As far as I can tell, the minimum number of countries required to travel through from Cape Town to Cairo is seven, but the fastest and safest route seems to be the nine-country route we’re planning.
That involves travelling through: South Africa, Botswana, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania, Kenya, Ethiopia, Sudan and Egypt.
Botswana, Zimbabwe and Zambia can all be avoided, but we want to go through them because:
- skipping all three means going through the less-safe Mozambique;
- Botswana and Zambia are among the few very safe countries in Africa;
- Botswana was recommended to us by a friend of my brother’s;
- going through Botswana means less time on buses;
- going through Zimbabwe and Zambia means crossing the scenic Victoria Falls;
- no visa is required for Botswana; and
- Mozambique only issues visas on arrival.
Travelling through nine countries naturally has visa implications. Visa requirements for Australian citizens are fairly low, but the visa-free access we enjoy for most of the Americas, Europe and Southeast Asia does not apply in much of Africa at the time of writing.
South Africa and Botswana
Of the countries we’re travelling through, only South Africa and Botswana do not require a visa for Australian citizens. Both countries allow Australian tourists up to 90 days entry visa-free in a 12 month period.
Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya
Fortunately for us, Zimbabwe, Zambia, Tanzania and Kenya all issue electronic visas and visas on arrival for Australian tourists, all for up to 90 days (Zambia) or three months (the others). We’re going to play it safe and get our electronic visas in advance to hopefully ease the process of crossing borders.
Ethiopia also issues 90-day electronic visas and visas on arrival for Australian tourists, but only if they arrive at Addis Ababa Bole International Airport according to most sources (eg Lonely Planet). The Ethiopian electronic visa site mentions that visas on arrival are only issued in Addis Ababa, but is silent on whether this applies to electronic visas.
I contacted the Ethiopian e-visa support team and was told that an e-visa can be used for crossing land borders. I’ve asked on Lonely Planet whether this can be confirmed but haven’t received a clear answer at the time of writing. Therefore, it currently seems safest to obtain a regular visa from the embassy in Canberra, because the embassy in Nairobi reportedly only issues them to Kenyan citizens.
A trip to Canberra could be required to get a visa for Sudan too, but according to the Sudanese embassy you can also apply by mail. We’ll also need to get a travel permit because we’re going more than 25 kilometres from Khartoum. There are some questions as to visa sponsorship, but this is the only major concern for us on the trip, so we’ll give it a lot of attention.
In particular, the Sudanese embassy advises that tourists without a connection to Sudan will need ‘a signed letter from a travel agent in Sudan showing the reservation details of their accommodation in Sudan as it will be [used] as a reference/sponsor to them.’ Further, we’ll need to register with the authorities if we stay for longer than three days. I suspect it’ll take more than three days simply to transit through, let alone with stops for sightseeing.
Australian tourists can get an electronic visa or visa on arrival for Egypt for up to 30 days. As with the other countries that offer this, we’ll likely arrange an e-visa in advance, although it might be more difficult as we don’t know yet when we’ll actually arrive in Egypt, and don’t want to have to wait too long for our visa to start, or be stuck with too little time left. A visa on arrival might be the better approach, even if it takes more time. We do plan on staying in Aswan for a day or two, so delays in getting through immigration won’t necessarily be a problem.
Summary of visa requirements for East Africa overland route
Note that the fee for an Ethiopian visa is for one month, whereas a three month visa would be $85.22 (single entry) or $100.24 (multiple entry). The fees for Ethiopia and Sudan are in Australian dollars because the embassies charge in AUD, but e-visas are charged in USD.
|South Africa||Not required||90 days||N/A|
|Botswana||Not required||90 days||N/A|