Below is listed some basic travel tips for going into Sudan and more specifically Malakal. Hopefully this can help prepare you for what to expect. I have a ton of other posts about my time there and other pictures if you want some more information on what to expect or see.
Remember when you travel to a country, it is your responsibility to fit into that culture as much as possible. You are visiting them, to learn about living differently from what you are used to – so leave your American, Canadian, European, etc, expectations at home and come with an open mind to experience new things.
Food and Drugs:
- Drink only bottled or filtered water. And – drink a lot of it to stay hydrated. It is SUPER hot and dry during the dry season.
- Beverages: only powdered milk is available. They LOVE sugar with their tea and coffee. The running joke is that the Sudanese like some tea with their sugar instead of the other way around! So, if you go to visit anyone or invited, just drink it down and be thankful. It is safe because the water has been boiled.
- The Dollar right now is worth about 2.5 Sudanese pounds. Most food is pretty equally priced in the Suk (market), but some basic fruits and vegetables are hard to come by and priced 3-4 times more than you might be used to. If you eat local food in side street restaurants, a group of four people can get full off of about 12 USD.
- Beware of malaria! The Mosquitos weren’t bad in November, but bring repellent and wear pants when it starts to get dark. Tuck in your mosquito net around your mattress at night.
- Take into to country with you several drugs listed below. Chemists (pharmacists) are hard to come by so, you need to make sure you have what you need to treat several common illnesses there.
- Co Artem – 2 boxes per person. Treats malaria. Symptoms take 7-10 days to show up and are similar to an intense flu.
- Cipro – 500mg, at least 20 tablets which is one 10 course of treatment. Treats food poisoning or skin infections.
- Tinidazole – 2 boxes per person. Treats giardia, which is a bad parasite that is very common. Some symptoms are Diarrhea, bloating, flatulence (farting), stomach cramps, fatigue and weight loss.
- Tylenol with codine – this is in case you break an arm, get bitten by a snake or scorpion and the pain is too intense to bare before you can get help.
- Malarone or Doxyxyxline – preventative pills for Malaria.
- The people are kind and helpful, and if you need to, you can probably find people to speak a little English with, but the majority of the city speaks Sudanese Arabic and also one of the most prevalent tribal languages, Shilluk. I posted some basic Sudanese Arabic phrases to get you started.
- Taxis are cheap and a great way to get from where you are staying to the center of town. They pretty much just run one route, so stick to that and you should have any trouble walking the rest. If you get a taxi from the taxi line up, they will wait for the taxi to be full before leaving, so you might be sharing with other people, depending on the size of your group.
- The roads are synonymous with pot holes. Best way to deal with it, is to embrace it – look at it like a ride at Six Flags.
- City power is only available in the evening from around 7pm-6am, so make sure to have a headlamp with you to carry around at night. It is also good to have close by when you are sleeping in case you need to wake up for the latrine.
- Check your shoes before ever putting them on for scorpions, spiders, lizards, etc. Also shake towels outs and basically don’t leave much on the ground preventing anything from crawling on your stuff. Also keep your suitcase zipped.
- Gift giving is a big deal in this culture, but thanking someone is not. Do not be offended if you give someone a gift and they act like it didn’t happen. Inside they are very grateful. In turn, be ready to receive gifts graciously, even if you know what a tremendous sacrifice it is for the family. It is their pleasure to give and you will insult them by saying no.
- Greetings are valued deeply in this country, and good byes are not important whether it is for the day or if you might never see them again. When you meet someone, it will be common to be asked how you are, how your family is, how their health is, how you have been eating, how the animals are, how your sleep has been and how work is, etc., etc.
- Store owners do no expect you to say thank you; it is not part of what these people do or say. So if he immediately moves on to the next customer after you, don’t be offended – remember how when you first walked up he asked you many questions in the greeting. Saying please will be just as uncommon.
- It is acceptable for anyone to stop by and ask for water – “jib mooya.” Translated directly as “bring water.” They like it luke warm, so don’t pour out your ice cold water. Also if there is a group of friends so family, they will share from one cup.
- Appropriate dress: Women should wear long skirts. A few inches below the knee is okay unless you are visiting some Muslim men or women. Then you need to have a skirt to ground, a shirt that covers down past your elbows and a wrap for your hair. Men should wear pants at all times, jeans or slacks, with t-shirts or button downs. When you are in your own home, women can wear pants and tank tops, but keep in mind that you should be respectful of the culture you are visiting at all times.
- There are UN trucks everywhere! Many people work for the UN, so you should keep your eye out to talk to some of them if you are interested in their efforts in the country.