A quick few Sudan notes:

We travelled this in January 2011.

For the full story of our travels, you’re welcome to have a look at the Blog on www.pictureafrica.org or http://africapicture.blogspot.com/. The purpose of this thread is to mention the places we stayed Sudan, how much we paid and how we found it. I’ll also mention the annoyances of the area to hopefully prepare future travellers a little better.

You will get an amazing array of different stories about how to enter Sudan and how much it costs. Most of them will be from people who are travelling from North to South and will somehow have horror stories about the Aswan/Wadi Halfa ferry. However, at our time of travel we reached the Galabad border post from Ethiopia and found it fairly easy: The formalities are, as with all other border crossings fairly straight forward for most of the part. First you see the man at immigration. It was confirmed that our time in Sudan did not start on the day the visa was issues. We were lucky enough to get a two month visa in Nairobi and our two months started the day we entered the country.

At Immigration they asked for a photo copy of the passport, the visa and one photograph. No money was needed and we asked the official to point us to the customs place.

At customs we saw one man who filled in the carnet and a register. He took 20 minutes to clean a chair for me to sit on before taking half an hour to write everything he needed to down. He then sent us to pay our tax, or carbon tax, or import permit or something. It was SDG 13.50 ($4.70). With receipt in hand you return to the guy in the first office who then stamps your carnet. Just as you think you are done, you get sent to another security office. That was a man who took down our passport details and sent us on our way. There was one more check of paperwork when we left the border. The total process took us 1 hour to complete. We did not register as aliens there as we were told that we had to do that in Khartoum.

Registration, travel permits and photo permits:
It took us 8 hours to find the right place to register in Khartoum. The man at the Blue Nile sailing Club was willing to do it for us, but wanted $15 for his efforts, which we felt was a bit much. The office, the right one, which will not move in the near future is at N15 33.532 E32 32.192 and not in any other place the various maps, gps’s and people may tell you. The cost is a total of SDG 110 per passport and the process, once you know where to go, takes no longer than 1 hour. You will need a photo and some copies of some paperwork which can be done there. You will also need a letter from your host in the country. At Blue Nile that was free and easy to get.

The roads we travelled we were never asked for travel permits and we did not have any. We also did not have a photo permit and was never asked for one. I took about 2 000 photos in Sudan including pics of people and markets and instead of people shying away from cameras; they openly encourage you to photograph them.

No bank accepted foreign cards when we were there. It is however easy to change US$ to SDG (Sudanese Pounds) and the rate at the forex places was about 20% better than the internet rate at the time. You can not really pay anything in the country with other currencies, but you can always find someone to change US$ if you need to. Don’t get caught without money though. We spared no expenses and saw all the sites and spent about $55 a day we were in the country. All the temples and sites are around $8 per person entry.

Fuel food and water:
Readily available and much cheaper than anywhere south of Sudan. We changed SDG at 3 to 1 US$ and diesel was SDG1.13 at the cheapest place and SDG1.45 at the most expensive. We travelled about 2 450km in total.

Every village had a market, but the selections are limited. You get tomatoes, aubergine, potatoes and onions everywhere and often carrots, cucumber and zucchini. Citrus is available everywhere, but we found it a little pricy. Bananas are easy to find and quite cheap. Meat is everywhere at about $3 per kg for beef and it seems clean and good quality.

Water is surprisingly easy to come by. You will see clay pots everywhere with water in. Those are communal water places where everyone is welcome to have a drink. Often you will a tap next to them with a hose pipe used to fill them. Be aware that the water all comes from the Nile river and mostly straight from it. We filtered it for drinking and our friends used purifying tablets. None of us had any issue. We also washed our hands outside restaurants, drank the local coffee and ate buckets of Fuul (Brown bean stew) without problems. We did find Sudan quite pricey on food compared to the countries further south though... However, if you hang around a village for long enough, you will probably get invited for a meal which you will not be able to pay for even if you try really hard!

Places we stayed:
Gedoref Bushcamp (N14 07.043 E34 12.458)
Some people call it “free camp” some “rough camp” and some “Bushcamp” The basics are that you find a nice place, away from people where you can pitch your camp and stay for the night. This was our first stay in Sudan and we tucked in behind a hill, hiding us from the main road. We were still bothered by the noise of traffic, but it was really the only place in a big area where we could camp wild.

Blue Nile sailing Club (T4A N15 36.697 E32 32.076)
Honestly, it was a hole! The facilities were terrible and spectacularly dirty. In fact, before I could take my very cold shower in the faeces infested room I had to remove a used sanitary pad from the plug hole… The charge $5 per person and another $5 for the car for that pleasure and have a weak wifi signal which was average speed at best. Soooooo. Best to avoid it if you can.

Naqa Bushcamp (N16 25.417 E33 20.068)
The temples of Naqa and Amun are awesome in the late afternoon. The man selling the tickets will point you in the right direction of where to bush camp. The waypoint where we stayed was actually closer than allowed to the temple, but hidden behind a hill so the police could not see us. It was close to the Musawwarat Ruin which in our experience was not worth the entrance fee. The track to get to both places is fairly deep sand and 4 wheel drive is necessary.

Meroe Pyramids Bushcamp (T4A N16 56.001 E33 45.323)
The pyramids themselves are probably the most impressive site in Sudan. When we were there we were the only tourists in site and the ticket was valid for the afternoon as well as the next morning. The camping spot is behind a huge dune but with a view over the pyramids. You can hide a little from the desert winds there which makes it ideal as well. To get there you do need to brave fairly deep sand and 4 wheel drive is essential.

Jebel Barkal Bushcamp (N18 32.261 E31 49.203)
This place was a gem in deed. The only thing separating us from a tar road and some pyramids was a dine high enough to totally hide us from the outside world. It wasn’t a big place, but you could get at least two vehicles in there. We actually asked the police where to free camp in the area and they suggested this direction. As for the sites around Kerma, once again worth every penny and should not be missed.

Dongola Bushcamp (N19 06.342 E30 29.766)
This was fairly close to the Temple of Kawa which is totally buried under the sand, so not really worth a visit. The area was the first place we found without wind in the desert, but it also had thousands of little flies buzzing around. The good news was that they all disappeared after sunset.

Deffufa Bushcamp (N19 43.254 E30 25.061)
It is with great sadness that I have to say that this place has been used by too many travelers. I know this because of the amount of feces and toilet paper people left on the surface instead of busying it deep in the soft sand. The area however offers many opportunities for camping as it is covered in granite hills you hide in between.

Now Deffufa, the biggest mud brick structure in the world is not at all where any of our gps maps said it would be. In fact, none of our maps even showed any of the roads leading to the parking area which was at N19 36.015 E30 24.711. It is however pretty easy to find by simply following the most traveled road along the Nile north of town.

Sai Island Bushcamp (N20 43.084 E30 19.842)
We found a working ferry that ran from the mainland to Sai Island. The return cost for 4 people and one Land Cruiser was about $15. The position of the3 ferry moves around depending on corrosion of the banks, but we found it at N20 45.103 E30 19.938. The island itself had some interesting archeological sites and an active dig. There is nothing much else there, but it is a fantastically chilled place to hang out. The one thing to be aware of is that the ferry does not normally run of Fridays or Sundays. We had to leave in a Sunday and had to pay a bit of baksheesh to get the captain out of bed.

Wawa Bushcamp (N20 26.572 E30 22.078)
The area around Wawa is very flat in deed and very dusty as well. We found a track that led into the desert and drove until we found alone. We still saw other people around that afternoon, but no one bothered us in the slightest. The reason for staying there was to visit the Temple of Soleb, which was on the west bank of the river. To get there by vehicle we would have had to backtrack to Dongola to cross. If you have the time, that would be highly recommended!

If you don’t have the time, you can find a man with a boat at the bus station in town at N20 26.881 E30 20.584. For about $16 he gave us tea, lunch and a ride across the river to see the temple. The ticket man is his friend who also offered us food and drinks. There is a massive language barrier here, but somehow we got by. I’m pretty sure that if we asked we would have been able to sleep by the bus station.

Abri Bushcamp (N20 48.319 E30 20.627)
No visit to the village of Abri would be complete without running into Magzoub, the self appointed tourism chief of Nubians. He came up to us in town, helped us to buy some vegetables and invited us to stay on his land. We camped out right next to the Nile behind a mud brick wall protecting us from the wind. He is also busy building a guest house in town which would be great to stay at when it is finished. Oh yeh, he never asked for money and when we offered it he refused…

Wadi Halfa Bushcamp (N21 45.307 E31 23.679)
Wadi Halfa is a tiny little dusty place and no one should spend more time than necessary there. We were told that the “Kilopetra” hotel was the only place clean enough to put the bad mattresses on the floor, so we decided to rather stay in the desert. The place we chose was only a fifteen minute drive away and far enough from the main road so that we could not be seen. The whole area is deserted and anywhere will probably be ok.

Magdi’s House (N21 47.718 E31 23.037)
I’m pretty sure anyone who enters or leaves Sudan will have something to do with the infamous Magdi. We heard and read one or two horror stories about the man, but can report only good things. We met him at the Kilopetra Hotel in the morning before our ferry departed and he immediately sprang into action to get our paperwork sorted. Be bought our ferry tickets, sorted out our immigration and got our Carnet stamped. We stayed in his house and ate his food and drank gallons and gallons of hot drinks. The day of departure he walked us through the process and right onto the actual ferry without once asking for money. I had to leave the keys to the car with him as the cargo barge was not there yet. He drove it on the next day and left the keys in a pre determined place. The total fee for our accommodation, food and all services was $30 and his was worth at least three times that.

The leaving process:
Much has been written about the dreaded ferry from Wadi to Aswan and the opposite way around. Our experience was very straight forward and could not have been easier. I can not help but think that had a lot to do with Magdi himself, but for those who would like to brave it themselves, the process and costs are like this:

First you have to see the Immigration office in town to fill in some paperwork. If you arrive at the ferry port without it, you need to backtrack the 8km to go get it. The office is right behind the Kilopetra Hotel. It is a turquoise building around N21 47.972 E31 21.005. Once you have that piece of paper you can buy your ferry ticket. We did not bother with a cabin and did not really regret it either.

I’m not sure where Mr. Carnet in Wadi is as Magdi dealt with all that the day before we left. I’m guessing he is at the port. The day of departure you can start your boarding process at 14:00. The boat does not actually leave before 17:00, but it’s a good idea to leave a couple of hours free. In the port you will do the final immigration and security clearance. You’re vehicle will be looked at by the customs guy and then you can march onto the ferry. When we traveled I counted a total of eight people on the deck. It was winter though, and apparently going the other way is usually chaotic and people struggle for space.

Coming from Sudan you will be used to eating Fuul and bread, so the food on board is actually fairly nice. You get one meal included in your ticket price, but can buy breakfast the next morning. The toilets were nowhere near as disgusting as everyone told us they would be.

Now the cost. Bottom line for two of us and one Land Cruiser, including the $30 fee for Magdi was $471. The car was $340 of that. Remember that you can not get money in Sudan, so in your budget, allow for at least that to get you into Egypt.