10 travel tips for Sudan

Kassala resident near the Gash river

Kassala resident near the Gash river (Pix: Alison Bate)

1. Take lots of US dollars in cash, in fact everything you’ll need, as none of your western ATMs or credit cards will be accepted.

2. Change money on the black market, not in banks or official exchanges. As of Dec.1, 2011 you’ll get about 4.2 Sudanese pounds to $1 US on the black market, compared with only about 2.75 SP to the dollar officially.
To change money in downtown Khartoum, the moneychangers’ area is near the Al Kabir mosque, on the northeast side, where they also sell cellphones, ones that likely fell off the back of a truck. Just wander along and you’ll hear plenty of murmurings of: “Change dollars?”

3. If you are travel light or backpacking, don’t bother with a big towel (you’ll dry quickly without one) or lots of soap, toothpaste etc (all readily available and cheap).

4. If you like reading, bring a few books or your e-Reader as pickings are pretty slim for English books, and more likely of the deadly “Elements Of English Grammar” kind.

5. If you want to meet up with local people, everyone uses a cellphone in Sudan and they’re really useful. A cheap cellphone is about $10 US, then pick up a Zain SIM card for about 5 SP ($1.25 US) and a 10 SP top-up card (about $2.50).

6. Don’t freak out too much over the scary travel advisories for Sudan. Khartoum is one of the safest cities you could be in, as well as northern and eastern Sudan. For up-to date advice, check out the Lonely Planet’s Thorntree Forum page on Sudan.

7. But don’t rely on LP’s guide to Sudan (very limited). The only one worth getting right now is Bradt’s Guide to Sudan.

8. You have to register on arrival within three days. If you want to do it by yourself, you can, but the one time I did, I waited in the blazing heat for about three hours in a massive line-up and ended up paying a “special rate”. This last time I stayed in a hotel and they did it for me for a modest fee. My total registration fee was 160 SP (about $40 US).

9. If you are in Sudan and want to go to South Sudan, there are loads of flights. But if you have a single entry Sudan visa, as I did, it’s difficult to get back to Khartoum. If Juba’s on your list of places to go, it’s much easier to arrange to fly out of Juba to Addis Ababa or Kampala.

Village just outside Kassala, East Sudan

10. I thoroughly enjoyed Kassala in East Sudan (see my post “Coffee and lamb fright in Kassala”. First, get a travel permit via either the Acropole Hotel, Tour Sudan or take photocopies of your passport (front and back) and a passport photo to the tourism office. A first-class bus cost 58 SP ($16) from Mina Bary bus station in south Khartoum. It’s best to buy your ticket the day before as they fill up. Buses leave early morning between 6.30 am and 7 am.

(Posted Dec.9, 2011 by Alison Bate)

8 thoughts on “10 travel tips for Sudan

  1. grant

    I was there a few years ago and couldnt get south of Kosti. I was following the Nile and had a barge lined up from Kartoum to Malakal but it came unstuck.

    My question is do you know if there are barges that now go between the North of Sudan and to the south?

    Thanks in advance.

  2. Lubna Makaly

    Dear Ali
    Thank you for positive point of view about my country of origin, Sudan .
    Am try here to help people know about it & encourage them to visit Sudan. Although there is a political issue it is country with great nation. Nice place you can enjoy as tourist. Am sure you enjoy your time there and by now you became more familiar with culture and custom which will make your writing so interesting as you full of memories about Sudan ….

    I really miss my family and the city where I grew up, Kassala. Thank you sister…

  3. admin Post author

    Hi Lubna

    I loved Kassala: the coffee with ginger in it, the striking mountains, the souk and the friendliness of everyone there. Very relaxing and full of Sudanese honeymooners! As you know.

    No wonder you miss it.

    love Ali

  4. Smiley Boyle

    Love your Sudan posts…definitely strengthened my desire to go there this December. Do you know anyone who teaches arabic in Khartoum… or elsewhere? Any comments on Port Sudan? Was hoping to overland there to do some scuba diving.

    Keep writing!

  5. admin Post author

    Thanks so much. Very kind. And December is a great time to visit. Serious students of Arabic seem to go to the Islamic-focussed International University of Africa. If you just want a bit of tutoring, it should be pretty easy to find someone. I had a Russian tutor who was really good, but I’ve lost his contact details. Sorry!

    I didn’t get to Port Sudan, but heard mixed reviews. Some people loved it, and others found there wasn’t much to do there.

    Cheers, Ali

  6. Blake Evans-Pritchard

    Nice post, but I have to query point 7. Have you come across Trail Guides (www.thecitytrail.com)?

    This is a publishing company that I run, and we publish a guidebook to Sudan that is every way a match for the Bradt guidebook. Some have suggested to us that it is better – but I’ll let others make that call 😉

    Just wanted to mention this in connection with point 7, but otherwise great post.


  7. admin Post author

    Hi Blake

    I haven’t come across your Trail Guide, but I see it’s had good reviews, so I’m happy to post your link.




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