Possibly one of the least visited countries in the world and a landlocked region in Central Africa, Central African Republic – or CAR - is abundant in natural resources and attractions. Despite its potential as a great tourist attraction, its unstable security situation deters tourists as foreign visitors are favorite targets of armed gangs. And if the wild rebels don’t dissuade you from visiting, the hot, dusty climate just might. Those who survive the obstacles will be able to enjoy the remnants of French colonialism in the form of a strong cup of coffee and a baguette, while those with money to spare can go diamond shopping.
When to Go
The Central African Republic has a tropical climate. It is cooler in the western highlands than in the lowlands. It has two alternating dry and wet seasons.
The first dry season is from November to May.
The first wet season is from May to June.
The second dry season is from June to October
The second wet season is from October to November.
In the summer, the country is subjected to a hot, dry dust-laden condition known as the the Harmattan where hot winds from the Sahara Desert blow into the country.
Getting There & Away
The international airport of the Central African Republic that serves international and domestic flights is located in Bangui-Mpoko. If you take a domestic flight, be prepared to land on an unpaved runway; there are 47 in total. It accommodates about 46,400 passengers every year and has limited facilities. A non existent railway, poor roads and unsafe river boats are among the other popular transport options. If you are traveling during the rainy season, don’t even consider a road trip without a four-wheel drive.
Health & Safety
Outbreaks of waterborne diseases such as cholera are common, as is malaria. The infection rate of HIV/AIDS is also high making unprotected close encounters a firm no-no. The World Organization has reported that bird flu is also a health risk in the country. In additional to the health risks, Central African Republic’s security situation leaves much to be desired. The areas bordering Chad and Cameroon should be avoided at all costs as given half a chance; rebels in these areas are likely to kidnap foreigners.
Food & Hospitality
Bangui offers excellent accommodation and amenities, but they are mostly expensive and very exclusive, so unless you are sporting some original Central African Republic diamonds, you may want to give these establishments a miss. You may find it difficult to find a place to stay outside the city, but some small towns such as Boali and Bangassou have guesthouses for tourists. Western and other international cuisines are served in the urban areas, again, for a price. Bangui has many bars where you can unwind at the end of the day, but drunken behavior and smoking will get you in big trouble in Muslim areas.
Three days in Bangui
Two days in the Lobaye Region
One day each in Boali village and Bouar
Bangui: is the present-day capital city adjacent to the River Ubangi, characterized by modern buildings that are shaded by tropical greenery. The Central Market, Bogonda Museum, St Paul Mission Cathedral and the Arts and Crafts School are some of the must-see sites in the city.
Indigenous forest tribes: to learn more about the culture and traditions of the country, visit the several indigenous tribes living in small encampments in the Lobaye region located about 100kms from the capital city.
Boali Waterfalls: located near Boali Village, the Boali Waterfalls are about 50 meters high and 250 meters wide. There are stunning views of the village from the top.
Bouar megaliths: located east of the country, Bouar is the location of burial mounds believed to be thousands of years old.
Interact with tribes: take a tour of the Lobaye region and interact with the several indigenous forest tribes that have settled here and learn about their culture and traditions. You can pass by wide coffee plantations along the forest fringes.
Nature tripping: at Bangassou near the Ubangi River is inspiring, while a trip along the River Kotto can be a great way to relax. If you still have time, hit the beautiful Kembe Waterfalls.
Wildlife: explore the country’s different wildlife parks such as the Manovo-Gounda St Floris where hippopotamuses are kept and cared for; Dzanga-Sangha in the southwest and Bamingui-Bangoran in the north. Mind you don’t have a run in with the professional poachers who have already plundered nearly 80 percent of the animals.