1. We recommend sticking to Khartoum and Omdurman during your visit. They are the safest and consequently the biggest tourist destinations in the country.
2. Pay attention to specific rules in any city that you stay in. Curfews are implemented in most large cities, usually from about midnight until four in the morning.
3. Sudan is an Islamic country. Be mindful and respect the culture in order to forestall any negative attention.
4. Make sure you change your money before traveling or at the airport at an authorized vendor, and also be mindful when you’re carrying cash on your person.
5. The official languages are Arabic and English. Learn some basic words in Arabic; even greetings will suffice.
Sudanese travel visas are expensive and difficult to acquire for some nationalities in some countries or for people with an Israeli stamp in their passport. It is advisable to obtain a Sudanese visa in your home country if possible. Hours-long waits for customs clearance are not unheard of, and landing in Khartoum can be tricky. Entering or exiting by land usually goes smoothly.
Khartoum Airport (KRT) is the main gateway into Sudan by air. There are also some international flights which use Port Sudan airport.
Most larger towns and cities have affordable hotels. Quality is generally consistent within the price range.
Basic hotels provide a bed and a fan with shared toilet facilities. There may be more than one bed in the room but you are usually expected to pay for the whole room. The bigger the group of travellers, the more economical these rooms are, as more beds are often put in a room (within reason) to accommodate everybody without the price being changed. Some hotels have cheaper beds outside in the open as in smaller towns and cities. These hotels are not very clean but are cheap and perfectly acceptable for short stays.
Lower mid-range hotels – more likely to be found in Khartoum – offer the worst value for money. They may have in suite facilities, air conditioning and satellite television, but for two or three times that of basic hotels, the rooms are extremely tatty and hotel owners will almost always subscribe to the philosophy of: ‘Only fix something if the guest complains’. There will sometimes be rooms minus the toilet/air conditioning/television for prices a little above those in basic hotels.
Upper mid-range hotels are the next step up, with spotless rooms of a far higher quality but prices (usually quoted in dollars) closer to what you’d expect in the West. You’ll have little to find fault with, though.
Top-end hotels are commonly of the Five Star variety, and include the Hilton. The few are found mostly in Khartoum. They are much more expensive than the upper mid-range hotels.
Outside larger towns and cities hotels don’t normally go above basic.
There are various influences, but none of them dominate the regional culinary cultures.
You can expect the Egyptian cuisine, the Ethiopian and the Turkish cuisine (meatballs, pastries and spices), as well as numerous dishes that are specific to all Arabian nations. Foul, made from fava beans, is a common dish. Fresh fruit and vegetables are very common.
Local Sudanese breads are Kissra, a bread made from durra or corn; Aseeda, a porridge made from wheat, millet or corn; Gurassa, a thick bread from wheat flour similar to pancake, but thicker.
One local Northern Sudanese dish is Gurassa Bil Damaa which is a bread of unleavened wheat similar to pancake but thicker, topped up with meat stew. Some Eastern Sudanese dishes are Mukhbaza which is made of shredded wheat bread mixed with mashed bananas and honey, and Selaat, which is lamb meat cooked over heated stones and Gurar which is a kind of local sausage cooked in a similar way to Selaat.
One of the popular dishes from western Sudan is Agashe, a dish prepared with meat seasoned with ground peanuts and spices (mainly hot chilli), and cooked on a grill or an open flame. Another attraction is Sug al Naga (The camel market) North of Omdurman, where you can select your meat of choice and then hand it over to one of the ladies to cook it for you in the way which you prefer.
Sudan also has some refreshing drinks such as Karkade (hibiscus) which can be served hot or chilled, aradeeb (tamarind) and gongleiz (made with the baobab fruit). The local energy drink is a carbohydrates laden drink known as Madeeda. There are several types of Madeeda, made with dates or with Dukhun (Millet) or other types blended with fresh milk, and usually heavily sweetened with Sugar. You might consider asking for reduced sugar in Madeeda and in Mukhbaza, as it might otherwise be too sweet.
The general advice is not to drink tap water. Islam is the official religion of the country, and alcoholic beverages are banned. The only thing that’s frequently drunk in Sudan is tea; usually sweet and black. Hibiscus tea called karkadeh (red) is a delicious alternative. Sudanese coffee is available in most souks and is similar to Turkish style coffee; thick and strong, sometimes flavoured with cardamom or ginger with a powerful kick and altogether delicious.
Travel for solo women is relatively safe (in areas unaffected by civil war), if you dress and act appropriately for an Islamic country. You will raise a few eyebrows but will generally be treated with great respect. In general, it is best for women to travel in groups, and even better, with men.
Sudan has very strict rules about taking pictures. First and foremost, you need a permit to take pictures which will tell you where you can and cannot take pictures. Photographing or filming military personnel or installations is a quick way to get into trouble. People have been arrested for taking pictures at the confluence of the Blue and White Niles in Khartoum.
Sudan is a malarial region, so be especially cautious during the rainy season. Poisonous snakes, spiders and scorpions are common to the southern areas.
To show the bottom of your foot is an insulting gesture, as is the touching of the thumb to the index finger while extending the rest of the fingers (the North American sign for “O-kay”).
Although Sudan is a moderate Muslim culture, foreigners are still discouraged from speaking directly to local women unless spoken to, and even then it would be polite to ask permission from the man accompanying her before responding. Try to avoid physical contact with women if possible.
A warning to LGBT travelers:
Sudan is an Islamic country and homosexuality is punishable by death. The death sentence for homosexuality is mainly only enforced after the second or third repeated offense. Mainly the first offense it is usually imprisonment and about a 100 lashes for both men and women. The government’s form of punishing those convicted of homosexual acts is dealt with under the strict interpretation of the Islamic Sharia Law. If a foreigner is arrested for committing a homosexual act, that person will either be given a warning if “truly remorseful” or be dealt with in the same manner as the Sudanese national. Police will join in on or turn a blind eye to violence towards LGBT. Businesses will attack you and/or reject you.