Juba trip info and cheap hotel!
Replies: 12 - Last Post: Sep 5, 2012 12:19 AM Last Post By: lonelytraveler1...
Jun 10, 2012 1:16 AM
Juba trip info and cheap hotel!Hi everybody! I just came back from Juba and wanted to share some info, which I hope will be helpful for others.
I flew from Kampala into Juba airport on June 6th and was able to get a visa on arrival. I just watched the others and did the same. There is a window marked “visa” and you put a 100 USD note in your passport and hand it to the guy. We didn't speak at all, he just prepared the visa. I have a Canadian passport. From what I heard, you need a recent and new 100 USD with no tears or damage at all. One guy told me that he was able to pay 100 EUR instead, with no change given. I heard from numerous people that last week they started asking for invitation letters, but saw nothing of this at the airport. I certainly didn't have any letter. I also heard that they will only give you a visa on arrival if you are coming from a country without a South Sudan embassy. Again, nobody asked me anything. If any of this is true, then I guess it's up to the person working. If it's true.
The official rate is 3.8 SSP (South Sudan Pounds) to the dollar. This is what you get in the banks. However, there is a black market rate of 4.9 SSP per USD. You have to be careful with whom you exchange, as this is technically illegal, and I spoke to westerners who did get into trouble. I ws told that the best way to trade is to go inside some business and do it there. Some restaurants and shops will do it, you just need to ask. I asked at my hotel and they did it for me.
Looking online, I had trouble finding a hotel in Juba that was under 100 USD, which is way over my backpacker budget. I did manage to find one place which really tops anything I imagined. My first night I stayed in an Ethiopian-owned place that cost 150 SSP (South Sudan Pounds). It was very basic and ok, just a bit run-down.
After that I found the Eritrean-owned London Star Hotel, which also cost 150 SSP (comes to about 30 USD). This is the price per room, regardless of whether it's for a single or a double. One odd rule in the places I saw: rooms with one double bed can only be shared by 2 members of the opposite sex. So two guys travelling together cannot share a bed. The place is new and every room has its own bathroom. They opened the hotel 6 months ago. It's really a great find, since there is nothing comparable at that price. Security, a big issue is Juba, is great there, and the door is locked at midnight. You don't want to go out in Juba at night anyway. There is nowhere to go, as people usually always stay on their compounds.
When asking a driver to take you there, many don't know it because it's new. Also, there is a London Hotel and also a Star Hotel. Tell the driver to take you to zone three “”nimri talata” and it's two or three streets over from the Ethiopian Embassy, between that and the basketball courts. Since there are no addresses in Juba, everything is based on landmarks.
The manager Tekle, really helped me out with a lot of things and gives the impression that he genuinely cares about his guests, unlike some places where you're just another guest. Calling the hotel from outside South Sudan, the numbers are:
From within South Sudan, drop the +211 and dial a zero instead.
I took the GPS coordinates of the London Star Hotel, as there are no street names or addresses. Type it into Google Earth:
Juba is not a safe place at night. Don't go out. Not only white foreigners are targeted, but also Ethiopians and Eritreans – so pretty much any non-Sudanese foreigners. Shootings occur daily and violence is common after the sun has gone down. The place really has a “Wild West” feel to it. I didn't find the people on the street to be particularly friendly and outgoing, and it seems more like people are on edge. It's quite a contrast to Uganda, where people are friendly and talkative. Also, just because you take a boda-boda (motorcycle taxi) anywhere at night doesn't mean it's safe; people have been assaulted on those too. Night-time just isn't safe there.
Strictly forbidden! Only if you have permission from the ministry of the interior. Police and soldiers will stop you if they see this. I tried to sneak a few pictures and was reprimanded by locals, even though they were behind me and not in the picture i was taking. Some places are completely off-limits to photographers: Juba bridge is the only bridge spanning the Nile and the concern there is that local terrorists might blow it up. There is also a downtown memorial shrine which is completely off-limits. I can't confirm its truth, but I was told that there is an order to shoot anyone taking pictures of Juba bridge.
Boda-boda motorcycle taxis are everywhere and charge 5 SSP for a short ride within the city area you're in. A longer ride will be up to 10 SPP, and going completely across the city will be anywhere from 10 SSP to 15 SSP.
There are several buses to Kampala daily. Some of the companies are LOL, Baby and Bakulu. The going rate is 100 SSP and they all leave early in the morning. There are no night buses, only during the day. Bakulu has the best reputation, as the driver goes slower than the others, taking 11.5 hours. I spoke to others who took other bus companies and the concern there is that they really are too fast, and there have been some pretty bad accidents. Bakulu is known for the newest and most comfortable buses, although that isn't really saying much; I had a look at the other buses and they're really shoddy! Going the other way, there are night buses from Kampala to Juba.
I don't know if I can really recommend visiting Juba; other than to say I've been there, I didn't really get much out of it, as interaction with the locals is next-to-nothing. I spoke to several Westerner expats there and was told that things will be getting much worse before they get better. The state is currently gearing up for serious war. I travel a lot and just didn't feel safe or comfortable there.
I hope this helps others, as your information has helped me in the past!
Jun 17, 2012 12:12 AM
I have just returned from Juba. There is a problem with the visa on arrival. The immigration officials make up the rules as they see fit. When I arrived, I presented my passport at the visa window. It was passed on to a smartly dressed official, who's sole job appears to be officious and unhelpful. He initially told me that visa on arrival was only available to people who had visited before. He then changed this to say that an invitation letter was needed. He said that it was up to me to find out this information before I arrived (even if they had not told anyone about it). It is possible he was setting me up for a big bribe - probably how he got his smart suit.
I was lucky as I was working with someone with government connections. He was able to sort out the problem and after 3 hours I had my visa. I met several other people who were having the same problem, some of whom were regular visitors.
Juba airport is a pretty unpleasant place. Little more than a hot sweaty shelter.
I stayed at the Hamza Inn. $120 per night gets you a prefabricated room with AC, double bed and shower/toilet. It includes buffet breakfast. Buffet lunch/dinner cost SSP45 and a beer 8SSP. Internet is intermittent and slow and no TV in rooms. You can walk across the road to the Notos bar/restaurant which is very nice. They have a tandoori grill and indoor/outdoor tables, but no AC.
Jun 25, 2012 12:25 PM
2Thanks for the great info guys - particularly the info on the budget hotel and the photography. Good stuff!
Wondering how is the proper procedure of getting a photo permit (as a tourist/visitor) like - apart from handing in a huge wad of cash under the table?
Planning to head there in a couple of weeks so any travellers around the region feel free to get in touch - I am going solo so it'd be great to have someone round watching each other's back and cutting the budget.
Edited by: chan_kawing
Jun 25, 2012 12:40 PM
3Thanks dbsdave - have you (or anyone) heard any more recent news regarding visa on arrival?
I'm planning a trip early July and am wondering if they are tightening things up before Independence Day July 9. Will be arriving by bus from Kampala.
And thanks babahi, very helpful. Did London Star Hotel have wifi?
Jun 26, 2012 6:42 AM
4If you are gonna go from Kampala why don't you get a visa from there instead of having to risk not getting one on arrival? Heard that the process there is relatively easy and fast.
I am planning to go there at about the same time (probably mid July) and taking a similar, if not the same route - from what I have heard it's just the usual African bureaucracy kind of thing - officials insist that you have to get an invitation letter beforehand, or there is no visa-on-arrival, hinting that problems can only be solved by passing over a wad of cash underneath the table which would have cost double the amount of the original visa.
Jun 29, 2012 2:41 AM
6If you can post back some basic info about the visa (days, price etc.) that'd be very much appreciated. Should be getting mine in Nairobi in a week or so inshallah, ;)
Jul 1, 2012 6:52 PM
7No wifi in the London Star Hotel -- or in any cheap hotel. I met several expats who told me that internet in Juba is all satellite and that means they can't even stream anything. Wifi is available at the more expensive hotels, some of the 130 USD ones.
I did see a place in Juba town (city center) that advertised itself as an internet café. I didn't go in to check it out, only noted that it's there. So it may not be completely hopeless in Juba to at least get a connection.
Jul 21, 2012 7:30 PM
Aug 7, 2012 7:26 PM
Aug 10, 2012 1:48 AM
10It looks like I have to go there on business again. This thread has been very helpful. Can anyone else give updates on the visa on arrival situation? I am very short on time so I don't want to have to stop in Nairobi to get a visa if I don't have to. Thanks.
Aug 11, 2012 8:58 PM
11You can get visa upon arrival - $100 and nothing but a valid passport (6 months) and an empty page for the visa to be stuck into. As soon as you walk into the tiny arrival area, it is the first counter on your left.
I had a visa and the Lebanese guy in front of me did not have one, as he got up to the immigration official, he was told that he needed to get a visa and get in the other line to get one. I saw him get one and he was out in the luggage area in less than 5 minutes. This was 8 days ago.................
Sep 5, 2012 12:19 AM
12Has anybody else been to that London Star Hotel in the meantime? I had a very very strange phone conversation with the owner and start doubting the existence of that place.
(0 star Hotel)
From US$10.83 per night
(0 star Hotel)
From US$24.18 per night
(4 star Hotel)
From US$232.32 per night