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Safety Travel Safety: Africa: Sudan

Sudan: Republic of the Sudan
Capital: Khartoum
Population: 37,090,298
Currency: Sudanese dinar (SDD)
Languages: Arabic (official), Nubian, Ta Bedawie, diverse dialects of Nilotic, Nilo-Hamitic, Sudanic languages, English
Religions: Sunni Muslim 70% (in north), indigenous beliefs 25%, Christian 5% (mostly in south and Khartoum)
Borders: Central African Republic 1,165 km, Chad 1,360 km, Democratic Republic of the Congo 628 km, Egypt 1,273 km, Eritrea 605 km, Ethiopia 1,606 km, Kenya 232 km, Libya 383 km, Uganda 435 km

Sudan is a large, developing country in northeastern Africa. The capital is Khartoum. Most of southern Sudan and parts of the Nuba Mountains, southern Blue Nile, and the Eritrean border area are held by armed opposition groups and are outside government control. The information in this document applies to government-held areas of Sudan, unless otherwise stated.

There are no consular officers resident in Sudan. The U.S. Embassy�s ability to provide consular services, including emergency assistance, is severely limited. 

Travel in all parts of Sudan, particularly outside the capital city of Khartoum, is potentially hazardous. The Government of Sudan and rebel forces in early June, 2004, executed a peace agreement aimed at ending a 20 year civil war. Although most or all fighting has officially ended, danger may persist in the southern Sudanese provinces of Upper Nile and Bahr El Ghazal. There has been fighting between Government of Sudan backed forces and rebel forces in the western province of Darfur. The fighting, combined with drought and famine, has resulted in a world-recognized humanitarian crisis. In the South, the Lord�s Resistance Army (LRA), which normally operates in northern Uganda and occasionally shelters in southern Sudan, has allegedly threatened to target Americans. The land border with Egypt is open. Land transportation between Eritrea and Sudan is not dependable. The Sudan People's Liberation Army (SPLA) controls all border crossings from Kenya and Uganda.

There is currently no curfew in Khartoum. However, persons who are outside between midnight and 5:00 a.m. are subject to document searches at police checkpoints. Hotel officials and local police can inform visitors whether a curfew is in effect in other localities.

Petty crime and thievery occur. Travelers should exercise caution at the airport, in markets, and at public gatherings.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Sudanese laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in Sudan are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and fines.

Under the PROTECT Act of April 2003, it is a crime, prosecutable in the United States, for U.S. citizens or permanent resident aliens to exploit children sexually via pornography, the Internet or other means or to engage in illicit sexual conduct with a person under the age of 18 in a foreign country, regardless of whether there was intent.

Medical facilities in Sudan are limited. The U.S. Embassy in Khartoum maintains a list of local doctors and clinics for reference.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning Sudan is provided for general reference only and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

As part of local culture, strangers may stop to help lone women drivers stranded at the side of the road. However, individual drivers should accept such help at their own risk. 

Road conditions are hazardous due to unpredictable local driving habits, pedestrians and animals in the roadway, and the lack of basic safety equipment on many vehicles. Roads are narrow and poorly maintained. Only some major highways are paved. Roads in southern Sudan may be impassable during the rainy season, while roads in the north can be quickly covered with shifting sand at anytime during the year. Nighttime driving throughout the country is dangerous and should be avoided if at all possible, as vehicles often operate without lights or park in the road without warning. Ambulance and road emergency services are available in major urban areas but are extremely limited or unavailable elsewhere in the country.

Public transit is limited except in and between major urban areas. Passenger facilities are basic and crowded, especially during rush hours or seasonal travel. Schedules are unpublished and subject to change without notice. Vehicle maintenance does not meet the same standards as those in the United States or other western countries. There is regular passenger train service from Khartoum to Wade Halfa (on the border with Egypt ) and Port Sudan (on the Red Sea ). Inter-city bus service between major cities is regular and inexpensive. Intra-city bus service in the major urban areas is generally regular, but most buses and bus stops are unmarked. Taxis are available in the major cities at hotels, tourist sites, and government offices. Public transit service to communities in the interior is usually limited to irregularly scheduled mini-buses. Most rural communities in the interior have no public transit whatsoever.

U.S. citizens are subject to the laws of the country in which they are traveling. Traffic entering from side streets has the right of way when entering a fast-moving main street. Cars have the steering wheel on the left side and drivers use the right side of the road. Traffic on the right has the right of way at stops. Right turns on a red light are prohibited. Speed limits are not posted. The legal speed limit for passenger cars on inter-city highways is 120 kph (about 70 mph), while in most urban areas it is 60 kph (about 35 mph). The speed limit in congested areas and school zones is 40 kph (about 25 mph). 

All motor vehicle operators are required to purchase third-party liability insurance from the government. Nonetheless, many local drivers carry no insurance. Persons involved in an accident resulting in death or injury are required to report the incident to the nearest police station or official as soon as possible. Persons found at fault can expect fines, revocation of driving privileges, and jail sentences, depending on the nature and extent of the accident. Penalties for persons convicted of driving under the influence of alcohol are strict, and convicted offenders may expect fines, jail sentences, and corporal punishment. 

U.S. citizens may use their U.S.-issued driver's licenses up to 90 days after arrival. Thereafter, they must carry either an International Driving Permit (IDP) or a Sudanese driver's license. There are no restrictions on vehicle types, including motorcycles and motorized tricycles. Motorcycles, however, are not common.

For specific information concerning Sudanese driving permits, vehicle inspection, road tax, and mandatory insurance, contact the Sudanese Embassy in Washington, D.C.

As there is no direct commercial air service between the U.S. and Sudan by local carriers at present, nor economic authority to operate such service, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed Sudan 's civil aviation authority for compliance with international aviation safety standards for oversight of Sudan 's air carrier operations. For further information, travelers may contact the Department of Transportation within the U.S. at 1-800-322-7873, or visit the FAA Internet home page at

The U.S. Department of Defense (DOD) separately assesses some foreign air carriers for suitability as official providers of air services. For information regarding the DOD policy on specific carriers, travelers may contact the DOD at (618)229-4801.

Effective October 22, 2004, employees and contractors of the U.S. Embassy in Khartoum are no longer permitted to use Sarit Airlines for official travel, and are strongly urged to avoid using Sarit Airlines for non-official travel. The only exception is if travel is on an Antonov 28 aircraft, dedicated to the Joint Military Commission (JMC), or a Mikoyan-8 helicopter, dedicated to the JMC and African Union Cease Fire Commission. Numerous crashes and safety incidents over the past year, two of which involved fatalities, have raised serious concerns about the safety of Sarit Airlines' equipment and procedures. Americans are strongly urged to avoid travel on Sarit Airlines. 

Unforeseen circumstances such as sandstorms and electrical outages may cause flight delays. Khartoum International Airport 's arrival and departure procedures are lengthy. Passengers on international flights should allow three hours for pre-departure security and other processing at the airport. Passengers for domestic flights should be at the airport at least two hours before flights. Domestic flights, including those to and from Port Sudan, Dongola, and Juba are subject to change or cancellation without notice. There are no scheduled commercial flights to or from opposition-held areas.

In late 2002, there was an attempted hijacking of a Saudi Arabian airliner by a Sudanese passenger. In the spring of 2003, a Sudanair Boeing 737 crashed shortly after takeoff, killing all aboard.

A permit is required before taking photographs anywhere in Khartoum, as well as in the interior of the country. Photographing military areas, bridges, drainage stations, broadcast stations, public utilities, slum areas, or beggars is prohibited.

Cellular telephone service is more reliable than landline telephone service. There is no telecommunications infrastructure in opposition-held Sudanese territory outside of relief agencies and opposition radio networks. E-mail is available in Sudan, and there are Internet cafes in Khartoum, but service can be erratic. Disruptions of water and electricity are frequent.

Sudan has a majority Muslim population and is very conservative. Alcohol is prohibited and conservative dress is expected. Although western women are not required to cover their heads, long sleeve shirts and full-length skirts or slacks should be worn. Men can wear short sleeve shirts but should not wear short pants in public.

Please also refer to the separate Travel Warning for Sudan and to the Worldwide Caution Public Announcement.

October 22, 2004 | Travel Warning

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