Permits and other legal requirements
- If traveling to any areas the government considers unstable, independent travelers in Sudan (certainly those with their own cars and perhaps those using public transportation) must get a Permit To Travel. Obtaining one is a time-consuming process that costs USD15 and takes about a day (in Wadi Halfa). The Northern State, as well as the route to Ethiopia, do not need travel permits. If you’re traveling near Eritrea, Darfur, or southern Kordofan, you’ll need them. As a result of the assault on Omdurman in May 2008, security has been tightened, and this information may be outdated.
- On arrival in any town or city, independent travelers must also register with the police. Once the police point has been found, this is a pretty fast and easy process – and the police will frequently hear about your coming and find you before you find them. Re-registration may no longer be required in certain municipalities.
Sudan Airways has one of Africa’s worst safety records, with over a dozen deadly accidents in the past 10 years.
Apart from Khartoum, Sudan Airways [www]. serves minor airports at Wadi Halfa, El Debba, Dongola, Port Sudan, El Fasher, Wad Madani, Merowe, and El Obeid. The majority of flights depart from Khartoum. Be ready for flight cancellations and changes in schedules.
Even though Sudan boasts one of Africa’s biggest rail networks, most of it is in disrepair. However, there is new cause to be optimistic about rail travel in Sudan. The Nile Express currently transports passengers between Khartoum and Atbara on rebuilt lines, thanks to new trains imported from China. More lines are being repaired, but other services are currently restricted to local trains in and around Khartoum, a weekly trip from Wadi Halfa that coincides with the boat to and from Egypt, and an occasional service with Nyala. Sudan Railways Corporation. is the country’s only railway operator.
Sudanese driving is hectic, though not particularly hazardous by African standards. Visitors who are unfamiliar with foreign driving should take a cab or hire a driver. A 4WD is required for much of the nation; Sudan’s main highway is paved for part of the trip, but the majority of the country’s roads are dirt or sand tracks. Crossing into Sudan from Egypt via the boat from Aswan to Wadi Halfa now enjoys the advantage of a Chinese-funded asphalt roadway that runs 400 kilometers south to Dongola and then 500 kilometers to Khartoum. Because there are few military checkpoints and little other traffic, this route is ideal for overlanders.
While buses run regularly in more heavily trafficked regions, residents in more isolated places prefer to utilize trucks or “boxes” (Toyota Hiluxes), which are typically just as packed as buses but have fewer people riding on top and are less likely to get stuck in the sand. They usually leave after they’re full, which may take up to half a day. If you have enough money, you can rent the whole place to yourself.
Legally, it is permissible to cycle across Sudan, but it is best not to specify your method of transportation when applying for a travel permit. Cycling may frequently entail pushing the bike over sand or rattling through corrugations, but the beauty and friendliness of the Sudanese people may make up for the physical and bureaucratic difficulties. Make sure there is clean, drinking water available. Theft is rarely an issue, and leaving bicycles alone in villages and towns is usually safe. Flies, thorny trees that pierce easily, and, in the extreme north, a lack of shade, may all be major annoyances.