What makes Sudan a unique country to travel to?
Sudan is a diverse, developing country in northeastern Africa. The capital city is Khartoum. In July 2011, Sudan divided into two nations as a part of a peace agreement signed in 2005. The new nation of South Sudan was formed following a referendum on secession held in January 2011. A multi-party conflict continues in the Darfur region in western Sudan. Security conditions are adverse in Darfur and in the states of South Kordofan and Blue Nile. Transportation networks and other forms of infrastructure are poor and do not meet western standards. Even where available, water and electric services suffer frequent outages.
There is a high risk of crime in certain areas of Sudan, particularly in the Darfur and border regions. Crimes against persons or property are infrequent in Khartoum and the surrounding area, but you should follow common-sense security measures, such as keeping an eye on backpacks or hand luggage.
You should try to avoid crowded public areas and public gatherings, and avoid traveling alone outside of Khartoum if possible. Report instances of anti-U.S. acts or crimes targeting westerners to the U.S. Embassy, and report all incidents of crime to the Sudanese police.
When flying, you should maintain constant contact with your baggage and ensure it does not contain illicit items, such as alcohol, pornography, or military ordinance. U.S. citizens have been removed from international airlines and detained when suspect items have been detected in checked baggage.
Carjackings and armed robberies occur in western Sudan. Sexual assault is more prevalent in areas of armed conflict. Travelers who do not use the services of reputable travel firms or knowledgeable guides or drivers are especially at risk. Travel outside of Khartoum should be undertaken with a minimum of two vehicles so that there is a backup in case of mechanical failure or other emergency. Solo camping is always risky.
Don’t buy counterfeit and pirated goods, even if they are widely available. Not only are the bootlegs illegal in the United States, if you purchase them you may also be breaking local law.
While you are traveling in Sudan you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. In some places you may be taken in for questioning if you don’t have your passport with you. The possession or consumption of alcohol is prohibited by law in Sudan. Sudan has strict laws concerning matters of morality; for example, men and women cannot cohabitate (including staying in a hotel together) unless they are married to each other.
All travelers, including journalists, must obtain a photography permit before taking any photographs. Even with a photography permit, photographing military facilities, bridges, drainage stations, broadcast stations, public utilities, slum areas, and beggars is prohibited.
If you break local laws in Sudan, your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. Authorities have been known to hold a foreigner’s passports during investigations, which can take weeks or months to conclude. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not while you’re in Sudan. Persons violating Sudan’s laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possessing, using, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sudan are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Attempting to convert Muslims to another religion is illegal in Sudan, and it is a crime punishable by imprisonment and even death.
There are also some acts that might be legal in the country you visit, but still illegal in the United States, and you can be prosecuted under U.S. law if you buy pirated goods. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in Sudan, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. However, it is not unusual that the U.S. Embassy is not notified by the Government of Sudan of the arrest of a U.S. citizen. Even if notified, the U.S. Embassy is often not allowed access to arrested/detained U.S. citizens.
Dual-nationals must be aware that the Sudanese government may not recognize your U.S. citizenship, and if detained/arrested, you may be considered a Sudanese citizen only.
Arabic is spoken by about half the people, but it is the official language. Many dialects are spoken throughout the country. Arabic Juba is a unique dialect used in southern urban areas for communicating between different ethnic groups. Other languages spoken are Nubian, Dinka, Azanda, Bari, Nuer and Shilluk. Those with education speak good English.
Medical Facilities and Health Information
Persons with conditions which may require medical treatment are strongly discouraged from traveling to Sudan. Medical facilities in Khartoum fall short of U.S. standards; outside the capital, few facilities exist and hospitals and clinics are poorly equipped. Emergency medical treatment is provided without cost for the first 24 hours, but after that, payment will be required. For all other non-emergent medical treatment, payment in cash must be made in advance. Ambulance services are not available outside Khartoum. Medicines are available only intermittently; you should bring sufficient supplies of needed medicines in clearly marked containers.
Malaria is prevalent in all areas of Sudan. The strain is resistant to chloroquine and can be fatal. In 2012, there was a large outbreak of Yellow Fever in Darfur, which resulted in 171 deaths. Consult a health practitioner before traveling, obtain suitable anti-malarial drugs, ensure that all your vaccines are up to date, and use protective measures, such as insect repellent, protective clothing, and mosquito nets. If you become ill with a fever or a flu-like illness while in Sudan, or within a year after departure, you should promptly seek medical care and inform your physician of your travel history and the kind of anti-malarial drugs used.
Safety and Security
The Department of State has issued a Travel Warning for Sudan advising U.S. citizens of the risks of travel to Sudan, urging U.S. citizens to avoid all travel to the Darfur region of Sudan, the Blue Nile, and Southern Kordofan States, and advising U.S. citizens to consider carefully the risks of travel in other areas of Sudan.
On January 1, 2008, a group of assailants shot and killed two U.S. Embassy employees – a USAID officer and a Sudanese national driver. The attack was found to be ideologically motivated, and the assailants were convicted and sentenced under Sudanese law in 2009. The four men have since escaped from prison and two are still at large.
Aid workers and government employees from Western countries have been the targets of kidnappings in the Darfur region. In May 2010, a U.S. citizen employed by a humanitarian relief organization was kidnapped in Darfur, and was held for several months before being released.
Since June 2012, there have been increased incidents of anti-government protests, resulting in the arrest of at least one U.S. citizen. U.S. citizens should avoid crowds and demonstrations as they can become confrontational and quickly escalate into violence. Demonstrations may also occur in other areas of the country, and we recommend U.S. citizens throughout Sudan exercise caution.
Terrorist groups are known to operate in Sudan, and these groups seek opportunities to carry out attacks against U.S. and European interests. Terrorist actions may include suicide operations, bombings, or kidnappings. You should be aware of the risk of indiscriminate attacks on civilian targets in public places, including tourist sites and locations where westerners are known to congregate, and commercial operations associated with U.S. or Western interests. Terrorists are known to have targeted both official facilities and residential compounds. You should exercise utmost caution at all times.
The Embassy’s ability to provide consular services outside of the Khartoum area, including emergency assistance, is severely limited.Many areas of Sudan are extremely difficult to access, and travel in these areas is hazardous. Outside the major cities infrastructure is extremely poor, medical care is limited, and there are few facilities for tourists.
Conflict among various armed groups and government forces continues throughout the entire Darfur region. Banditry and lawlessness are prevalent in all of Darfur. Over one and a half million Darfuris live in camps for internally displaced persons, and receive humanitarian assistance for basic needs such as food, water, and shelter. Expatriate humanitarian workers have been the targets of kidnappings, carjackings, and burglaries.
Occasional clashes between armed groups representing communal interests continue to occur in areas of central and eastern Sudan. Banditry also occurs. Sudan is Africa’s third-largest country in physical area, and shares porous land borders with Chad, the Central African Republic, Uganda, Democratic Republic of Congo, South Sudan, Egypt, Ethiopia, and Eritrea. Conflict in these countries occasionally spills over into Sudan.
The secession of South Sudan in July 2011 has been accompanied by an increase in armed violence in states on the South Sudan border, particularly in Abyei, Southern Kordofan, and Blue Nile. In ongoing disputes in these regions, the Sudanese Armed Forces have conducted airstrikes throughout the region, and have engaged in ground clashes with the Sudanese People’s Liberation Army - Northern Sector. Non-governmental organizations have been expelled from the areas, and the United Nations operates with minimal staffing in government-controlled areas only.
U.S. citizens considering sea travel in Sudan's coastal waters should exercise caution as there have been incidents of armed attacks and robberies by unknown groups in recent years, including one involving U.S. vessels. Exercise extreme caution, as these groups are considered armed and dangerous. When transiting in and around the Horn of Africa and/or in the Red Sea near Yemen, vessels should convoy in groups and maintain good communications contact at all times. Marine channels 13 and 16 VHF-FM are international call-up and emergency channels, and are commonly monitored by ships at sea. 2182 MHz is the HF international call-up and emergency channel. Wherever possible, travel in trafficked sea-lanes, and avoid loitering in or transiting isolated or remote areas. In case of emergency, contact the nearest U.S. Embassy or Consulate. In the event of an attack, consider activating Emergency Position Indicating Radio Beacons.
The United States Maritime Administration (MARAD) has advised that elevated regional tensions have increased the risk of maritime attacks being conducted by extremist to vessels operating in the Gulf of Oman, North Arabian Sea, Gulf of Aden, and the Bab el Mandeb regions.
MARAD recommends vessels at anchor, operating in restricted maneuvering environments, or at slow speeds should be especially vigilant, and report suspicious activity. U.S. flag vessels that observe suspicious activity in the area are advised to report such suspicious activity or any hostile or potentially hostile action to COMUSNAVCENT battlewatch captain at phone number 011-973-1785-3879. All suspicious activities and events are also to be reported to the U.S. Coast Guard National Response Center at the following toll free telephone: 1-800-424-8802, direct telephone 202-267-2675, or TDD 202-267-4477. The complete advisory is available on the MARAD website at www.MARAD.DOT.gov.
Traffic Safety and Road Conditions
While in Sudan, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
Road conditions throughout Sudan are hazardous due to erratic driver behavior, pedestrians, and animals in the roadways, and vehicles that are overloaded or lack basic safety equipment. Only major highways and some streets in the cities are paved; many roads are narrow, rutted, and poorly maintained. While there are functioning traffic signals on major streets in Khartoum, there are virtually none in other parts of the country. Local drivers often do not observe conventions for the right-of-way, stop on the road without warning, and frequently exceed safe speeds for road, traffic, and weather conditions. Driving at night is dangerous and should be avoided if possible; many vehicles operate without lights.
In northern and western Sudan, dust and sand storms, known as haboobs, greatly reduce visibility when they occur. Roads in these areas can be quickly covered with shifting sand at any season of the year. Roads in southern Sudan are often impassable during the rainy season which usually lasts from March to October. Spare tires, parts, and fuel should be taken when traveling in remote areas, as service stations are separated by long distances.
U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling, including traffic laws. In Sudan, vehicles have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road.
Traffic from side streets on the right has the right-of-way when entering a cross street, including fast-moving main streets. Traffic on the right has the right-of-way at stops. Right turns on a red light are prohibited. Speed limits are not posted, but the legal speed limit for passenger cars on inter-city highways is 120 kph (about 75 mph), while in most urban areas, the limit is 60 kph (about 35 mph). The speed limit in congested areas and school zones is 40 kph (about 25 mph).
Many local drivers carry no insurance despite the legal requirement that all motor vehicle operators purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury must report the incident to the nearest police station or police officer as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol face fines, jail sentences, and flogging.
U.S. citizens may use their U.S. driver's license for up to 90 days after arrival in Sudan, and then must carry either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Sudanese driver's license. There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles.
Public transportation exists in cities and between major urban areas. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded, especially during rush hours and periods of seasonal travel. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. There is routine passenger trainservice on the route from Khartoum to Wadi Halfa (on the border with Egypt) and to Port Sudan (on the Red Sea). Bus service between major cities is regular and inexpensive. Intra-city bus service in the major urban areas is by small and large buses, and vans. Many drivers of these vehicles have little training and are reckless, and the vehicles are often poorly maintained. Most buses and bus stops are privately operated and unmarked. Taxis are available in the major cities at hotels, tourist sites, and government offices. Motorized rickshaws, in common use in Khartoum, are unsafe. Travelers are encouraged to hire cars and drivers from reputable sources with qualified drivers and safe vehicles. While there is some public transit to rural communities by irregularly scheduled mini-buses, many areas lack any public transportation.
You should be extremely careful in crossing roads in Sudan. Crosswalks do not exist, and incidents of cars striking pedestrians do occur.