Travel Consideration: Central African Republic

Contributed By RealAdventures

The Central African Republic (CAR) is a developing African country. The capital is Bangui. Facilities for tourism are limited. The Dzanga-Sangha National Park, a primeval rain forest in the southwestern region of the country, is an interesting site for eco-tourism. Hunting expeditions are available through licensed companies in the CAR.

A valid passport and visa are required. Current information on entry requirements may be obtained from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 1618 22nd Street, N.W., Washington, D.C. 20008, telephone (202) 483-7800/7801, fax (202) 332-9893. Overseas inquiries should be made at the nearest Central African Republic embassy or consulate.

Due to its inability to provide security arrangements for foreigners traveling outside the capital of Bangui, the CAR Government in October 1997 closed all overland points of entry for tourists into the CAR. CAR citizens and citizens of neighboring countries are not affected by this government decree.

As a result of the 1998 and 1999 elections, Bangui has returned to normal following the three military mutinies that took place in the capital city in 1996 and 1997, leading to violence and looting. No specific threats were directed against U.S. citizens. However, American citizens should avoid political rallies and street demonstrations and maintain security awareness at all times.

Street crime in downtown Bangui, while uncommon, does occur. Armed gangs operate in outlying residential areas, although police anti-crime efforts have somewhat reduced this problem. Armed highway robbery in rural areas is common, especially in the dry season from December until May. When a crime does occur, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles.

Medical facilities are limited, and the quality of acute care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available. Travelers are advised to bring their own properly-labeled supplies.

U.S. medical insurance is not always valid outside the United States. U.S. Medicare and Medicaid programs do not provide payment for medical services outside the United States. Doctors and hospitals often expect immediate cash payment for health services. Uninsured travelers who require medical care overseas may face extreme difficulties.

Please check with your own insurance company to confirm whether your policy applies overseas, including provision for medical evacuation and for adequacy of coverage. Serious medical problems requiring hospitalization and/or medical evacuation to the United States can cost tens of thousands of dollars. Please ascertain whether payment will be made to the overseas hospital or doctor or whether you will be reimbursed later for expenses that you incur. Some insurance policies also include coverage for psychiatric treatment and for disposition of remains in the event of death.

While in a foreign country, U.S. citizens may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States. The information below concerning CAR is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular location or circumstance.

Safety of Public Transportation: Poor
Urban Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Rural Road Conditions/Maintenance: Poor
Availability of Roadside Assistance: Poor

Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the central, eastern and northern regions, overland travel in these areas without a military escort should be avoided. Most remote areas in the country that are frequented by tourists and hunters are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season (May through October).

U.S. citizens traveling to the Central African Republic should be aware of periodic fuel shortages. During these periods of shortages, taxi service in Bangui is reduced, and it is difficult to rent a vehicle with fuel for travel outside the capital.

While in a foreign country, a U.S. citizen is subject to that country's laws and regulations, which sometimes differ significantly from those in the United States and may not afford the protections available to the individual under U.S. law. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating CAR laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in CAR are strict, and convicted offenders can expect jail sentences and heavy fines.

Taking photographs of police or military installations, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. These official buildings and installations are often unmarked. Unauthorized photography may result in seizure of photographic equipment by Central African Republic authorities. Police or other government authorities can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.

U.S. citizens are encouraged to register with the Consular Section of the U.S. Embassy in Bangui at Avenue David Dacko, and to obtain updated information on travel and security in Central African Republic. The mailing address for the U.S. Embassy in Bangui is B.P. 924, telephone (236) 61-02-00; fax (236) 61-44-94; the after-hours telephone for U.S. citizens is (236) 61-34-56 or 61-69-14.

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