Then Ethiopia Said ‘No’ –

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in,” the woman at the Ethiopian embassy shot my hopes down. “Unless you are a Kenyan resident.”

“Really?” I questioned her. “There’s no way to cross the border overland?”

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in,” she repeated robotically.

“What if I get a volunteer position at an NGO?”

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in.”

“But I’m going around the world without flying,” I stressed.

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in.”

“Could I –”

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in.” Her patience was running thin.

“What if I –”

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by flying in.” She looked me dead in the eye.

“Right –”

“You can only get a visa into Ethiopia by –”

“By flying in,” I finished off for her as I stood up. “Yes, I believe you may have mentioned it. Thank you for your time. Have a great day.”

I walked out and realised that this was my first obstacle and a serious challenge in the two years I’ve been hitch hiking.


Now to figure out how to get to the Middle East without going through countries that weren’t projecting an inviting feel. Let’s see, what are my options…

  • Arrive at the border, play it dumb and hope that my persistent nature will break them and let me in.
  • Sneak in. Which might complicate things for Sudan and Egypt and then Israel which would also need sneaking into. Which would mean camping out for a few days to do some reconnaissance about military patrols and then not getting shot when eventually crossing the border.
  • Go to Uganda and arrange a kayak trip down the White Nile through South Sudan and into Sudan all the way to Egypt. But again, visa issues.
  • Would rather avoid going through Central Africa and Chad, both in intense conflicts. Can’t go west cause both the Congos have some sort of internal issues as does Nigeria and Niger so no.

  • Email a tear-jerker of a letter to the Minister of Tourism in Ethiopia and see if he could grant me a one-off overland visa.

The email didn’t go through with gmail explaining how due to technical difficulties and blah-blah-blah the message was not delivered.


And also, a sign.

I knew that South Sudan, the recent addition to the planet’s independent nations, and Sudan had signed a peace agreement. But I also knew that the borders were closed between the two countries. Still, I googled the question ‘Are the borders open between South Sudan and Sudan?’

Lo and behold some articles came up on the BBC’s website. ‘Sudan agrees to open 10 border crossings with South Sudan for trade and tourism.’

Tourism. Well, hellooooooo Nelly.

I checked to see if there was an embassy in town for South Sudan.


The next day I headed over and spoke with a more patient woman who explained that the visa would be valid from the day of submission.

Shit. “I’ll only be in South Sudan from about September.” I think. “Can I get a visa in Uganda?”

“Yes, not a problem,” she said.

Sweet candy pie it was all working out. Everything does eventually.
Originally posted on The Nomadic Diaries

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Photo credit: Stephanie Helber, 2015

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