I arrived in Port Sudan at the end of August 2021 as a volunteer for OCEANROAMERS. Four months spent in Port Sudan during which I participated in the development of the various projects we are carrying out in the Red Sea: conservation and restoration of marine biodiversity and scuba diving education. My residence visa going to its end, it was time for me to leave Sudan and take some rest before I could return with a new visa. To travel and discover new horizons off the beaten track and at a lower cost, a destination has begun to stand out from the others: Aswan, a city bordering the Nile, closely linked to the history of the Country of Nubia and the Empire of Egypt.
In December, the preparation of the trip began as well as the collection of information. It emerged that, to travel by road, from Port Sudan to Aswan and the rest of Egypt, without having your own vehicle, there are two possibilities. The first option is to take a bus from Port Sudan to Cairo in Egypt and get off in Aswan. The company offering this offer makes the trip once a week. The second option is to take a bus from Port Sudan to Dongola, from Dongola take a minibus to Wadi Halfa and from Wadi Halfa take transport to the border post where you will take a bus to Aswan.
For bus journeys, it is imperative to inquire and take a ticket in advance if you do not want to have any unpleasant surprises. The agencies where you can buy your tickets are usually at or near the bus station. There are no departures every day on weekdays and none on weekends. It is always possible to buy your ticket the same day before departure, but for this there must still be a bus with seats available.
Regarding the place to spend the night between the different stages, know that it is possible to take a dormitory room (3 to 5 people) from 500 SDG or to take a hotel room from 2500 SDG without having to make a reservation in advance.
Due to the Covid crisis, it is imperative to have a negative test to be able to travel from Sudan to Egypt and vice versa. The various bus transport companies will ask you to present your Covid test to them on the day of your departure to let you board. The test in question is essential and must be presented at the border post in order to be able to take it.
The test can be done in Port Sudan at different medical centers or clinics. I recommend Ibn Khaldun medical center, the price of the test is 10,000 SDG and the staff is very friendly and helpful.
In Aswan, the test is only feasible at Aswan Fever Hospital whose Covid section is moved to Chest Hospital, Aswan Fever Hospital being under renovation according to the latest news. The price of the test is 1250 LE for foreigners or tourists, outside the African continent.
Another important note, plan several photocopies of your passport and your entry permit to Sudan for the return trip. In Egypt, You will need to provide a copy of your passport to do your Covid test or to buy certain bus tickets.
Port Sudan – Dongola
Departure is scheduled early in the morning at 4:30 am. It is advisable to get to the bus station at 3:45 am where you have the opportunity to buy breakfast, coffee, tea and others. The ticket bought a few days earlier cost me 15,000 SDG. I arrive shortly before 4 am with Mohamed who dropped me off at the station. Arrived at the bus, all I have to do is put my luggage in the hold and get last minute information about the connection by minibus to Wadi Halfa from Dongola. The bus starts at 4:33 am but really starts at 4:55 am after weaving through the crowd and the other buses.
The bus stops from time to time at checkpoints, so that people can get off once they arrive at their destination, to pick up new passengers or to let people get on to sell all kinds of food or drinks.
The sun is rising over the desert and the mountains on the horizon. A few hours after leaving Port Sudan, the time comes to cross the mountains where the road is in very bad condition. After crossing the mountains, the landscape changes and gives way to vast desert expanses in which vegetation is scarce. You can see herds of camels and goats and some cultivated plots.
Breakfast is provided on the bus, each passenger receives a brioche and a drink.
Around 11 am, the vegetation multiplies and diversifies around the Nile and the dwellings of Atbara where there is a large number of arable land and orchards. Shortly after leaving Atbara, the desert resurfaces.
At 11:55 a.m., the bus stops at a gas station with a cafeteria, time to stretch your legs and have a meal. I sympathize with local people and passengers with whom I travel and we have coffee together. The youngest are surprised and amused to see a stranger. The bus leaves at 12:22 pm The first dunes appear on the horizon. The journey continues through the desert. During the afternoon, the bus passes through various towns and villages adjoining the Nile (including Al Dabbah and Al Goled). On the left side the desert and its dunes, on the right side palm groves as far as the eye can see against a backdrop of green mountains. Past Al Goled, the palm groves give way again to the desert. The bus arrives at its destination at 6 pm.
Dongola – Wadi Halfa
As I exit the bus at the Dongola bus station, I wave to someone offering minibus transport to Wadi Halfa. My concern has just disappeared, it turns out to be much easier than I thought to find transport to Wadi Halfa. I collect my luggage and board the minibus a few dozen meters further, after having paid 5000 SDG. Barely boarded, the driver starts his minibus and sets off, it is 6:05 pm.
At 8:40 pm, a short break in what seems to be a relay. There is a shop where you can buy food, drink or even cigarettes.
After 10 pm, the driver turns off the lights in the minibus, the remaining passengers lie down and sleep while the driver takes us to Wadi Halfa.
We finally arrive at 11:30 pm. The border being closed at this time and having no response from my contact there, I stay with the passengers who were also in the minibus and who invite me to follow them to a hotel. We arrive at a hotel where rooms for 3 are offered. After presenting my passport to be registered, and having paid 500 SDG for the night, the receptionist shows me my room and my bed, which has no blanket. I am then very happy to have thought of taking my sleeping bag.
Wadi Halfa – Aswan
Departure from Wadi Halfa at 11 am. My contact answered me in the morning and we went to arrange a bus ticket for Aswan (4000 SDG) as well as transport to the border.
Arrived at the border at the Ashkit-Qustul post, the first step is to complete the various procedures to be able to leave Sudan. It is very useful to exchange money for Egyptian pounds if you do not already have them. Some people offer it to me at the Sudanese immigration. I then join the bus waiting before the Egyptian immigration.
Once on the bus you have to pay an extra 140 LE for taxes (General Authority for land and dry ports).
The time to complete all the visa procedures, baggage search and others, I leave the border post shortly after 3:30 pm. In the bus, there are only Sudanese passengers and one European, myself. I chat with several of the passengers who wonder why I am traveling from Sudan to Egypt and who take the opportunity to speak in English. One of them invites me to visit him one of these days.
The bus stops half an hour later and gets into a line where the bus, truck of goods and cattle mix. The various transports are waiting their turn to board the ferry that will take them to cross Lake Nasser. Around 4:45 pm the bus gets on the ferry accompanied by 3 other buses and the ferry starts. I take advantage of the crossing to get out of the bus, take some pictures of this magnificent landscape and meet other passengers, some of whom offer me to take selfies together.
At 6 pm, the crossing ends at Abu Simbel where we take a break for the evening dinner. On the menu,fish or chicken, accompanied by rice, bread, salad, and sauce, all for 30 LE. There is also the possibility of buying an Egyptian sim card and data if needed as well as a lot of other trinkets. The bus starts again half an hour later. Finally, the bus arrives in Aswan at 22:45 pm.
It is also possible to travel by ferry to Aswan.
In the city of Aswan and its surroundings, a large number of activities are possible.
Between visits to historical sites or museums, the discovery of the islands on the Nile and Nubian villages, walks in the city and around and many others. The unmissable historical site of Aswan is undoubtedly the temples of Philae. There is also the possibility of booking transport to visit the Abu Simbel temples.
I stayed there for a week during which I stayed in a hostel and never stopped making great encounters, incredible visits and enjoying the charm of this city. You can eat well there and for cheap prices in the small local restaurants, the most popular dish being the foul. The big difference between Sudan and Egypt is that you are very often approached to sell you things or tourist activities and that you have to haggle most of the time to get correct prices.
Among the activities that I had the opportunity to do, I particularly appreciated the visits to the temples of Abu Simbel and Philae as well as the visits to the Nubian villages where I spent time discussing and getting to know locals around a coffee or a meal and on a background of local music. The felucca ride on the Nile at sunset accompanied by my new roommates from the hostel is also a moment that I enjoyed.
In short, there is a lot of activities to do in Aswan. I had a great time there and will definitely be going back soon.
Way back to Port Sudan
The return journey takes place in the same way as for the outward journey. Departure from Aswan to Wadi Halfa, then Wadi Halfa to Dongola, only by minibus as on the outward journey, and finally Dongola to Port Sudan.
However, I encountered a little more difficulty to cross back the border. That day, after leaving Aswan around midnight, I arrived in front of the border at 8 am but only returned after 9 am. Then I remain somewhat stuck at the border. The Egyptian policemen need my original permit to let me cross over to the Sudanese side of the border. At 1 pm I manage to contact Ahmed, my contact on Wadi Halfa, who submitted my entry permit to the Sudanese immigration a few days earlier. Ahmed then arranges with the Sudanese immigration staff to have my permit sent to the Egyptian side. The Egyptian policeman tells me that I have to wait another hour or even a little more before my permit arrives to them to let me cross to the other side. I receive my entry permit at 2:25 pm. I cross the Sudanese border after 3 pm. I have to wait at the gate at the entrance to Sudanese immigration for a few minutes because a guard want to check my passport. I run into Quentin again, a Frenchman I had met in Aswan, who is somewhat stranded at the border post, the guards not wanting to let him leave without him being able to withdraw money to continue his journey. I will learn a few days later that he was able to continue on his journey. My bus to go to Wadi Halfa has already left for a while. At the border post, passport verification and questionnaire to fill in about my activities in Sudan, address, sponsor, etc. It's finally after 7 pm that I leave the border post to go to Wadi Halfa, without my suitcase left in the bus which had already left for a while. Mohamed, a person I met at the border and who was helping me find my suitcase, drove me to Wadi Halfa and told me to contact him the next day to pick up my suitcase at the bus station.
After spending the night in Wadi Halfa for 2000SDG in a solo room, I go in search of my suitcase with Mohamed. We find my suitcase on the bus. I pick it up and Mohamed helps me find a minibus for Dongola. The minibus leaves around 2 pm and arrives shortly before 8 pm in Dongola. A person who was with me in the minibus helps me find someone to sell me a ticket to Port Sudan. He finally finds someone who reopens his shop to make me the ticket. Then I take a room in a hotel to rest before resuming the road at 2 am towards Port Sudan. The riksha with which I had arranged a few hours earlier was waiting for me next to drop me off at the bus station.
Details about the border crossing and visa procedures
Regarding the Ashkit-Qustul border crossing between Sudan and Egypt, it is divided into two parts: Sudanese immigration and Egyptian immigration.
Arrived at the Sudanese immigration, you must fill out a classic immigration form to leave the country, obtain the exit stamp on your visa and have your luggage checked if you are asked to do so. Don't forget to get some Egyptian pounds if you don't have any yet, you will need them later.
Then, join your bus to pass through Egyptian immigration for a first check of the luggage and the bus. Once finished, you must go to the immigration office. Depending on your nationality, you need a visa to enter Egypt. To obtain your visa you have two options, obtain the visa at the border or apply online for an e-visa. In case you get the visa at the border, plan the exact amount ($25, however find out about the amount and the currency in advance) and go to the bank at the border post to get it .
After completing the immigration formalities, obtaining the entry stamp and collecting your passport, you can join your bus and wait there until it leaves the border post.
The staff of the Sudanese and Egyptian immigration posts helped me a lot on the spot by giving me information on the different procedures that I have set out above. Like, for example, to find the bank at Egyptian immigration and get my visa for Egypt printed.
For the passage from Egypt to Sudan, once arrived at the Egyptian border post, you must go through the baggage checkpoint and then go to the immigration office. You are given an immigration card on the bus, however check that this card is in accordance with your nationality. If the bus staff does not have a card that suits you, you should not take it but get it at the border. I had to buy a card because I had received the one for Egyptian travelers on the bus.
At the Egyptian immigration, it is very likely that you will be asked for the original of your entry permit for Sudan. If you are in possession of your entry permit, obtained in Cairo or Aswan, this will not be a problem. I recommend that you apply and get it in Cairo and not in Aswan where the time to obtain it can be very long. However, if your entry permit is waiting for you at the Sudanese border post, arrange for it to be brought to the Egyptian border post or provide them with a printed copy.
Then you can join your bus before passing through Sudanese immigration. You may be asked to get off the bus at the border entrance while you check your passport.
After that, you need to complete a form with your personal details, reason for staying in Sudan, names and contacts of your sponsors and other information. The next step is to obtain the visa (VISA B) in your passport which you will only obtain by handing over your entry permit. The visa costs $100. Remember that the registration of your arrival in Sudan must be done within three days.
You have the option to change your Egyptian pounds into Sudanese pounds at immigration.
Comment and additional information
If you encounter a problem or need help, do not hesitate to let it know. Whether during the trip or at the border post, at Sudanese immigration as well as at Egyptian immigration, you will always find someone who can help or guide you. What's more, you will no doubt meet some wonderful people during your adventure and you will be amazed by the generosity, friendliness, helpfulness and welcome you will receive.
Despite the fact that traveling by road from Port Sudan to Aswan is long and sometimes uncomfortable, this way remains the least expensive and the best to discover these two countries, their magnificent landscapes and to meet beautiful people. It is an adventure not to be missed.
Port Sudan – Dongola or Dongola – Port Sudan
- Ticket price between 13.500 and 15.000 SDG
- Travel time : between 13 hours and 14 hours
- Distance : about 1000 km
Dongola – Wadi Halfa or Wadi Halfa – Dongola
- Price : 5.000 SDG
- Travel time : between 5 hours 30 minutes and 6 hours
- Distance : about 500 km
Wadi Halfa – Assouan
- Ticket price : 4.000 SDG
- Price of shipping taxes : 140 LE
- Travel time : about 6 hours
- Distance : about 400 km
Assouan – Wadi Halfa
- Ticket price : 300 LE
- Price of shipping taxes : 120 LE
- Duration : about 6 hours
- Distance : about 400 km
- Transports : 42,500 SDG + 560 LE
- Visas : 125 $
- Covid tests : 10.000 SDG + 1250 LE.