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 real 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.
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, Global Tours (Tel: 09122 53484) 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)