Central African Republic
As its name suggests, the Central African Republic lies in the geographic heart of Africa. It is a country characterised by extreme contrasts and intriguing contradictions. In the bustling capital of Bangui, which retains its colonial aesthetic, traditional African tribes roam streets lined with grand imperial French architecture and classic French patisseries are interspersed with colourful traditional African markets. This diversity is equally apparent in the nation’s breathtakingly beautiful natural landscapes. While the northern reaches are dominated by the vast Sahara Desert the south boasts magnificent equatorial rainforests, which are widely regarded as Africa’s best destination for viewing forest elephant and western lowland gorilla. The Republic’s star tourist attraction is undoubtedly the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park in the southwest, which is home to the world’s highest density of lowland gorillas, as well as an astonishing variety of butterflies and large forest-dwelling African wildlife.
Banking and Currency
CFA (Communauté Financière Africaine) Franc (XAF) = 100 centimes. Notes are in denominations of XAF10,000, 5,000, 2,000, 1,000 and 500. Coins are in denominations of XAF500, 100, 50, 25, 10, 5 and 1.
The Central African Republic is part of the French Monetary Area. Only currency issued by the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique Centrale (Bank of Central African States) is valid; currency issued by the Banque des Etats de l'Afrique de l'Ouest (Bank of West African States) is not. The CFA Franc is tied to the Euro.
There is no restriction on the import of foreign currency provided it is declared upon arrival. Up to the amount imported and declared can be exported. If importing local currency from Benin (Rep.), Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Mauritania, Niger, Senegal or Togo there are no restrictions. If importing local currency from anywhere else it can be up to an amount of XAF75,000.
Currency can be exchanged at banks in Bangui and Berbérati.
Banking hours: Mon-Fri 07h00-12h30.
Credit cards are not generally accepted, except in major hotels.
There are no international ATM machines and few establishments accept major international credit or debit cards.
To avoid additional exchange rate charges, travellers are advised to take traveller's cheques in Euros. Even so, commission rates can be very high.
Travel, Transport and Getting Around
Scheduled flights sometimes operate to Berbérati. However, most domestic flying is limited to chartered planes. Contact Minair (tel: 21 61 22 38) for details.
Self-drive or chauffeur-driven cars are available for hire. A 4-wheel drive is recommended. Road closures are frequent during the rainy season. Cars are driven on the right side of the road.Good roads connect the few main towns (although few are paved), but the majority are often impassable during the rainy season and travellers should expect delays. Most roads require a 4-wheel drive vehicles to render them passable. International Driving Permit required. Identification (e.g. residence permit or certified copy of passport) must be carried at all times. Failure to do so can result in detention by police. Outside the urban areas, motor vehicles are rare.
Limited bus services run in Bangui on a two-zone tariff. Taxis are only available in the urban areas; they do not have meters and fares must be negotiated. Minibuses serve Bangui and other major towns.
Food, Drink and Cuisine Advice
All water should be regarded as being potentially contaminated. Water used for drinking, brushing teeth or making ice should have first been boiled or otherwise sterilised. Milk is unpasteurised and should be boiled. Powdered or tinned milk is available and is advised. Avoid dairy products which are likely to have been made from unboiled milk. Only eat well-cooked meat and fish. Vegetables should be cooked and fruit peeled.
Western food is only available in the capital, Bangui. Most of the top-class hotels have good restaurants. The standard of these restaurants is high, but they do tend to be expensive. Otherwise travellers must call at local villages and barter for provisions. Local food is basic. Many dishes contain gombo (okra), although other popular ingredients include rice, bananas and cassava.
Bars are numerous in Bangui with both table and counter service. Drinking and smoking are not encouraged in Muslim society; in Muslim areas, drinking is best done in private. Elsewhere, there are numerous beer halls offering beverages of a high standard.
A 10% tip is appropriate in expensive hotels and restaurants. Bargaining is normal.
Climate and Weather
The Central African Republic is hot all year with a defined dry season. It is especially hot in the north, with greater humidity in the south. The rainy season is mainly from May to October, while the driest months are January and February. Heavy rainfall is typical in the southwestern forest areas.
Clothing and Dress Recommendations
Light natural fabrics are recommended due to the hot climate. Waterproof clothing is advised particularly when visiting from May to October or if you are planning to explore the southwestern forest areas. Sunglasses, sunscreen and a sunhat are essential.
Internet access is quite difficult to come by but it is more widely available in major towns. In more remote areas, internet access is extremely scarce.
Electricity and Plug Standards
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Central African Republic are one of the two European standard electrical socket types: The "Type C" Europlug and the "Type E" and "Type F" Schuko. If your appliance's plug doesn't match the shape of these sockets, you will need a travel plug adapter in order to plug in. Travel plug adapters simply change the shape of your appliance's plug to match whatever type of socket you need to plug into. If it's crucial to be able to plug in no matter what, bring an adapter for all three types.
Electrical sockets (outlets) in the Central African Republic usually supply electricity at between 220 and 240 volts AC. If you're plugging in an appliance that was built for 220-240 volt electrical input, or an appliance that is compatible with multiple voltages, then an adapter is all you need.
But travel plug adapters do not change the voltage, so the electricity coming through the adapter will still be the same 220-240 volts the socket is supplying. If your appliances are not compatible with 220-240 volt electrical output, a voltage converter will be necessary