All on board
Travel in Sudan is never cheap, or convenient. The railway used to be the main link, but nowadays is mainly used for transporting goods.
Travel to Port Sudan from Khartoum takes about an hour by air but nearer 12 hours by train and slightly less by road.
Travel to the north is still possible by rail though there are a few airports and a road has been started, already past Shendi , Merowe and destination Dongola.
Buses to the Gezira, Sennar etc are frequent.
Travel to the South is not possible at this time, except by air, and the service is irregular.
Travel to the west is either by bus-lorry which is fairly cheap but uncomfortable, by rail, or by road to El Obeid. There is also air travel to El Obeid, Elasher and Nyala.
In towns there are taxis, minibuses, buses and nowadays the pest of a 'ricksha'Related to:
- Road Trip
- Budget Travel
If yuo would like to see some of Sudan's sights outside Khartoum, a four wheel drive is a good idea. George at the Acropole Hotel organised a car and a driver for us to go to Meroe for the day. The cost was $240.00. Included in that price was the entrance fees, an airconditioned car, English-speaking driver, a picnic lunch and bottled water.Related to:
- Road Trip
One of the most exciting ways of travelling around Sudan, is on camel back. Camel riding trips can be anything from a few minutes to several days. By travelling in this way, you get an insight into what life is like for the nomads that live in these deserts, whose way of life has not changed for centuries. Camel riding is surprisingly comfortable, and a good was to take in the passing scenery at a slow pace.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Being a group of eleven with a guide, we had a small tourist bus to ourselves, which meant that we could go to any of the attractions in any order without having to rely on public transport. The bus was not airconditioned, but the windows opened to let some air in, although that did also let the dust in.
The good, the bad.. and the ugly!
Bussing around Sudan can be quite a pleasant surprise. Between the big cities (Khartoum, Port Sudan, Kassala, El Obeid, Medani etc) the roads are fairly good (particularly the northern ones built by Osama bin Laden) and you can get luxury buses - similar to National Express in the UK. You get a meal (admittedly not very good), drinks, a TV (although after a few dodgy Egyptian soap operas you might wish it was broken), air con and comfy reserved seats. It all comes at a price naturally - varying for different companies - trips cost up to about $15 one way. There are even some great service station type rest stops, particularly on the road to El Obeid. You might get a seat on the day but it's best to book in advance. Go to Souk Shaabi in Khartoum.
If you're on a tighter budget, or going somewhere smaller, then you'll have to go a bit more downmarket. The other buses are far more crowded, slower and much older. But even many of these aren't really that bad, particularly the minibuses.
However, some of the larger buses are your more typical 'African' bus, with people clinging to the roof and you sharing your space with goats and chickens. They're very cheap and colourful, but not that cheerful after you've been squashed to death by a 20 stone African woman and her 10 kids, who I always seem to end up next to!Related to:
- Business Travel
- Budget Travel
The ultimate budget travel in Sudan is on the roof of a truck. There are trucks transporting goods right across the country and most drivers supplement their income by picking up passengers. It's not comfortable but it does give great views, a real sense of adventure and with the right fellow passengers can be quite a laugh.
They can be unbelievably slow, which can be a nightmare considering the scenery in much of Sudan gets very monotonous. My worst truck journey was in Kordofan when it took 11 hours to travel less than 100 kms, sitting on the roof in the blazing heat with hardly any water. But you do meet some interesting people!Related to:
- Budget Travel
How do you get in?!
One of the most common questions about Sudan is just how to get in, and out. Obviously the easiest way is to fly - Khartoum is the country's only international airport and numerous airlines use it, including the national irline Sudan Airways.
More interesting is to come by land. Nine countries border Sudan but most borders are closed. Kenya, Congo, Uganda, and usually Central African Republic are not possible due to the wars. There are frequent stories of people attempting to cross into Libya dying of thirst and heat - there are hundreds of miles of empty desert between any kind of settlement. Borders with Chad and Eritrea are sometimes open, depending on the current situation. At the time of writing both are firmly closed for the forseeable future
The best bets are Ethiopia and Egypt. The Ethiopian border has become more reliable recently after an inconsistent period - it's a nightmare truck or bus journey though - although a new modern road is planned. The crossing via Egypt is almost always open - by ferry at Wadi Halfa over Lake Nasser.
There's not much chance by boat and there are no public ferries over the Red Sea to Saudi Arabia, Yemen etc. Ships do dock at Port Sudan though so the more intrepid traveller might find some way to do it.Related to:
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To travel round Northern Sudan requires crossing the rivers, both the Nile and the Atbara. North of Khartoum there are no bridges so crossing relies on ferries at various stations dotted along the banks.
The ferries are fantastic experiences - they certainly wouldn't pass safety standards back home but they can be a lot of fun. Often packed to the roof (and including lots of people on the roof!), they're used for everything from individuals going home after a shopping trip, to herds of camels, to pan-Africa trucks.
The trucks usually get stuck trying to get up the steep banks at each side and whole villages are involved in pulling them up by rope!
See my Nile Ferry travelogue for some more photos...
On camel's back
In the western province of Kordofan in the villages, the only way to move around easily apart from walking is on donkey or camel back.
These were the normal means of transport in many parts of the Sudan especially in rural areas. The nomadic tribes would pile all their possessions on the camels and move in search of grazing with their herds of animals. the women would sit in a covered tent on the camel's back.
Camels can still be seen in all parts of Sudan.Related to:
- Adventure Travel
Arriving by land
Sudan has borders with many countries, but most of them are closed. The main border crossing used by tourists is the ferry between Wadi Halfa and Aswan. This is an epic journey, which sounds like an adventure but borders on the mundane, especially if you end up with no seat on the train and have to hang around in Wadi Halfa for days. See my Wadi Halfa page for my trip notes. The Eritrean border closed in November 2002 after Sudanese rebels attacked Kassala from over the border, and since then relations between the two countries have soured somewhat. There used to be direct buses between Kassala and Asmara, but the only people who cross this border nowadays are smugglers, who are rumoured to risk taking a foreigner with them for $300...take the plane, it is cheaper! Currently the Ethiopian border is open, and the easiest route is between Gedarif and Gondar...a road is being paved, but it is still a fair trek so I'm told. The west of Sudan is fairly lawless at the moment, with all the problems in Darfur, so routes to Chad and the CAR are off limits, although I did meet a German cyclist who had come from Chad after getting a Sudanese visa through not entirely legal means, so I guess it must be possible if you are brave or silly. Apparently there are buses which head to Libya across the desert from Omdurman, but it is not that uncommon for them to break down or get lost. This route is mostly travelled by those fleeing Sudan and places south on their way to Europe illegally, so a tourist would just arouse suspicion. The other borders (Kenya, Uganda, Zaire/Congo) are all closed to all but aid workers, due to the "situation" in the south of Sudan...although rumour has it that things may improve soon, now that a peace agreement has been signed. Inshallah...
Arriving by air
You'll probably arrive in Khartoum Airport, and there are a number of airlines flying from there...most of the Middle Eastern carriers, Ethiopian Airlines, and a few European ones, as well as the national carrier Sudan Airways. I arrived from London with Sudan Airways, which was an experience...the service is maybe not quite as polished as other airlines (broken TV, poor food, cramped seats, utter shambles whenever passengers are boarding or leaving during stopovers), it runs on Sudanese time (i.e. it flies at any time other than that specified on the ticket, the later the better), and it costs almost as much as better airlines...if I'd known, I could have paid an extra $30 and flown with Emirates, which I think is a slightly better airline! British Airways no longer flies here, but Air France and Lufthansa do apparently. The cheapest tickets from Europe are with Yemenia (one of my favourites for sheer entertainment), Egyptair and Qatar Airways.
A Railway Network Does Exist!
I haven't had the opportunity to travel in Sudan by train yet, but this is the up-to-date information I've got about the railway network:
From Khartoum to Wadi Halfa
The train to Wadi Halfa departs from Khartoum Baharri every Monday at 10.30AM. It travels at approxomately 45 km/h and stops at Shendi for two hours and Atbara for 3 hours. The whole journey takes 34 hours for the 897 km trip inshallah (God willing).
1st class ticket - 6470 SDD
2nd class ticket - 5440 SDD
3rd class ticket - 4700 SDD
From Atbara to Port Sudan
The journey takes around 30 hours and leaves on the first Monday every month at 8PM.
1st class ticket - 3898 SDD
2nd class ticket - 3394 SDD
3rd class ticket - 2829 SDD
The rumours say that there really is no big differance between 1st and 3rd class tickets on the train and it's supposed to be a very uncomfortable and hot journey.Related to:
- Budget Travel
A Boksi (plural Bokasi) is a Toyota pick up. Often they are the only transport to reach remote areas. They are never ever full! Its amazing how many people, animals, goods or whatever can be put in, on or attachted to such a car.
Its also unbelievable where these vehicles manage to got to. Without differentials or 4x4 and they will mangage to reach the destination - sooner or later. Expect breakdowns. Running out of fuel, punctures or engine problems are nothing to talk about but part of the daily life while travelling in Sudan.Related to:
- Road Trip
Busses – Busses go everywhere! There are different type of busses with AC or without, with stops only at major destinations or everywhere. Compare the prices!
In the case of a bus being over crowed (what is normal in the remote areas) women will find a seat inside and the men on top of the bus.
Busses between major destination will not stop to pick someone up en route, as they have to issue a passengers lists before departure. This list will be checked at different police check points along the route.
Busses leave usually near the markets known as Souq es ShabiRelated to:
The national airline is Sudan Airways, also known as Insha'allah Airlines! 'God willing' it leaves on time and arrives in one piece! Last year's terrible crash aside, it's not as bad as you'd expect and as safe as most. But there are plenty of comfier options that I'd use first.
Sudan Air is also famous for waking you up to have breakfast at 4am, just as you finally manage to get to sleep! The term 'insha'allah airlines' is reflected by the pilots and staff and it can be a bit disconcerting the number of times the pilots say 'inshallah'! Nothing wrong with having God on your side of course but it'd be nice to think the pilot had some faith in himself too!
Africa Road, P.O. Box 12290, Khartoum, Sudan
Good for: Couples
Port Sudan, 79800, Sudan
Good for: Couples
I stayed in this hotel for one month on May 2013. I have honestly found it to be the best hotel in...more
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