Central African Republic travel guide
About Central African Republic
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.
622,984 sq km (240,535 sq miles).
4.829.767 (UN estimate 2020).
8.7 per sq km.
President Faustin-Archange Touadéra since 2016.
Prime Minister Félix Moloua since 2022.
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) provides advice about risks of travel to help British nationals make informed decisions. Find out more about FCDO travel advice.
FCDO advises against all travel to Central African Republic
Your travel insurance could be invalidated if you travel against FCDO advice.
FCDO advises against all travel to the whole of the Central African Republic due to unpredictable security conditions.
See Safety and security for more information.
Limited consular support
There is no British Embassy in the Central African Republic, and consular support is severely limited. The British Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, can provide limited remote consular support to British nationals.
If you choose to travel, research your destinations and get appropriate travel insurance. Insurance should cover your itinerary, planned activities and expenses in an emergency.
This advice reflects the UK government’s understanding of current rules for people travelling on a full ‘British citizen’ passport from the UK, for the most common types of travel.
The authorities in the Central African Republic set and enforce entry rules. If you’re not sure how these requirements apply to you, contact the Central African Republic Embassy in Paris (in French).
There are no COVID-19 testing or vaccination requirements for travellers entering the Central African Republic.
Passport validity requirements
To enter the Central African Republic, your passport must have an ‘expiry date’ at least 6 months after the date you arrive.
Check with your travel provider that your passport and other travel documents meet requirements. Renew your passport if you need to.
You will be denied entry if you do not have a valid travel document or try to use a passport that has been reported lost or stolen.
You must have a visa to visit the Central African Republic.
Applying for a visa
Apply for a visa through the Central African Republic Embassy in Paris (in French).
To pass border control in the Central African Republic, you must have a certificate to prove you’ve had a yellow fever vaccination.
For more details about health entry requirements and recommended vaccinations for the Central African Republic, see TravelHealthPro’s Central African Republic guide.
There are strict rules about goods you can take into or out of the Central African Republic. You must declare anything that may be prohibited or subject to tax or duty.
There is an export tax on cultural artefacts.
There is a high threat of terrorist attack globally affecting UK interests and British nationals, including from groups and individuals who view the UK and British nationals as targets. Stay aware of your surroundings at all times.
UK Counter Terrorism Policing has information and advice on staying safe abroad and what to do in the event of a terrorist attack. Find out how to reduce your risk from terrorism while abroad.
Terrorism in the Central African Republic
Although there’s no recent history of terrorism in the Central African Republic, attacks cannot be ruled out.
Attacks could be indiscriminate including in places visited by foreigners. Stay aware of your surroundings, keep up to date with local media reports and follow the advice of local authorities.
Current President Faustin-Archange Touadéra came to power through an election in 2015 and was re-elected in 2020. In August 2023, a constitutional referendum was passed, which included the removal of presidential term limits. Presidential elections are due in 2025.
Protests, marches and demonstrations can happen with little notice and have encountered a strong police and security force presence. Protests have previously resulted in deaths and injuries. If you are near any protests, marches or demonstrations, you should leave the area immediately. Stay alert and follow the local news, as the atmosphere can change quickly and without warning. Stay away from any blockades set up by the police and security forces.
Tensions remain high following decades of violence between the Central African Republic government and rebel groups. The security situation could worsen without notice.
There are frequent incidents of homicide, looting, criminal kidnapping, house burglary, arbitrary detention, gunfire and carjacking, including in Bangui. Attacks are unpredictable and have taken place against UN peacekeepers, humanitarian workers and foreign mining companies.
Outside of Bangui, security conditions are extremely unstable. While Central African Republic government forces have made progress in retaking territory, armed groups continue to occupy areas in the north and east of the country. Government services are largely absent across the country outside of Bangui. There are ongoing incidents of armed conflict, banditry and hostage-taking. There are unidentified improvised explosive devices in the west of the country.
If you decide to remain in the Central African Republic against FCDO advice, you should have confidence in your security arrangements and maintain a high level of vigilance, especially outside of Bangui.
Armed patrols and roadblocks
Government security forces, UN peacekeepers, rebel groups and militias conduct armed patrols across the Central African Republic, including in Bangui. Armed personnel control roadblocks (both official and illegal) where you may be asked for a bribe. Take particular care when approaching these. Travel in groups if possible and avoid travelling at night.
It is common for the police and armed groups to arbitrarily search and detain people, mainly Central African nationals but also foreign nationals.
Theft and robbery are common, and armed gangs operate in the outlying areas of Bangui. Bandits often target foreign nationals, including humanitarian workers.
Be alert to the risk of street crime, armed robbery and bribery at all times. Take precautions such as:
- taking professional security advice
- travelling in pre-arranged transport with trusted operators
- avoiding taking valuables or wearing jewellery in public
- not walking alone at any time, especially at night
- using a hotel safe if possible and keeping copies of documents, including your passport
- avoiding isolated areas
Violent attacks in remote areas
Armed groups and bandits have used illegal roadblocks and have indiscriminately attacked travellers in remote areas. The attackers have burnt or stolen vehicles, and injured, kidnapped or killed passengers.
Always keep vehicle and personal identification documents with you while travelling by road. Lock vehicle doors, keep windows closed and avoid driving off main routes. Medical help in the event of an accident is likely to be limited.
Laws and cultural differences
You must always carry ID by law, such as a certified copy of your passport or a residence permit. The police can detain you if you do not have ID with you.
It is only legal to buy diamonds or precious stones through government-authorised agents.
Illegal drugs penalties
There are severe penalties for drug use and possession. If convicted, you can expect heavy fines and a long jail sentence.
You often need permission to take photos in public places. You may be detained, fined and have your camera confiscated for photographing government property, uniformed law enforcement officers or military installations and personnel.
It is not permitted to take photographs the authorities think damage the country’s image (for example, street children and people with disabilities).
You can get a permit for more serious photography from the Ministry of Tourism.
While homosexuality is not illegal, same-sex relationships are not widely accepted in Central African society. LGBT+ travellers may face arrest for “public expressions of love”.
Read more advice for LGBT+ travellers.
It is easier to exchange euros for Central African francs rather than US dollars. You can exchange traveller’s cheques at banks.
There are very few ATMs. Most places, including hotels, do not accept international credit or debit cards.
If you are planning to drive in the Central African Republic, see information on driving abroad.
Roads are in extremely poor condition, especially in the rainy season from May to November. Most roads are unpaved, may close at short notice and require a 4-wheel-drive vehicle. Outside of Bangui, there are very few roads.
You’ll need to have both the 1968 version of the international driving permit (IDP) and your UK driving licence with you in the car. You can buy an IDP in person from some UK post offices – find your nearest post office branch that offers this service.
Hire car companies often have stricter requirements for their customers, such as a year of driving experience or a higher minimum age.
Keep a private supply of fuel, food and drink if possible, especially if you are travelling any distance outside of Bangui.
Extreme weather and natural disasters
Find out what you can do to prepare for and respond to extreme weather and natural hazards.
During the rainy season from May to November, roads outside of Bangui can become impassable. Flooding in Bangui is common and has killed people and destroyed homes. There is a risk of being cut off by floods in areas outside the capital, particularly in northern regions. There is also a risk of flash flooding.
Earthquakes are a risk in the Central African Republic. The US Federal Emergency Management Agency website has advice about what to do before, during and after an earthquake.
Before you travel check that:
- your destination can provide the healthcare you may need
- you have appropriate travel insurance for local treatment or unexpected medical evacuation
This is particularly important if you have a health condition or are pregnant.
Emergency medical number
Call 610600 or 117 and ask for an ambulance.
Emergency numbers are unreliable in the Central African Republic. The emergency services are unlikely to respond outside of Bangui.
Contact your insurance company quickly if you’re referred to a medical facility for treatment.
Health risks and recommended vaccines
At least 8 weeks before your trip:
- check the latest vaccine recommendations for the Central African Republic
- see where to get vaccines and whether you have to pay on the NHS travel vaccinations page
Go to TravelHealthPro to see risks you’ll face in the Central African Republic, including:
- yellow fever
- Zika virus
The legal status and regulation of some medicines prescribed or bought in the UK can be different in other countries.
The NHS has information on whether you can take your medicine abroad.
Healthcare facilities in the Central African Republic
There are very few healthcare facilities in the Central African Republic. Facilities in Bangui are very basic. Strikes by government workers have affected medical services and hospitals. Make sure you have adequate travel health insurance and accessible funds to cover the cost of any medical treatment abroad and repatriation, including medical evacuation by air ambulance.
FCDO has a list of medical providers in the Central African Republic where some staff will speak English.
Travel and mental health
The Foreign, Commonwealth & Development Office (FCDO) cannot provide tailored advice for individual trips. Read this travel advice and carry out your own research before deciding whether to travel.
Emergency services in the Central African Republic
Telephone: 117 (ambulance, fire, police)
Military police (‘gendarmerie’): 2161 2200
Emergency numbers are unreliable in the Central African Republic. The emergency services are unlikely to respond outside Bangui.
Contact your travel provider and insurer
Contact your travel provider and your insurer if you are involved in a serious incident or emergency abroad. They will tell you if they can help and what you need to do.
Refunds and changes to travel
For refunds or changes to travel, contact your travel provider. You may also be able to make a claim through insurance. However, insurers usually require you to talk to your travel provider first.
Find out more about changing or cancelling travel plans, including:
- where to get advice if you are in a dispute with a provider
- how to access previous versions of travel advice to support a claim
Support from FCDO
FCDO has guidance on staying safe and what to do if you need help or support abroad, including:
- finding English-speaking lawyers and translators and interpreters in the Central African Republic
- dealing with a death in the Central African Republic
- Being arrested or imprisoned in the Central African Republic
- getting help if you’re a victim of crime
- what to do if you’re in hospital
- if you’re affected by a crisis, such as a terrorist attack
You can also contact FCDO online.
Help abroad in an emergency
If you are in the Central African Republic and you need emergency help from the UK government, contact the British Embassy in Kinshasa, Democratic Republic of Congo, who provide consular assistance for the Central African Republic.
The French Embassy in Bangui may also be able to offer some consular assistance (telephone: +236 613 000 or +236 610 584) to those who need urgent help.
FCDO in London
You can call FCDO in London if you need urgent help because something has happened to a friend or relative abroad.
Telephone: 020 7008 5000 (24 hours)