This post details our process of getting a tourist visa for Sudan in Aswan in Egypt and then the boat ticket for Aswan to Wadi Halfa and is here to serve as a reference to any other traveller looking for up to date information. This was in March 2013.
View Sudan visa and boat ticket from Aswan in a larger map
Aswan is apparently the easiest place to get a Sudanese tourist visa. After much research we decided to get our visa here at the Sudanese consulate and pay $50 instead of $100 at the Sudan embassy in Cairo plus another $50 or so for a LOI (letter of introduction) from my own embassy.
The consulate is located in a block of flats about three minutes from the train station North north east, see the map.
It’s spread over three floors, you apply on the first floor and get the visa there too after paying for it on the ground floor.
Any taxi driver can take you here, most locals know where it is too. If you can’t find it go to the tourist office right beside the train station who will happily direct you.
Go to the first floor and turn right, a ‘friendly’ English speaking receptionist will give you an application form, complete it and make sure to enter a religion (we entered Christian). Blood type and mothers name / place of birth are arbitrary so write whatever you want (I didn’t know my blood type), they just want to see the form is complete.
Return the completed form to the woman who gave you it, she will want two passport pictures and a scan of your passport (you must provide these). I had a printed sheet of scanned passport photos, which weren’t good enough, she wanted proper photo paper so see the below map for a cheap ‘photo studio’ if you need to.
She will tell you it takes two days/weeks/[arbitrary period]. Tell her you’re keen to see Sudan and that the ferry leaves [whenever it leaves] and you need to get a boat ticket before then. They know everybody getting the visa here is getting the boat and the whole ticket process, so will speed things up if you tell them nicely you’d like that. Our two day waiting time took about forty minutes after some polite requests.
The receptionist will take your form through to ‘the visa man’, who may quiz you on why you’re going to Sudan (name a few sites, Dongola, Karima, Khartoum, and mention the Sudanese hospitality that you’ve heard of from many other satisfied tourists). If your profession isn’t typical, write one that is. He seemed a bit unsure of my gestures to what a sculpture was, English teacher was an instant tick. Once he’s ticked all the boxes on your application and given it a big stamp, you can take it downstairs and get another stamp for $US 50. They only take US dollars, even if no banks in Aswan have them (see black market people on map).
You can now take the form with payment proof stamp back upstairs, the receptionist will stamp it again (why not?) before getting the visa man to stick a nice visa in. Great.
For us it took a total of three hours and $50. The three hours includes running around town trying to find a passport photo service/machine, and then a second outing running around trying to buy $50 on the black market. We already had scans of our passport.
I’ll add that we arrived on Thursday, tried to get the visa on Friday but the consulate was closed, on Satuday it was closed too. On Sunday it was open but the visa man had gone on a day out to Abu Simbel so we had to try and get it the next morning. When he was there it was quite straight forward.
Boat tickets are apparently sold for 1st (cabin/seat), 2nd (indoors), and 3rd/deck class (sit on the top of the boat), but we were told very angrily many times that the third didn’t exist – no explanation as to whether it did but what stopped, just angrily told to buy 1st 2nd or nothing.
The tickets go on sale on Tuesday for the following Monday and the ticket office is behind a small park on the corniche behind a couple of buildings.
A small window sells the tickets and absolute mayhem accompanies tickets going on sell. We arrived at around eight am before the window opened, and everybody had the sense to write their name on a piece of paper, to create a queue, this fell apart and three hours of shouting while everybody tried to use the window at once followed.
You must have a Sudanese visa in your passport to buy a ticket. One way and return tickets may vary in price, so don’t be to alarmed if you’re paying more than a local (who’s coming back).
After much arguing and getting zero information we bought 2nd class tickets at 307 Egyptian pounds.
The ferry route is monopolised by the infamous Mr Saleh. He is a real piece of work, and best avoided as much as possible.
There are fixers who will help you get a ticket if it all seems a bit much, but really it was quite fun.
We were travelling over land with two other cyclists at this point. And just for asking why were we paying more than the locals (maybe because we were only going one way – we were never told) one of our party was denied a ticket after much shouting from Mr Saleh. Like I said, he’s a piece of work, typical African big man with an ego. He can stop you taking the boat, knows it, and for some reason enjoys it.
You can take a train right to the ferry dock for 1.5 Egyptian.