Sudan may not be everyone’s idea of a dream vacation, but to the intrepid traveler it offers a wealth of experiences not easily found in more mainstream destinations. With a land area of one million square miles, it consists predominantly of vast plains, together with a section of the Sahara Desert to the north west and the Jebel Marra mountain range to the west.
The capital, Khartoum, is a modern, lively city where the Blue and White Nile join to form the River Nile, which makes its way northward for almost 500 miles through Sudan before reaching Egypt and eventually the Mediterranean Sea.
Sudan has something for everyone. To the east it boasts over 400 miles of coastline along the Red Sea, where snorkelers and scuba divers can enjoy the coral reefs and abundant marine life in crystal clear waters. The Al-Dinder wildlife park is one of the greatest game reserves in Africa and is a great location for safaris. Numerous hiking trails in the mountains have spectacular scenery, waterfalls and volcanic lakes. History and archaeology buffs will also find fulfilment in a country which has more pyramids than there are in Egypt.
Arabic and English are the two official languages, and the currency is the Sudanese pound/ $1 US is worth around 7 Sudanese pounds.
Public transportation within the city consists mainly of an inexpensive bus service, while taxis and motorized rickshaws provide a more personal means of transit. Intercity services are mainly based on bus transport with a limited train service from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa, where the Egyptian border is, and to the Red Sea at Port Sudan. For those wishing to explore the country, hiring a car will provide independence from the constraints of the public transport system, while opening up opportunities for reaching locations not adequately served by the public network.
You can drive in Sudan provided you have a valid national or international license for up to 3 months. Driving conditions are different than what you might be used to, and there are a few things to watch out for.
You should be aware that only main roads and city streets are properly surfaced, with most other roads suffering from uneven surfaces and poor maintenance. Traffic lights are present on major roads in Khartoum, but not in use elsewhere. Lack of proper street lighting means that driving at night should be avoided unless absolutely necessary. Driving standards are generally poor with local drivers exceeding speed limits, flouting regulations, and stopping in the road suddenly. Overloaded vehicles and vehicles without lights are commonplace. One frequently encounters pedestrians and animals in the road. Many car hire companies also offer drivers as part of their service.
When travelling outside of Khartoum or visiting tourist sites a permit is required which may be obtained from your hotel or travel agent. When venturing outside mainstream areas it is highly advisable to carry spare tires and extra fuel, since gas stations are few and far between.
Dust and sand storms (known as haboobs) can occur in northern and western Sudan, reducing visibility and sometimes covering roads with sand. In the south of the country, roads can be impassable between March to October, when it is the rainy season. Be very careful when in the vicinity of sensitive areas such as military installations, border areas and camps for displaced persons. Do not take photographs in these areas. Be aware that there are areas of unrest in the country, so always check official advice before traveling.