Your guide to Juba, South Sudan
As I’ve said a couple of times in other posts, Juba, South Sudan is not a place people think or are advised of visiting. Even when I decided to move to South Sudan (in Yambio, precisely), people were worried about the safety and security (it doesn’t help at all knowing that the country is among the most dangerous ones to live in). However, if you end up for one reason or another in Juba, here are a few things you should know (I’ll also write about places you can visit):
- a Yellow Fever card is mandatory to enter the country
- the visa fee is $100
- taking pictures in Juba (and anywhere in South Sudan for that matter) is not permitted without a photography permit
- the currency is South Sudanese Pound (SSP) and at the moment the exchange rate to USD is 240 (subject to change) – it looks like you’re rich even when you exchange as less as $100
- the official working languages of the country are Arabic and English (so a little bit of Arabic would help your stay/visit).
Prior to moving to South Sudan, I got two books that I read and helped me understand more about what happened here and also prepared me for my move. Those are “A Long Walk to Water: Based on a True Story” by Linda Sue Park and “The Beat of a Different Drummer – My South Sudan Journey” by Jenny C. Mah; and I’m currently reading the book “Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles” by Richard Dodwen which is a comprehensive book on Africa and has a chapter in Sudan (South Sudan) that explains more about the history.
AFEX River Camp was the first site I went to after I moved to South Sudan. It is also among the pioneers of accommodation in Juba, established back in 2006. Situated by the White Nile River and offering a beautiful view alongside with relatively good food (for my picky personality), it’s a great place to have your brunch or even just a drink. It doesn’t even seem like you’re in South Sudan!
What still is unclear to me is the shipwreck in the picture. I need to know what happened but just haven’t found the right person to ask yet. If you know about it, please let me know in the comments or even email me 🙂
John Garang Square
Since photography isn’t allowed in Juba, I don’t have one to attach here. But you can visit the square when in Juba. Garang was a politician and revolutionary leader who led the Sudan People’s Liberation Army (SPLA) from 1983 – 2005 and served briefly as First Vice-President for three weeks only due to the airplane crash on his way back from Uganda.
Da Vinci Restaurant
Da Vinci Restaurant is by far my favorite place in Juba. The location is great, just by the White Nile River; their food is delicious; their service is much better than in the other places I’ve been in Juba and Yambio – faster and understandable; and they also have live music which gives another vibe to the place.
I’ve been there twice so far and I guess I’ll be going back every other time I get back to Juba.
Konya Konya is the market of Juba. I haven’t been yet there but in case you need something, go here and you’ll most probably find it. However, I went to another smaller market and got some fridge magnets for my and my niece’s collection.
Hotel Diplomat is a well-known name for anyone working with UNMISS or other NGOs. It has access from the Tomping compound which makes it a good alternative for the staff to have a meal there as a change from the usual tukul inside the compound. Their food is relatively good, although don’t let the names fool you – always double check if what you are ordering is the one what you’re getting. The terrace at Diplomat provides for a good environment to have a relaxed dinner.
Lily’s Cafe is a pretty modern place in Juba, very close to UN Tomping (located at the Airport Road). It serves a variety of food, including Chinese food and also fast food and, most importantly for me, good coffee. It also has a bakery and cakes section which I still have to try and see how it is. Additionally, Lily’s has a supermarket where you can get your groceries and all you need while in Juba.
Where to stay in Juba, South Sudan?
Since, I’m a UN Volunteer, I can only stay at the cleared hotels form UNMISS such as Hotel Diplomat where I stayed last time. The staff at Diplomat are helpful and understanding and it helps that it is located very close to the airport.
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