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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. 

Pyramids of Sudan
Visiting the Meroe Pyramids of Sudan

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:

  1. Get it in your home country: Normally $100, often need a letter of invitation (these guys can provide one)
  2. 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.
  3. Get it in Cairo, Egypt: $150, 2 passport pics, 1 passport copy, letter of invitation and address of your hotel in Khartoum. Next day. 
  4. Get it in Nairobi, Kenya: $55, next day, no special documents like LOI
  5. 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:

Travel insurance for 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. 

1) 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, 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.

places to visit in sudan
places to visit in sudan; Khartoum

 

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

Sudanese pyramids
Sudanese pyramids
places to visit in sudan
places to visit in sudan; The Meroe Pyramids

 

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).

Sudan travel guide
Sudan travel guide; Port Sudan

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

Pyramids in Sudan
Pyramids in Sudan

 

5) Old Dongola:

Make sure you visit Old Dongola, home to the Islamic cemetery and temples, NOT modern Dongola, home to very little!

Dongola Sudan
Dongola temples

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.

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

7) Kassala

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. 

Famous Places to Visit in Sudan
Famous Places to Visit in Sudan; Kassala

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

places to visit in sudan
Accommodation in Sudan
places to visit in sudan
Our accommodation in Sudan. Better options are normally available but I was on a tight budget!

 

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.

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12 thoughts on “A Travel Guide to Sudan; Famous Places to Visit in Sudan

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  5. 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?

  6. 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.

  7. 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?

  8. 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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