Sudan travel guide
Sudan is hardly your archetypal tourist destination, but behind the unsavoury headlines is a country of exquisite natural beauty, ancient historical attractions and inhabitants well versed in the art of hospitality.
A vast country, three times the size of Texas, Sudan is as much about people as it is natural or man-made wonders. It is a nation where travellers can learn more drinking freshly prepared smoothies with the residents of Khartoum (Sudan is officially alcohol free) than they can by visiting one of the capital’s excellent museums.
A relatively young city, Khartoum was built in 1821 at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles while the country was ruled jointly by Britain and Egypt. History and traditionalism jostle with modernity in the city, where stunning classical Islamic architecture in red ochre hues stands beside modern glass and steel skyscrapers paid for by the country’s oilfields (which were mostly lost with the independence of South Sudan in 2011).
Centuries before colonial rule Sudan comprised a series of city-states. One of the longest lasting was Meroë, which sits some 200 km (125 miles) northeast of Khartoum. A UNESCO World Heritage Site, this ancient city features more than 200 steep-sided pyramids, which were built as elaborate royal mausoleums. They rise from the sandy dunes of the Nubian Desert and date from between 300 BC and AD 300, when the kingdom was at its most powerful.
Worth visiting in itself, the Nubian Desert – in reality part of the Sahara – offers solitude and unspoiled natural beauty stretching east all the way to the Red Sea and Port Sudan, the centre of Sudan’s burgeoning diving scene.
One of the least visited countries in East Africa, but one of the friendliest, Sudan has a magical mix of history, tradition and modernity that belies its status as a pariah state.
1,861,484 sq km (718,723 sq miles).
41,175,541 (UN estimate 2016).
19.1 per sq km.
President Omar al-Bashir since 1989.
Prime Minister Bakri Hassan Saleh, since 2017.
Last updated: 20 February 2018
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 the following parts of Sudan: Darfur, the Red Sea State border with Eritrea; the Abyei region; Southern Kordofan and Blue Nile states; areas of Northern Kordofan and White Nile states south of the Kosti-El Obeid-En Nahud road.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to the following parts of Sudan: areas west of the towns of En-Nahud in North Kordofan up to the Darfur border. See Local travel
On 6 November 2017, following the dissolution of the legislative council by presidential decree, a state of emergency was announced in Gezira. There’s an increased risk of demonstrations and protests. You should exercise vigilance and avoid large crowds and demonstrations wherever possible.
Since early January 2018 there have been sporadic protests against increases in the price of bread in a number of locations across Sudan, particularly in West Darfur, Wad Madani, the Omdurman and Bahri areas of Khartoum, and around the University of Khartoum. While these are not targeting the international community, tear gas and force have been used to subdue some protests. You should exercise vigilance and avoid large crowds or demonstrations.
There have been reports of renewed clashes between government forces and rebel groups in the areas around the Libyan border and in southern Darfur. If you’re in Darfur against FCO advice, or in the Libyan desert area of Northern state, you should consider carefully whether to remain in the area, monitor local media and security channels for the latest updates, and follow instructions from security forces. The British Embassy continues to monitor the situation.
Following an announcement by the government of Sudan regarding the removal of subsidies on fuel prices, there is an increased risk of demonstrations and protests across the country. You should exercise vigilance and take care to avoid large crowds and demonstrations wherever possible.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Sudan. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places frequented by expatriates and foreign travellers.
The British Embassy no longer registers British nationals in Sudan and the capacity of the British Embassy to help in times of crisis may be limited. You should consider your own travel arrangements carefully and make sure you have up-to-date travel documents and visas in case you need to leave at short notice. In case of a crisis this page outlines the precautions you should take and the help and support the British Embassy can provide.
If you’re abroad and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the nearest British embassy, consulate or high commission.
The Overseas Business Risk service offers information and advice for British companies operating overseas on how to manage political, economic, and business security-related risks.
Safety and security
The level of street crime in Khartoum and other major Sudanese cities, with the exception of Darfur, is low but increasing. Incidents of bag-snatching (including drive-by bag snatching by thieves on motorbikes) and petty theft do occur. Remain alert and take sensible precautions to protect yourself and your belongings. Take care not to leave valuable items on display in your car while travelling. If you’re stopped you should avoid confrontation.
A state of emergency remains in place in a number of states, which gives the government greater powers of arrest.
There have been reports of arbitrary detentions in different parts of the country, including in Khartoum and including foreign nationals. Take great care around any areas which may be sensitive to the government, including military installations, border areas and camps for internally displaced persons. Don’t take photographs in these areas.
You must get a permit before travelling outside of Khartoum. Permits to visit tourist sites must be obtained from either the Ministry of Tourism, your hotel or travel agent. Travel outside of Khartoum for any other purpose must be checked with the Aliens Department at the Ministry of Interior.
If you’re planning a long journey outside of Khartoum, make sure you have enough fuel for your journey.
Local travel Khartoum
Demonstrations can occur at short notice in Khartoum. You should try to avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings of people where possible.
Local travel Darfur States
The FCO advise against all travel to the 5 Darfur states (Central Darfur, East Darfur, North Darfur, West Darfur and South Darfur). On 25 November 2017, government forces arrested Musa Hilal, leader of an armed group in Darfur, following armed clashes. There have been reports of other clashes since, including in El Fasher, and further unrest cannot be ruled out.
The security situation in Darfur is volatile and unstable. Banditry and lawlessness are widespread, and there are frequent violent confrontations between rebel and government forces, between tribes and over economic resources (land, gold). There are tensions within camps for internally displaced people, which have sometimes resulted in violence and fatalities. Armed robbery and break-ins of guesthouses and other buildings have been reported.
Humanitarian workers and UNAMID peacekeepers are possible targets of attack or for kidnap, and have been caught up in cross-fire and violent incidents. A number of aid workers and peacekeepers have been killed.
There is a high threat of kidnapping. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other westerners. Kidnap groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets.
If you are in Darfur against FCO advice, you should respect any curfews that are imposed and make sure you are aware of any military operations, conflict and crime patterns. Make sure that you have co-ordinated your movements with UN Security and that all necessary parties have been notified. Anyone seeking entry to the Darfur area, for whatever purpose, must first obtain a special permit from the Sudanese government.
Local travel - rest of Sudan
Northern Kordofan, White Nile and Sennar States
There is a risk of conflict and violence spreading into White Nile, North Kordofan and Sennar states from neighbouring areas. You should maintain high situational awareness and avoid any areas in which conflict has been reported.
The FCO advise against all but essential travel to areas west of the town of En-Nahud which border Darfur.
Sudan –Libya border
Visitors should take great care in all areas close to the Sudan - Libya border. There are ongoing media reports of trafficking in people and goods as well as movement of armed militants between the two countries. In January 2015, the media reported that five refugees were killed fleeing border police. Visitors to the area should be aware that the FCO currently advises against all travel to Libya and the border is closed to non-African nationals.
Southern Kordofan, Blue Nile and Abyei
The FCO advise against all travel to the Abyei Administrative Area. The security situation there remains tense and unpredictable as it is claimed by both Sudan and South Sudan.
The FCO advise against all travel to South Kordofan due to continuing conflict between the Sudanese Armed Forces (SAF) and Sudanese People’s Liberation Army - North (SPLA-N).
Landmines and unexploded ordnance are a threat in areas affected by conflict.
East Sudan: Gedaref, Kassala and Red Sea States
Travel to most parts of eastern Sudan, particularly the major cities, is currently possible, but foreign nationals need to get a permit. However, the FCO advise against all travel to the Sudanese border with Eritrea in the Red Sea State. Although the situation is calm at present it has been subject to instability and could deteriorate rapidly. If you’re travelling by road in Kassala State, you should keep to the major roads especially near the Eritrean border where people trafficking groups are believed to operate.
Local tensions in the Galabat area have previously resulted in the closure of the Metema-Galabat border post at short notice. Take care in these areas and check with local authorities on the latest situation before starting your journey.
Road traffic accidents are common in Sudan. There is a high risk of being involved in a traffic accident when using public transport or vehicles for hire such as rickshaws and ‘amjads’. Use a reputable taxi firm or driver.
Road conditions are poor and many roads, even major ones, are not tarred or have potholes. Many roads are unsurfaced. At night, there is generally no street lighting and many vehicles have no lights. Roads are used by pedestrians, donkey-carts and rickshaws, as well as motor vehicles. .
If your journey doesn’t follow a major route you should travel with an experienced local guide. Many areas south of Khartoum become inaccessible by road during the rainy season from July to October. The wadis (dry riverbeds) are subject to dangerous flash floods and many are not passable during the rains except on a major road.
You can drive in Sudan using a full UK driving licence for a maximum period of 3 months. You can get a local driving licence from the police traffic department. There are no restrictions on women driving in Sudan. Although drivers should have a licence and insurance, many do not have these. Make sure you have adequate insurance.
Sudanese law prohibits the use of mobile phones while driving.
All airlines registered in Sudan have been banned from operating in the EU because of the high rate of accidents involving Sudanese airlines.
Incidents of piracy have been reported in the Red Sea and Gulf of Aden. Be vigilant and seek local advice. For more information and advice, see our Piracy and armed robbery at sea page.
If you intend to go ashore along the Red Sea Coast, ensure you have the correct documentation.
Rallies and demonstrations occur, often at short notice, in Khartoum and in other major cities. There are sometimes protests in response to international events. These may be directed against foreigners.
Keep a low profile, avoid crowds, monitor local media and keep away from any demonstrations. As a precaution, you should maintain several days’ stock of food and water, and stay indoors until any demonstration or rally in your locality has passed. There have been several demonstrations originating in universities throughout Sudan, some of which have sparked violent clashes resulting in fatalities and injuries.
Demonstrations are no longer isolated to universities and have been taking place in other parts of Khartoum, often at short notice. Be vigilant; avoid any demonstrations or large gatherings that may occur. You should monitor local media and follow the advice of the local authorities on where demonstrations may take place.
Terrorists are likely to try to carry out attacks in Sudan. Attacks could be indiscriminate, including in places visited by foreigners.
There’s a heightened threat of terrorist attack globally against UK interests and British nationals, from groups or individuals motivated by the conflict in Iraq and Syria. You should be vigilant at this time.
Find out more about the global threat from terrorism, how to minimise your risk and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack.
There is a high threat of kidnapping in Darfur. Kidnappings can be for financial or political gain, and can be motivated by criminality or terrorism. There have been a number of kidnappings, including of British nationals and other westerners. Kidnap groups view those engaged in humanitarian aid work or journalism as legitimate targets.
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.
Local laws and customs
Local laws reflect the fact that Sudan is predominantly Muslim. 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 during the holy month of Ramadan or if you intend to visit religious areas.
In 2017, the holy month of Ramadan is expected to start on 27 May and finish on 25 June.
Sudan operates Islamic Sharia Law. Alcohol is not permitted. Although the constitution specifies that in Khartoum non-Muslims shall not be subject to Sharia law, you should expect Sharia law to apply.
Non-Muslim women are not expected to wear a veil or cover their heads, but should dress modestly and respect local customs and sensitivities.
Homosexual practices and extra marital relations are illegal and subject to severe penalties. This includes inviting guests into hotel rooms. Sudanese society is not tolerant of homosexual relationships. See our information and advice page for the LGBT community before you travel.
Since the beginning of 2013, the FCO has received reports that a large number of foreign nationals have left Sudan either because they have been asked to leave by the Sudanese authorities, or because they have come under pressure from the Sudanese security service, or because their places of work/study have been closed. Many of these people appear to have been accused of sharing their religious beliefs with Sudanese nationals or of visa irregularities.
You should carry a form of photo ID with you at all times.
There are severe penalties for drug trafficking.
All photography requires a formal permit, which you can get from the External Information Centre in Khartoum (part of the Ministry of Information). Don’t take photographs or use a mobile phone camera close to government buildings, military installations, public utilities (including petrol stations), and other sensitive areas (bridges, airports etc). Many plain clothes public security officers operate.
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.
British nationals need a visa to visit Sudan. Apply before you travel to the Sudanese Embassy in London.
You should register with the Aliens Department at the Ministry of Interior within 3 days of your arrival in the country. You will need two passport size photos. The fee is the Sudanese Pound equivalent of around £35. If you don’t register within 3 days of arrival, you may be fined. Some of the larger hotels will do this for you but you should ask when you check-in.
You’ll need to get an exit visa at the Aliens Department to leave the country.
Children under 18
In addition to a visa, children under 18 must have their father’s consent to enter and exit Sudan. Children travelling without their father will need a letter clearly providing consent for the child to enter and exit Sudan. The letter should be stamped at the Sudanese Embassy before travel.
Where the father is absent or deceased, mothers or guardians should get a court order which clearly shows that the mother or guardian has sole custodial rights for the children. Where the parents are divorced, this should be accompanied by divorce documents. Where the father is deceased, this should be accompanied by a death certificate. Contact the Sudanese Embassy in London for more information.
Previous travel to Israel
If your passport has an Israeli visa or Israeli entry/exit stamps you will not be allowed to enter Sudan.
Yellow fever certificate requirements
Check whether you need a yellow fever certificate by visiting the National Travel Health Network and Centre’s TravelHealthPro website.
Your passport should be valid for a minimum period of 6 months from the date of entry into Sudan.
UK Emergency Travel Documents
UK Emergency Travel Documents (ETDs) are not valid for entry into or transit through the Republic of Sudan. However, ETDs are accepted for exit from the country.
Visit your health professional at least 4 to 6 weeks before your trip to check whether you need any vaccinations or other preventive measures. Country specific information and advice is published by the National Travel Health Network and Centre on the TravelHealthPro website and by NHS (Scotland) on the fitfortravel website. Useful information and advice about healthcare abroad is also available on the NHS Choices website.
Make sure you have the recommended vaccinations before travelling to Sudan. There is a particular risk to public health in conflict affected areas where immunisation coverage is poor .
There has been a serious outbreak of cholera in Sudan. For information and advice you should visit the website of the National Travel Health Network and Centre.
As a general rule, GP facilities in Khartoum are adequate but the hospitals are not suitable for more serious medical problems. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad, medical evacuation and repatriation.
If you need emergency medical assistance during your trip dial one of the following numbers:
- 0183 741 426 (press #236 for English) or 0912 314 621: Fedail Hospital (ambulance: 0122 222 555);
- 0183 279601 ext 222: Sahiroon Hospital;
- 0183 745 444/999: Al Zaytouna Hospital;
- 0183 481 764 ext 118: Doctors’ Clinic;
- 0156 550 150/151: Royal Care Hospital.
You should contact your insurance/medical assistance company promptly if you are referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Sudan suffers from drought and flash flooding. Flooding can make areas inaccessible by road during the rainy season.
It is not possible to withdraw cash against credit and debit cards at banks. Credit and debit cards are not accepted at hotels to settle bills. Make sure you have enough hard currency with you – this should be in US dollars dated 2006 onwards (older ones will not be exchanged). Pounds sterling are rarely exchanged.
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.