk groups such as those engaging in sexual contact or working with animals or conducting activities that will bring them in close contact with animals. Discuss with your GP or specialist nurse whether you are in these groups for your trip and if you should get these vaccinations.

Malaria and dengue fever are also present in Sudan, and anti malarial medication as well as mosquito repellent and avoidance measures are strongly recommended.

Crime and Safety.

There is very little to fear in Sudan in terms of crime. Petty crime like theft does occur, but can mostly be negated by common sense precautions such as keeping a close eye on your belongings. The threat of serious robbery or harm is extremely low. The biggest danger to your safety is obviously the areas where conflict is still rife, listen to the travel warnings of places to avoid, stick to the relatively safe areas that are free of conflict, keep your ear to the ground with local news for any new situation reports and you will be absolutely safe.

Costs and money.

The official currency of Sudan is the Sudanese pound, which is then broken up into 100 piastres. Unfortunately just to confuse matters, prices may be quoted in this new currency, the old pound or even dinars.

Credit cards are next to useless in Sudan and cannot be used anywhere. The best thing to do is to bring foreign currency in with you, either GBP or USD, then exchange it as you need it.

Accommodation at the budget end of the scale is extremely cheap, costing just a couple of pounds (GBP). The quality at this level however is not always that great, and does not improve much at budget midrange level, although prices do shoot up disproportionally to the quality and lack of amenities. Upper mid range and top end hotels are of a high standard, but unfortunately also come with a Western price tag. The art of boutique hotels holding the middle ground has bypassed Sudan completely.

Food is a hot pot of flavours and African and Middle Eastern cultural influences in Sudan and is extremely good value for money. You can eat well at street food level for less that £1 GBP.

Transport options are a little hit and miss in Sudan too, and will either test your patience completely or appeal to your sense of adventure. Either way it is still relatively cheap to use public transport. The most expensive part of your transport budget is likely to be the ferry from Egypt into Sudan.

When to go.

Like most countries in the region, common advice dictates that the shoulder seasons of Spring and Autumn are the best times to visit, as you avoid the extremes of temperature that you will find in the Summer or Winter. but in truth anytime is a great time to visit provided you prepare for the weather. The summer can obviously get extremely hot, especially in the desert, and the winter can get surprisingly cold, the desert can be freezing at night.

Places To See

Meroe.

Meroe is a huge archaeological site and perhaps one of Sudan’s most unique and memorable sights. The ancient cemetery of the Meroitic pharaohs may pale in comparison to its Egyptian counterparts, but are hauntingly unique and there won’t be another tourist or tour group for miles!

Khartoum. 

A modern, busy city with so much heritage it is second only to Cairo! It is filled with almost endless souqs and some of the best places to sit, enjoy a drink and watch the two Niles converge!

Things to do

Shopping and people watching in Omurdman souq.

This famous market is a world away from the tourist traps like Khan El Khalili found in Cairo, this is the real deal. Vast, noisy, crowded and dusty, it is like taking a step back in time, and even if you don’t go to buy anything it is worth it for the experience.  

Spend a LOT of time in the museums.

The National museum in Khartoum is a prime example of how much history and heritage Sudan has to share, and like neighbouring Egypt, you would be seriously remiss by not spending at least a little time learning about it.