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Visiting the Central African Republic?

With thousands of square kilometres of little-explored forests and plains, the Central African Republic (CAR) is home to a huge array of wildlife. Explore the right locations and there’s every chance you’ll come across elephants, leopards, monkeys, buffalo, antelope and even gorillas. And the landscapes are equally awe-inspiring.

All of that said, it’s not the most obvious – nor easiest – place to visit, so you must be prepared. The following advice should help to ensure your trip goes smoothly, so you can comfortably and safely enjoy everything this beautiful country has to offer.

Bongo at Sangha Lodge courtesy Rod Cassidy

Bongo at Sangha Lodge courtesy Rod Cassidy

The CAR has its troubles

Rather than feature on ‘top tourist destination’ lists, the Central African Republic is more commonly found on lists of places not to visit. The UK government’s Foreign and Commonwealth Office (FCO) actually advises against travelling to the country, due to high levels of crime and violence across the capital – Bangui – and beyond.

It’s for this reason that any trip to the CAR must be taken extremely seriously. Research the country and its current situation, and plan every step of your journey well in advance. Your trip should be organised from start to finish, with reliable transport and chaperones taking you to all your destinations.

There is no British Embassy in the CAR, so be sure to maintain regular contact with the UK in case you need assistance.

Fitness and health are essential

The CAR isn’t known for having a robust and widely accessible healthcare system, so there may be periods of your stay where medical assistance isn’t readily available. It’s important, therefore, that you’re in good health before boarding the plane.

Fitness is equally important, as there’s every chance you’ll be required to walk long distances over difficult terrain – especially if you’re visiting the CAR on a safari trip. And even when walking isn’t the chosen mode of transport, you’ll find yourself climbing ladders into private aircraft and enduring bumpy rides in the back of four-wheel-drive vehicles. It’s not for the faint-hearted.

Heat is also a real concern in the CAR, especially around the Dzanga Ndoki National Park, which is less than 300 miles north of the equator. This will make walks over any terrain twice as strenuous, so train beforehand to prepare.

You’ll need specialist travel insurance

Travel insurance is advisable whichever country you’re visiting, but it’s particularly important in the CAR. Given the ongoing troubles and unrest – as well as the lack of medical provisions and embassy support – the chances of you needing assistance are higher here than they would be in any typical tourist destination.

As such, most normal insurance policies won’t cover you for a trip to the CAR, so you’ll need to speak to a specialist provider. There may be temptation to go without, but bear in mind that any assistance you do receive – whether it’s legal or medical – will likely be expensive, and not being able to pay could leave you in a difficult situation.

It’s well worth the effort!

As we’ve alluded to already, visiting the CAR takes a little more effort and preparation than most ‘normal’ holidays, but get it right and the hard work is sure to pay off. Visitors to the CAR – particularly those on safari breaks – regularly return home as advocates of this little-visited part of the world.

If you’re willing to go without a few western amenities, and travel with an open mind, you’re sure to have the time of your life.

Lowland gorillas near Sangha in Central African Republic courtesy Rod Cassidy

Lowland gorillas near Sangha in Central African Republic courtesy Rod Cassidy