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  #1  
Old 8 Nov 2012
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Aswan to Wadi Halfa Latest

A group (3 x Landcruisers + 3 x bikes) of us recently had to organise a barge from Aswan to Wadi Halfa. Due to the Eid holidays most of us waited ~ 2 weeks to get our vehicles/bikes on the barge. During this time we were promised a number of different loading days and departure days. Below is a summary. You can see the full details on our blog: aimlessinafrica.blogspot.com

In general we found Aswan port to be the most corrupt customs post of our journey (15 months, ~ 65,000 km & 34 countries)
The Nile Valley Navigation Company is the most incompetent, disorganised, dishonest and unethical organisation we have ever been involved with.
Mr Salah (01283160926) appears to now only handle the passenger ferry. He will refer you to Mr Rashaad for the vehicle barge. Mr Salah will only issue a passenger ticket when your vehicle is on the barge. This is easily done on the day of departure.
We only managed to get Mr Rashaad (01090772410) to answer his phone once (from Cairo to confirm a vehicle booking). Hence, it is a problem to contact him and make arrangements. In addition, his English is basic (but better than my non-existent Arabic!), so it is difficult to have a complex conversation.
The easy way would seem to be to contact Mr Mahmoud Idris (01006845201). He speaks good English and can make contact and organise for you to see Mr Rashaad. Getting to see the right person and confirming a booking and schedule are the biggest uncertainties.
To obtain a ticket for the barge requires the approval of the “blind shouting man”. We could not work out is position/role, but you need him to approve your vehicle ticket.

You do not need a fixer. The procedure is very straight forward (the blog “gapyear4x4” gives clear directions on all the steps, directions to offices etc):
• Court Clearance to confirm no traffic violations,
• return the number plates, vehicle registration card/licence and pink copy of the vehicle ticket to the police
• go to the port and clear customs
• Drive down the road a bit and get the carnet stamped.
• Proceed to a holding area
• Load the vehicle

The fixer Kamal (01005322669) who assisted us is a buffoon. He facilitates/perpetuates the corrupt system of bribes with the Customs people.
The fixer Mohamed Abouda (01225111968) seems to be a very nasty piece of work. He tried threats, standover tactics, intimidation etc to try and extract funds from Brian & Anna. He lied to the bikers, Rob & Rick.

The main problems seem to be:
• getting in touch with the right person to get barge space for a vehicle transfer
• sorting out the schedule and accurate times/dates for the vehicle barge
• The systemic customs corruption and the lies told by the Nile Valley Navigation Company staff regarding vehicle transfer.
A strong warning must be given about the Nile Valley Navigation Company people. Whilst you must deal with them, you cannot believe them. So, whilst they may give assurances, times, dates etc this should all be taken with a huge degree of skepticism. Sad, but true.
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  #2  
Old 8 Nov 2012
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Hoping that the road will be opening soon!
But about corruption, it will be almost the same...

RR.
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  #3  
Old 8 Nov 2012
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Aswan to Wadi Haifa

Ahhh Mr. Salah and the famous Aswan ferry!!

First class cabins and all!!!

What an experience we best forget - I'm still having nightmares!!!

We crossed with 7 vehicles at the end of May 2012.

It was a pain in the !!

Everybody is corrupt in Egypt and the new road will probably save future overlanders a lot of hassle!!

Mohammed Aboudah was our fixer on the Egyptian side and even though he was playing the game he managed to get 7 of our vehicles on the barge. He was crooked but probably the best one of the lot!!

The most honest fixer I met was on the Sudanese side - Mazar Mahir!

Look him up - he was true to his word and got 7 of us cleared in 75 minutes!

Hope this helps.
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  #4  
Old 15 Nov 2012
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While I would agree to some extent with the incompetence of Egyptian institutions, I do not fully share aimlessinafrica's summary of the Aswan part of the ferry drama:

1.) Kamal might be difficult because of his poor English but he manages the things he has to manage. He pays the fees he has to and there is certainly some money going to officials and port workers to speed up things. But I would find it overstating to say that he is the one to perpetuate the system.

2.) You might be able to organize some of the steps in the harbour but I would probably not have found the traffic court or later the traffic police. And why losing an awful lot of time by trying to find out the necessary steps and places in this kafkaesque system?

3.) Mahmood Idriss works together with Kamal (but would - for instance - not to the necessary with either traffic court or police). His advantage is his reasonable English. Being of Nubian / Sudanese decent, he is far more honest than the rest.

4.) I do agree - and strongly so - that Mohammed Abouda is a crook! He took 300 LE from fellow travellers for unspecified "services" that were worth a maximum of maybe 80 LE (50 LE for the customs officer and 30 LE for the port workers). In addition, he charged 25 LE for the traffic court receipt which should have been 5 LE. He asked people to pay 20 LE for the customs guy to not check the interior of the cars for which there was no need. He charged high taxi rates for the several shuttles between the town and Aswan port (Kamal drove me around four times without charging any extra money). After lengthy protests , Mohammed Aboutda returned 100 of the 300 LE.

His English is better than that of Kamal and he apparently deals with Overlanding companies so he is able to manage things. But the price for this is definitely too high. Apparently, he is often recommended by the camp in Luxor which brings him business. But, to state it very clearly: He doesn't deserve it and should just be avoided!

5.) For the Sudanese side, I can only agree with "goingdownsouth": Mazar is great and managed to get two of our cars out during a public holiday. From the 30 Dollars, he charges, he pays the tips to workers of the barges and other expenses. His mobile number is +249 1223 80740.

6.) Forget about the cabin! It is sticky and useless. Mahmoud Idriss will organize space for you next to the bridge (we stayed there with 15 foreigners). Right now, it can be very chilly at night (winter has come early this year)!!

Be in Aswan on Friday night to have enough time to organize everything starting Saturday! One problem can be the Sudanese consulate: If you need your visa, you can only do it starting Sundays when hopefully your car will be loaded onto the barge. This can become very tight as our fellow travellers experienced!

Greetings from Dongola
Achim
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  #5  
Old 16 Nov 2012
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We went with Mahmoud Abouda who was recommended to us by friends who'd traveled a few weeks earlier and we thought he was pretty good. He told us exactly what we would pay and it didn't change. It did include an amount for "sweeteners" and a set amount for his fee - which was $40 as opposed to Kamal's $30. However, we got the car off the barge the same day (which was only one day after we arrived on the ferry) and basically the whole entry process was fairly stress-free. He also helped us get a permit to drive ourselves to Abu Simbel for no charge.

Mazar on the Wadi Halfa end was also fine.

Whoever you use I think the important thing is to nail the costs down upfront. How much for actual outgoings (eg insurance, road traffic etc), how much for bribes (in practice everyone involved in this process - and there are plenty of them - is expecting something), finally how much is his fee?

As regards the ferry I have to say I was really glad we had a cabin - it was August and the air-con was a god-send. It was pretty comfy, had electricity - in short well worth the extra in our view (from memory we paid $75 as opposed to $50 for no cabin).
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  #6  
Old 20 Nov 2012
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We are planning to load the car on 1st of December. The ferry for us is on 3rd.
The info you mentioned is valuable but scary as well.
I hope our hard experience in Alexandria will help to handle it.

Do you know where we have to take a permission to photograph in Sudan - in Wadi Halfa or somewhere else?

Save trip!
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  #7  
Old 21 Nov 2012
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Don't worry, Sashkov! It is not as bad as it sounds. The problem often is that people don't know how to do it and how the Egyptian bureaucratic mind works. This can indeed drive you crazy. If you keep being gentle and nice to people, many doors will be open. Loading during this season with the lake having a rather high water level is also no problem - unless your car is very long. But a normal Landy or Toyota won't be a challenge.

Greetings,
Achim
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  #8  
Old 21 Nov 2012
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We have already some intensive experience in Alexandria - it took us 7 days to release the car and we missed the ferry in Aswan.
So I agree - you need to be nice, but pushy as well and if possible - to control the process.

Our Defender is not overloaded so I hope it will be smooth and there will be no delays.
The challenge will be probably to clear everything - traffic police, custom, etc. in Aswan.
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  #9  
Old 31 Dec 2012
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More info...

We had a slightly different experience from above, so thought I’d add some info.

It’s true that all the paperwork is fairly easy to get done yourself if you have a couple of days (certainly don’t stress about it in advance), but by far the most difficult part of the process is getting a space for your car on a barge (bikes easier I think). To do this, I would recommend ringing up at least 3 weeks in advance. Barges are sporadic, with no fixed timetable or capacity, so you’re mostly getting yourself on the priority list for any spaces that do appear.

The fixers can do this for you, but if you want to be ‘belt and braces’, the guy who the fixers call, who manages this list is called Mahmoud Baraca (Tel 012 82539341). He’ll need the name of the car owner, your port of entry, and your Egyptian plate number (it should be punched into the plates if you look carefully, and they might tell you when you enter)

He’s really nice and speaks decent English. If you do call up and say you’re coming though, do try to turn up on time, otherwise everyone gets very annoyed and you might get bumped down the list a bit.

We managed without a fixer, doing most of the paperwork ourselves, but it was only with significant help from Mahmoud that we got on the barge because the barge captains can be such tricky so and so’s! (other travellers were similarly reliant on their fixers)

Once you are on the car barge, you are guaranteed a ticket on the ferry, so no need to stress about that in advance, but befriending Mr Salah does increase your chances of getting a cabin, so worth it if you have time.

We met all the fixers, and to add to previous debate (we were certainly confused before getting to Aswan), I would definitely use Kamal. His English isn’t great, but definitely sufficient to get the job done, and he’s a decent guy (heading south, he usually just asks people to pay what they think it’s worth). Abouda will get the job done for you too, but you’ll over pay for everything, and although he was perfectly pleasant to our faces, we heard numerous stories of him turning nasty when things went wrong (which they often do in Aswan).

The big thing on fixers though, is to get better value from using them for everything you can for the same fee (ie sorting petrol, rides back and forth to the port, changing money, etc)

Finally on Aswan, if you have any problems / questions at all, you can ring Mohammed at the Adam Home campsite (012 2442167). He speaks good English, is completely independent of it all, and will look after you (though probably don’t listen to him when he tells you don’t need a fixer!) Adam Home is a great place to meet overlanders, and genuinely has hot showers (as well as amazing hosts).

A few quick tips for the ferry / Sudan:
• You can sleep in front of the captain (for a small tip) on deck with plenty of room to lie down (turn left when you enter the boat, past all the first class cabins on to the front deck, and then up the ladder)
• It’s bloody cold at the moment, so take a sleeping bag and lots of warm clothes (make sure to take all this out of your car before you board the barge, it can be difficult once on board)
• Use Mazar as a fixer when you get to the other side, a really nice guy who will look after you (+249 12238070740) – if you ring in advance he can book you the nice Cagen hotel (80 Sudanese per night for a double) – there can be issues getting rooms when the ferry is in town (mostly locals waiting to catch the ferry north)
• Bring all the cash you need from Egypt – no ATMs / bank withdrawls anywhere in Sudan
• The road is now tarred all the way to Ethiopia – Khartoum is possible in 2 days, by taking the new bridge at Dongola, but there is also good tar across to Karima and Atbara if you want to see a few more pyramids (though the last couple of hours into Khartoum isn’t much fun, since you pick up the truck filled road from Port Sudan)
• In Khartoum, National Camping (N15.52483 E32.57042) is much nicer than Blue Nile, with warmish showers

Last edited by JimmyW1984; 31 Dec 2012 at 12:23. Reason: Spacing!
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  #10  
Old 31 Dec 2012
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More info...

We had a slightly different experience from above, so thought I’d add some info.
It’s true that all the paperwork is fairly easy to get done yourself if you have a couple of days (certainly don’t stress about it in advance), but by far the most difficult part of the process is getting a space for your car on a barge (bikes easier I think). To do this, I would recommend ringing up at least 3 weeks in advance. Barges are sporadic, with no fixed timetable or capacity, so you’re mostly getting yourself on the priority list for any spaces that do appear.
The fixers can do this for you, but if you want to be ‘belt and braces’, the guy who the fixers call, who manages this list is called Mahmoud Baraca (Tel 012 82539341). He’ll need the name of the car owner, your port of entry, and your Egyptian plate number (it should be punched into the plates if you look carefully, and they might tell you when you enter)
He’s really nice and speaks decent English. If you do call up and say you’re coming though, do try to turn up on time, otherwise everyone gets very annoyed and you might get bumped down the list a bit.
We managed without a fixer, doing most of the paperwork ourselves, but it was only with significant help from Mahmoud that we got on the barge because the barge captains can be such tricky so and so’s! (other travellers were similarly reliant on their fixers)
Once you are on the car barge, you are guaranteed a ticket on the ferry, so no need to stress about that in advance, but befriending Mr Salah does increase your chances of getting a cabin, so worth it if you have time.
We met all the fixers, and to add to previous debate (we were certainly confused before getting to Aswan), I would definitely use Kamal. His English isn’t great, but definitely sufficient to get the job done, and he’s a decent guy (heading south, he usually just asks people to pay what they think it’s worth). Abouda will get the job done for you too, but you’ll over pay for everything, and although he was perfectly pleasant to our faces, we heard numerous stories of him turning nasty when things went wrong (which they often do in Aswan).
The big thing on fixers though, is to get better value from using them for everything you can for the same fee (ie sorting petrol, rides back and forth to the port, changing money, etc)

Finally on Aswan, if you have any problems / questions at all, you can ring Mohammed at the Adam Home campsite (012 2442167). He speaks good English, is completely independent of it all, and will look after you (though probably don’t listen to him when he tells you don’t need a fixer!) Adam Home is a great place to meet overlanders, and genuinely has hot showers (as well as amazing hosts).
A few quick tips for the ferry / Sudan:
• You can sleep in front of the captain (for a small tip) on deck with plenty of room to lie down (turn left when you enter the boat, past all the first class cabins on to the front deck, and then up the ladder)
• It’s bloody cold at the moment, so take a sleeping bag and lots of warm clothes (make sure to take all this out of your car before you board the barge, it can be difficult once on board)
• Use Mazar as a fixer when you get to the other side, a really nice guy who will look after you (+249 12238070740) – if you ring in advance he can book you the nice Cagen hotel (80 Sudanese per night for a double) – there can be issues getting rooms when the ferry is in town (mostly locals waiting to catch the ferry north)
• Bring all the cash you need from Egypt – no ATMs / bank withdrawls anywhere in Sudan
• The road is now tarred all the way to Ethiopia – Khartoum is possible in 2 days, by taking the new bridge at Dongola, but there is also good tar across to Karima and Atbara if you want to see a few more pyramids (though the last couple of hours into Khartoum isn’t much fun, since you pick up the truck filled road from Port Sudan)
• In Khartoum, National Camping (N15.52483 E32.57042) is much nicer than Blue Nile, with warmish showers
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  #11  
Old 5 Jan 2013
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A small tip if you put your motorbike on a barge from Aswan to Wadi Halfa (or the other way as well i guess).
Make sure you put the bike next to the barge's bridge (captains place) where it is not surrounded with all the other cargo, so you can easily get it out.
We put our bike next to the barge's fence (and tied it for it) but then guys loaded the barge with looooads of cargo, so once the barge arrived to Wadi Halfa (2 days after us), we had to wait additional 2 days untill they unload everything else out of the barge so that we can get our bike out.
Cheers!
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