A Travel Guide to Sudan; Famous Places to Visit in Sudan
UPDATED 2020: Sudan is said to be the country where Africa meets Arabia and I would struggle to disagree with that. As the second last country on my Cape Town to Cairo expedition, 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 of the 54 countries in Africa. Obviously, I stayed clear of Darfur, and have since visited the world’s newest country, South Sudan, but Sudan proper was a much better experience, with more famous places to visit in Sudan, than South Sudan by far.
GETTING TO SUDAN
BY LAND OR SEA: You’ll be coming from either Egypt or Ethiopia.
Overland From Ethiopia to Sudan: 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.
Overland From Egypt to Sudan: If you’re coming from Egypt the only crossing is by boat or bus, so you need to take the weekly ferry from Aswan on a Tuesday, it drops you in Wadi Halfa in the north of Sudan. You can see how to do that in this blog post.
BY FLIGHT: You’ll fly directly to Khartoum (Turkish Air is your best bet). It’s home to the best hotels, restaurants and guides. From there you can easily daytrip to the Meroe Pyramids too.
VISAS FOR SUDAN
You have 5 choices for getting a visa for Sudan:
- Get it in your home country: Normally $100, often need a letter of invitation (these guys can provide one)
- Get it in Addis Ababa, Ethiopia: $70, 2 passport pics, 1 passport copy, letter of inviation and address of your hotel in Khartoum. Same day.
- Get it in Cairo, Egypt: $150, 2 passport pics, 1 passport copy, letter of invitation and address of your hotel in Khartoum. Next day.
- Get it in Nairobi, Kenya: $55, next day, no special documents like LOI
- Get it in Aswan, Egypt: $150, copy of your passport and Egypt Visa, 2 passport pics. Next day.
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 recommend to visit in Sudan:
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7 FAMOUS PLACES TO VISIT IN SUDAN
I spent about 2 weeks during my trip in Sudan, coming in from Ethiopia, and continuing on to Egypt with the ferry. I think that was a good amount of time, and perhaps even 10 days could have worked. Here are the famous places to visit in Sudan that I’d recommend you don’t miss out on.
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, head to Omdurman, and check out Hamad el-Nil Mosque to see an amazing Islamic ceremony complete with camel sacrifice, one of the wildest things I’ve ever seen. Also, ignore the lonely planet’s recommendation about the camel market. Trust me.
2) Atbara for the Meroe Pyramids
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 about the Pyramids of Sudan and how to visit them here
3) Port Sudan:
The best diving in the Red Sea apparently, I’ll let you judge for yourself. Regardless, 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. I recommend you stay at Omiya hotel, complete with air conditioning, and a disgusting squat toilet. The best value you’ll get in Port Sudan, though (25 SP per person).
4) Karima and the Pyramids of Sudan:
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. The reason you come to Karima, is for second batch of Pyramids. Read about lesser know Sudanese Pyramids here
5) Old Dongola:
Make sure you visit Old Dongola, home to the Islamic cemetery and temples, NOT modern Dongola, home to very little!
6) Wadi Halfa:
The reason to come here is to take the ultimate method in reaching Egypt, by Sudanese passenger ferry, up the Nile! 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.
Off the beaten track further still is Kassala, near Eritrea and home to Sudan’s best (only?) day hikes. The town is small, and like much of Sudan outside of Khartoum you may be the only foreigner there this day/week/month/year. The backdrop to the town however is spectacular.
The 7 Best Places to Visit in Sudan; Your Sudan Itinerary:
The perfect overland Sudan itinerary, if coming from Egypt to Sudan would be the map below, flip it the other way if you’re coming from the South to the North. And if you’re flying into Sudan, then follow it the same, but remove Wadi Halfa. Easy!
Thoughts on Traveling in Sudan?
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, dripping 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.
It’s quite hardcore travel though, so be ready for some rough hotels, and long journeys. But that’s what a real adventure is all about. Enjoy
SUDAN TRAVEL GUIDE:
Budget: $25 a day no problem if you need to be careful. Equally, if you want private taxis, higher-end accommodation, then about $100 per day.
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. Roughly $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 hear this time and time again but really, the Sudanese are super friendly, and delighted you’ve visited their country.
Weather: Unsurprisingly roasting! Easily reaches 40 degrees daily
Religion: Entirely Muslim so dress and act with according to 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 ripoff but nothing we can do. Normally you can pick up your Sudanese visas the next day.
Remember, never travel without travel insurance! And never overpay for travel insurance!
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