Recently, my family transitioned out of South Sudan to Kampala for a short time of R&R. Though this time is much needed and anticipated every time, it takes work to get here. Below you can find a summary of the not-so-simple process of getting in and out of South Sudan.
If you are leaving from Kampala…
At least two days prior to your departure, go to the South Sudan embassy in Kampala to obtain your South Sudan visa.
On the day of your departure:
6:30 am – Leave for the airstrip.
7:00 am – Load the charter plane with approximately 1,000 kilograms of cargo (including body weight). Charter planes cost a couple thousand dollars.
8:00 am (hopefully) – Board the plane.
9:30 am – Arrive in Arua, Uganda. Get off the plane, use the restroom, get passports stamped to exit Uganda, and refuel the airplane.
10:15 am – Board the plane and leave for Juba, South Sudan.
11:00 am – Arrive in Juba. Get off the plane, DON’T use the restroom (unless you are desperate!!!), and go through immigration. Pray for a smooth immigration experience. If you are lucky, you will be out of there in 20 minutes. If you are unlucky, this could take hours! Refuel the plane.
12:00 pm – Get back on the plane and leave for Tonj.
1:30 pm – Arrive in Tonj! Unpack the 1,000 kgs you loaded in the morning.
If you are leaving from Tonj…
1:30 pm – Plane arrives from Kampala. Help unpack the plane and then repack with your cargo.
3:00 pm – Arrive in Juba, unless you had to stop for fuel in Rumbek, then this will be later. Go through immigration in Juba. See above description of the Juba stop for more information.
4:00 pm – Re-board the plane and head for Arua, Uganda.
5:00 pm – Land in Arua. Get off plane and obtain entry stamp for Uganda. Head to the guesthouse for an overnight stay in Arua.
8:00 am (next day) – Load the plane and depart for Kampala.
9:30 am – Arrive in Kampala!
Now, picture the dirt airstrips; only two of your landing places have “airports”. Imagine dodging sheep, goats, and cows on the airstrips. The above agenda is the best-case scenario. Usually you can count on a mechanical issue, slow immigration, extra fuel stops, or delayed departure from Kampala because you have too much cargo and must determine what to leave behind. (Oh, but don’t forget your motion sickness medicine!) I just wanted to give a little glimpse into this part of our life!
Other questions we have gotten about travelling in and out of South Sudan:
Why don’t you drive? It would be cheaper. Yes, it would be. Brad has done it before when the roads were safe. For now, the roads can be unpredictable and are in poor condition. It also takes about four days, and you may not be able to find fuel when you need it.
Why can’t you leave whenever you want to? Technically, we could. However, due to the cost of the chartered flights, we try to share them with someone else. That requires a lot of planning and a pretty strict travel schedule.
Despite all of this, we love having visitors! Our door is always open.