Four Wheels Around - A Road Trip from the UK to South Africa

In February 2009 we are setting off on the trip of a lifetime from Brighton, E-Sussex, UK to South Africa. Furthermore, we are raising money for the British Red Cross along the way. This blog will cover our preparation until we leave and our adventures whilst we are on the road.

Thursday, 23 April 2009

A visa mission in Cairo

There are a few things which we always dread doing on this trip. Crossing borders and obtaining visas! We have taken the philosophy after research that it is best to apply for our visas en route in the capital cities of the preceeding country if we cannot obtain visas at the border. There are many embassies in Cairo so it seemed like a good place for us to get both the Ethiopian and Sudanese visas in anticipation of the next month.

The Sudanese and Ethiopian visas are not without their problems. We had heard that to acquire the Ethiopian visa we would need proof of onward travel in the form of a plan ticket for example. The Sudanese visa process is meant to be extremely difficult. Letters of recommendation from embassys, sponsors from Khartoum we had heard horror stories of the process taking weeks.

It seems we were lucky on both accounts. The Ethiopian visa process was relatively simple. We filled in the form, paid 30 US dollers each, left our passports over night and hey presto we picked them up this morning with the visa inside.

We headed straight for the Sudanese embassy in the Garden City part of Cairo and were informed there that we would need a letter of recommendation from our embassy. This seems a complete waste of time as surely our passport alone is adequate proof of our identity and needing a further clarification from the British Embassy is just a joke! Despite our views we had little choice in the matter so we set off to the British Embassy, literally next door to the Sudanese Consulate and spoke with them. It seems they are used to this request from Sudan and as it is a common overland transit from North to East Africa. Acquiring the letter was a quick process. They have a standardised letter for this purpose of which they just printed us out a copy of and sent us on our way. We used one letter for both of us which Sudan seemed happy with. The catch: The letter cost 240 Egyptian pounds which equates to about 30 GBP. Alex was not impressed and has spent the afternoon grumblingto me: "What do we pay our taxes for!?''

Back at the Sudanese embassy, once we had the letter the process was extremely well organised and quick. We filled in our forms, provided the necessary photo copies and passport pictures and left our documents with them. We went off for lunch and headed back at 2.30pm to pick up the visas. They were very friendly and helpful at the Sudanese embassy, far more so than at the British embassy. The only drawback was the cost. It was 1oo dollers per visa which has crippled us! The visas for Sudan are valid for one month from today, supposidly when we reach Wadi Halfa within the month, immigration will stamp us into Sudan for one month from date of entry.
So far so good.

Cairo seems like a nice place. Unlike some of the big cities we have visited it has greenery and despite the hectic traffic the pace of life is quite relaxing and pleasent. The river Nile separating Cairo from Giza is beautiful and far more tropical than the river Thames! Yesterday it was obscenely hot, with temparatures reaching 38 degrees (according to the good old BBC) today it is overcast (horray!) and a far nicer temperature!

Yesterday Alex and I needed some more passport pictures. We got them taken in a Kodak shop in Giza. No photo booths here. We were sent upstairs to sit on a stool whilst the photographer took our picture. It reminded me of having my school picture taken when I was a kid. We then watched as he uploaded it onto his computer and magically airbrushed us to perfection. He neatened up Alex's facial hair and removed the sunburn from his nose. They tidied up my hair and removed any blemishes from my facee I don't think we have ever had such flawless pictures taken of us. I am quite sad that I will have to part with them for visas.

Next stop is the Pyramids tomorrow. We can see the tip of the big one from our campsite so we will attempt to walk there tomorrow.


Blogger Allan and Monika said...

Hi there, we are a Czech British couple following the same route as yours. We are also now in Cairo, we found your page whist looking for Sudan visa advice, we thought we klnew it all until we got to Cairo and heard a load of scare stories! Anyway, you have put our mind at rest. So, hopefully we will bump into you along the way. We hope to get the ferry to Sudan on 4th May, so maybe we will see you there. We will add your blog to our list of favourites. You can find us at
Allan and Monika

25 April 2009 at 17:28  
Blogger Four Wheels Around said...

Hello there, I have sent you an email as I was not sure if you would see this response. Thank you for your comment. we are still in Cairo, staying at Salma campsite in Harrania village if you fancy popping by to say hi. Hope that it went well with the visas! Katie and Alex

27 April 2009 at 14:46  
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