Sudan Travel: Guide to the Pyramids, Visa Rules and Khartoum

Sudan Diaries

Experience a country that has more pyramids than Egypt, that has no McDonalds but does have tourist sites that would make most countries envious!

Once the biggest country in Africa until the South went rogue, Sudan is not your typical holiday destination, but with ever-increasing tourism arrivals, could that all be about to change?

When asked where you are going on holiday, it’s highly unlikely you’ll say Sudan. Most people couldn’t point it out on a map, let alone tell you why you should visit. The general consensus is that I’m nuts, mostly because the mainstream media depicts Sudan as a dangerous and unsafe destination to visit.

Come with me on my journey around Sudan...

Come with me on my journey around Sudan…

My Sudan Diaries

So what’s it like to visit? It’s certainly a culture shock at first, I wasn’t sure what to expect but it has definitely encouraged me to see more of Africa. Whilst I was travelling in Sudan I was sadly only there for six days but I sure packed a lot in. Here’s what I got up to…

Sunday 19th February

I absolutely love the feeling of landing somewhere new and exotic, not knowing what to expect or whether you’ll even be allowed into the country. After flying from Manchester and having a short stop in Istanbul, I arrived very early in the morning a bit bleary-eyed and attempting to stay awake.

Thankfully for me I was travelling in a group so I felt safe in the fact that if something went wrong there’d be someone there to help me out. Be sure to collect an arrival card before you proceed to passport control or you will be sent to the back of the queue. As it happens I was the first one through security so I had plenty of time to acclimatise and people-watch at the airport. Whatever you do, don’t take photos in/around the terminal!

You’ll certainly see some sites at the only International airport in the country; I saw people randomly walking in and out of the “secure” areas and even some falcons that a rich Emirati had brought with him.

Good morning Sudan and Sudan Airways - a rare sighting at an airport as they are banned from flying into the European Union.

Good morning Sudan and Sudan Airways – a rare sighting at an airport as they are banned from flying into the European Union.

Whilst preparing for Sudan I was advised not to bring sterling and instead only bring Euros and Dollars, thankfully I ignored this advice as I was able to exchange Great British Pounds at the airport. Using XE.com I was advised that the official bank rate was 8SDP to 1GBP, but for some reason I was offered more than double this and was given 19SDP! This helped make my trip to Sudan one of the cheapest I’ve ever experienced.

After a long journey some shut-eye was required; thankfully I awoke with a desire to go exploring. Khartoum is a strange mix of old vs new, some streets are clean, others are a rubbish dump. It’s quite difficult not to be affected by the dirt and sand in the air so make sure you take nasal spray.

One of the first places I came across was the Corinthia Hotel a.k.a Burj Libya. I’d heard many stories about this place, it’s the most luxurious hotel in the country and was built using Co. Gaddafi’s money. At the time I visited it costs $279 to stay for one night, far more than your average Sudanese can afford (or me for that matter). After ordering ice cream and waiting 45 minutes for it not to turn up I cancelled my order and opted to buy a 25p cone from a local seller outside instead.

Corinthia Hotel a.k.a Burj Libya

Corinthia Hotel
a.k.a Burj Libya

Having previously visited Egypt and sailed down the Nile on a felucca it was only right that I do a boat trip again in Sudan. Head to the Corinthia Hotel and next to the river you’ll be asked if you’d like to take a boat ride, thankfully the Sudanese weren’t pushy but you will need to haggle as you’ll be offered different things so be sure you know what you’re getting into. There was four of us and we paid a total of 300SDP for one hour to see the confluence of the Nile and also Tuti Island. Amazingly we were even offered life jackets!

One thing you must obtain on the first day of travelling in Sudan is a photo permit. They are free and you can get one through a travel agent or hotel representative but without this you’ll be subject to scrutiny if stopped by police. Similar to other countries, many locals don’t want their photo taken but if you strike up a conversion you’ll be amazed at the friendliness of the Sudanese.

Was I in love with Khartoum? Sadly not, it didn’t leave me with the best impression but thankfully I needed plenty of beauty sleep before leaving the capital.

Typical views of Khartoum

Typical views of Khartoum

Monday 20th February

Catching up on my sleep makes me a happy traveller, as does having a shower to make me feel refreshed. Sadly for me the morning that I was travelling to the desert my hotel appeared to run out of water. Hurray for wet wipes!

I was thankful that I was finally able to escape the dirt of Khartoum, sadly for me it was only to discover that many parts of the countryside are also a plastic bag wasteland. There’s a huge business opportunity for anyone brave enough to educate people on the art of recycling.

Naga Archeological site

Naga Archeological site

Naga Archeological Site

Naga Archeological Site

I’ll admit that other than the famous Meroe pyramids I didn’t know anything else about any other tourist sites in Sudan. Thankfully for me this meant I was pleasantly surprised when I was travelling around. After veering off the main tarmacked road, it was incredibly bumpy and bone-shattering 45 minutes to reach the Naga (or Naqa in Arabic) archaeological site. I’d personally never heard about this place but it turns out it’s one of the largest ruined sites in the whole country, if this place was in neighbouring Egypt it would definitely be overrun by tourists!

After a really long day I was absolutely gutted to arrive too late to see the sunset over the Meroe pyramids, so my alarm was set for a very early morning to capture the beauty. Sadly for me the only other thing left to do was camp out in the desert, the tent wasn’t really suitable for two people so I ended up the back of a pickup truck in a sleeping bag. Thankfully, it turns out I probably got the most sleep out of everyone in my group as most of their tents collapsed during the night because of the wind.

For me though; camping out overnight sleeping underneath the stars – perfect.

Sunrise at the Pyramids of Meroe

Sunrise at the Pyramids of Meroe

Tuesday 21st February

I’m incredibly lucky to say I’ve seen some of the world’s most memorable tourist sites, however waking up to a sunrise over the Meroe pyramids has to be right up there with one of my favourite experiences. It gave me a feeling that I’d stepped back in time, although sadly the pyramids aren’t quite as abandoned as I initially imagined due to being located just off the main highway heading north.

The reason most tourists will visit Sudan is simply to experience the “less touristy” pyramids. Sudan has far more than Egypt, yet far less tourists. The Pyramids of Meroe are situated in a perfect spot for an ancient city, residing just east of the Nile River. Some of the restoration works left a lot to be desired, however I understand that with limited resources and money the Sudanese have been doing what they can with what they’ve got.

Sunrise at the Pyramids of Meroe

Sunrise at the Pyramids of Meroe

I felt like I'd stepped back in time when I visited Meroe - amazing experience!

I felt like I’d stepped back in time when I visited Meroe – amazing experience!

After leaving Meroe I ventured to yet more pyramids, this time discovering that the site of Nuri belonged to Nubian kings. I strongly suggest making a trip here, the pyramids have been far less damaged and the restoration is much more in keeping with what the original pyramids would have looked like – in my opinion.

Only 10km away is Jebel Barkal, a relatively small mountain – something I wasn’t expecting to find in Sudan as for some reason I thought it was completely flat! Once again, this UNESCO World Heritage site was a complete surprise for me, I was able to explore a recently discovered temple that was undergoing a live archeological excavation. This was an exciting opportunity and one I’m extremely grateful to the archeologists for allowing me to enter Mut Temple and step back in time.

Top L-R: Nuri Pyramids and Karima Pyramids Bottom L-R: Jebel Barkal and Mut Temple

Top L-R: Nuri Pyramids and Karima Pyramids
Bottom L-R: Jebel Barkal and Mut Temple

After becoming a bit templed-out for the day I thankfully arrived in the early evening to my accommodation for the night at a typical Nubian homestay. It wasn’t quite as expected, but after sleeping in the desert the night before and not having a shower even just the thought of a cold shower was enticing. The reality – a shed in the garden along with a bunch of spiders, mosquitos and other lovely creatures as shower guests. It did however help me remove the sand from every orifice!

Wednesday 22nd February

Another day, another archeological site. This time it’s the vast El-Kurru complex, this place was used by the Nubian royal family and houses some of the most fascinating and intact paintings inside the burial tombs. Thankfully excavations are still taking place and no doubt in years to come there will be far more things for travellers to see and experience including the tomb of Tanwetamani and King Shebitku.

El-Kurru

El-Kurru

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Tomb of Tanwetamani

After leaving El-Kurru, the rest of the day didn’t involve a huge amount of exploring, but thankfully for me I’m one of those sad people who can’t sleep on long journeys so I simply peered out the window, staring at the endless emptiness of sand with only a few glimpses of life by nomadic people with their camels and donkeys. At a pitstop along the way we saw a local minibus picking up passengers, in the form of a goat that was tied to a roof! Only in Sudan.

This goat will definitely have the wind in his hair...

This goat will definitely have the wind in his hair…

The emptiness certainly didn’t last long when we arrived back in Khartoum. Big cities often endure crazy traffic and manic driving but this place was something else, I’m just glad it wasn’t me who had the responsibility of getting us through it all safely. Thankfully though there’s method in the madness and somehow it all seems to work but for this relatively poor country just surviving is all you can hope for.

Many Sudanese still live a nomadic lifestyle, this little boy was collecting water for his family.

Many Sudanese still live a nomadic lifestyle, this little boy was collecting water for his family.

Thursday 23rd February

The one good thing about being back in the capital is that Wifi is freely available and you can connect with the outside world again. I thought that with Sudan being a relatively closed country the internet would be far more restricted but to my amazement I was freely able to access my typical Social networking sites, but hilariously Sky News was blocked – in your face Rupert Murdoch!

Khartoum used to be a sleepy city with few things to do or explore, this is slowly starting to change but thankfully there’s still a few abandoned dark tourism sites to visit including the Mogan Family park. Oddly enough this site is still tended to but most of the amusement park is now derelict, however the guard will let you freely roam and explore where you like. Make sure you venture all the way to the end as you’ll come face to face with the mighty Nile River, directly at the confluence where the Blue and the White Nile meets.

Mogan Family Park

Mogan Family Park

A short walk away is The National Museum of Sudan; housing the largest and most important archeological sites in the country. Although it could do with some improvements they’ve definitely made an effort overall and I found it informative. I’d advise you to visit this place last on your trip because you can visit the actual sites around the country and then complete your tour here and hopefully everything will fit in to place and make sense.

I’m not sure if you are like me but postcards are still a must when I’m travelling; especially the more exotic locations. However in Sudan you’ll struggle to even find a post office, in fact there are no post boxes in the whole country so try to head to main depot in Khartoum. I was easily able to find postcards for China and Hawaii randomly but you’ll struggle to find any decent postcards of Sudan; a definite business opportunity for any locals reading this!

Goodnight Khartoum

Goodnight Khartoum

Friday 24th February

Sadly today is my last day, it has been a very short trip to such a large country but the lasting impression of waking up at the ancient Pyramids of Meroe will stay with me forever.

If you fly into Sudan it’s likely your flight will be an early morning one, mine was scheduled for 3am so it was an incredibly early start. My advice would be to make sure you leave at least 2 hours to get through the airport as it can be a rather beaurocratic process. There are currency exchange desks before you pass through security, make sure you change any additional currency as there isn’t any other opportunities afterwards. I ended up buying a coffee pot that I didn’t need simply to get rid of my last remaining 100SDP.

Any adventure traveller will tell you about the various times they’ve become ill whilst travelling, sadly for me once I returned to the UK I spent the following week in my sick bed getting over contracting an infectious disease called Chikungunya that I’d caught during my time travelling, what a way to end my trip.

The joys of adventure travel!

sudanvisa

My Sudan visa and trusted Bradt Guide book.

Sudanese Visa

Inspired to visit? It’s surprisingly easy if you join an organised group tour as they’ll arrange a sponsor in the form of a local company; once this is received you can then apply for your visa. I no longer live in London so thankfully they accept applications by post.

What do you need to include?

  • One passport photo
  • Original Passport
  • Completed and signed application form
  • Yellow fever certificate – not required but would be advantageous
  • Postal Order for total of £55
  • Return special delivery envelope (including postage)

For more information please visit the Embassy of Sudan in London.

Your adventure awaits...

Your adventure awaits…

Travelling to Sudan

Would I visit again? It’s unlikely, but not for any bad reason, mostly just because I don’t go to the same place twice. Khartoum isn’t somewhere that would feature on my list of beautiful cities and the Sudanese need a serious lesson in recycling and not filling their countryside with plastic bags and rubbish. However the archeological sites more than make up for these downfalls and I’d strongly recommend visiting soon before your typical tourists find out about this place.

What will you need to take? Here’s a brief list of suggestions for items to take with you;

  • Toilet roll / wet wipes
  • Anti-bacterial hand gel
  • Nasal spray
  • First Aid kit
  • Long trousers (do not wear shorts due to strict Sharia Law)
  • Mosquito spray/net
  • Microfibre travel towel
I'm proud to travel to countries where I can fly the LGBT flag. Will you follow in my footsteps?

I’m proud to travel to countries where I can fly the LGBT flag. Will you follow in my footsteps?

LGBT Travel to Sudan

Let me point out the obvious; Sudan isn’t the first country you’d think of when you think of organising a holiday for an LGBT traveller but intrepid types are exploring, despite the risks. Let’s just say, don’t put it about! I didn’t receive any animosity, but then I would also say don’t make it hugely obvious either as this could land you in some hot water. If you’re an LGBT traveller and would like some advice or a chat about my trip here please contact me.

Further information?

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from this trip or any others please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

All images copyrighted, if you wish to use any images produced in this blog article please contact me.

Top 10 Countries To Visit In 2017

Where should you be exploring in the new year? No ideas yet? Don’t worry, I’m here to provide you with some hints and top tips for the top 10 countries to visit in 2017.

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1. United Kingdom

This entry is sure to confuse many of you, however due to Brexit and the Great British currency crash, a trip to the U.K is now more affordable than ever for International visitors. I bet you are thinking that the U.K isn’t a very adventurous destination? Well, time to think again, there’s many off-the-beaten track places to see in England, Scotland, Wales and Northern Ireland.

  • When to visit: April or August/September
  • Top Tip: Don’t just visit London!
  • Must see destination: Whitby, Shetland Islands, Tenby or Derry

Check out my articles about a staycation in Liverpool, walking in the Lake District and discovering the historical food culture of London.

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2. Uzbekistan

As of 1st April 2017 (no it’s not an April fools joke), you’ll be able to enter Uzbekistan without applying for a visa in advance. This is a huge step forward for the Central Asian nation famous for its red-tape visa rules and bureaucracy, I’m in no doubt that it should kick-start a spike in tourist arrivals and an interest in the fascinating history of the Silk Road. I’m hoping to squeeze a trip to Uzbekistan into 2017, anyone else with me?

  • When to visit: March or September
  • Top tip: Try the train from Tashkent to Samarkand or Bukhara
  • Must see destination: Samarkand

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3. North Korea

What I hear you say! Why on earth would you visit the Democratic People’s Republic of Korea (DPRK)? Well, I’d say that with Donald Trump soon to be in charge of the White House you’d better get here pretty sharply.

If you like being ushered around and having no freedom to do anything on your then North Korea is for you! However, you’ll get to see one of the most isolated countries on the planet and have a completely unique experience, I’m really intrigued but sadly haven’t yet been able to venture here. The country is attempting to open up by creating International marathons, golf tournaments and event a ski resort to attract investment and foreign tourists…all in the name of cold, hard cash.

  • When to visit: April – July
  • Top tip: Fly with Air Koryo to experience the world’s only 1 star airline
  • Must see destination: Pyongyang

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4. Georgia

I’m finally going to be visiting Georgia in 2017 and I can’t wait! As a country on the far edge of Europe, this place has a huge amount to offer including some of the best scenery, food and wine in the region. Georgia lies along the eastern edge of the Black Sea in the heart of the beautiful Caucasus Mountains, if you really feel like stepping off-the-beaten track then you should visit Georgia’s two breakaway regions, South Ossetia and Abkhazia.

  • When to visit: Best in Summer but if you like skiing visit in Winter
  • Top tip: Georgian wine is some of the best in the world, try it!
  • Must see destination: Gori (home of Stalin)

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5. Senegal

A unique blend of French and Middle Eastern influences, Senegal has never truly shined when it comes to its tourist market. However, this is a tragic shame as there’s fascinating beaches, tasty food to sample and even some of the most unique wildlife to see in its tropical forests.

  • When to visit: November to May
  • Top tip: Learn to deal with the constant pestering
  • Must see destination: Casamance Delta region

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6. Japan

If the fact that you can visit not only a cat cafe doesn’t tempt you enough, how about an owl cafe?! I’m sold, when can we go?

Sadly for me it’s unlikely that I’ll visit in 2017, but with a country that’s as uniquely modern as it is historical, Japan has a huge amount to offer a travel geek like me. I have a list as long as my arm of things I’d like to see or do here including travelling on the Bullet train, standing in the middle of Tokyo at rush hour and feeling the buzz whilst discovering a traditional Japan in the streets of Kyoto.

What you waiting for?! Don your kimono and wooden shoes, grab a samurai and discover the quirky, unique nature of Japan.

  • When to visit: Any time but March is a good time to see the cherry blossom
  • Top tip: Buy a railway pass to travel around this amazing country by train
  • Must see destination: Kyoto

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7. Mauritania

Most visitors to North Africa wouldn’t consider Mauritania as a place to visit, however you’d be surprised at how easy it is. I’ve discovered that the country recently relaxed their visa rules and you can now receive a visa on arrival, what better excuse do I need?! Although there isn’t many major tourist sites to see, the country is really unique and is just waiting to be explored. Make sure you check out the world’s longest train and the vast Sahara desert.

  • When to visit: December to March
  • Top tip: Take an adventure of a lifetime on the world’s longest train
  • Must see destination: Adrar

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8. Armenia

A country steeped in history and said to be the birthplace of Christianity, Armenia is slowly starting to appeal to Western tourists and open itself up. Armenia is another country that I’ll be getting to visit in 2017, flying into the capital Yerevan will be an experience in itself as I don’t expect any luxury, but the beauty of adventure travel is I may be pleasantly surprised.

  • When to visit: May – September
  • Top tip: Don’t mention anything about Azerbaijan, the country’s are both still at war
  • Must see destination: Dilijan (a.k.a Little Switzerland)

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9. India

Regularly featuring in many must-see lists, India surprisingly doesn’t receive as many visitors as you might think. Only 7.5m arrived in 2014, that might sound a lot but given that over 1 billion people live here, India certainly has a long way to go before it reaches its full potential. Even though I’ve included it as one of my top countries to visit, I’ve not had the best experience having recently tried to apply for an Indian visa but unfortunately due to the awful system I was unable to pay and therefore missed out on gaining an e-visa.

  • When to visit: December to May to avoid monsoon seasons
  • Top tip: Prepare yourself for an assault on every one of your senses, expect the unexpected
  • Must see destination: Darjeeling

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10. Mozambique

Fast becoming one of Africa’s must-see destinations, Mozambique is somewhere that I’ve had on my must-see list for several years now that the horrendous war is over and the country is finding its feet. Whether you’re interested in seeing incredible beaches, tea plantations and even rare wildlife such as rhinos and giraffes. Unfortunately I won’t make it there this year, but if you visit I’d love to hear your stories.

  • When to visit: August to October for seeing Humpback whales or November/December for the key bird watching season
  • Top tip: Visit now before everyone else discovers the natural beauty of Mozambique
  • Must see destination: Quirimbas Islands

 

Further Information

If you’d like to read my recommendations for 2016 and 2015 click on the year to discover unique adventures.

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

The World’s Fastest Growing Travel Destinations

Even with all the global gloom, tourism still managed to increase 5% in 2015 from the previous year, this means there’s now a huge 1.186 billion international tourist arrivals worldwide.

Many people choose to stick to the status quo and simply visit the same place year-on-year, have you ever wondered what else might be out there? For an adventurer like me, I can’t wait to go somewhere new each year, especially if it means I beat a burgeoning tourism boom at an up and coming destination.

Just where are the world’s fastest growing travel destinations according to the United Nations World Travel Organisation (UNWTO)? Lets take a look…

Paraguay - officially the fastest growing destination for tourist arrivals in the world in terms of percentage growth

Paraguay – officially the fastest growing destination for tourist arrivals in the world in terms of percentage growth

1. Paraguay

+97% to 1.28m International tourist arrivals

The fastest growing destination in terms of percentage increase is…Paraguay! Where I hear you ask? Well this country is squashed between the South American heavyweights Brazil and Argentina and has mostly been ignored on the world tourism map. However, that now appears to be changing and with an increase in arrivals hoping to see beautiful rivers, subtropical forests and even swamplands, will it convince you to visit any time soon?

2. Tajikistan

+94% to 414,000 International tourist arrivals

3. Niue

+62.9% to 10,000 International tourist arrivals

4. Japan

+47.5% to 20m International tourist arrivals

Jökulsárlón looks amazing in winter or summer!

Jökulsárlón in Iceland looks amazing in winter or summer!

5. Iceland

+29.8% to 1.3m International tourist arrivals

It is safe to say Iceland is my favourite country in Europe, completely unique, incredible food, warm and welcoming locals and when I visited in 2010 I was even happy to accept the cold because it meant I got to experience the incredible Aurora Borealis (Northern lights). What more could you want?!

Discover why Iceland is my favourite European destination, click here.

Beautiful Bosnia

Beautiful Bosnia

6. Bosnia and Herzegovina

+28.2% to 687,000 International tourist arrivals

When you mention the word Bosnia you instantly think of the war that gripped this country in the 1990’s, however times have changed and tourism is booming. Sarajevo doesn’t usually list highly on many must-see lists but this is an incredible shame, it’s a unique tourist destination that’s surrounded by pristine forests. You can even explore the abandoned site of the 1984 Winter Olympics if you’re into dark tourism.

Find out why Bosnia and Herzegovina is Europe’s hidden gem, click here.

7. Panama

+22.4% to 2.13m International tourist arrivals

Peaceful and tranquil: Thailand

Peaceful and tranquil: Thailand

8. Thailand

+22.3% to 30.3m International tourist arrivals

There’s something magical about Thailand, the people are incredibly warm and welcoming, the tasty and cheap food makes it an affordable trip and the wonderful scenery tends to draw tourists back year-on-year. Sadly I only made it to Bangkok on my trip in 2009, although I did venture to Kanchanaburi and Ayutthaya outside of the city but I’m certain I’ll be tempted back at some point to discover more.

9. Chile

+20.4% to 4.5m International tourist arrivals

10. Palau

+19.2% to 168,000 International tourist arrivals

11. Hungary

+19.1% to 14.5m International tourist arrivals

12. Seychelles

+18.7% to 318,000 International tourist arrivals

I loved my trip to Sri Lanka in 2011!

I loved my trip to Sri Lanka in 2011!

13. Sri Lanka

+17.8% to 2.12m International tourist arrivals

With its giant neighbour to the north and west of Sri Lanka it is no wonder many people describe the country as the “Pearl of the Indian Ocean”, it is hugely different and for such a small island it certainly packs in the places to see.

From tea plantations to luxury beach resorts you’ll find everything you need here, click here to see why your next holiday should be to Sri Lanka.

I *heart* Cuba!

I *heart* Cuba!

14. Cuba

+17.3% to 3.48m International tourist arrivals

Did someone say Mojito? I’m right there! I visited Cuba in 2015, mostly to beat the “change” due to immigration rules enabling U.S citizens to visit freely. What I discovered was a truly beautiful island full of charm, warmth and individualism. My advice is don’t just visit the resorts of Varadero, go off-the-beaten track and stay at a home-stay in somewhere like Trinidad, trust me you won’t regret it.

Not sure whether now is the right time to visit Cuba? Check out my advice here.

15. Colombia

+17.2% to 3m International tourist arrivals

16. Oman

+17% to 1.78m International tourist arrivals

Parliament Palace, Romania

Parliament Palace, Romania

17. Romania

+16.9% to 2.24m International tourist arrivals

Last but definitely not least in the fastest growing tourist destinations is Romania, they experienced a huge increase in the number of tourist arrivals in 2015 and that trend is set to continue.

With tales of Dracula in Brasov and the natural beauty of the Carpathian Mountains, you certainly won’t be bored in Romania.

What should you see in one of Europe’s cheapest countries? Click here to find out.

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Which Countries Do British Passport Holders Need A Visa For?

Applying for a visa can be the killjoy of every potential holiday. Thankfully being a British passport holder can be quite a powerful thing, it is ranked as the third best in the world to have due to the visa-free or visa on arrival access that’s available.

Although British citizens can easily step foot into 176 different countries there’s another 40 that make life a little bit more difficult. This list is a bit like my nemesis, my aim is to visit all of them but sadly some are far more complicated than others. Let’s take a look at where they are and how you can visit these entry restricted places.

*This list does not include the easy e-visa or visa on arrival countries

Afghanistan

Band-e Haibat lake, Afghanistan. Photo source: Wikipedia

Band-e Haibat lake, Afghanistan. Photo source: Wikipedia

Tourist visas for Afghanistan can be a bit of a faff, thankfully they can now be purchased for 90 days, however you must attend an appointment at the Embassy in London with all the required elements including an invitation letter, completed application form, photo, evidence of employment, proof of address and a personal statement that confirms you are aware of the risks involved and take full responsibility.

Algeria

Algeria. Photo source: Telegraph

Algeria. Photo source: Telegraph

Unlike neighbouring Morocco, Algeria requires British citizens to apply for a visa in advance. This can take up to 4 weeks and be aware that if your visa is refused or cancelled the fee is non-refundable!

Angola

Miradouro da Lua, Angola. Photo source: Wikipedia

Miradouro da Lua, Angola. Photo source: Wikipedia

Although visa requirements most certainly discourage tourism, Angola has some incredibly beautiful beaches just waiting to be discovered. If the country relaxes the Soviet-style rules I foresee a very bright tourist future for Angola. When applying for your visa you have 12 things that you must complete to be granted a visa!

Belarus

Belarus Victory Parade, Minsk. Photo source: BBC

Belarus Victory Parade, Minsk. Photo source: BBC

As the last Dictatorship of Europe it is no surprise that the visa process can be rather long and complicated. To encourage tourism, President Lukashenko has introduced some new rules; as of 12th January 2017 you can now enter Belarus visa-free for trips of 5 days or less.

Benin

I'd love to watch the Voodoo ceremony in Benin. Photo source: Reuters

I’d love to watch the Voodoo ceremony in Benin. Photo source: Reuters

A tiny West African nation that is little-known outside the adventure tourist market, home to tribal cultures, ancient voodoo traditions and amazing colonial architecture. I’ve never previously considered visiting Benin, however the visa process appears really simple so who am I to complain?!

Bhutan

Tigers Nest, Bhutan. Photo source: unknown.

Tigers Nest, Bhutan. Photo source: unknown.

Often described as the “last Shangri-La” due to its pristine environment and strict entry rules. You’ll need to have a substantial budget to visit Bhutan due to its enforced request of having a daily spend, this is approximately £190 ($250) per day depending on the season, although this fee does include your accommodation, food, transport and a guide.

Cameroon

One of the largest volcanoes in Africa - Mount Cameroon.

One of the largest volcanoes in Africa – Mount Cameroon. Photo source: Shutterstock

Can you point Cameroon out on a map? Most likely not, I had to do a quick search so I could confirm I was in the right place…I wasn’t! Cameroon is surrounded by conflict zones and many parts are off-limits. The visa process appears relatively straight forward apart from the letter of invitation with the Cameroonian Police from your host, partner or contact in the country!

Central African Republic

As the Central African Republic descends into chaos, sadly it's not only the people that suffer. Photo source: USFWS

As the Central African Republic descends into chaos, sadly it’s not only the people that suffer. Photo source: USFWS

The FCO currently advise against all travel to the Central African Republic due to the ongoing civil war. There’s no embassy in the UK, however you can apply for a visa via the French Consulate-General in London who accepts applications.

Chad

Camels in the Mountains, Chad. Photo source: Thinkstock

Camels in the Mountains, Chad. Photo source: Thinkstock

I really want to visit Chad, but they certainly don’t make it very easy! There is no Embassy in London, therefore your nearest place to visit will either be Paris or Brussels, however if you don’t speak French it will virtually be impossible to secure a visa. Sadly very few people could tell you exactly where Chad is, let alone why you should visit!

China

Great Wall of China. Photo source: Telegraph

Great Wall of China. Photo source: Telegraph

Although I’ve previously visited Hong Kong, I never ventured to the mainland and I greatly regret this as China has rapidly developed in the last 10 years. For UK citizens you must apply via one of the three application centres in London, Manchester or Edinburgh, be aware that there’s a variety of visa options and prices but the process thankfully isn’t complicated.

Congo (Republic of the)

Congo Basin Gorilla. Photo source: World Wildlife

Congo Basin Gorilla. Photo source: World Wildlife

Definitely don’t get the two Congo’s mixed up, the Republic of is also referred to as Congo-Brazzaville highlighting the capital city. You must be granted a visa before arrival, similar to several other countries on this list you must obtain an invitation letter and already have your flight and hotel confirmations ready. According to the website it says the visa will be ready the next day, I’d love to test and see if this is true!

Congo (Democratic Republic of the)

Mount Nyiragongo lava lake. Photo source: Martin Rietze

Mount Nyiragongo lava lake, Democratic Republic of the Congo. Photo source: Martin Rietze

When people ask where would you like to visit next, I’ve never ever heard anyone say the DRC. Tourism is very much in its infancy in the DRC, with red tape and unofficial bribes often needed this instantly puts many people off. You can apply for your visa via the Embassy in London, but expect a delay of 2-3 weeks so plan ahead.

  • Visa fee: £60 for a single entry visa, plus $50 as an International departure tax upon leaving the DRC
  • DRC Embassy in London (in French)

Cuba

I *heart* Cuba! Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

I *heart* Cuba! Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Although you only require a Tourist Card for Cuba I have included it on this list as you still have to apply for it from the Embassy in London or via your travel agency if you are travelling with a group. It is probably the easiest visa to get on this list!

Equatorial Guinea

Lovers’ Beach, Annobón island, in Equatorial Guinea. Photo source: Guardian

Lovers’ Beach, Annobón island, in Equatorial Guinea. Photo source: Guardian

Equatorial Guinea is a small but rather unusual country, divided in two with the largest part being on the mainland whilst the capital city sits on Bloko island. Getting a visa for Equatorial Guinea isn’t easy, there are plenty of hoops to jump through, especially considering the fact that tourists must prove that they have at least £2,000 in their bank account or risk having their visa rejected.

Eritrea

Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea, Eritrea. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Dahlak Archipelago in the Red Sea, Eritrea. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Eritrea is one of my favourite countries that I’ve been lucky enough to visit, I travelled with a group on a recce tour around Eritrea which made things much easier. To get a visa for Eritrea you will need to be booked on a tour with a local company, they will issue you with an application number which needs to be used when you submit your visa request. You may be required to have an interview whilst visiting the Embassy although the visa takes 2-4 weeks to process as it gets sent straight to Asmara (the capital city) for authorisation.

Ghana

Wish you were here? Beautiful Ghana. Photo source: Wikipedia

Wish you were here? Beautiful Ghana. Photo source: Wikipedia

Often described as the first place you must visit in Africa to ease you in, Ghana is a safe, secure and stable country with an incredible history. The visa process is relatively straight forward although you must be immunised for yellow-fever and provide proof. It can take up to 15 working days to receive your visa so plan in advance.

Guinea

Conakry Mosque, Guinea. Photo source: Lonely Planet

Conakry Mosque, Guinea. Photo source: Lonely Planet

Sadly I haven’t been able to find that much information about obtaining a visa for Guinea, the Embassy in London doesn’t appear to have a website and their office has recently moved from Kilburn to Kensington.

Iran

Royal Square, Esfahan, Iran. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Royal Square, Esfahan, Iran. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

If you aren’t British, American or Canadian then an Iranian visa will be simple to get on arrival. Sadly for our three nations we must apply in advance, for Brits we must apply via the newly reopened Embassy in London, you will need an application number but this can be sought via the Embassy directly.

Iraq

Red Prison in Kurdistan, Iraq. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Red Prison in Kurdistan, Iraq. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Why on earth would you want to visit Iraq? WELL… avoiding the pre-conceptions, the people are incredibly friendly, welcoming and the food is delicious. I visited the Kurdish region of Northern Iraq in 2014 and absolutely loved it. Thankfully you don’t need to apply for a visa in advance for Kurdistan, however for the rest of Iraq you will need to apply at the Embassy.

Liberia

Liberian smiles. Photo source: PSI

Liberian smiles. Photo source: PSI

Similar to Guinea, I’ve been unable to find much information about applying for a Liberian visa. There doesn’t appear to be an Embassy website, however you can apply using various agencies who will charge you more. Tourism is very much in its infancy in Liberia, very few people visit due to a lack of infrastructure, which was recently made worse by the ebola outbreak in 2014.

Libya

Leptis Magna and the Mediterranean, Libya. Photo source: UNESCO

Leptis Magna and the Mediterranean, Libya. Photo source: UNESCO

Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to Libya. During calmer times the most famous tourist attraction was Leptis Magna, one of the best preserved Roman amphitheatres, although unfortunately at present its status is unknown due to the ongoing conflict.

Mali

Timbuktu, Mali. Photo source: ABC

Timbuktu, Mali. Photo source: ABC

Where did it all go wrong for Mali? Tourists used to flock here to see Timbuktu and then unfortunately the insurgency started and it was pretty much all over for the tourist industry of Mali. If, however that still doesn’t put you off, you can apply for a visa at the Honorary Malian Consulate in London.

Mongolia

Nomadic life in Mongolia. Photo source: Wikimedia

Nomadic life in Mongolia. Photo source: Wikimedia

Mongolia is a huge landlocked country that is still traditional and unique in its values, it is one of the last places on earth you can experience nomadic life. When applying for your visa you’ll need a completed application form, visa fee and also a letter of invitation which can be done through a local tour company.

Mozambique

Beautiful Mozambique. Photo source: Unknown

Beautiful Mozambique. Photo source: Unknown

Mozambique – a country that’s very high on my list of “must-sees”, sadly it is also one of the 41 who still require you to apply for a visa before you arrive. It’s a painless process however, you’ll need your completed application form, two passport sized photos, return flight confirmation documents, hostel/hotel confirmation documents, 1 recent bank statement and also a copy of the first page of your passport (containing your photograph).

Nauru

Before the London Olympics 2012, the Queens Baton arrived in Nauru for a tour. Photo source: Visit Scotland

Before the London Olympics 2012, the Queens Baton arrived in Nauru for a tour. Photo source: Visit Scotland

Nauru – officially the least-visited country in the world and the world’s smallest independent nation. Nestled deep in the South Pacific, this place won’t come up on your travel list unless you’re visiting Australia or New Zealand as it’s incredibly remote. There’s no UK embassy, however recent changes were brought in and almost everyone needs to apply before arriving, from what I can tell it is free.

Niger

The Niger in Niamey, Niger. Photo source: Wikimedia

The Niger in Niamey, Niger. Photo source: Wikimedia

I can sadly confirm that I know nothing about Niger, other than it’s in Africa and the Sahara desert occupies a large part of the country. Sadly there’s no UK embassy or honorary consulate anymore, therefore you’ll need to head to Paris to apply with a completed application form, 2 passport photos, a certificate of yellow fever vaccination and a copy of your onward travel.

Nigeria

Fish vendor in Nigeria. Photo source: BBC

Fish vendor in Nigeria. Photo source: BBC

Due to the insurgency taking over Northern Nigeria it is currently advised against all travel to this part of the country. Nigeria has recently outsourced all of its visa applications to OIS, you’ll now need to apply and pay their huge service fee when submitting all documents.

North Korea

One of the most isolated countries in the world - North Korea. Image courtesy of Lupine Travel.

One of the most isolated countries in the world – North Korea. Photo source: Lupine Travel.

This country certainly needs no introduction, the DPRK (Democratic People’s Republic of Korea) is a fascinating place that was completely cut off until 1953. I’m lucky enough to have visited the North Korean embassy in London, a very unique place that’s situated in West London, far away from any other Embassy. A random experience, but the Koreans that I met were very warm and welcoming. To get a visa for North Korea you’ll need to book onto a tour, I recommend Lupine Travel.

Pakistan

Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. Photo source: Wikipedia

Nanga Parbat, Pakistan. Photo source: Wikipedia

Pakistan can be a rather difficult country to explain to people why you want to visit, however it has a lot to offer and hopefully with the power of Social Media this will become more obvious in the near-future. There are six visa application centres in the UK including Manchester, Bradford, Birmingham, Glasgow (opening soon) and also two in London.

Russia

So it's cold in Russia in winter...

So it’s cold in Russia in winter… Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

The biggest country in the world, often misunderstood but a unique place to venture to. If like me, you’ve visited lots of countries you’ll have a panic attack just writing the visa application form by trying to remember all the countries you’ve been to in the last 10 years. Thankfully after attending the processing centre in London you’ll have your visa within a few days.

Saudi Arabia

Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia. Photo source: unknown.

Madain Saleh, Saudi Arabia. Photo source: unknown.

Saudi Arabia represents one of the last frontiers in tourism, there are so many rules and very few opportunities to visit for tourism. The best chance of gaining a tourist visa is if you travel with a Saudi-specific agency but these are notoriously difficult to find and acquire.

Sierra Leone

Banana Islands, Sierra Leone. Photo source: Out of Bounds tours

Banana Islands, Sierra Leone. Photo source: Out of Bounds tours

After sadly being flawed by the ebola outbreak in 2014, Sierra Leone has struggled to get back on its feet. I don’t believe the expensive visa fee is helping to attract tourists as this has so far definitely put me off. The application process is straight forward and you can apply in person or by post, expect to receive your visa within one week.

South Sudan

South Sudan Cattle herder. Photo source: BBC

South Sudan Cattle herder. Photo source: BBC

The newest country in the world, South Sudan thought it would ease all of their problems to become independent, sadly it seems to have created new ones. The Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) advise against all travel to South Sudan due to the ongoing civil war although the visa application process appears relatively simple I’d probably advise to wait a few years to see how the conflict unfolds.

Sudan

Meroe Pyramids, Sudan. Photo source: BBC

Meroe Pyramids, Sudan. Photo source: BBC

It is said that the number of pyramids in Sudan far outweigh the number in Egypt, sadly this fact isn’t quite as well known by tourists yet. To apply for a Sudanese visa you’ll need to apply directly at the Embassy, however your request will be sent to the Ministry of Foreign Affairs in Khartoum and this can take anywhere from 4 to 6 weeks to be approved.

Syria

The historic caravan city of Palmyra in Syria has to be one of the most amazing places I've ever been to, especially when I arrived at 5am on a camel just as the sun was rising.

The historic caravan city of Palmyra in Syria has to be one of the most amazing places I’ve ever been to, especially when I arrived at 5am on a camel just as the sun was rising. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

As of 2012 it is not possible to apply for a tourist visa for Syria due to the ongoing conflict affecting the country. I was lucky enough to visit in 2010 and was required to apply/collect my visa from the Embassy in London.

Turkmenistan

I loved my time visiting Darvaza, aka The Door to Hell! Turkmenistan.

I loved my time visiting Darvaza, aka The Door to Hell! Turkmenistan. Photo: Travel Geek UK (All rights reserved)

Almost everyone needs a visa to enter Turkmenistan, the London embassy operates a rather strict calendar for applying/collecting your visa. When I purchased my visa from the embassy in 2015 I was charged £33, however this can fluctuate due to exchange rates.

Yemen

Socotra island, Yemen. Photo: National Geographic

Socotra island, Yemen. Photo source: National Geographic

Sadly now described as one of the most dangerous countries in the world, Yemen was previously accessible although often with Government warnings. It’s currently impossible to get a visa for Yemen, the FCO advise against all travel to the country (including Socotra archipelago). I found one website selling visas for £135, however the Yemeni London embassy website no longer appears to be functioning and has been taken offline.

Disclaimer

  • Last updated: 4th March 2017
  • This list does not include countries that have e-visa facilities
  • It also doesn’t include any dependent, disputed or restricted territories
  • The advice listed only refers to British citizens visa requirements
  • It is possible to gain some visas from neighbouring countries, but not guaranteed

Further Information

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.

Top 10 Safest Countries In The World

Can anywhere really be described as safe anymore? Well, surprisingly yes, thankfully there’s a few good eggs left in this world. Amazingly I don’t always just venture to the dangerous places, I’ve visited 8 countries on this list and can easily say they are some of my favourite destinations in the world. According to the Global Peace Index here are the 10 safest countries in the world!

20160610_Global_Peace_Index

Top 10 Safest Countries In The World

Jökulsárlón

Jökulsárlón

1. Iceland

I’m going to just put it out there…I LOVE ICELAND! It’s my favourite country as I previously explored in this blog post. It is such a safe country that it barely has any crime, there are very few police officers and the country is the only NATO member that doesn’t have an army. It is no wonder that they’ve come out on top and that tourism is up 29% from 2014 to 2015 when they received a record 1.3 million visitors. The only safest issues you might have to worry about is volcanoes and the weather!

2. Denmark

Once the seat of Viking raiders, you simply cannot beat a visit to Scandinavia for an enjoyable, healthy and clean but expensive break away. Denmark has it all; beautiful scenery, beautiful people, incredible food and not forgetting those fabulous Scandi designs. Most people might only know about the capital Copenhagen, but there’s far more incredible places to see in this country including Aarhus, Aalborg or if you really want to go off-the-beaten track their territory also includes the Faroe Islands and Greenland.

Things are slowly starting to change in Denmark with refugee and immigration issues in 2016, I wonder if we’ll see them slide down the table next year as a result of increased security risks and terrorist threats.

3. Austria

Whenever I think of Austria I can’t help but picture a panoramic scene of the Alps, a bit like something from the Sound of Music. Although in the past Austria has had its fair share of issues to deal with, the country is now a powerhouse in Europe with a low unemployment rate and low rate of crime it is no surprise to see it so high on the Global Peace Index. Similar to Denmark, Austria might find itself slipping down the table in 2017 due to increased tensions due to the refugee crisis.

4. New Zealand

I’m not surprised to discover New Zealand in the Top 10 safest places, as a rather far flung place it has a low threat of terrorism and a surprisingly low crime rate. In fact the country has far more sheep than people!

I was lucky enough to visit New Zealand in 2006 and travel around the North Island, it reminded me (on a much smaller scale) of England although Auckland is very much an Asian-influenced city. Some parts of the country are incredibly remote and are often referred to as “the Shaky Isles” due to its frequent seismic activity.

The funniest fact I learned about New Zealand was about their incredible glow worms, according to my tour guide the reason they light up is because they literally shag themselves to death! Sad times.

Lovely Lisbon

Lovely Lisbon

5. Portugal

Admittedly I’ve only visited the capital, Lisbon, but from what I found I now have the urge to go back and explore more of this beautiful country. I’m not surprised it’s in the top 10 safest places in the world, thankfully it is also one of the cheapest places in Europe to visit. So what are you waiting for?! If you need any help planning, check out my New Year‘s eve itinerary.

6. Czech Republic

This one, I’m rather shocked at. It’s a bit of a random entry, I guess the Czech Republic doesn’t really have any enemies as such. I visited Prague back in 2006, I’m sure it has changed within 10 years but I found the place to be stuck in the past and not very tourist friendly. However, all that doesn’t really matter when you can get a beer for under £1.50!

7. Switzerland

Often seen as the mediator, Switzerland opted not to join the European Union in 1992 but has since flourished and is now one of the richest countries in the world. I’m sad to say that I’ve never actually visited, it is one of the only European countries still on my to-do list but I hope to change that very soon.

Switzerland is often seen as a safe-haven, a place of economic stability and low crime rates. The only safety issues you might have to deal with would be the weather, the country is prone to avalanches and sudden weather changes due to its alpine scenery.

Don’t forget to bring home some Toblerone!

Canadian wilderness - Niblet Photo: National Geographic

Canadian wilderness – Niblet
Photo: National Geographic

8. Canada

The second largest country in the world (behind Russia), this place is vast and is often seen as a destination to “get away from it all”. Canada is unique, by using both its British and French historical ties the country has developed into a tolerant and multi-cultured society.

When I visited Canada in 2013 it got deep under my skin, I absolutely loved it! I can’t wait to go back and explore more. Compared to their closest neighbour, it was friendly, welcoming and absolutely ENORMOUS. Regarding safety, if you visit in winter and you’re getting out of the big cities, you’ll need to be aware of winter storms.

9. Japan

Admittedly I haven’t been to Japan yet, which is a crime in itself, however I aim to put that right in the near future! As one of the most advanced nations in the world, it’s no surprise that Japan is also one of the most expensive to visit.

In regards to safety, most Japanese people are obsessed with cleanliness but sadly Japan is prone to natural disasters and is regularly affected by earthquakes.

10. Slovenia

There’s a reason the country’s tourism board once focussed on the fact that Slovenia is the only country in the world with the word “love” in its name. Pretty neat. I once described Ljubljana, the capital of Slovenia, as Europe’s hidden gem. Although it’s a popular destination to visit, you very rarely hear of people’s experiences. Find out what else I discovered in Central Europe.

As a major transit route through Europe, people don’t often plan a stop here, this is incredibly sad but more and more people are starting to discover how this Central European country is a safe and welcoming destination.

Day or night, Ljubljana reminded me of a fairytale city all sparkly and pretty to look at.

Day or night, Ljubljana reminded me of a fairytale city all sparkly and pretty to look at.

Further Information

Do you know which countries are the world’s most dangerous? Find out by reading my blog post here!

If you’d like to discover more photographs and information from any of my trips please feel free to ask me any questions. You can visit my Facebook page and please don’t forget to ‘Like’ Travel Geek UK.