Darfur refugees Sam Ouandja, Central African Republic
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Darfur refugees Sam Ouandja, Central African Republic

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Central African Republic Travel Guide

Key Facts
Area

622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles).

Population

4,998,493 (UN estimate 2016).

Population density

8.7 per sq km.

Capital

Bangui.

Government

Republic.

Head of state

President Faustin-Archange Touadéra since 2016.

Head of government

Prime Minister Simplice Sarandji since 2016.

Electricity

220 volts AC, 50Hz. Plugs with two round pins are standard.

One of the least visited countries in Sub-Saharan Africa, the Central African Republic ranks amongst the poorest nations on the planet and has struggled to find its feet since gaining independence from France in 1960. Suffice to say few tourists venture out this way.

A country of contrasts, the Central African Republic is a place where the Sahara Desert meets tropical Africa, where the pastoral traditions of Africa’s tribespeople rub shoulders with the colonial architecture of imperial France.

The French influence is particularly strong in the capital, Bangui, which retains its colonial aesthetic and is scattered with patisseries serving fresh baguettes and éclairs. Vibrant stalls around the central market provide cheap and tasty local cuisine, which ranges from fish straight out of the Ubangi River to fried plantain and fufu, a sour-tasting starch prepared from manioc flour which is a staple of the region.

The country’s frenzied markets are perfect places to interact with and better understand the culturally diverse tribespeople that make up the population. The shortest interaction with these people shows them to be inquisitive, warm and generous beyond their means.

Geographically, much of the Central African Republic is composed of rolling grasslands, dusty deserts and steamy jungles. The northern reaches of the country are dominated by the seemingly infinite Sahara. With so little light pollution here, the night skies gleams with millions of stars.

The far south is home to equatorial rainforests, which are considered some of the best places in Africa to see forest elephants and western lowland gorillas. The jungle is also home to pygmy tribes, which live off the land in remote pockets of central Africa. Visits to these tribes are possible and offer an insight into their extraordinary lives.

Travel Advice

Last updated: 13 March 2017

The travel advice summary below is provided by the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in the UK. 'We' refers to the Foreign and Commonwealth Office. For their full travel advice, visit www.gov.uk/foreign-travel-advice.


Local travel

There are reports of rebel activity, banditry and hostage-taking across the country. The situation in the capital, Bangui remains fragile with periodic instances of killings, looting and gunfire. There are armed patrols in Bangui and you will encounter several roadblocks - official and unofficial - that are likely to be manned by armed personnel. Take particular care when approaching these. You are strongly advised not to travel around Bangui especially after dark. You should take extreme care, and travel in groups if possible.

Crime

Incidents of theft and robbery occur regularly and armed gangs are known to operate in the outlying areas of Bangui. Take personal security precautions and be vigilant in public places. Avoid carrying valuables or wearing jewellery in public. Don’t walk alone at night. Avoid isolated or poorer areas.

Road travel

Roads are poorly maintained and most require a four-wheel drive vehicle. Road travel is particularly difficult during the wet season (May to November). If you do decide to travel by road, you should keep a private supply of fuel if possible and carry supplies with you if travelling outside Bangui.

Illegal road blocks operate in remote areas. You may be forced to hand over money or possessions in order to continue your journey. There have been indiscriminate and violent attacks on travellers in remote areas. Vehicles have been fired on, and passengers killed or injured. In many of these cases victims have been robbed or taken hostage and vehicles taken or burnt.

Seek local advice before travelling and we recommend that you do not travel after dark.

Political situation

The armed rebel coalition Seleka seized power on 24 March 2013. The interim leader, Michel Djotodia, stood down on 11 January 2014 and was replaced by a transitional government. In early 2016 Presidential and legislative elections were held, leading to the inauguration of President Faustin Archange Touadera on 30 March 2016 and the installation of a new Parliament and government. Despite this change and an increase in the number of international security forces in CAR, the situation in Bangui and the rest of the country remains fragile as reports of widespread looting and violence continue.

You should keep up to date with local political developments and avoid all political rallies, demonstrations or large public gatherings.

Consular assistance

There is no British Embassy in the Central African Republic. There is an Honorary Consul in Obo, but given the current security situation he is not able to offer consular assistance. British nationals needing urgent help should contact the Foreign and Commonwealth Office in London on +44 20 7008 1500.

The nearest British diplomatic mission is the British Embassy, Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo

In an emergency, the French Embassy in Bangui may also be able to offer some consular assistance (telephone: +236 613 000 or +236 610 584).

Visa and passport information is updated regularly and is correct at the time of publishing. You should verify critical travel information independently with the relevant embassy before you travel.