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The Cairo - Cape Town Highway sounds like a very interesting route to discovery Africa by car. The Wikipedia web site says that some parts are still not finished. So my questions are:

  • Is this highway passable from the start to the end with a normal car?
  • Are there dangerous regions that I have to cross?
  • How should I prepare for such a trip compared to a trip in Central Europe?
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5 Answers 5

I'll answer your first two questions:

Technically, the road can be done with a normal car, but practically it can't. Too many bad patches, particularly between southern Egypt and northern Kenya or Uganda.

That same stretch is also the most insecure. People are kidnapped, robbed and murdered on that stretch, though plenty, particularly locals, do travel the distance. To my knowledge, there is no passable road from Aswan, in Egypt, to wadi Haifa, in Sudan, which means you have to travel along the coast of Sudan up to Port Sudan, west to Khartoum and then on to Juba, from where you can get to Uganda. This route will allow you to steer clear of Somalia and northern Kenya, which is the most volatile area in this region. Well, as long as Sudan and South Sudan don't start bombing each other again. From Uganda south, the route is passable with a regular car without a problem.

But, still, you will struggle getting visas for Sudan and South Sudan. And (November 2012) I've been told by several sources that Khartoum to Juba (or vice versa) could take one to two weeks due to lack of scheduled public transport.

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Grant you, this is about 20 years out of date now, but Michael Palin basically travelled this route in Pole to Pole. He shows what the roads are like, if as the Wikipedia article suggests is still unpaved, in Ethopia, and by the end of the hour in the documentary, you truly feel what its like to progress through the mud.

Sudan is also likely to still be in really bad shape.

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As an aside, I would HIGHLY recommend "Swahili for the Brokenhearted" by Peter Moore. An Aussie travel writer (who I was fortunate enough to meet and hear speak at a travel show in London) he went overland from from Cape Town to Cairo, and the book would give you a great insight into what you might expect. Africa is VERY different to Europe, including several unstable regions.

As MastaBaba points out, Sudan (and now South Sudan) is probably the dodgiest area on a direct route from Cairo to Cape Town. The book shows just how hard it was for him to get his visa - it's an ongoing issue throughout.

The Long Way Down is a TV series about Ewan McGregor and Charlie Boorman who travel the route on motorcycles. They had fixers, a support crew, and still had lots of problems.

However, it's an incredible continent, and assuming you finished it successfully, would have some of the best experiences and adventures. It's a trip I'm actually considering myself as well for next year...

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No offense, but isn't this a comment as opposed to an answer? –  MastaBaba Aug 23 '12 at 21:50
I don't think so? I was using these examples to demonstrate that it is indeed possible (answering first question), has dangerous parts (Second part of question) and that the book and tv show would give an insight into how it differs from travel in Europe (third part of question). Having read and watched them myself, I often refer to them when people ask me about travel in Africa - I've done some, but not into the interior much. –  Mark Mayo Aug 23 '12 at 21:53

Of course it's possible, people do it every week every year. Last year I even cycled it (blog.samt.st)

Is this highway passable from the start to the end with a normal car? Yes. The vast majority of cars in Africa are very old, so your 'normal' car will be fine.

Are there dangerous regions that I have to cross? Northern Kenya was dangerous, now it's safe as there's a heavy police presence and they're building a new road which means lots of workers around.

How should I prepare for such a trip compared to a trip in Central Europe? Take a supply of dollars and make sure you don't have an Israeli stamp for entering Sudan. Otherwise just take some patience and all will be a great adventure.

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Presumably now South Sudan would be the place of concern... –  Mark Mayo Jan 20 '14 at 10:30
@MarkMayo South Sudan is far away from the route in questions so no worries. The route goes south east from Khartoum towards Ethiopia. –  Sam Jan 20 '14 at 11:37

It looks like it is feasible. If you want some advice straight from the horse's mouth, have a look at this blog called "Runterwegs". I don not know if these people have been and are following exactly the highway you have in mind. But roughly speaking it should fit. At least, the countries traveled are the same.

Unfortunately, the blog is in German, but that should be no problem for you ;-).

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