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Sudan is reportedly the place where Africa meets Arabia and I would struggle to disagree with that. I suppose I should add that despite what people’s preconceptions of Sudan may be, as long as you stick to the approved areas then it’s one of the safest countries in Africa. Obviously, I stayed cleared of Darfur (getting shot in the face is the sort of backpacking experience I would rather avoid) and I wouldn’t recommend any other people to venture out West either!

Backpacking in Sudan

If you’re traveling by land you’ll be coming from either Egypt or Ethiopia. I was continuing north from Cape Town so I crossed from Ethiopia, the border is Metema/Gallabat – you can easily get a bus from Gondar, Ethiopia to the border (about 4 hours, $3 USD), from there you can get another bus to Gederaf, either sleep there or crack on to Khartoum (another 6 hours or so). There’s not much to see in Gederaf but it’s quite a nice town to acquaint yourself with what’s going on in Sudan.

If you’re coming from Egypt the only crossing is by boat, so you need to take the weekly ferry from Aswan on a Tuesday, it drops you in Wadi Halfa in the north of Sudan.

Ok, the visas are quite strict on how long you can stay in the country for – mine gave me 2 weeks. Also, to go to certain areas you need specific permits which is a bureaucratic nightmare in itself, to avoid that here are the places I would recmmoned to visit in Sudan:

Khartoum: Pretty cool city, with it being the capital the amenities you find here are the best in the country. Decent internet, A/C if you’re feeling lavish etc. Try to be there on a Friday and check out Hamad el-Nil Mosque to see an amazing Islamic ceremony complete with camel sacrific, one of the most amazing things I’ve ever seen. Also, ignore the lonely planet’s recommendation about the camel market. Trust me.

Religion in Sudan

Atbara: As a city, it’s fairly nondescript but it’s a great base to visit the amazing the Meroe Sites / Begrawiya pyramids. You can get a cab from Atbara to the pyramids and back again for around 100 Sudanese pounds. Check out the full description here

Meroe pyramids in sudan Sudanese pyramids

 

Port Sudan: The best diving in the Red Sea apparently, I’ll let you judge for yourself. Regardles, Port Sudan offers a great chance to escape the sweltering heat by jumping in the azure waters and snapping the colourful fish. ALSO, very important – there is a store called Ice Cream Dream (ask anyone, they’ll know) which serves delicious ice cream (3 SP), chocolate and milkshakes, amazing. Probably the highlight of my time in Africa! I recommend you stay at Omiya hotel, complete with air conditioning, and disgusting squat toilet. The best value you’ll get in Port Sudan, though (25 SP per person).

 

Karima: Atypical Sudanese town but again, you’re here for the awesome sites around, not the town itself. There’s only one real hotel (lokanda) in town so no doubt you’ll end up there, it’s near the massive satellite dish and the hospital. Nearby Karima, there are 2 great things to see. Read about them here

Pyramids in Sudan


 

Dongola: Nice place to spend a day or so but no more. Don’t waste your time with the temples near by, their in a very dilapidated state so it’s quite an effort for little reward.

Wadi Halfa: In effect, Wadi Halfa is a border town but as far as border towns go, this one isn’t so bad. You’ll have to sleep here as you wait for the ferry but you won’t want to stay for more than a night or two. There’s no running water in the city so don’t, like me, go for a run in the heat and come back expecting a nice refreshing shower only to be stared in the face at by a bucket of dingy water and a bottle to put it over yourself with! Remember to check in with the ferry company when you arrive too.

Transport in Sudan
This donkey drawn cart HONESTLY had a built in stereo with 50 Cent booming out

All in all Sudan is a cracking place to backpack, not the decaying war zone that the media portrays, with the nicest people in all of Africa (the world?!). You literally cannot look at someone’s food without them beckoning you over and offering you to join them and eat their food. If, and when, you get into a conversation for more than about 2 minutes with someone you’ll get an offer to go to their house and stay with them until you leave town – amazing place. The Sudanese people are delighted that you have made the effort to visit their country and they rejoice in the fact that you are seeing that their country is peaceful and friendly.

In addition, they sell the most delicious desserts I have come across in the whole of Africa. They are pastry type sweets, dripped in honey and syrup, similar to baklava. It costs less than $3 USD per kg but be careful, in the 14 nights I spent in Sudan, I ate too much of this stuff on about 10 of them and was in a sugar-induced stupor for a couple of hours each evening! (well worth it tho :P)

Accommodation in Sudan

accommodation in Sudan

SUDAN:

Budget: $25 a day no probs.

Food: You can eat for around $1-$3 USD easily everywhere – their desserts are amazing!

Accommodation: Completely depends on the quality, ranges from basic rooms for $2 to A/C rooms for $15+

Transport: Amazing roads, amazing buses – seriously! Not overly cheap, $2 per hour on a bus I reckon. So 500km costs around $15 but the buses are A/C with food and drinks. Bargain!

People: You’ll here this time and time again but really, the Sudanes are THE friendliest people I have ever met, ever ever ever.

Weather: Unsurprisingly roasting! Easily reaches 40 degrees daily

Religion: Entirely Muslim so dress and act with according respect. Try not to wear shorts on Fridays (I learned this the hard way)

Currency: Officially $1 USD- 2.5 Sudanese pounds BUT on the black market you can get 3.0+ – great business 😛

Visa: Hmmmmm. Costs, depending on Nationality, between $20-$40. Not as hard these days as people let on. Easily obtained in Ethiopia, Uganda and Kenya. You HAVE to get your Egyptian visa first though (can take up to 3 weeks so prepare in advance) so make sure you do leave enough time for that. British nationals need to get a letter of invitation from their embassy. It takes 5 minutes and costs around $90, a disgusting rip off but nothing we can do. Normally you can pick up your Sudanese visas the next day.

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9 thoughts on “A Backpacking Guide to Sudan

  1. Pingback: Dreaming of Sudan |
  2. so i just have a quick question about the visas…so if i want to fly into sudan and not leave the country, maybe stay around two weeks, about how much is that visa?

  3. hey mate thanks for the sudan info. i’m going there shortly for a month and you’ve provided some really helpful advice. just a few questions: what’s the story with money in sudan? are there ATMs (i have mastercard)? if not is it just a matter of taking a big wad of USD and changing to the local currency? also what do you think is the minimum amount of time it would take from crossing via the wadi halfa ferry into egypt to reaching cairo? i’m also heading northwards. cheers.

  4. Lol, johnny… where’s the Delicious button?! I want to bookmarks this too.

    Sudan’s not currently on our itinerary… BUT, hmmm… I can be convinced. Dang, i gotta stop reading posts like this.

    How much did you pay for your 2 week visa, if you don’t mind me asking…

    1. i think i’ve changed it :S might take an hour or two to show, but relying on my technical skills is NOT something you want to be doing!

      As Amanda said below, US citizens are currently playing between $100-$150 for their transit visas here.

      I travel on an Irish and a British passport – I was using my British passport here as I figured it would be easier. The actual visa cost (2 week tourist visa) was only around $40 I think, BUT as many nationalities require an ‘invitation letter’ from their home country’s embassy in the country they are applying for the Sudanese visa (i.e i was applying for my sudanese visa in kenya, therefore had to visit the british embassy in kenya). This is ridiculously over priced – one A4 sheet of paper, takes 5 minutes to print and costs you nearly $100 USD, with that and the visa fee for the Sudanese embassy it cost me around $135

      Then you have to register in Khartoum, another $30 or so if i remember correctly. Not cheap and the maximum stay, without renewal, is only 2 weeks.

      After all that financial negativity, i should hastily add that it was worth every penny and i would (retrospectively) paid double that for the experiences i had 🙂

      Any more questions, you know where to find me 🙂

      johnny

      1. and this sounds silly but both me and my friend have quite the blonde hair and would stand out probably so should we try and wear hats or something? and so would it still be okay to wear shorts any other day? and do you think it would be safe for us (primarily to save money) to set up a small camp outside in a tent or something?

  5. Sudan is an amazing country to travel in, I have the same experiences with the overwhelming hospitality. Quite hard to adjust coming from crazy, lovely Ethiopia!
    About visas I have to say I payed 100 USD for a 2 weeks transit issued in Addis. Swedish people be aware!
    Love Sudan!

    1. thanks for the heads up on the visas for u guys – it’s so different for everyone, even for the same nationalities applying in different countries so there’s certainly an element of luck! however, it’s worth all the effort when u finally get in, no doubt about that!

      thanks amanda =)

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