14 days,  Dec'10- Jan'11




Kind of travel:
Me and my girlfriend Elisa in an independent travel

28th Dec 2010- 10th Jan 2011

Do I need a visa:
here it comes the real headache. As EU citizien you'll need a visa hence a sponsor; iif you want to be100% independent (as we were)
you have 3 choises: get it at Sudan Embassy in Cairo , in Aswan or in your country (all of them have they pros and cons, read the travel tip) Don't forget once in Sudan you have to get registered and get the travel permits.

How I moved:
you'll be surprised by the standard of the Sudanese long distance buses. They are comfortable, with meal and beverage service and above of with cinema! As we did, you'll become expert of USA wrestling and Sudanese singers! Forget trains (it even seems the only passanger line left (Khartoum- Wadi halfa) was shut down. We hithchiked without problem and for free. Taxi are a bit expensive, you have to negotiate hard.

Freezing or baking:
temperature was amazingly perfect, in particular in Khartoum (20- 25 C dry), also in the desert (Karima) was warmer (30C) but still so pleasant. In Port Sudan chiller and rainy (we snorkelled but with the swimming suite), the only unpleasant temperature was in Kassala since hot and humid.

Where I slept:
guesthouses, small hotels, locandas.... good news: accommodations are cheap! (double room 7- 20euro) Bad news: accommodations suck!Eeven if you have a good budget don't expect accetable bathrooms! We experienced the worst in Kassala and Atbara

What I liked:
HOSPITALITY IS THE REAL HIGHLIGHT! We felt welcomed every time we met somebody. I know you are thinkng it cannot worth a travel but believe me you'll be amazed! (Read the impressions). As concerns places Karima with its view of the desert from the Jebel Barkal was my preferite

What I disliked:
I hated all the burocracy!! The awful was getting the visa, then being registered in Khartoum, having the travel permits not only in Khartoum but also in Port Sudan. And what about the fact people hassled you when taking pictures of the Nile from a bridge? Military target they say.... Food is boring: no potatoes or rise, only bread with chicken and fried goat.

How much daily:
Sudan is cheap. we spent 30euro/day pp + visa (100- 150euro) + registration (30euro pp)+ flight (460euro pp Milan- Khartoum)
Accomodation are peanuts, while transport will take most of your budget. Red Sea Activities are costy but we managed independently.

Dangers/ hassles: aside of the well known off limits areas (Darfur, Abey,...) and the south (we weren't there), Sudan is extremely safe and Khartoum is considered (with Asmara) the safest African capital.

What you do need: very often we oufn ourselves in dire straits for the language, with an arabic phrase book it would have beem easier. The don't forget some ear plugs to protect yourself from the Sudanese karaoke on the long bus trips. Don't forget our to be registered by 72h from the moment you enter the country



Sudan has known a 20 years civil war in the South of the country (by the North who rules the whole Sudan), the longest of the African history. It ended up in 2005 with a Treat where North agreed in having a referendum where people of the South were called to vote about the separation of the country.
After being postponed for years it happened the 9th Jan 2011, right while we were in Sudan. As expected and officialised two weeks later, the result has been in favor of the separation. If you read this report after the 9th July 2011 (data from when the new county will be effective) and everything will run smoothly has promised by the Sudanese leader Bashir, South Sudan will be the 54th African state.

click to enlarge
Somalia map
click on to enlarge



I know Sudan will recall in you mind war scenarios and tourist kidnapping: completely forget about this.
There are some parts of the country that are off limits, but it's just a part of a country as large as 5 times France.
The typical question is: 'which his the highlight of Sudan?' For sure Meroe Pyramids is a worthwhile site, but if the highlights are your real driver you should opt for Egypt. A travel in Sudan should be led by the curiosity to discover a country off the beaten track and to see how it has nothing to do with his reputation..
The main reason we wanted to travel there was to personally experience the well known Sudanese hospitality: althought we have high expectations we didn't get disappointed, on the opposite... just some examples of hospitality:
- on a minibus and after a while chatting with the driver he gave the money of the ticket back since we were his guests
- in Port Sudan a minibus driver invited us to the restaurant and then to spend the evening with his friends: he paied everything
- in Wad Mefani when we were going to our coffee the ladies told us that it had already been offered by a guy we didn't even spoken with
- in Aba island a guy (called by the police chief) guided us few hours around the island; at the end when we offered him money he refused
- hitch hiking we got a 100km for free and once we reached Atbara the driver offered us to be his guests for the night
On top of this it's amazing that, even in the major towns, everybody in the streets greets you when passing

The best it could be if you associate Sudan to a travel in Egypt or in Ethiopia, hence you can have also the highlitghs. As concerns Egypt the weekly ferry can be a key constraints as it was for us.




In the heat of the night we landed in Khartoum; we slept at the airport till the dawn, catching a taxi searching the offices to have the registration and the travel permits done.
It took the whole day, first of all finding a hotel that could write a kind of letter to be registered. We found the Hotel Central (20€ twins rooms) who prepared the paper for us and we went to the police station personally (30€ each to be registered). Then we reached the Humanitarian Affairs Minister where we got the permit in 20mins (read the tips for details) for free.
The following day we jumped on the bus southwards along the White Nile to reach Aba Island (4h), well known in Sudan to be the birthplace of the leader Madhi, one of the Sudanese heroes who conquered Sudan back from the British in the 19th century. Today in his former house there is a nice university providing a youngish vibe to the whole town.
The bus dropped us in a cross road where we waited for a lift to cover the 7km to the town of Aba.
Once there we felt to be quite a novelty; we immediately aim to the university and all the students welcomed us eager to practice their English. After while the police chief came. He registered us and toured us in the university showing also the former Madhi room.
Then he called a friend of him who by rickshaw took us to have a look to the Nile river and to visit all his friend working in the shop. He spent a bunch of hours with us, and at the end when we offered a tip he declined everything.
Then by minibus in 2h we were in Kosti. It is one of the main ports of the White Nile and it's the southmost place we have reached not far from what is considered the border between North and South Sudan.
settled at the Hotel Umm Dom for 17€ twins room and we had an evening walk in the town, that is quite alive and green being right along the river, but don't expect too much.
The next day in 4.5 h by bus (6€) we got back to Khartoum to attend the whirling Dervish dances every Friday are at Hamed al Nil tomb. It's a large group of men who pray chanting and clapping in a circle. It's really an authentic and one of the most touchy experience we have had in Sudan. You can attend and take pictures and you are likely to find few expats there as well.
Our next destination has been the real highlight of Sudan: the Pyramids of Meroe. If from the dimension standpoint they cannot challenge with the Egypt ones, from the location standpoint beat them big time.
After 4 h we got dropped off by the minibus in the middle of nothing, but the site is so near that it's visible from the road, and we reached it by a 2km walk. There were few people visiting the site (some Sudanese schools) and through the light of the upcoming twilight it was impressing.
After two hours, we walked back to the main road hitch hiking for a lift to Atbara. It didn't take that much a pick up stopped and for free it took as to Atbara. On the way the driver wanted to offer us a café, but we anticipated paying also for him. He was so kind! Once in the town he even insisted he wanted us to stay in his house for the night. Once again the Sudanses hospitality is unique!
We kindly declined and we stayed at the Hotel Al Saif, considered the best hotel of the town for 25€ for a twins on the roof. Don't expect too much though.
Atbara is not the place I would recommend to stay; it's just a dusty twist of road of no interest for a traveler. In fact we didn't liger to much there and in the morning we took a bus passing through the desert to be in Karima 7 h later.
Karima on the opposite has been the cutest place we have been in Sudan. It's a small town in the desert, hot but dry characterized by the green strip of land along the Nile.
One of the main highlights of the town is the Jebel Barkal (Holy Mountain), a 200m high rocky hill sticking out from the sandy desert. We climbed up to see the jaw dropping panorama of the twilight on the desert and on the town with many locals eager to take picture with us.
In Karima we stayed in Hotel Al Nasser for 7 euro each, and it's has been the cheapest guesthouse we have found in Sudan. However remember to register at the police office otherwise the keeper won't check you in. The next day we followed the Bradt Guide suggestion wandering along the Nile, crossing it by a small boat and walking in the white sandy beach.
Once back to abtara the bought the ticket for the next day bus to Port Sudan (10h!!) It's plenty of buses so don't stop at the first counter but check all ones.
We slept at the Hotel Safr (12€ twins) and it has been the worst place we ever slept on all our travels. The room was noisy, dirty, without even mentioning the status of the shared bathroom. It's enough saying that, when I wanted to have a shower, I found there a daggle left by the previous guy!
The travel to Port Sudan has been the least pleasant in the whole trip: 10 long and hot hours by bus along a monotonous dry landscape. On top of it, we punctured and a kid shitted in the corridor, making the situation quite puking!
Once in Port Sudan we were very surprised by the change of climate. In fact having crossed the Red Sea Hills running along the Red Sea cost, the weather got cloudy and it began to rain. It was amazing if you think that 3h before we were in a desert were rain was quite a rare phenomenon.
Our expectations about Port Sudan were low, thinking about it just as an industrial port. Instead we found a more pleasant city; first of all there was a fast food, and only this would have been enough to like the whole city, given we were fed up of eating roasted goat chicken and bread. Then the promenade it's a popular place where locals gathered in the evening (and not only) drinking tea, playing cards and we saw even young couples dating!
On the other hand hotels were so expensive it took a while to find one; at the end we stayed in Saba hotel for 15€ for a twins.
1h by minibus from Port Sudan there's Suakin, the former main port of Sudan abandoned 80 year ago.
The place it's quite ghosty but keeps a kind of charm being a crumbled city settled on a tiny island connected to the mainland by a causeway.
The day after we wanted to snorkel and the only place where it is feasible, is the RED SEA RESORT 30km north of Port Sudan. We called the owner the day before since you need a permit: for free he came in the town, photocopied the visa and filled a template. We hired a van to go there, waiting 3h and getting back for 50pound much lower of the amount the resort told us should have been (100 pound!) Once there we rented the fin, swimming suite and mask (7€ per person) and we entered the reef from the beach. Honestly due to the wrong season (January is the worst since water is to warm hence colors are off), the waves and being a cloudy day, it hasn't been so unique, but still we snorkeled in Sudan!
And above all going there gave as the opportunity to get acquainted with the driver of the van we hired. He invited us to the restaurant, then to meet his friends and drink all together, offering us everything, although we tried to pay. Once again Sudanese hospitality rocks!!!
In the very early morning we took the bus to Kassala, the biggest town of east Sudan, settled few km from the border with Eritrea; it has been a looooong and hot 7h trip, passing very poor parts of Sudan.
In Kassala we stayed at hotel Naba for 17€ for a twins, after being rejected by another hotel since they claimed it was full-booked. I wasn't surprised since I read some hotels in Kassala don't like to have foreigner guests.
Kassala turned out far poorer than all the other towns we have seen in Sudan and definitely the hottest.
The town is characterized by being at the base of the Take mountains, a huge massif seemingly placed at random on the plain. The shapes are weird, almost unearthly, as if they have been half melted before being set in stone.
You can climb them but it's far easier to reach Toteil, a place very popular among the locals, where in the late afternoon they gather to enjoy the view of the twilight over Kassala from one of the many café.
Then on the way back to Khartoum we stopped in Wad Medani. It's well known to be the favorite Sudanese honey-mooners destination. In fact the town is very green and fresh built along the Nile: the riverbank it's plenty of café where you can enjoy the shadow of the tree.
We stayed at the hotel Continental for 17€, clearly targeted for the just married couples with its pink rooms and a double room (wow!) instead of a twin that 's by far the Sudanese standard.
Back in Khartoum in the last day we visited the confluence of the White and Blue Niles and we lloked for postcards; we found them, we wrote but we didn't manage to send 9





Sudan travel tip




Almost all countries need a visa to enter Sudan and unless you are part of an organised travel (you wouldn't be on this website, though), it's going to be the toughest part of the whole trip. Since things change I recommend checking the Thorn Tree Forum.

The following are the 3 options to get the Sudanese visa before the separation:
1) Sudan Embassy in your origin country
2) Sudan Embassy in Cairo (Egypt)
3) Consulate in Aswan (Egypt)

1) It sounds the easiest but it's not, since any embassy in Europe needs to have the approval from Khartoum and unless you are not sponsored by a tour operator, it becomes and endless waiting. In the forum in internet it's plenty of travelers waiting for visa from the German or Dutch embassy since months.
We were lucky and we got our visa in the Sudan Embassy in Rome. It needs:
- copy of the flight tickets
- passport
- template filled (you can download from the embassy website)
- nr 2photos
- 100€
- hotel reservation for the full period in Sudan

It took 1 month and I had to book a hotel for the full period and then cancel everything (it took me a looot of time to have the reservation faxed how the Embassy wanted (addressed to the 'consolar session', bla bla....)
The embassy sniffed the trick and they specified on the visa the name of our sponsor (Kanon Hotel). Once we had to do the registration in Khartoum I was scared the police wanted to see the invitation from Kanon hotel but nobody noticed we had instead one of the far cheaper 'Central Hotel'

2) It sounds the most complicated but at the end it's what most of the travelers opt for. Usually it takes two days, but you need a LOI from your embassy in Cairo. Getting such LOI can be a very straightforward process of 5 min or an impassable obstacle. You will find the forums plenty of travelers stuck in it.
Here is an example of LOI, if you are in dire straits you can fake it; nobody at the Sudanese embassy will never mind (LOI attachment)

3) It's convenient only if you are going to take the ferry to Wadi Halfa, or if you really don't manage to get the LOI in Cairo. In fact the consulate in Aswan does not ask for it and they issue the visa in 20min. The drawback is that Aswan is 10h by train from Cairo, hence back and forth it'll take at least 2 days.


The currency is the Sudanese pound
official change rate.
(1€= 3.2 SDG), real change 1€=4SP)

Pay attention there's a mess with the zeros. In fact before Jan2007 the currency
was the Sudanese Dinar and even earlier (before 1992) it was again the Sudanese pound. To offset the inflation all this currency where set at
1 new Pound= 100 Dinars
1 new Pound= 1000 old Pounds

that's why on the street it's usual people asking you 100 or 1000 time the value they really mean.
I hardly think they want to cheat you, simply the are used to the old values




Apart of a 12pgs section on the whole Africa guide, Lonely Planet has not useful info about Sudan. That's why I bought the Bradt Guide fully dedicated to Sudan (2nd edition Oct 2009)
I'm not a fan of Bradt Guides, in particular I found their lay out non friendly (they blend useful info in a full page text and this doesn't make them immediately visible). Maps are not precise as sometimes we found ourselves stranded. Info about means of transport are quite swallow. On toop of thids the dictionary is really poor considering it's a guidebook fully dedicated to the country, it didn't cost a thing to use a bunch of pages in a Arab- English section




I had the usual vaccinations: ephatite A, B, typhus and tetanus. I know your main concern is the dilemma 'to do or not to do the antimalaric treatment?'
Against the malaria you have mainly three choises: Clorichina, Malarone and Lariam.
Clorichina is not effective in this part of the world (it's mainly for central America), but at the end I decided to take neither Malarone nor Lariam.
In the region the risk exist especially along the Nile; I preferred to cover myself conveniently, using repellent and mosquito net than take antimalaric for my 7th times.



  • Registration at the police office
    By law every foreigners entering the country has to register at the police office by 72h. First of all don't even think to skip it; everytime you'll be stopped at a check point, checked in by a hotel, to get the travel permits..., they will ask for it.
    Flying to Khartoum you have two options:
    1) ask to a hotel to have everything done (Hotel Central was available to do)
    2) do by yourself (in case you are in hurry or you don't want to pay any extracharge for the service)

    In case of 2, you have to check in by a hotel who can support you preparing a paper (Hotel Central did) that you'll bring to the Alien Police Station (it's in front of the Khartoum University (20 min by rickshaw from the center)). There you will do photocopy of your passport, you'll pay 30euro, and in 30 min you will have your registration (a stamp on the passport)

    If you are coming from Egypt, you will be registered in Wadi Halfa.

  • Travel permit in Khartoum
    One of the FAQ of Sudan is: 'do we need a travel permit to travel around Sudan?'
    The official answer is: yes left alone the Wadi Halfa- Khartoum road. Having said it, you are likely to travel without having it checked, but since it's for free and it takes 20 min I wouldn't risk it in particular if you are heading southward (we got them checked in Aba Island).
    To apply for them first of all you need to have the registration, them you go the Humanitarian Affairs Minister. (in the Bradt guide it's indicated in the map), anyway it's 5 min by rickshaw from the airport. Notice that in Khartoum there are at least three offices where you can apply (in the LP many travelers claimed to have got it at the Minister in Ryad quarter; we looked for it but we didn't find anything)

    You'll need:
    - nr 3 copies of the visa + registration
    - nr 3 copies of the passport
    - nr 3 copies of the filled template with the list of you destinations (you'll get at the Minister)
    - nr1 photo

    There's a shop where you can do the copies next to the minister building
    Since things change and you might not want get stuck in Khartoum, check the latest info about the process in Thorn Tree Forum..

  • Snorkeling (or diving) in Sudan ?
    If you want to snorkel in Sudan you don't have too many choises than Red Sea Sudan Resort (www.redsearesort.coms), 30km north of Port Sudan.
    Don't expect the Egyptian standard of Sharm Sheik; you'll find there some bungalows with shared bathrooms and a restaurant.
    The reef is 300m from the resort and there's a small boat to take you there. Otherwise as we did, you can walk but it can be a kind of sweat.
    You can hire all you need:
    - fins+ mask+ swimming suit= 7€/ day pp
    - to use the boat is 20€ pp

    • Which season?
      In Dec-Jan it's the worst season (the best one is April) to see the real colors of the Red Sea reef. Hence if you are there in this season I don't really recommend you the swim.

    • How to reach it?
      Unfortunately the only way to reach the Red Sea Resort is hiring a car. The Resort can arrange a taxi for you for 100 SDG (25€), but we went to the bus station and we found a van for 50 SDG (12€) back and forth waiting 3h

    • Do we need a permit?
      Yes, there's a check point mid way to the Resort, if you don't have the permit they will push you back to Port Sudan.
      To get it is easy and for free. Just give a ring to the Resort one day in advance (check the website for the phone number).
      They will bring the form to you in Port Sudan, you will fill it and you have to keep it with the copy of the passport + visa.
      At the check point the police will withdraw if.