The streets were dusty and unpaved but it was the month of December, so a slight winter breeze produced a pleasant feeling. I felt like wandering around some villages settled along the Nile River, the shore of which is so fertile that, for a moment, I forgot that I was in the middle of the desert.
I desperately wanted to continue my journey to some villages located a few kilometers away, but the modest smiles, kindness, and hospitality of the Sudanese were blocking my way, as I was forced to have some tea every couple of meters.
The different smells and the women’s colorful dresses made me think that I was at the heart of the African continent but the sweets, sand dunes, camels and Arabic language, which is the official language in the country, invited me to believe that, perhaps, I was in the Middle East instead.
I went up to the top of a dune, from where, very thoughtful, I observed those incredible, off the beaten track pyramid ruins.
Welcome to Sudan, the land where, finally, the Middle East meets beautiful Africa
This guide for traveling to Sudan contains everything you need to know, including a complete 2-week itinerary, and tips regarding transportation, accommodation, visas and much more!
COVID- 19 Travel Restrictions
Quick travel tips
Travel insurance for Sudan
Books for traveling to Sudan
Transportation in Sudan
Money – How much does it cost?
Sudan is an off the beaten track place
A 2-week travel itinerary
On August 2nd, Sudan liften all COVID-related requirements but just in case, it’s recommended to have a vaccine certificate, in case the airline asks for it.
IATI Insurance is one of the few providers that offers full Coronavirus coverage, not only when it comes to treatment, but also cancellations costs in case you tested positive before departure.
And not only this, but it’s one of the few insurance providers that gives coverage for traveling to Sudan.
Readers of Against the Compass can get an exclusive 5% discount.
Best time to travel to Sudan – Sudan is one of the hottest countries in the world. If you really want to enjoy your trip to Sudan, you must go in winter, from November to February. The rest of the year, the heat is just unbearable, especially in summer. I went there in December and, at noon, the temperature reached over 34ºC.
Is it safe to travel to Sudan? – With one of the lowest crime rates in the world today, the tourist part of Sudan is one of the safest areas in Africa. However, there are tribal conflicts in Darfur province (west) and near the border with South Sudan. This violence is quite far from the touristic routes and, in the unlikely event that you managed to get close to there, the violence would never target foreigners. For further details, check out my article: Is it safe to travel to Sudan?
Language – Arabic is the official language. Nevertheless, like in any African country, Sudan is also home to several different ethnicities who speak their own local language, as well. Basic English is spoken by a significant part of the population, especially those with a higher level of education. Communicating with people, as well as asking for directions, doesn’t impose any real problems when traveling in Sudan.
How to get there – Most people travel to Sudan overland, either from Egypt or Ethiopia. By plane, people tend to come from Cairo, Doha, Dubai or Addis Ababa. I entered Sudan from Egypt. For further information, check out my post: How to cross from Egypt to Sudan overland
You can get a visa in your home country, in Addis Ababa (capital of Ethiopia) and in Cairo and Aswan, Egypt. I got my visa in Aswan, a city located very close to the Sudanese border.
Once you are in Sudan, you also need to register and complete a few bureaucratic steps.
For further details, check out my article: How to get a visa for Sudan
Because of the sanctions, few insurance providers cover travel in Sudan. The one which does, however, is IATI Insurance, and I also recommend it for these reasons:
Sudan Travel Guide by Bradt – I highly recommend buying the guide from Bradt, the best book guide about Sudan out there. Bradt Guides has the most insightful guides about the most off the beaten track destinations.
Traveling in Sudan is such an enriching experience, due to the multiple, endless interactions with people, whose kindness and hospitality are part of their culture, as much as their language is. Besides a couple of archaeological sites, Sudan lacks actual tourist sites. Sudan is about all the people with whom you’ll share uncountable cups of tea, coffee, meals and, occasionally, especially in small villages, you’ll be invited to stay at their houses.
By the way, be aware that, from a religious point of view, Sudan is a very conservative society, Sunni Islam being the main religion. If you really want to enjoy and experience people’s hospitality at its best, you should respect their habits and rules. Outside of Khartoum, you should always wear long pants. Never talk to women, unless spoken to first and, even if they talk to you, don’t dare take a picture of them, without asking for their permission, first. If you are a couple, say that you are married, even if you are not. Otherwise, they wouldn’t understand it, as in their society that would be unacceptable.
Read: A guide for traveling to Egypt (itinerary + tips)
Remember to get travel insurance for Sudan
IATI Insurance is one of the very few that covers travel in Sudan + COVID-19
5% discount if purchasing via this link
Public transportation – Traveling around Sudan by public transport is pretty straightforward. Every day, throughout the day, from all cities, there are local minivans going in all directions. Prices are quite low and they leave once they are full. By the way, roads are in very good condition.
Private Jeep – Many travelers prefer to hire a driver with a private jeep. I met a few foreigners who were traveling this way and, if you can afford it, you should know that it is very convenient, as you can visit many ruins which are very deep into the desert.
Hitchhiking – Very easy to hitch a ride. Furthermore, since there’s practically only one road going in each direction, finding a vehicle going in the same direction as you is quite simple.
Read: How to visit the Nubian pyramids of Sudan
Internet – Since internet connection is practically non-existent, in Sudan, it’s advisable to plan your trip ahead. On several occasions, I wasn’t able to connect and had some trouble finding a place or trying to remember the name of a hotel. Outside the capital, especially in the north, Wi-Fi doesn’t exist and the only way to connect is through a SIM card, which works terribly slowly, meaning that you’ll barely be able to browse anything.
Khartoum is the only place where 3G works OK. Update February 2018: According to Patrick from German Backpacker, 3G has improved, at least if you get an MTN Sim Card.
SIM Cards – They are sold everywhere. If you say you want a SIM Card, they might not understand you, so you should say: Shariha Sudani. A card should cost 5SDG, with a few calls. You need pay extra for having internet. There are several phone companies like (Zain, MTN, and Sudantel), all of them offering different packages, always pretty cheap. MTN seems to be the most reliable one. Registration with your passport is always necessary.
You should always use a VPN when you travel, especially when you connect to public Wi-Fi networks.
Your connection will be much safer.
Moreover, you will be able to access content which is typically censored in Sudan.
I recommend ExpressVPN – Extremely easy to use, fast and cheap.
If you want to learn more about VPN, check: Why you need a VPN for traveling.
Don’t exchange money at banks or official exchange offices.
Officially, the exchange rate is approximately:
1USD = 587 SDG
However, on the black market, in February 2018, the exchange rate was 1USD = 30SDG. You should always change on the black market. It’s better you change your money in Wadi Halfa, Khartoum or Sawakin, as you may have some troubles in exchanging money in the rest of the towns.
Please note that the exchange rate in Sudan is crazy and it keeps devaluating constantly. Prices provided in the following guide are correct in local currency but the USD exchange rate I provide may not be accurate.
In Sudan, one could easily travel for less than $20 a day. These are some of the most typical costs.
Note – I am using the USD/SDG exchange rate used on the black market.
Hostels – Dorms cost around 25SDG. Be aware that these aren’t hostels aimed at foreigners or backpackers but local Sudanese. They are extremely cheap but not very clean, unfortunately.
Hotels – Mid-range hotels, where the Sudanese middle class stays, cost something between 100SDG and 175SDG.
A meal of foul costs 25SDG. If you order chicken, your bill would increase to 40-50SDG. A one-liter bottle of water costs 3SDG, whereas a cup of coffee costs 5SDG.
These are the prices of some of the bus journeys I took:
Wadi Halfa to Abri (180km): 60SDG
Abri to Dongola (230km): 80SDG
Abri to Karima (200km): 60SDG
Unfortunately, the food is not the highlight of backpacking in Sudan. Foul, which is a sort of black bean soup with plenty of peanut oil, is the national dish and what you are going to eat every day, to the extent that you will really get sick of it! If you are lucky, surprisingly, in some places, they add some sort of local cheese on top of it. One piece of advice. When your order foul, tell the waiter: ”Mafi Zed”, which means ”without oil”.
Furthermore, in some places, grilled barbecue chicken can be found. Additionally, some restaurants in villages close to the Nile, also serve fried fish but, the day I ordered it, I saw that they had all the fish piled up in a dirty cupboard, without any sort of protection. For breakfast, it is relatively easy to find boiled eggs, accompanied by the delicious and strong Arabic coffee.
In Khartoum and Port Sudan, you can find a greater variety of food, including Western meals.
Read: Egypt off the beaten track
Remember to get travel insurance for Sudan
IATI Insurance is one of the very few that covers travel in Sudan + COVID-19
5% discount if purchasing via this link
Before backpacking in Sudan, you should know that this a real off the beaten track destination where tourism infrastructure is not even in an embryonic stage. Most of the country lacks tourist hotels and most restaurants are just simple shacks with very poor hygiene conditions. Internet connection is practically non-existent and you’ll barely meet other travelers or backpackers. My point is that, whereas Sudan is an unforgettable experience, this is not a country for beginner backpackers.
This Sudan itinerary goes from the north (Wadi Halfa, Egyptian border) to the south (Sawakin, Ethiopian border), with a few detours to the Red Sea (Port Sudan) and the border with Eritrea (Kassala).
I was in Sudan a little longer than two weeks, entering from Egypt and ending my trip in Khartoum. I would say that 85% of the most interesting sites in the country are located between these two points and, if you manage your time well, you can easily visit these places in just two weeks. Unfortunately, I didn’t have time to visit Kassala and Port Sudan. If you want to visit them, you should add at least one extra week or ten days to your itinerary.
If you come from Egypt, Wadi Halfa will be your first point of contact with Sudanese society. This small town doesn’t have anything interesting to offer travelers but you will have to spend your first night here, exchange some money and, basically, chill out for a bit after your hectic journey from Egypt. By the way, bear in mind that, unless you come from Egypt, it doesn’t make a lot of sense to visit Wadi Halfa, as this is a mere border city.
Where to stay in Wadi Halfa – There are an endless number of basic hotels targeting local people coming from Egypt. Usually, these hotels offer rooms with five beds at 20-25SDG ($0.80 – $1.04). I stayed in Aleen Halfa. Be aware that these hotels are not very clean. Welcome to Sudan.
Read: How to cross from Egypt to Sudan overland
The Nubians, one of the most ancient civilizations in Africa, are an ethnic group which originated in present-day Egypt and Sudan. The Nubians have a long history that dates back to the Egyptian pharaohs and they ruled Egypt during the 8th century B.C. The Nubians have strong cultural differences, identified in their literature, music and poetry, and they speak their own language, which, even though it’s hard to imagine, is a non-written language. Today, Nubian people live spread across southern Egypt and northern Sudan, established on the shores of the Nile river.
Abri is the main town and the perfect base from where to explore the villages around the area. You should just follow the river, hopping from village to village, through the foul and palm plantations. In my experience, Nubians are the most hospitable people in the country. Visiting those villages was the highlight of my trip to Sudan, not only because of people’s kindness but also, because of the landscape, as you see beautiful, large green fields flourishing in the middle of the desert, thanks to the fast-flowing river.
For more information, read: Tales of the Nubian people in Sudan
Where to stay in Abri – Megzoub Guest House – Definitely, this is the best guest house in Sudan. Megzoub is a great, wise man who offers double and single rooms with pretty clean toilets. However, his prices are quite high, compared to the country average. His rate may start at 250SDG ($10) but you could easily bring it down 100SDG ($4.10), at least for me and a friend who was there recently. You can contact Megzoub by calling any of his phone numbers: +249122886586 and +249911220984.
How to get to Abri from Wadi Halfa – There are minivans which leave at every hour, starting from quite early in the morning. Price: 60SDG ($2.50)
One of the most well-preserved ruins in the country and, founded by Amenhotep II, Soleb temple was built to worship Amun-Ra. It is claimed that the architect might have been Amenhotep, son of Apu, whose mortuary temple can be found in Luxor. Soleb is located halfway to Dongola (the next destination after Abri). You could visit it on a day trip from Abri or on your way to Dongola
How to get from Soleb to Abri – Soleb is 50km from Abri. Megzoub, the owner of the guest house in Abri, can take you there in his car for 400SDG ($17, round trip). On the other hand, if you want to go by yourself, you should take a mini-van to Wawa. The temple is located on an island in the middle of the river. You can only get there by boat but there are local fishermen who can take you there cheaply. One-way bus ticket to Wawa is 20SDG costs ($0.80) and entering the temple 60SDG ($2.50).
Dongola is a city which does not have much to offer the traveler. However, if you are heading from Abri to Karima, probably, you will probably have to spend one night here, as there is no direct transport and the minivan service that runs from Dongola to Karima doesn’t run until very late. In this city, there’s not much to do besides wandering around the main bazaar, eating grilled chicken and socializing with the locals.
Note that there is no direct transportation from Abri to Karima but you can get a direct bus from Wadi Halfa to Karima, without stopping in Dongola.
Where to stay in Dongola – Alnuallem is the only good hotel in the city. It offers double rooms at 175SDG ($7.30). These are the coordinates: 19.172898 30.468067.
How to get to Dongola from Abri – There are frequent minivans, being the last one leaves at around 5 or 6 pm, but you should double check with Megzoub. Price: 80SDG ($3.30).
Welcome to one of the most touristic spots in Sudan and where, probably, you’ll meet the first bunch of travelers (if you are coming from Egypt). Karima is a lovely area which is famous for being home to three of the most important archaeological sites in Sudan, containing a large number of Nubian pyramids, some of them in very good condition. The best about it is that you might have the pyramids just to yourself.
For more information about the pyramids, read: How to visit the Nubian pyramids in Sudan
Where to stay in Karima – I stayed in Al-Nassr, a very simple hotel frequented by Sudanese. Price can be negotiated but I paid 100SDG ($4.10) for a double room with private bathroom. Update: In 2018, travelers are already paying 150SDG. Another alternative would be a fancy guest house called Nubian Rest House, which has double semi-luxury rooms. However, I heard that they are now charging $220 for just one night. They are crazy and target people who travel on a tour. In the Nubian pyramids article I wrote, I provide further details about the location.
How to get to Karima from Dongola – The minivans leave from the morning, but as very few locals use that route, you might have to wait for a while until the bus is full. Price: 60SDG ($2.50).
Shendi is just a small, unattractive town which you can use as a base to visit the pyramids of Meroë. The most interesting part of Shendi is its lively bazaar.
How to get from Karima to Shendi – To get there from Karima, you should first take a minivan to Atbara. They leave early in the morning and cost 130SDG ($5.40) for a 3-hour journey. From there, you can catch a 2-hour big bus to Shendi for 50SDG ($2.10). Alternatively, you could get off on the road, before getting to Atbara and hitchhike from there. That’s what I did.
Where to stay in Shendi – I didn’t stay but there’s a local hotel called El Kawther (16.696079, 33.424961), which is supposed to be good. Alternatively, you can also stay in a kind of apartment, which is close to where the bus dropped you, 50 meters from the green mosque. There’s no sign but it’s a pink building with many water tanks on top. It has fully furnished, 2-room apartments with fridge, TV, stove and pots. It costs around $10 per night, which can be split by several people.
The only proper touristy place, meaning that here you’ll find an archaeological site surrounded by a fence where they charge an entrance fee and there are locals selling souvenirs. The royal cemetery of Meroë is composed of 100 narrow pyramids spread across a vast desert of orange sand dunes. Most of them are quite well-preserved and, at the end of 2016, the site was still under restoration. Ticket price varies and it will depend on your negotiation skills. For more information, read: How to visit the Nubian pyramids of Sudan
How to get to Meroë from Karima – The ruins of Meroë are located right next to the road, meaning that there is no direct bus going there. If you come straight from Karima, follow the same route as going to Shendi but get off 50km before. If you want to go from Shendi, take a bus to Kabushiya and then, you can easily hitchhike the remaining few kilometers.
Where to stay in Meroë -You have 5 options. First, you could stay in Khartoum and come to Meroë on a day trip, which is what most travelers do. Second, as I mentioned previously, you could stay in Shendi. Third, there are several resting places along the road between Atbara and Shendi, where the truck drivers spend the night for as little as 5SDG ($0.30). Basically, they have a bunch of deck chairs placed outside. I stayed here 🙂 Fourth, you may stay at the Meroe Tented Camp, which is a desert camp with relatively luxurious tents. They used to ask $42 for one night but, according to Patrick from German Backpacker, they now ask for $190. They are just crazy and, clearly, not targeting backpackers. And fifth, you could just set up your own tent among the dunes!
The most off the beaten track Nubian temples in the world, Naqa and Musawwarat es-Sufra are located in the middle of the desert, several kilometers away from the road. Getting there is a bit tricky as there are no signs and you need to go over sand dunes.
A traveler claimed that he went there on a small, normal car but you need a really good driver and, definitely, it’s better to go there on a 4×4.
From Khartoum, the price would oscillate something between $100 and $150. It’s quite expensive.
Alternatively, in Shendi, which is the closest town to the temples, you could look for a 4×4 owner and ask this person to take you there. The cost would be significantly lower than from Khartoum. Andy, the same traveler who went there on a small car, said that he got a car for 400SDG ($20). He visited Naqa but, when he arrived in Mussawarat, they wanted to charge him $20 for visiting it and bargaining was not possible. Be aware of this.
Located very close to the capital, Omdurman is a city that has very little interest but is famous for having some of the most popular events among tourists:
Sufi dancing – Sufism is the mystical or spiritual branch of Islam. Their faith is not based on logic but on revelation. They are those Sunni Muslims who perform a spiritual dance while they get high on drugs. This psychedelic dancing takes place on Friday afternoons. Where? In Hamid El-Nil Mosque. You’ll be definitely meeting other tourists. For more information, check out this amazing photo essay from the Candy Trail travel blog.
The camel market – Personally, I didn’t go there, as I’ve seen several camel markets in the Middle East before, but if you’ve never seen more than 2,000 camels gathered all together, I am sure you are gonna love this one. How to get there? First of all, take a bus to Omdurman (either from Shendi or Khartoum). In Khartoum, buses depart from Al Araby bus station. The bus will drop you off at the main souk. From there, you should take another bus to Souk Libya (7km). Once in Souk Libya, take the last bus to Moelih, the actual camel market. You’ll know where it is because everybody else will get off there.
If you come from Egypt, you should arrive in Khartoum in two weeks, approximately. Khartoum is a city in which to rest and eat something different from foul and grilled chicken. Honestly, there’s not much to do besides visiting the confluence of both the Blue and White Niles. In Khartoum, one can have fun just wandering around the endless souks and hanging out with the locals. By the way, if you want to hang out in a nice hotel, Corinthia Hotel, the best one in town, has the best internet and you can spend as much time as you want in the reception area.
For more information, read: 24 hours in Khartoum
How to get to Khartoum – Al Araby is one of the main bus stations in Khartoum. From here, buses come and go in all directions. From Shendi, you can take a bus for 20SDG ($0.80). 4 hours, with traffic.
Where to stay in Khartoum – Couchsurfing is easy in Khartoum but also, there’s a hostel called Hostelling International Khartoum. These are the coordinates: 15.591484, 32.539680. There’s also a camping area next to the river, situated very close to the confluence of the Nile. It’s called Blue Nile Sailing Club. These are the coordinates: 15.611694, 32.534409
The following places (Port Said, Suakin and Kassala) are amazing to visit. However, you should add at least one week or 10 extra days to the previous two-week itinerary.
Located at the border with Eritrea, Kassala is a city that lies at the foot of a beautiful peak belonging to the Taka Mountains. In Kassala you will find a large number of different ethnicities, including Beja and Rashadia. An interesting spice souk, plenty of colors and meeting different kinds of people are the things that make Kassala become a unique place. By the way, most likely, you’ll be the only foreigner wandering around this area.
For more information, check out this awesome photo essay from Candy Trail Travel Blog.
Located on the Red Sea, almost 800km from Khartoum, these two cities are, geographically, culturally and architecturally, quite different from the rest of Sudan.
Suakin – With a peculiar architecture that dates back to the 19th century, Suakin was an important place during the Ottoman Empire, as it was the center of slavery exportation and where Muslims left from on their pilgrimage to Mecca. Today, the Turkish government is investing some efforts in restoring the buildings. Where to stay? There are a few hotels but, apparently, some of them might tell you that foreigners are not allowed to stay in Suakin. You can try but, if you want to be more comfortable, I suggest you go to Port Sudan, located just 60km away.
Port Sudan – Port Sudan is the place where you want to go if you wish to disconnect from the desert and swim in the bluest water. This is most cosmopolitan city in the country, as well as the cleanest. Where to stay? There is one expensive hotel called Coral on the Corniche. If you want something very cheap and basic, you can stay at Hotel Boheine (19.6118533, 37.2208425), near the sea, or at Hotel Alatoun (19.612733,37.213873), near the souk.
By the way, like its neighbor Egypt, the Red Sea in Sudan is home really impressive corals, so here you can do some of the best snorkeling and diving ever.
How to get to Port Sudan and Suakin? – From Khartoum, there are direct buses but you could also go from Atbara, the city where you took a second bus, on your way from Karima to Meroë.
Excellent review. Stunned how the crime rates in tourist areas are among the lowest on earth. The US State Department never reported that one. Meanwhile, driving through the West End of my hometown in the States I am likely to get popped after dark. Crazy stuff. I met 2 young awesome South Sudanese kids recently who moved to the USA to play high school basketball. Both landed scholarships to prestigious Tulane University. What niche kids, embodying the generous spirit of the Sudanese people.
Thanks for sharing 🙂
Hey Ryan, thanks for your refreshing comment. I’m really happy to hear that there are Sudanese kids who get scholarships for studying abroad. The youngest country in the world is going through quite a lot of struggles and it’s good to know that some its citizens get opportunities like this one. Cheers mate,
Very interesting and useful article about a destination that not many people visit! I bet you didn’t see many tourists around you 🙂 Loved the photos too btw.
Hey, Cinthya! I just saw a few backpackers and 4 or 5 old couples traveling with a private guide. That’s it!
Hey! Thanks for a ridiculously good guide which eased some of my concerns. Reading your take on it, it seems similar to the experience of travelling around Iran without an escort (outside of the large cities) and I would do anything to have more similar experiences.
As I understand it, it has the same situation with ATMs and currency exchange as well. Can I assume the black market is merely people hanging out at some spot holding calculators, or is the set up different? Will they accept Egyptian pounds at the same advantageous rate? Is it possible to exchange on the Egyptian side and/or in intermediate cities as well? Grateful for any questions answered!
Hey mate, hope you are all right. I assume you are coming from Egypt then? Right after crossing the border, the first people you’ll meet will be locals trying to exchange your currency. Yes, they accept Egyptian Pounds. To be honest, I didn’t exchange with them, as I thought I would find a better rate in Wadi Halfa, the next city. But actually, their rate was almost, as good as the one in the city, so you can exchange your EGP with them, and exchange your USD or € in Wadi Halfa. In Wadi Halfa, there are no people hanging around with tons of bills and calculators but you need to ask at the different shops, to see who is willing to exchange your cash. Don’t worry, they love foreign currency so it’s fairly easy to find them.
Much appreciated! Yes, from the Egyptian border. I wanted to visit Ethiopia, but I dislike to fly as there is so much you miss in between. Therefore, I was more than happy to see that Sudan is not only an alternative but a seemingly interesting destination. Thanks again and good luck on your next trip!
Your welcome and all the best!
This is a great site, thanks. My girlfriend and I are in Aswan waiting to collect Sudan visas. We were wondering if you can register in Abri rather than Wadi Halfa as we are hoping to go straight there. Did you hear of any option like this?
No, you can’t, unfortunately. If you didn’t do it in Wadi Halfa, you will have to do it in Dongola.
But anyways, if you come by public transport, you can’t go straight to Abri but you have to spend the night in Wadi Halfa. The bus will arrive in Wadi Halfa pretty late and even the drivers always spend the night there. The people that go straight to Khartoum also must spend the night there. You can register in Wadi Halfa in the morning and then go to Abri. That’s what I did.
This article just saved my life lol. Thank you so so much. Amazing information.
Glad it did 🙂
Thanks for the excellent guide! I share your experience that the Sudanese people are some of the warmest I’ve come across. One thing though. Officially it is required – or at least it was required when I was there in 2011 – to aquire permits if visiting sites including the pyramids. Has this changed or do you simply consider there to be no need for permits? I didn’t aquire any when I was there, but on my way to Meroe I were asked for them at a checkpoint. I was told to turn around but after some discussion I was allowed to continue to the next city (supposedly to get a bus back to Khartoum). Since the bus driver couldn’t care less about permits he let me off at the pyramids which were amazing 🙂
On a side note: Sudan has some of the best diving in the Red sea, which one could argue to be the main draw for tourism in the country…
That’s surprising that you needed permits to visit the pyramids. I am pretty sure that you don’t need them anymore. No one asked me for any permit and didn’t meet any tourist who had an issue with that!
Yeah, I also heard that Sudan has very good divings. I don’t dive myself but perhaps I should include it in the guide. Thanks for the reco, cheers!
Thanks, hopefully there’s no need! I may have been mistaken in saying that they are needed for the pyramids per se – I could confuse them with the photography permit that you needed to take photos in the country in general. Though I’m also unsure whether that is gone now, I never applied for it.
Well there’s probably not much to be said about the diving guide-wise, since it’s all liveaboard diving and the majority of the boats start in Egypt. While I did meet a guy who jumped on our boat last minute, I think this is an exception to the rule of booking ahead. Cheers
Hi Mattis and Joan.
Unfortunately there is a need for a travel permit to see the pyramids and probably going anywhere from Khartoum. My girlfriend and I were stopped on the way a few days ago and made to get a bus back to Khartoum cos we did not have one. We were ok coming from the north all the way down to the capital though.
The travel permit and photo permit are the same form. It is free to get at the Ministry of Tourism, which can be found here:
It is on Bashir Enefeidi Street, which is on the opposite side of the airport from downtown on the east side of the city. The office is on the second floor and a you’ll need a passport photo and copy of your passport and visa page. They are really nice there and have a photocopier and can make you copies of the permit to give to police at checkpoints. It takes about ten minutes and you can list all the places you want to visit and take photos.
Thanks for your feedback man!
However, you were not asked a pyramid permit. You were asked a travel permit which is required for anyone leaving Khartoum. If you enter from Egypt or Ethiopia and you don’t pass by Khartoum, there is no need to have this permit. Also, if your final destination is Khartoum, which means that you don’t leave the city, you don’t need the permit either.
In my Sudan visa article, I was explaining this process which you also explained very well: https://againstthecompass.com/en/visa-for-sudan/
I know. It’s a non-sense law.
Ah ok. Then no. Apart from the travel permit there was no need any other separate permit for the pyramid that we could see and we were not asked for one. Careful at the pyramid entrance they tried to charge SDG270 each or $20. But stand your ground and tell them it is 100 each.
I was wondering where you went after Sudan. Did you fly home? If so did you manage to find a cheap international flight?
What do you think is the best way to get back to Europe from this part of the world?
Hi Emily, apologies for my late reply. I flew from Khartoum to Spain with Qatar Airlines and, as far as I can remember, it was pretty cheap!
I am looking to cross from eygpt into Sudan in October as a solo female. Did u experience any issues along the way or did you feel relatively safe
Hi! From a safety point of view, there is no problem at all. From a comfort point of view, it’s a fucked up journey :p But there are plenty of Sudanese women who will be more than happy to have a chat with you, you will have fun 🙂
Well, I’m a man. If you are a man, things are different
Albeit a bit late but thank you for the information!
I might be travelling to Sudan for work. I really liked your blog and posts related to your trip in Sudan. You give another perspective than what most embassies and newspaper give.
May I ask you when did you go there? Things change fast there and it possible that the atmosphere today or next month are not the same as when you were there.
Thanks a lot in advance!
Hi Luna, I traveled there in December 2016. Yes, things change fast in Sudan but I wouls say that they change to good, as tourism is increasing day by day. Cheers 🙂
Thank you for sharing, I found very useful info here, I was delighted to find this web site. This is an incredibly inspiring story, I love it!
Hi Joan, excellent helpful review. Can you tell me briefly what clothing you would recommend for female travelers in Sudan? Thanks, Terry
Hello. I just published this article, which definitely answers your question 🙂
Thanks for the source of information. I went Aswan (200 egp with ferry from Abu Simbel) – > Wadi Halfa (150 SDG minivan) – > Dongola (70 SDG bus that was going to Atbara) – > Karima (130 SDG minivan then 50 SDG bus from Atbara) – > Meroe Pyramids (15 SDG truck to Shendi and 70 SDG bus) – > Khartoum and going Ethiopia soon, which supposedly is 270 SDG to the border. Did not bargain any transport.
Seems like you have kept updating things well. The SDG just had a hell of a week and the government seems to try stabilize it again. But we got 24 per USD and 1.35 per EGP (did not bargain this one) in Wadi Halfa last week. Which at the time made changing into USD first pointless and perhaps even a loss, but it has been crazy.
Sleeping in the desert by the pyramids is fine as well, even without a tent. Got a bit chilly due to the wind around 3 AM or so but better than superheated rooms with mosquitoes. Although I did have a beetle roll a ball of shit up to me. We asked to get off at “Bayyarawaya” or some similar pronounciation. Use it in combination with Haram (which means Pyramid in Arabic, but also “religiously forbidden” depending on pronounciation). Saying Meroe just confused them as there is a town opposite Karima named such.
Did registration overdue at the airport for 535 SDG, less than 20 minutes work and the airport is so central. Didn’t even give them photos but they charged me 5 SDG to copy passport and visa.
Youth Hostel in Khartoum is 70 SDG per night atm in dorm and they can give you a paper to help in the registration, but I don’t know if it changed anything.
I HIGHLY recommend taking busses and not minivans if you are even remotely tall or value space. Unfortunately not always available and more of a point to point form of transportation.
When it comes to food, I never had foul as expensive as 25 SDG, outrageous! :] Always hovering around 15 and often satisfying two people. And those 5 SDG falafel sandwiches sure could use some vegetables or sauce added to it…
So here are some ramblings from me. But all you already have here is more than sufficient to navigate Sudan and feel somewhat confident in doing so. Thanks!
Hey, thank you so much for this trip report! Really appreciate it 🙂
Good to know that this currency devaluation won’t last for long. I will keep an eye on it!
Also didn’t know that you could register at the airport. Enjoy Ethiopia 🙂
The information is good. However, fuul is not the national dish – although it is eaten frequently (maybe a sandwich in the western world is a suitable comparison). Aseeda or kisra would be considered as more of a national dish. They will put a sauce over it such as tagiliya (closest comparison I can give is bolognese) or bamiya (gloopy okra based). There are other sauces, including a kind of chicken curry but I don’t know the names of these. I think it is a bit of a misconception that it is not possible to get good food – although it can be difficult as a tourist unless you have a local to help or speak Arabic. Often the best food is in peoples homes rather than restaurants.
Hi James, I am so jealous that you tried this dish! Yes, I fully agree that, in this part of the world, best meals are ALWAYS eaten at home, so in Egypt and many other Arab countries 🙂
I visirde Port Sudan end of December.
There is only the expensive top hotel Coral on the corniche (avenue along the coast). Stayed in Boheine hotel at 450 sdg (19.6118533, 37.2208425) near the sea. Also at Alatoun ( 19.612733,37.213873) near the souk. Both already basic.
Suakin was a disappointment. Only piles of coral stones remain on the island and two reconstructed mosques and the customs house. Lots of poverty and waste everywhere.
Thank you for this great, specific information Jozef. I have updated the guide accordingly 🙂
A short update from Khartoum.
If you do not like the accomdation @ the Youth Hostel, in the same street about 100 meter west there’s affordable Kh2 hotel run by hospitable Khaled, who speaks fine English.
Omdurman heading public transport leaves from Jackson bus station west from the Train station. In Omdurman, you find Imam Al-Mahdi tomb at GPS code 15.639591, 32.488507, while Named Al-Neel tomb, where the sufi chanting/dance takes place can be found at GPs 15.625162, 33.464271.
Really helpful, thanks!
Are there any restrictions with regards to bringing cameras or drones into the country?
Hi Andrew, I have no idea about drones but cameras, you are supposed to get a camera permit but seriously, nobody asks for it… I didn’t get it and was my whole journey with a camera hanging from my shoulder.
Not sure if I posted this one before:
I have an Egyptian-licensed car, and was told in Automobile Club in CAiro that I need a “Carnet de Passage” (called Tryptique now in Egypt) to cross to Sudan. It cost around US$150 (plus a bigger deposit) there. Is it recognized (useful) by Sudan? In the past I had the experience (in Syria) having bought this but not being recognized and having to buy again on the border.
Or is it better I wait and buy it at the border? Is it cheaper there?
Hi Michel, sorry but I can’t help you with this as I don’t really know about this… I guess that the company should have experience in border crossings from other clients right? They should know that
Wonderful blog!Thanks for giving out the best.
First of all thank you very much for your information.
If you plan to update the Sudan part maybee you think about to mention that a Sudan visa has to be used max. 60 days after beeing issued. That is what different sources in the internet tell.
I just wanted to thank you for the probably most amazing travel guide to Sudan out there. I’m planning on travelling there in winter and sure will use your great ideas for my trip.
Amazing man, thank you and have loads of fun there!
I have some Updates:
THE TRAVEL PERMIT TO MOVE AROUND THE COUNTRY IS NOT LONGER NEEDED
I red that at Lonely Planet Travelforum and I went to the Ministry of Tourism, Wildlife in Karthoum and they also told me its not necessary anymore.
1$ at the black market was between 38 SGD in Wadi Halfa and three weeks later in Karthoum about 45 SGD ( July 2018)
Crossing Sudan to Egypt Overland:
Bus from Wadi Halfa to Aswan 250 SGD
132 SGD leaving fee
130 Egyptian Pound Entering Fee (and 25$ for Visa on arrival)
Hi there! Apologies for my late reply but it is been some crazy days! I appreciate so much your updates and will update the post in a few days! Cheers!
This is excellent! I’d love to go but I’m terrified of the logistics once on the ground. And my fiancé is 6’4” and probably wouldn’t like the minibuses very much…
Also, in the first part of the article (before the list of destinations), you wrote Kalassa a couple times instead of Kassala. 🙂
Hi Sarah! Yes, to be very honest, Sudan involves a bit of hard-backpacking… However, I met quite a few people above 50 who were traveling with a private guide and absolutely loved it. Would you travel with a guide?
Thanks for the correction. I will change it right away!
Just a quick response – I’ve been traveling in Sudan twice now (once with my girlfriend) and I am 6’33. Normal coaches (quite nice ones at that) are common on most major routes and I don’t find Sudan to be any worse than most other places in that regard. Granted the world does not seem to be built for my size but what do…
Thanks for some wonderful articles on your blog! I’m going to Sudan in about a month and a half after traveling through Egypt.
I’m so excited and reading your few articles just makes me think I’ll have a great time off the grid.
I have one or two questions if you don’t mind 🙂
Did you sleep at some people’s house?
Did you just have a sleeping bag for your whole trip?
Do people ask money when you hitchhike? (although I don’t mind giving since they welcome me and i use their oil :D)
Hi Peter, great to hear that you are going to Sudan!
Here my replies:
1 – One day, a random house invitation.
2 – I always travel with a sleeping bag but didn’t use it there. Mine is too warm
3 – They never asked me for any money
ihi great read thanks… one thing… i need to gett a visa from the UK to travel to sudan in January 2019 . Do you know anyone who can supply the letter of invitation?
Hi Paul, I suggest you contact any reasonably good hotel in Khartoum. They can help you with the LOI for an extra cost. Cheers,
A standard source is Hotel Acropole in Khartoum. Not a “backpacker” price, but pleasant place with owners very useful other bureaucratic tasks.
Many thanks for your replies. I will use the Acropole as they have been very helpful. cheers P
Thank you so much for some really great articles on your blog! I’m going to Sudan in november through Egypt. I’ve wanted to go for a long time, and your blog is what made me decide that its really is possible to do it! 😀
I just have a few questions if you don’t mind; Approximately how much money (dollars) do you think I need for lets say 3-4 weeks in Sudan travelling the same route as you did?? I dont really like to travel with a lots of cash but I understand its necessary. I´m planning to cross the border from Sudan to Ethiopia after, so I hope to change the rest of my SDG to Birr on the border.
If I understand correctly, you don’t need a photo permit anymore?
I’m a photographer, planning to taking lots of pictures, in your experience how did most people react to this? I’m not looking for still pictures.. Travelled a lot in West African countries before, where it mostly were no problem.
Im travelling alone, anyone else travelling in Sudan in Nov-Dec of this year?? Or anyone with some extra tip, please share 🙂
Hi Victorya! I would say that a backpacking budget would never be higher than 20-30USD a day. As per the photo and travel permit, yes, it is not needed anymore according to quite a few travelers. As per the photos, everybody is pretty cool with that, except for some women. However, since you are also a woman, I am sure that it will be different.
FYI I will be there from the start of January and will be getting visa from somewhere in East Africa in Nov/Dec. Acropole Hotel has been brilliant and helpful.
Thanks for your blog! It was very usefull for my recent trip. The consulate in Aswan seems to stop issueing visas. Maybe even closed. End of September several people had to return to Cairo for visas. But looks like embassy in Cairo issues visas quickly and without LOI (although the cost is 150USD).
Crazy. Will need to update the article then. Thanks for the update 🙂
Yeah, I was lucky enough to find it out before and successfully got my visa (1 entry, 2 months, 50USD) in Moscow embassy without LOI, I did online bookings of a hotel and flight, that cancelled later. Seems sudanese facilitate visa issue process in general, so it would be usefull to contact a home or nearby embassy before going. I can confirm that you can jump from one bus to another on the border without paying extra, so I managed to reach Abri same day I left Egypt (Dongola could be possible as well, but I prefered to follow your route). Also it seems to be another bus Aswan – Khartoum via another road, but this case you skip Abu Simbel. Meroe, Naqa and Massawarat are also very easy from Khartoum for one day. You just need to start a journey from Khartoum early, buy a ticket to Atbara (not Shendi), take off next to pyramid site (I was there at 9am). After visit one you flag on the road to return to Shendi. In Shendi you can negotiate with a simple Hyundai taxi to go to Naqa and Massawarat, the road is not as awful, but quite hard. I paid 1000 pounds (20USD now) for all together. I didn’t return to Shendi (40 km back) and asked the driver to leave me at the check point next to the exit from the desert. The policemen helped me to hitchhike back to Khartoum as it was Saturday and all passing by buses where full.
Oh, the registration is possible at the border! After getting the entry stamp, the same officer will easily make a registration (it costs 540 pounds or so, a money changer sits opposite border control).
Man, you have done great at getting to Sudan. I always wanted to go there but due to me not be able to get a visa from Egypt, I had to leave it from my itinerary. I was so close in Aswan!
why you didn’t get it?
Do you know about the situation in Sudan, I will be in Aswan soon and I wonder about the safety of a travel in Sudan.
your answers 🙂 https://againstthecompass.com/en/safe-travel-sudan/
Going to Ethiopia:
Be as early as possible at al Qadarif.
The bus station is big, confusing, in the middle of nowhere and English is not too common.
I took a minibus to al Qadarif City. From the town a tuk tuk to a local bus station with minibuses to Gallabat. Both rides were pretty long.
On the border are money changers. If you have real money they offer a better rate for ETB. Remember, in Ethiopia it is nearby impossible to change any Birr back to real money.
I was told, on the Ethiopian side oft he border is a Hotel or something like this.
Before noon are buses to Gondar.
Be ca. 7.30h at the embassy in Kartoum. They have a queue system. If there are to many applicants you will be sent away for the next morning.
You can collect your visa the same day after 15 h.
The validity oft he visa starts with the day of issue.
Going to Wadi Halfa
The ferry from/to Abu Simbel does not operate on fridays.
From Kartoum are buses to Gonder etc.
Close to the Ethiopian embassy is a Ethiopian club. You will see the corresponding advertisments.
As I came from Kassala this was no option to me.
do you have any news from travellers who visited sudan since the unrests started last december? what do you think about going there now? i got my visa and planning to go there soon but only have informations from news outlets.
thanks a lot!
best wishes stefan
Honestly, nobody has told me anything about this topic but this usually means that the current unrests haven’t really affected any traveler
I was there for 10 days in late January. There was armed guards on all street corners in central Khartoum, and even tanks near the nile bridges. I bumped into a ‘tourist policeman’ who accompanied me to the pryamids. He and the taxi driver wouldnt take me to omdurman souk on one day because of protests. Otherwise I had no trouble and Sudan was the most wonderful place. Prices are cheaper than chips and the people are so warm and friendly – probably some of the friendliest i met (i was going cape town to cairo) They bought me meals and wanted nothing in return. Clearly a state of emergency changes things somewhat but the people are great!
hi john, thanks for your message, good to read about your experiences.
sounds like you had an epic trip travelling from capetown to cairo.
all the best, stefan
cheers.. it was virtually the best three months of my life! everyone so friendly so much fun and not one bad day! This blog site helped alot re Sudan too.
great to hear paul (sorry for calling you john;).
im looking forward a lot!
hope youll be on the road again soon.
Just came back from the consulate in Aswan. Time to wait for the visa is 3 days without any explanation. They said a “sponsor” or booking is important. Not sure if they check it though. Fee is still 150$
thanks for the update!
Thanks for this great guide, which I used to research my bicycle trip through Egypt and Sudan in early 2020. Just barely made it home in March before they closed everything down! I really appreciated your detailed notes, especially about visiting the archaeological sites. Just wanted to mention that I stayed in Dongola at the Olla Hotel and it was actually one of my favorite towns in Sudan. The market area was one of the friendliest and most relaxing I found anywhere in Sudan.
Thanks, Alissa for sharing your experience and glad you made it home just in time 🙂
Is yellow fever vaccine certificate needed to visit Sudan? I found conflicting information online (CDC: Required for arriving travelers from all countries if traveler is ≥1 year of age; WHO: a yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for travellers aged 1 year
or over arriving from countries with risk of yellow fever transmission). Thanks a lot!
I have never known much about vaccine requirements for each country. I have all exotic vaccines but not sure which one is needed for each country
Thank you Joan for an amazingly well made travel guide. It made us decide to go to Sudan without your contribution we wouldn’t have really known much about this country.
The only issue for us, as experienced backpackers but on budget, is if Sudan is still a cheap destination since your trip in 2016: there is crazy inflation and almost all the updates you give are about prices going up wheter for visas, or for attractions, or for accomodations, we are starting to wonder what the total expanse now in 2023 is gonna sum up to.
I am planning to go there too, but the VISA is an issue seems the embassy requires TRAVEL AGENCY LETTER.. AND quote is easy over 2000 USD for 4 days.. it’s not making sense to go through that troubles.. i am a backpacker, i am still searching other way to get the visa and try to travel in reasonable budget …
here’s the latest update on how to get a visa for Sudan: https://againstthecompass.com/en/visa-for-sudan/