Day 069-070 Egypt : Visa Applications (Ethiopian & Sudanese)

Although we had managed to apply (and get) most of our visas for our travels, we were unable to get our Ethiopian or Sudanese visas from the UK.  Not because we weren't granted them but because of the validity periods.  Although they are valid for 3 months when granted in the UK, they are valid from date of issue so we wouldn't have had enough time left on them when we needed them now. 

It's easy to apply for them in Cairo as the embassies there have reciprocal agreements with Egypt.  However, and this has pretty much stumped us, the Sudanese visa is only valid for 30 days from date of issue and, in addition, is only for a 15 day transit.  As you can only apply in Cairo, the issuing of the Sudanese visa pretty much determines your stay in Egypt.  A real pity as it limits the Egyptian visit and has reduced our proposed stay of 6 weeks down to 3. hrrrmmmpphh.

So here's the boring (but essential) information.  And of course it applies to us travelling on British Passports only.

All embassies in Cairo are closed on Fridays and Saturdays.

You need to apply for your Ethiopian visa first as the Sudanese Embassy want proof of your onward travel before issuing the transit visa.

Applying for the Ethiopian visa is straight forward, costs US$30 each and you need 1 passport size photo each.  We arrived at the embassy at just before 9am and were inside for all of 10 minutes to complete the forms, have them checked and told to return at 11am the next day (Monday) to collect them.  

We arrived at 10:30am on Monday to collect our passports and had to wait till 11am when the administrator arrived and handed us our passports, visas duly entered, valid for 3 months from date of issue and off we went.  Although not before having a chat to the crew from Siza Ikhaya on their way to Luxor and leaving Egypt for Sudan on the 29th June ferry.  They were all travelling on South African passports, but had been granted their Sudanese visa the day before without any need for proof of onward travel through Ethiopia although also needed a letter of recommendation from SA Embassy.

We went to the Sudanese Embassy with our newly certified passports hoping that we could get away without a letter of recommendation but, no go, we definitely needed it.  Before we left the Sudanese Embassy we asked for the forms to complete.  Then we headed off to the UK Embassy where they kept us waiting for an hour to charge us EP270 for a letter that says to the Sudanese Embassy "you don't need this letter, please let our citizens pass through your country"!!!  Bloody money-making racket and yet another obstacle in front of us as tourists.  What is it with counties that are so discouraging of tourists and the positive effect they can have on travelling through a country? I don't know.....

So then back to the Sudanese Embassy with the "letter", forms completed, copies of everything including your passport and the Ethiopian visa (across the road from the Sudanese Embassy for the princely sum of EP2) and 1 passport size photo each.  These get handed in for checking (another 20 minute wait) and once they are happy, pay US$100 each for a visa and come back the next day at 10am to collect.

Visas were ready and waiting and when we checked them, saw they were only valid for 30 days - but actually now only 29 days left.  We were so disappointed.  We had wanted to stay at least another 4 weeks in Egypt but with time ticking on we had to move.  Our trip to Alexandria and Alamein was cancelled in lieu of driving through the Western Desert and our plans to do this with Jörg and Anja thwarted as they were a week behind us and we had planned to wait for them to do it together. 

So if anyone from the Egyptian government ever reads this.  Please can you have a chat to the Sudanese Embassy as they are stopping us from staying with you in the rush for us to be able to stick to the rules and get through Sudan in time.

01/07/2009 Update

We are in Aswan today and have met up with 2 other travellers Amy and Paul www.amyandpaulinlondon.blogspot.com .  They have just applied for their Sudanese visa with New Zealand passports and it took all of 45 minutes and they walked out with the visas in their passports.  Still the same price of US$100 each, still need a letter of recommendation and valid for 30 days now ticking down.

However.....

Mr Salah at the Nile Navigation Office where we went to book tickets for the ferry (and a really nice man BTW!) translated our visa and it turns out that the validity period ie 22/6/09 - 21/07/09 is when we need to enter Sudan.  We then have 15 days to transit.  So we could in theory only enter Sudan on 21/7/09 and then still have 15 days from there.  Although I can't confirm this is 100% true, I'd check it if I were you.  As we are already in Aswan we are still going to leave as planned on Monday 6/7/09.