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It’s official, South Sudan has officially become the world’s youngest nation as of midnight on July 9th, 2011. After 40+ years of civil wars between the Islamic northern and the Christian southern region of Africa’s (once) largest country, South Sudan has finally gained its independence.

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Sudan, before its separation, was one of the least visited countries is Africa, mostly due to its ongoing conflicts but now that peace has arrived, South Sudan is gearing up for a brighter future, although the path to get there may take a while. While the north is quite arid, it’s in the south where Sudan begins to turn from desert to tropics. Visitors who have made their way to South Sudan before will all agree that the Sudanese are some of the friendliest people on earth.

Quick facts:

  • Full name: Republic of South Sudan
  • Capital city: Juba
  • Currency: South Sudan Pound
  • Official language: English
  • Population: unofficially 8 million
  • Main export: Oil

Other tips:

ATMs only work with local bank accounts so bring any money you will need for your trip in cash. As well, there is no use of credit cards in the country as a result of the American embargo.

You will need a visa to enter South Sudan, which is best obtained from your home country. It will be next to impossible to obtain a visa if you have a stamp from Israel in your passport. It can take anywhere from 24 hours to 2 months. Once you arrive, you must register with the local police within 3 days but most hotels will register on your behalf.

What to see:

Juba – Located along the White Nile River, Juba is the newly named capital of South Sudan. Mostly walk-able, this is a small city with big plans for the future. As for things to do, this place is pretty relaxed with a thriving restaurant and bar scene. If you want to get out of the city, fishing trips along the Nile are extremely popular, especially on weekends.

The Sudd – As one of the world’s largest wetlands, the Sudd is definitely something to explore for its wildlife. It’s huge, 130,000km² during the wet season! More than 400 species of birds can be found here at any given time including the graceful Black Crowned Cranes and Great While Pelicans… a paradise for ornithologists and bird-watchers.

Wildlife – Conservation of South Sudan’s natural habitats and incredible wildlife are at the forefront of the new country’s tourism priorities. South Sudan is home to the world’s second biggest land migration, a seasonal sight in itself to witness when 1.3 million antelope cross the savannah and wetlands. On top of that the country is home to 8,000+ elephants, buffaloes, giraffes, lions and chimps.

When to go:

The worst time to visit South Sudan is without a doubt during the rainy season, which falls from April to November.

Congratulations South Sudan on gaining independence! Keep your eye on this country, especially if you’re a wildlife-spotting aficionado.

Img: sidelife / Flickr cc.

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8 responses to “South Sudan: Mini-guide to the world’s newest country

    1. Hi Eyal,
      Currently the Foreign and Commonwealth Office advices against all but essential travel to South Sudan and especially in the border area with North Sudan. If you’d still like to go, however, I would get in touch with Republic of South Sudan Embassies in Nairobi, Kampala and Addis Ababa. So far, those are the only places to get visas.
      Hope this helps!

  1. Also Sudanese Embassy won’t be issuing visas for Juba it’ll be the South Sudan embassies/missions.

  2. You might want to get official information from RSS Foreign Affairs. There are no restrictions on visa processing for those w/ Israeli stamps, for the past when it was part of Sudan yes. Any how how can processing time take two months when the country has only existed for two weeks?
    You should update.

    1. Hi ADeng,
      The information here was found on official Foreign Office pages, mostly in reference to visiting Sudan, at least for the visa information. I can imagine it will take a while for South Sudan to set up foreign offices and embassies so until then, it’s best to enter through Sudan. You seem to be an expert, are you from South Sudan or do you travel to that area frequently?
      Thanks for your comments!

    1. Hi Munim,

      You definitely need a visa to enter both North and South Sudan. The best way to get one is from the Sudanese embassy in London. You can find information on fees/application on their website: http://www.sudan-embassy.co.uk/

      As for hotels in Juba, there is a combination of safari-style tents and pre-fabs with full-board accommodation. Luxurious hotels will have both hot showers and a/c. Best to go with low expectations. 🙂

      Hope this info helps!

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