South Sudan travel guide
About South Sudan
There’s off-piste, and then there’s South Sudan. Officially the world’s newest nation, its poor infrastructure and volatile political climate will deter most from visiting this fledgling nation. But the intrepid few who do visit will discover some of the least known and most extreme natural phenomena on Earth.
After a messy divorce from Sudan in 2011, the South Sudanese people are fiercely proud of their hard-fought independence and both surprised and pleased when someone choses to visit.
Somewhat chaotic, and growing rapidly, the capital, Juba, has a superb location on the banks of the White Nile. Founded in the 1920s, it exhibits some excellent examples of British colonial architecture around the Hai Jalaba district, though most visitors will want to leave man-made structures behind and head for the country’s natural wonders.
The vast swampy Sudd region, known locally as Bahr el Jebel or “Mountain Sea” is where the Nile forms one of the world’s largest inland wetlands. A habitat safe from poachers for large populations of hippos, it is a unique experience to explore its vast islands of reeds by canoe.
Boma National Park not only boasts large populations of Africa’s most iconic wildlife species, including elephant, giraffe and lion, but also the greatest migration of mammals on Earth, when an estimated two million grazing animals flee en mass for pastures new. The region is also renowned for its traditional tribal homesteads, which dot the plains.
Not content with rivers, swamps and savannah, South Sudan’s natural prowess extends to the Imatong Mountains, and the star attraction here is Kinyeti, the highest mountain in the country at 3,200m (10,500ft).
The South Sudanese consider their homeland blessed and it’s hard to disagree when you see the sheer diversity of natural landscapes the country has to offer. Road travel can be uncomfortable, but the end result is certainly well worth any hardship.
644,329 sq km (248,777 sq miles).
12,733,427 (UN estimate 2016).
18.7 per sq km.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit since 2011.
President Salva Kiir Mayardit since 2011.
Last updated: 26 November 2019
The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.
The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to South Sudan. If you’re in South Sudan, you should leave if it’s safe to do so.
Levels of intercommunal violence remain high across the country, and there are sporadic reports of fighting between armed groups in certain areas. It is possible that such violence will increase in the run-up to, and beyond, the 12 November deadline for the formation of a new Transitional Government of National Unity.
There are also regular reports of serious criminality in Juba, particularly during the hours of darkness. There’s no official government curfew in Juba, but the British Embassy and most international organisations observe a self-imposed curfew, the timing of which changes in response to the situation.
Juba Airport is open and commercial flights are operating, but you should check flight schedules with airlines before travelling to the airport. Timings are subject to change at short notice. You should make sure you have a valid visa before travelling.
Consular support is severely limited in South Sudan. The British Embassy in Juba does not have a consular section. If you are in South Sudan and need urgent help from the UK Government, contact the British High Commission in Nairobi.
You should be vigilant of the local security situation, monitor the local media, and stay in a safe location. Most international organisations in South Sudan employ a security manager to monitor the situation and keep employees safe.
You should make sure you have comprehensive contingency plans that don’t rely on support from the Embassy, including a stock of essential supplies and up-to-date travel documents and visas. If you’re concerned about your safety, you should contact the FCO on +44 207 008 1500.
Further deterioration in the security situation remains a real possibility, and could be prompted by a number of factors including developments in the fragile economy and the ongoing peace process. As it currently stands, a transitional government is scheduled to form in November 2019. In the event of a serious deterioration, similar to those of July 2016 and December 2013, routes into and out of South Sudan may be blocked, Juba airport may be closed or inaccessible, and flights may be suspended at short notice. Regional developments may also increase the unpredictability of infrastructure and transport, as happened in April when events in Sudan led to the temporary closure of South Sudan’s airspace. The main road connecting Juba to Uganda is extremely dangerous, with regular reports of car crashes and attacks on vehicles by armed groups.
Terrorist attacks in South Sudan can’t be ruled out.
Safety and security
The security situation across South Sudan remains volatile. Weapons are plentiful and easily obtained in South Sudan and criminals are often armed. Many armed men who are without jobs or have not been paid are resorting to criminality. Drive-by thefts by individuals or groups on motorbikes have been reported.
South Sudan is one of the most dangerous countries in the world for aid workers; at least 112 have been killed since the conflict began in 2013, with 15 in 2018. There have been other violent incidents including intimidation, arbitrary detentions and kidnappings, although these have mostly affected South Sudanese or regional nationals. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office advise against all travel to South Sudan, however if you decide to travel, you should make sure you have carefully considered the threat and have reasonable, proportionate mitigation measures in place.
During the rainy season (April to October/November) most roads outside of Juba become impassable, and some parts of the country can become inaccessible.
Levels of intercommunal violence remain high across the country and there are sporadic reports of fighting between armed groups in certain areas. Criminal attacks have taken place on the main Juba-Nimule road, which is one of the main supply routes from Uganda into South Sudan. There are reports of mines and unexploded ordnance in parts of the country.
If you’re currently in South Sudan you should exercise your own judgment, based on your knowledge of the local situation, media reporting, or advice from the UN. Our advice is that you should leave South Sudan immediately if it’s safe to do so.
Our ability to provide assistance outside Juba is severely limited. If you’re concerned about your safety, you should contact the FCO on +44 207 008 1500 or by email at firstname.lastname@example.org.
Driving conditions and standards in South Sudan are well below those in the UK and other European countries. Very few roads are surfaced and maintained, particularly outside Juba. Residential areas usually have dirt roads. At night, there is almost no street lighting and many vehicles have no lights. Roads are used by pedestrians, donkey-carts and rickshaw-style cabs, as well as motor vehicles. Checkpoints, manned by armed men, are common around Juba, especially after dark. There are regular reports of money being demanded from drivers, and of people (especially women) being physically abused at these checkpoints.
The use of public transport should be avoided, due to the unsafe condition of vehicles, the regular occurrence of road traffic accidents (particularly on the Juba-Nimule road), and the high risk of robbery or assault on foreign nationals.
Although drivers should have a licence and insurance, many don’t have these. Make sure you have adequate insurance.
You can find a list of incidents and accidents on the website of the Aviation Safety network. An internal flight by a South Sudanese airline crashed in March 2017, although there were no fatalities.
The FCO can’t offer advice on the safety of every individual airline, but the International Air Transport Association publishes a list of registered airlines that have been audited and found to meet a number of operational safety standards and recommended practices.
This list isn’t exhaustive and the absence of an airline from this list doesn’t necessarily mean that it is unsafe.
Following the July 2016 crisis, when fighting broke out and the First Vice President was forced to flee the country, the political and security situation has remained volatile. A peace agreement was signed in September 2018, which has led to an overall reduction in levels of violence between armed groups, although interlinked national and local level conflicts continue to drive a dire humanitarian situation across the country.
If you choose to remain in the country, you should follow political developments closely, and observe any curfews in place. In the event of civil disorder, stay at home and restrict your movements as much as possible, especially after dark. Avoid public gatherings, political rallies and protests.
There are credible reports of border incursions and engagements involving armed actors along all of South Sudan’s frontiers, and you should exercise extreme caution in the country’s border areas. A US journalist was killed in August 2017 near the town of Kaya close to the Ugandan border during a gunfight between government forces and armed rebels.
The economy remains in decline, which has led armed men to turn to criminality, including in Juba. Extortion at checkpoints by armed men, particularly after dark, is common. South Sudan is an extremely difficult environment for businesses and non-governmental organisations (NGOs) to operate in. There are regular reports of foreign nationals being subject to harassment and crime, including sexual assault.
Terrorist attacks in South Sudan can’t be ruled out. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
The long-standing policy of the British government is not to make substantive concessions to hostage takers. The British government considers that paying ransoms and releasing prisoners increases the risk of further hostage taking.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by conflicts in Iraq, Libya, Somalia and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Local laws and customs
You should respect local traditions, customs, laws and religions at all times and be aware of your actions to ensure that they do not offend other cultures or religious beliefs, especially if you intend to visit religious areas.
Carry a form of photo identification with you at all times, including colour copies to hand over to immigration or traffic police if required.
There are severe penalties for drug trafficking in South Sudan.
Do not take photographs close to government buildings, military installations, public utilities (including petrol stations), and other sensitive areas (bridges, airports). Many plain clothes public security officers operate in Juba and across South Sudan. Two foreign nationals were followed, harassed and arrested by the authorities in Juba after photographing a petrol station.
A number of British nationals have been arrested over commercial disputes, even where the individual has no direct link to the ongoing dispute. Some others have been approached with fraudulent commercial scams. There have been reports of harassment, temporary detention and expulsion of foreign nationals including NGO staff and journalists entering and leaving Juba airport by South Sudan security services, often linked to visa and work permit issues. You should exercise caution at all times.
Society is socially conservative. Homosexuality and extra marital relations are not culturally accepted.
The information on this page covers the most common types of travel and reflects the UK government’s understanding of the rules currently in place. Unless otherwise stated, this information is for travellers using a full ‘British Citizen’ passport.
The authorities in the country or territory you’re travelling to are responsible for setting and enforcing the rules for entry. If you’re unclear about any aspect of the entry requirements, or you need further reassurance, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
You should also consider checking with your transport provider or travel company to make sure your passport and other travel documents meet their requirements.
You’ll need a visa before travel to enter South Sudan. The South Sudanese Embassy in London (telephone: 020 7339 3100) issue single entry visas at a cost of £50. Even if you have a visa you should double check entry requirements before you leave.
Visas are valid for 1 month. If you wish to stay in South Sudan for longer than 1 month you’ll need to apply for an extension at the Ministry of Interior in Juba. You should also consider whether you require a work permit while in South Sudan. If in doubt you should contact the Ministry of Labour in Juba. You must register with the local police station if you’re in South Sudan for longer than 4 days.
If you’re travelling by land to neighbouring countries check the visa requirements for entry at border crossings. These may be different to when entering via an international airport.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of six months from the date of entry into South Sudan.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Although the World Health Organisation doesn’t specify a certificate requirement, you’re required to provide a certificate of vaccination against yellow fever when you apply for your visa. In May 2016 the Minister of Information announced that no-one would be allowed to enter South Sudan without presenting a yellow fever certificate at the border.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are accepted for exit from South Sudan.
At least 8 weeks before your trip, check the latest country-specific health advice from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC) on the TravelHealthPro website. Each country-specific page has information on vaccine recommendations, any current health risks or outbreaks, and factsheets with information on staying healthy abroad. Guidance is also available from NHS (Scotland) on the FitForTravel website. Although there have been no confirmed cases of Ebola (EVD) in South Sudan, cases of Ebola have been confirmed in Democratic Republic of Congo, close to South Sudan’s border.
General information on travel vaccinations and a travel health checklist are available on the NHS website. You may then wish to contact your health adviser or pharmacy for advice on other preventive measures and managing any pre-existing medical conditions while you’re abroad.
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or purchased in the UK can be different in other countries. If you’re travelling with prescription or over-the-counter medicine, read this guidance from NaTHNaC on best practice when travelling with medicines. For further information on the legal status of a specific medicine, you’ll need to contact the embassy, high commission or consulate of the country or territory you’re travelling to.
There are clear links between mental and physical health, so looking after yourself during travel and when abroad is important. Information on travelling with mental health conditions is available in our guidance page. Further information is also available from the National Travel Health Network and Centre (NaTHNaC).
Public Health England has updated its guidance for humanitarian or healthcare workers travelling to countries at risk of Ebola.
Health facilities are extremely limited - especially outside Juba. Serious medical problems require medical evacuation to Nairobi or Kampala. During the rainy season flights are often forced to remain on the ground for hours.
Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.
South Sudan suffers from both drought and flash flooding, which can make some parts of the country inaccessible by road.
Credit/debit cards aren’t widely accepted and very few businesses will accept travellers’ cheques. It’s very difficult to get cash against credit cards at banks or to use them in shops and restaurants. Make sure you have enough cash in US Dollars (clean, unblemished notes dated 2009 onwards). Juba is comparatively expensive; one night’s accommodation in an international standard hotel can be up to $200 and vehicle rental can be from $150 per day.
Travel advice help and support
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission. If you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad, contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) in London on 020 7008 1500 (24 hours).
Foreign travel checklist
Read our foreign travel checklist to help you plan for your trip abroad and stay safe while you’re there.
The FCO travel advice helps you make your own decisions about foreign travel. Your safety is our main concern, but we can’t provide tailored advice for individual trips. If you’re concerned about whether or not it’s safe for you to travel, you should read the travel advice for the country or territory you’re travelling to, together with information from other sources you’ve identified, before making your own decision on whether to travel. Only you can decide whether it’s safe for you to travel.
When we judge the level of risk to British nationals in a particular place has become unacceptably high, we’ll state on the travel advice page for that country or territory that we advise against all or all but essential travel. Read more about how the FCO assesses and categorises risk in foreign travel advice.
Our crisis overseas page suggests additional things you can do before and during foreign travel to help you stay safe.
Refunds and cancellations
If you wish to cancel or change a holiday that you’ve booked, you should contact your travel company. The question of refunds and cancellations is a matter for you and your travel company. Travel companies make their own decisions about whether or not to offer customers a refund. Many of them use our travel advice to help them reach these decisions, but we do not instruct travel companies on when they can or can’t offer a refund to their customers.
For more information about your rights if you wish to cancel a holiday, visit the Citizen’s Advice Bureau website. For help resolving problems with a flight booking, visit the website of the Civil Aviation Authority. For questions about travel insurance, contact your insurance provider and if you’re not happy with their response, you can complain to the Financial Ombudsman Service.
Registering your travel details with us
We’re no longer asking people to register with us before travel. Our foreign travel checklist and crisis overseas page suggest things you can do before and during foreign travel to plan your trip and stay safe.
Previous versions of FCO travel advice
If you’re a British national and you have a question about travelling abroad that isn’t covered in our foreign travel advice or elsewhere on GOV.UK, you can submit an enquiry. We’re not able to provide tailored advice for specific trips.
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