Report from my 2016 visit to South Sudan

by Bengt Hildebrand - 1 year, 9 months ago

Dear friends!

Please find below some information from my very recent (February 29 th to March 4 th, 2016) trip to South Sudan.

• Visa: Me and my friend traveled on Swedish passports and arranged our visa through the South Sudanese embassy in Norway who granted us a 30 day single entry tourist visa. The procedure was straightforward although they were a bit reluctant to let go of the passports until very close to our departure. The cost was about 100 USD plus postage. Apart from the visa form and the passport they asked for two photos and a Letter of Invitation (LOI). They surprisingly advised us to write the LOI ourselves! In this letter we stated that we intended to visit for tourism only and were not going to seek employment et cetera.

• Insurance: Since the Swedish Foreign Department advises against all travel to South Sudan my regular insurance wasn’t valid. Instead, I got myself a policy from the Danish agent ihi-Bupa that basically covers the whole world, including no-go-zones. I paid around 80 USD for five days coverage.

• Air connections: We flew Ethiopian Airlines coming in from Entebbe in Uganda on a Monday and leaving for Addis Ababa on a Friday. The airport also has services to e g Nairobi, Khartoum and Dubai. Please note that the airport is closed on Saturdays and Sundays. This also applies to medical evacuations.

• Immigration: Was smooth both on arrival and on departure. No hassle. No departure tax. If you plan to stay more than 72 hours you need to register at Immigration downtown which took us 1-2 hours and cost us 325 South Sudanese Pounds (receipt was on 170 SSP though!). At the airport there seemed to be a Visa on Arrival (VOA) desk, but I didn’t try to figure out who is eligible for this.

• Transfer: I was picked up by a Juba resident friend of a friend and dropped by my hotel. Outside the airport I saw some motorcycle taxis (boda-boda) and some autorickshaws but no regular taxis (maybe they were unmarked).

• Money: I was advised not to change money at the airport due to poor rates. I was also advised not to use the moneychangers downtown beacause of either criminals spotting me and robbing me or police arresting me (black market changing is apparently illegal although they won’t arrest locals changing). Instead I was recommended to change through my hotel which I did. During my stay the official rate was 28-30 South Sudanese Pounds to each USD. The black market rate was 35-38 SSP/USD. I was told only 50 and 100 USD bills would be accepted but I paid my bills at the hotel and tipped people with lower denominations. I didn’t see any ATM:s but a globetrotting friend of mine successfully used an ATM in Juba in 2015.

• Accomodation:o Bedouin Lodge: The place where I stayed. It’s owned by the German Dieter (+211 955 213 732, A cabin with AC costs 80 USD (100 USD with en suite bathroom) including breakfast, wifi (good) and laundry. Airport pick-up and drop-off is 500 SSP. Food was good and the bar cozy with many expats visiting in the evening. No pool. The grounds seemed quite ”open” and we didn’t see very much security but on the other hand we had no incidents. Dieter connected us with people that took us on our excursions (see below). Bedouin is reasonably centrally located and within half a kilometre from the Nile river.o Acacia Village: A very safe and up-market place. Pool and restaurant/bar on the premises. 150 USD/night. We visited Acacia for a beer. Lots of NGO people around. The place is located several km outside the city centre. They do airport pick-ups, city tours etc. Contact info: +211 911 252 613,, www.acaciavillage.como Oasis Camp Juba: Another traveller I've been in touch with stayed at this location recently and recommended it. I contacted them and they instantly replied on emails and were very friendly. They offered lodging with HB/FB for about 150-200 USD a night depending on room standard and meal plan. They do airport pick-ups and arrange tours as well as money changing. Contact info: +211 956 932 316, Near the river Nile.o Juba Bridge Hotel: Some globetrotting friends of mine stayed there in March and July (2015) respectively and were happy with their stay. This hotel has a website but doesn’t answer emails. When in Juba I heard that they might go out of business soon on account of groups of soldiers occupying rooms on a long term basis without paying and scaring other guests away by aggressive and drunken behavior.

• Excursions: All our excursions were arranged by Dieter on Bedouin camp.o Our first excursion was a half day city tour with friendly Kenyan driver Justin (+211 955 009 570) who drove a Toyota Land Cruiser with AC. He charged us 20 USD each. There is not much to see in Juba but we visited the old and new (under construction) Nile bridges, the main markets, the mosque, the cathedral, State House, Ministeries Road, the two monuments to the 19 th century Nile explorers (located in the middle of roundabouts on a main road as well as John Garang’s statue and mausoleum. At the latter site we were approached by military police who clearly showed that they didn’t like having us around. We didn’t take any photos whatsoever. Many people warned us to do this.o The second excursion was a Nile cruise to Full Moon Island in the middle of the Nile a 10 min boat ride from Habanesh (?) Lodge. The boat used to depart from da Vinci Lodge Before, but no longer. There is not much to do on the island but the breeze is nice as well as the Nile view. There is a bar, a restaurant and a pool table. There is no beach and swimming is dangerous due to strong currents. The return boat trip was 5 USD per person and you can depart the island any time you like. Call manager Peter Gum +211 957 115 78 for details.o Third excursion was a full day outing to Nimule National Park near the Ugandan border. Before we went, we checked the latest security update with several people and going South from Juba is apparently OK for the moment. There have been hold-ups though, sometimes with people being shot albeit not recently. The highway was in good shape and there was not much traffic. It took us 3 hours to drive to Nimule town from Juba. We were stopped at 2-3 police posts en route but there was no hassle. We showed ID only once in either direction and passport copy was OK (we still had our passports with us). We paid our driver Sammy 115 USD in total including petrol. The park headquarters were easily located by asking around and less than 1 km along a dirt road from the highway. There was a 70 USD fee per person that included an armed ranger. Our car was an ordinary Toyota and took us only a few km into the park before the road was becoming too bad. A 4WD would have made it. Consider this when booking the ride if you don’t like walking. Most animals in the park have been killed during the war or have fled the area. We saw hippos and monkeys though as well as fresh elephant manure. There is supposed to be some antelopes around as well. We walked from where our car had to stop for an hour through a fishing community to three different rapids in the Nile and then an hour back. Bring water. There were plenty of insects that bit (horseflies?). Back at headquarters and after a quick lunch in town we went for a 30 min boat ride that was included. We tipped our guide/guard 10 USD and the boat man 5 USD. They seemed happy with that. Petrol was extra but not very expensive.o We had thought of a fourth excursion, a hike up Jebel Khujul, the mountain that dominates Juba. This is normally easily done in the early morning. Later it gets too hot. Stick to the paths and organise someone to accompany you. There is still UXO on the mountain. We were however advised not to go since during our visit to Juba there was high army presence on the mountain due to the political opposition being expected to come into town for negotiations (potential for clashes). Normally this isn’t a problem.

• Security: We didn’t have any issues.We even walked unaccompanied in Juba daytime without any hassle. There was some heavy gunfire one night. We never found out the reason. Reportedly, underneath the ”safe” surface there is currently a lot of unrest on account of public funds shortage (due to corruption and theft by politicians) meaning that a lot of the people who have jobs don’t get paid, including parts of the police and military. Several households have difficulties affording just one (1) meal daily at the moment. This has contributed to unrest and a crime surge. Fortunately we weren’t targeted.

Good luck!


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