Being the third largest country in Africa and the sixteenth largest in the world, Sudan is a diverse country and not only geographically speaking. From deserts and savannas to pyramids and lush fields, it may be the exotic place you need to escape. And yes, you’ve read that right, pyramids. The area was once the kingdoms of Kush, Meroe, and Seti. At the east and west, expect mountains towering as high as 9,980 ft (Deriba Caldera).
Getting from point A to point B is easy, thanks to the warmth and hospitality of Sudanese people. On a serious matter, they are really hospitable. They just want to help you with anything that is possible. Even some taxi drivers won’t charge you for a ride. If you wish to drop in Sudan by plane, be sure to get a reservation as quickly as possible because Sudan has a lack of airstrips and airplanes.
Is Sudan a safe country to visit? Africa is a continent that most people stay away from because of religious pressures. However, people that visited Sudan stated that it is one of the safest countries to visit in Africa. But it depends where you want to go. As some Sudan safety travel tips suggest, if you go south, you’re going on your own risk. And if you think ISIS is the problem, you’re wrong, although Sudan is an Islamic country.
South Sudan is a different country that got its independence in 2011 after a referendum. Still, South Kordofan and Blue Nile regions identify themselves as South Sudanese and this sparked a Civil War between the Sudanese Army and pro-South Sudanese militia.
Highest Risks You Expose Yourself to When Visiting Sudan
Overall Risks in Sudan: MEDIUM
Being a safe country to travel to, you must take some safety precautions as well. As stated above, avoid the south. According to the American Bureau of Diplomatic Security, the South Sudan region must be avoided due to terrorist attacks and civil unrest. As so, in 2016, the US embassy has received no reports of tourists being threatened in northern Sudan.
In Southern Sudan, things may go as rough as a high number of carjackings, property theft and kidnappings were reported there. Also, Western Sudan has a large number of smuggling and trafficking activities reported. As a friendly tip, seek advice from a local guide just in case you really want to visit those regions.
In the Darfur region, a large number of kidnappings were also reported and the region remains with a high risk of crime.
Police officials are very responsive. However, only certain patrols are dispatched to your location because of certain misunderstandings due to the language barrier. If you break the law, your passport can be taken or you can be imprisoned or arrested in the best case. Also, photographing buildings and poor neighborhoods can cause embarrassment to the government, so it is prohibited.
Pickpocketing and Theft Risks in Sudan: MEDIUM
Pickpocketing and bag snatches are pretty uncommon in the northern area. But that does not mean that they are absent. As a safety precaution, keep an eye at all times on your personal belongings.
As a minus point for the country, there are no ATM’s in Sudan, so you must carry your cash with you, so pay attention to your surroundings.
- How to avoid pickpocketing and theft in Sudan?
In order to avoid pickpocketing and theft, there are most than just a couple of safety measures that you have to take. First of all, if you have a backpack or bag with you, it is recommended to always keep in on your sides or in front of you and never on your back - we don't even have to mention why; it is very easy for the quick hands of a pickpocket to steal from you if you can't see your backpack/ bag.
Then, you should avoid displaying any valuables - this includes cash, gadgets, or jewelry. It doesn't matter how you are dressed, if any thief catches a glimpse of your brand new smartphone or camera or of any shiny jewelry, they will most likely consider you as their target. Be extra cautious in crowded areas, especially if you have to push your way through the crowd - if someone bumps you too hard/ aggressive, then they might have just left you without one of your possessions.
In this respect, grab upper torso clothing that comes equipped with pockets - if you keep your wallet/ phone in your pants pockets, you will most likely not feel if they are not there anymore.
Scam Risk in Sudan: MEDIUM
As the borders are highly militarized, you may encounter scammers that recommend themselves as police/military personnel. If at a crossing, somebody armed charges you for money, the best way to deal with them is to give them what they want and report urgently at a police station.
Also, if you are using a cellphone in Sudan, scammers could contact you via phone and asking for money for different situations.
Public transportation is also a way to scam unaware tourists. After you will pay for the bus ticket, the bus cancels and you are left stranded. As per above, call the police if this happens.
- How to avoid getting scammed in Sudan?
As you can see from the above mentions, it is quite hard to protect yourself against any of the scams that you might experience in Sudan - however, this doesn't mean it is impossible to do so. If you plan on crossing the border, it is recommended that you either have a personal safety agent, tour guide, or other tourists that accompany you. Even if strength lies within numbers, if you think the situation might escalate into something violent, it is better to just comply with the scammers'/ attackers' requests.
When it comes to bus/ transportation scams, it is recommended that you rely on and use only the ones from reputed companies - you can always ask your accommodation's managers which the trustworthy taxi/ bus/ transport companies are in order to avoid incidents like the one mentioned above.
And, obviously, if you receive a phone call while in Sudan and it is not from someone you expected to call you, just hang up and move on with your day.
Kidnapping Risk in Sudan: LOW
If you're guessing that kidnappings happen in Darfur, you are completely right. In this region, it is more likely to be abducted. Almost all abductees have been released unharmed in exchange for little to no money, according to the American Bureau of Diplomatic Security.
A famous kidnapping that took place in the Darfur region was in 2016 where Phil Cox and Daoud Hari were kidnapped by the militia. They were imprisoned for 70 straight days. They have been released after a phone call towards the British embassy.
- How to avoid getting kidnapped in Sudan?
To avoid such scenarios, do not walk alone at night and take all safety precautions and avoid peripheral town areas.
Terrorism Risk in Sudan: MEDIUM
Darfur region remains an area of high-security concerns when it comes to terrorism. According to the US Department of State, in Darfur were present elements of ISIS, Al-Qa’ida, and Boko Haram as well as recruiting bases.
However, the Sudan Government is making pressures to reduce the transit of recruits. Almost all terrorist operation bases have been dismantled and abolished. As stated above, avoid at all costs the Darfur region.
- How to avoid terrorism in Sudan?
When it comes to terrorism, the best way to avoid it is to keep your eyes open, so to say, especially if you are in one of the following points of interest that could be targeted by terrorists - places of prayer, shopping malls, official buildings; overall, areas/ regions that are usually crowded. Also, in case you notice anything suspicious, it is recommended that you flee the area and, in case something actually happens, get to safety and contact the authorities as soon as possible.
Risks for Women Traveling Alone in Sudan: LOW
Is Sudan safe for solo women travelers? According to females that travel alone, all of them voted Sudan as a safe country to visit if you’re a woman. Applying the laws will get you out of trouble. Always wear a scarf on your head and cover your shoulders to be able to blend in.
As Sudan’s restaurants, pubs and stores are mainly ruled by men, they are the helping kind. Women are highly respected in Sudan and very rare a woman is refused at local businesses. As for the prices in Sudan, all shampoos and cosmetics are expensive so you must bring with some.
Applying for women, as well as for men, a safety insurance policy is a must. Be careful just to choose an insurance policy that covers Sudan as well.
- How to avoid crime as a solo woman traveler in Sudan?
As mentioned before, women are respected in Sudan - however, as a foreigner, you have to sort of earn this respect. Meaning, you should respect the dress code while visiting this country and refrain from doing anything that a Sudanese woman would not do. Be up to date with the local laws and customs and make sure not to upset/ bother any strangers/ locals.
If you keep in mind these tips, as well as the aforementioned ones, you should not have any issues while traveling through Sudan.
Rape Risk in Sudan: LOW
Rapes were not heavily reported in Sudan, but remember that this is an Islamic country and that there are some rules to be followed. Women that enter Sudan as tourists must cover their heads and shoulders to avoid any harassment or sexual assaults.
- How to avoid getting raped in Sudan?
Even though the rape rate of Sudan is quite low, this doesn't mean that you shouldn't take any precautionary measures - as mentioned, you have to comply with the local laws and customs in order to avoid any type of harassment and assault. Cover your head and your shoulders and make sure that you don't do anything that might be considered as offensive by the locals - this may imply, in certain situations, the display of affection in public, drinking, or such.
Keep in mind that you are in a religious country - Islamic for that matter - and you should be careful not to offend anyone.
Risks for People Traveling with Children in Sudan: MEDIUM
Traveling with children in Sudan can be tricky as the medical system is a little shady. Almost all medical institutions are located in Karthoum region and they don’t accept credit cards as well. So be aware that you will need to have some cash upon you.
In the other regions, help is limited due to economic sanctions.
With children and adults that are in need of prescription medications, bring with you an adequate supply just in case. For medical assistance, the hospitals located in Khartoum are Royal Care International Hospital, Fedail Hospital, and Sahiroon Specialized Hospital.
- How to avoid unwanted scenarios?
Besides the issues regarding medical care, a parent should always keep an eye on their children while traveling - especially if it's their first time traveling with you. Naturally, you'll bring with you the medication they may need as well as a first-aid kit, just in case, but, what really matters, is you making sure that they stay close to you at all times and don't get in any dangerous circumstances, so to say.
Obviously, you should not be all alone if you have your children with you - travel with a group of friends or with your family so that there's someone looking over them at all times.
Natural Disaster Risks in Sudan: LOW
Through Sudan, the Blue Nile flows and it is subjected to flooding in the rainy season (July-September). In 2016, during the rainy season, the Nile flooded numerous homes.
As the country is surrounded by deserts, the biggest threat remains dust storms. Also named haboobs, they can slow traffic and other transportation services. With heights of 3000 feet and wind speed for up to 70 mph, they can really ruin your vacation. They usually last for four hours.
Transportation Risks in Sudan: MEDIUM
In terms of local travel, keep in mind that states of emergency are introduced by the Sudanese government from time to time - this state gives the authorities greater powers of arrest - even the slightest of crimes and law disobedience can be punished in such circumstances.
You should also be extremely careful when inside or around areas such as border areas, military installations, and camps for internally displaced persons - there have been cases of arbitrary detentions of foreign nationals. It is advised that you do not take photographs in such areas.
If traveling outside of Khartoum, stock up on fuel as there have been acute fuel shortages throughout the country - plan your trip appropriately and make sure that you have en route refuel possibilities in case you run out of fuel or simply don't stock up on it.
All travel to the five Darfur states - Central, East, North, West, and South Darfur - is advised against as armed clashes, kidnappings, violent confrontations, and so on have occurred here.
When it comes to road travel, the roads are in poor conditions, both the minor and major routes reported as being not tarred or with potholes. Moreover, roads are used by rickshaws, pedestrians, donkey-carts, and vehicles as well - in short, you really can't guess what you'll see on the road as you take the next corner. Street lighting is mostly nonexistent and most vehicles don't come with any lights - reason for which you should not be driving during the night.
Therefore, increased caution and focus is advised when driving through Sudan - use of public transport or of vehicles for hire also comes with a high risk of traffic accidents. In case you are not driving along a major route, we recommend you to hire an experienced, trustworthy local guide to accompany you.
Night-Clubs, Pubs, and Bar Risks in Sudan: LOW
There have been no reports of incidents occurring in such facilities so far. When looking at Sudan's crime levels and crime locations, most of them take place on the street, in the form of pickpocketing, petty theft, and car-jacking. In this respect, you should rather be careful on your way to and back from any night-clubs, pubs, and bars that you may visit.
If you are using a taxi to go to and return from such locations, it is recommended that you choose one from a reputed one rather than one you find waiting on the street.
Even though there have been no reports on drink-spiking and such, you should still be careful - don't leave your drink unattended and make sure that you can see it while it's being prepared. Other than that, if you comply with the local laws/ customs and you don't offend anyone, you should have a great time in a night-club/ bar.
Health Risks in Sudan: MEDIUM
According to the CDC, the main danger in Sudan is the Yellow Fever Virus. Also, the Sudanese government requires that people entering Sudan to be vaccinated on arrival to avoid outbreaks. In the US, the vaccines are limited so an appointment has to be made in advance.
Another serious threat in Sudan is Malaria. Malaria is a highly contagious disease that is spread by mosquitoes. Prescription medication is a must have when you're traveling in northern Africa and the medication must continue after leaving the area.
Heat strokes can be a huge discomfort. Remember that Sudan is mainly desert, so expect high temperatures. Cover your head by all means to avoid heat strokes.
List of Vaccines You Need in Sudan
A list of vaccines provided by de CDC. In this way, you can prevent any unwanted complications.
- Hepatitis A and B
- Yellow Fever
- Typhoid fever
Most Dangerous Areas in Sudan
- The Darfur States
- North Kordofan, West Kordofan, White Nile, and Sennar States
- Within 200km of the border with Libya
- Abyei Administrative Area
Concluding Remarks: Is Sudan Safe to Visit?
To conclude the above statements, Sudan is relatively safe to visit. With warm and kind people at every door, it’s impossible that you will not have a proper vacation.
Be sure to ask for directions at any times as the people will gladly help you and they can break the language barrier with ease.
Also, try to stay away from western and southern areas of the country and ask for help if you get lost. The terrorist attack won't happen that often in the above-mentioned areas, but it is better to avoid. As well, the civil unrest won't be happening in the northern parts of the country.
Also, you will need to gather all your medical supplies and get a thorough check before leaving Sudan as you will encounter certain unpleasant companions.