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Sudan is not a country to visit for traditional sightseeing or a typical tourist experience, but rather a destination for those keen to get totally off the beaten track and meet people largely untouched by the preoccupations of the developed world.
In the north, the Nubian Desert forms a large part of the country, where huge clay water pots can be seen under every tree or shady shelter to provide much-needed sustenance in the heat. In contrast, the narrow strip of land running the length of the Nile River is lush and green. Desert towns have wide, dusty roads, which seem eerily empty at midday due to the heat. In the evenings, however, the streets come alive with movement and colour, the women's vivid wrap-around clothing and hennaed fingers standing out from the crisp, white kaftans and turbans of the men. Beyond these barren desert reaches, the south is characterised by swamps and rainforest but is generally considered less safe for travellers.
Torn into North and South Sudan by cultural and religious disputes, it is the north that occupies the largest area and includes most of the urban centres, including the capital, Khartoum. The largely Muslim, Arabic-speaking population of this area are proud of their country and will take great delight in showing it off. For those in search of what Sudan has to offer, the peaceful capital at the junction of the White and Blue Niles, and its sister city Omdurman, are good places to begin, with the National Museum, a large (covered market), camel market, and the Tomb of the Mahdi. To the north of Khartoum are the ruins of the Royal City of Meroe as well as the pyramids in which the kings are buried. Kassala to the east boasts a wonderful known for its local variety of fruit and silver jewellery, and a desert landscape dominated by , or hills. The war-torn south is largely rural and lacking in infrastructure, and holds little of interest for tourists.
Sudan has been afflicted by violent civil wars for nearly half a century, and more often than not makes headlines for the wrong reasons. However, outside of the main conflict areas the country is generally considered safe to travel in, and those who get there will be treated with extreme courtesy and friendliness. The Sudanese take Arabic hospitality very seriously and it is unlikely that a traveller will pass by without an invitation to share in a meal or to visit someone's home. Travellers are advised to avoid all travel to certain parts of Sudan - mostly the southern states and border areas - and are advised to do comprehensive research prior to travel, taking government travel alerts into account.
Khartoum has a hot desert climate. July and August are the only months that feature any significant rainfall. The annual precipitation levels in Khartoum average about five inches (127mm). Khartoum is one of the hottest cities in the world, with summer temperatures averaging as high as 107°F (42°C). There are no distinct seasons in Khartoum, but the hottest months are May and June and the coolest months are December and January, when average high temperatures drop to approximately 86°F (30°C). Although daytime temperatures are painfully hot, temperatures cool off considerably during the night. It is worth noting that from mid-July to September Khartoum experiences sandstorms.
The official currency is the Sudanese Pound (SDG), which is divided into 100 piastres. It is advisable to bring cash, preferably in US dollars, rather than rely on credit card facilities. Receipts should be kept after changing money at banks and bureaux de change. Banking hours are from Saturday to Thursday from 8.30am to, at least, 12pm.
Arabic is the official language, but English is quite widely spoken.
Electrical current is 230 volts, 50Hz. Round two- and three-pin plugs are in use.
US nationals: US nationals require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas on arrival can be obtained for a maximum of 60 days if travellers are in possession of an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
UK nationals: UK nationals require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers have an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
CA nationals: Canadians require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers have an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
AU nationals: Australians require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers have an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
ZA nationals: South Africans require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas on arrival can be obtained for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers are in permission of an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
IR nationals: Irish nationals require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers have an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
NZ nationals: New Zealand nationals require a passport valid for six months and a visa for entry into Sudan. Visas can be obtained on arrival for a maximum of 60 days provided travellers have an entry permit granted by the Sudanese Ministry of Interior.
Most nationalities require a visa for entry to Sudan. Visitors should be aware that if their passport contains evidence of a visit to Israel, a visa for Sudan will be refused, as will entry to the country even if in possession of a valid visa. Only holders of a business visa or permit may conduct business in Sudan. Entry visas are valid for one entry only, unless otherwise stated. Extensions of stays are possible and should be paid at the Ministry of Interior. All travellers need to register with the Aliens Department at the Ministry of Interior within three days of arrival in Sudan - hotels may do this automatically but it is worth checking. It is highly recommended that passports have at least six months validity remaining after your intended date of departure from your travel destination. Immigration officials often apply different rules to those stated by travel agents and official sources.
A yellow fever certificate is required by those arriving from an infected country. Malaria is rife and malaria medication is recommended for travel to all parts of the country; dengue fever also occurs, so precautions against mosquito bites should be taken. Vaccinations are recommended for hepatitis A, hepatitis B, typhoid and meningococcus. Water and food-borne diseases are common and travellers should purify drinking water and carry anti-diarrhoeal drugs.
Medical facilities in Khartoum are adequate for routine problems, but the war has resulted in a shortage of medicine and hospital equipment; visitors should ensure they have comprehensive medical insurance, which should include evacuation by air ambulance.
On the 11 April 2019 there was a coup d'etat in Sudan, with President Bashir being replaced by a military council. All non-essential embassy staff have been removed from the country, and travellers intending to visit the country are advised to consider carefully whether their trip is necessary. Those already in the country should consider leaving by commercial means. The situation in the country and in the capital, Khartoum, remains fragile and changeable. All visitors are advised to exercise caution, avoid all large protests or gatherings, and to follow the instructions of local authorities.
Northern Sudan and Khartoum are predominantly Islamic, and religious customs and sensitivities should be respected, particularly with regard to dress and public conduct. Women, in particular, should wear loose fitting clothes that cover most of the body, although covering the head is unnecessary. Eating, drinking and smoking in public during the holy month of Ramadan should be avoided, as it is forbidden by Islam. Sharia law applies in Sudan. Travel outside of Khartoum may require a permit and visitors arriving in any town or city are required to register with the police. Photography permits are also required by anyone intending to take photographs while in the country; certain subjects are forbidden. Homosexuality is illegal. Visitors are advised to avoid political discussion and any kind of street protest.
The international dialling code for Sudan is +249. The outgoing code is 00 followed by the relevant country code (e.g. 0044 for the UK). City codes are in use e.g. (0)183 for Khartoum. Outgoing international calls must go through the operator. Some top hotels and restaurants in Khartoum offer wifi, and free international calls can be made over the internet.
The import and export of local currency is prohibited. Passengers over the age of 20 can bring in 200 cigarettes or 50 cigars or 450g of tocabbo; perfume for personal use; and a reasonable amount of gifts into the country duty-free. Alcohol is prohibited, as are goods from Israel.
Embassy of Sudan, Washington, D.C., United States: +1 202 338 8565
Embassy in Sudan, London, United Kingdom: +44 20 7839 8080
Embassy of Sudan, Ottawa, Canada: +1 613 235 4000
Embassy of Sudan, Canberra, Australia (also responsible for New Zealand): +61 2 6290 2635
Embassy of the Republic of Sudan, Pretoria, South Africa: +021 342 4538
Embassy of Sudan, Dublin, Ireland: +353 1537 1441
Embassy of the United States, Khartoum, Sudan: +249 18 702 2000
British Embassy, Khartoum, Sudan: +249 156 775500
Embassy of Canada, Khartoum, Sudan: +249 156 550 500
Australian Embassy, Cairo, Egypt (also responsible for Sudan): +202 2770 6600
Embassy of South Africa, Khartoum, Sudan: +249 183 585 301
Irish Honorary Consulate, Khartoum, Sudan: +249 155 117 886
Public transport in Khartoum consists of minibuses which cover most destinations within the city and operate throughout the day and late into the evening. Private taxis are available and fares can be negotiated. Motorised rickshaws, locally referred to as bajajs or rakshas, provide a cheaper mode of private transport. Rickshaws are best used only for short trips within Khartoum. For trips where one needs to cross the Nile it is better to use a taxi or minibus. Travellers who want to get around at their own pace can hire a car in Khartoum. Car hire companies can also provide tourists with a local driver for an additional fee.
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