Border Crossing : Sudan - Ethiopia (19 July 2009)

Qallabat, Sudan crossing to Metema, Ethiopia

Paper work



Visas - We had applied for visas in Cairo.  These are valid for 3 months from the date of issue leaving us 60 days in Ethiopia.

Exit Costs from Sudan


Entry Costs to Ethiopia


Time to cross

Qallabat - 20 minutes

Metema - 15 minutes


We can honestly say that this has been our easiest crossing yet.  The times to cross includes all waiting times as well.  Amazing.

On arrival at Qallabat, make your way  passed the line of lorries and trucks.  The drivers, money changers and anyone interested in trying to grab your undivided attention whilst you sit and wait in your car will try and get you to queue behind them but you don't have to.  Instead the first building you are looking for is the Customs building which you find on your right.  It's the first beige brick building.  We took passports and the carnet down to the soldier sitting outside on the plastic chair.  After greeting him with "Salaam alikum", he broke out into a big smile and lead us into the bottom floor office.  They took our passports and started to note down our details while the soldier indicated we should sit down and took the carnet with a "10 minutes and I'll be back".  We were understandably a bit nervous to have let the carnet out of our sight but decided that we would wait 30 minutes before trying to track it down - the soldier was, after all, in uniform so we should be able to get it back.  In addition to which, Sudan has been a country of little corruption so we weren't too unhappy at how things were turning out.  Five minutes later, a tray arrived with 2 teas for us that the soldier had arrange!  We sat sipping wonderful hot tea and were just finishing up when our friend appeared with the stamped carnet and we took our passports and headed off in the direction of Immigration.

The Immigration Building is the last building (blue) on the same side as the Customs building heading towards the border.  We handed in our passports, got a form to fill in, handed them back to the clerk who duly stamped them and we were off. 

We got back to Sully and the trucks had parked us in - well, at least they thought they had!  We had just enough room to manoeuvre her around and set off straight down the steep bank directly towards our friend, the soldier, sitting back in his chair.  He momentarily showed us the whites of his eyes as we drove towards him but we turned at the last minute and hung out the window shouting our thanks and goodbyes (in Arabic, of course!).

A 50 metre drive over a bridge (no-mans land) and suddenly you realise that you have entered Ethiopia.  Watch for the signs on the right for the Immigration Office and once you've parked up, follow those up a dirt pathway behind a shack to find the office - a very rudimentary affair.  Here they note down your passport details in several rickety old lever arch files, stamp your passport and you're on your way again.  Walk across to the Customs Building on the left hand side of the road opposite the Immigration Office.  The Customs Office (a converted container) is behind the Bank of Ethiopia also residing in a converted container of its own. Truly.

We handed over the carnet and when the customs officer asked for an additional piece of paper.  We didn't understand what she was asking for at first but it turns out that sometimes there is an additional letter with the carnet that lists all the countries that it's valid for.  We, of course, don't have one, but we pointed her instead to the carnet itself which lists the countries that it's NOT applicable for.  She was happy with this once we explained.  We still aren't really sure if that's what she was asking for.  Hey ho....

She filled in a form and asked us if we had anything with us. ?????  Yes.... lots, our clothes, our cooking equipment, our spares but suddenly I twigged that she might have been asking about importing goods that required duty.  

"Definitely no tobacco or alcohol," I said, "we have just come from Sudan!"  She laughed as she caught my meaning, stamped the form and carnet and with a friendly goodbye, gave them back to us and started filing her papers.  Hang on to this Customs paper as they will ask for it when you exit - except at Omorate of course where news of which papers they use for hasn't reached them yet!  We were dithering around because we thought they would have to check us through customs.  No, not today as it was a holiday (Sunday) and it turns out that most of the customs people were at church as it was still very early in the day.  No way!!!!  So, no checks?  Nope, she suggested that we drive straight through to Gonder and enjoy our stay.