COUNTRY DESCRIPTION: The Central African Republic (CAR) is one of the world’s least developed nations, and is currently experiencing a period of prolonged political instability and lawlessness. In March 2013, the Seleka rebel group overthrew the government in violent clashes with the CAR military and foreign troops. Despite an on-going peace process and the creation of a transitional government, the security situation remains highly unstable. Gun fights and looting are on-going and can erupt at any moment. The U.S. Department of State Travel Warning for the Central African Republic strongly warns against all travel to CAR. Those who choose to remain in the Central African Republic or to visit despite this advice should be aware that the U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations on December 28, 2012, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR.
The Government of the Republic of France, acting through its Embassy in Bangui, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in CAR. The range of consular services the French Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of CAR.
Read the Department of State Fact Sheet on the Central African Republic for additional information on U.S. - CAR relations.
SMART TRAVELER ENROLLMENT PROGRAM (STEP) / EMBASSY LOCATION: If you are going to live in or visit the Central African Republic, please take the time to tell our Embassy about your trip. If you enroll, we can keep you up to date with important safety and security announcements. It will also help your friends and family get in touch with you in an emergency. Here’s the link to the Smart Traveler Enrollment Program.
You can find contact information for U.S. embassies and consulates in neighboring countries at the Department of State’s list of embassies and consulates.
The U.S. Embassy in Bangui suspended operations in December 2012, and therefore cannot provide protection or routine consular services to U.S. citizens in CAR. The Government of the Republic of France, acting through its Embassy in Bangui, serves as Protecting Power for U.S. interests in CAR. The range of consular services the French Republic provides to U.S. citizens is extremely limited, and those services may require significantly more processing time than at U.S. embassies or consulates outside of CAR. U.S. citizens in CAR who seek consular services should contact the Embassy of the Republic of France in Bangui by calling 236 21 61 30 00.
U.S. citizens in CAR who are in need of emergency assistance in CAR, and are unable to reach the Embassy of the Republic of
France, or must make contact outside business hours, should contact the U.S. Embassy in Yaounde, Cameroon:
Telephone: 237 2220-1500 ext. 4341/4023 (Monday through Friday, 9:00 a.m. – 12:00 p.m. local time)
Emergencies: 237 2220-1500, ext. 4531 or 237 2222-25-89
If you seek information about U.S. citizens services in CAR from the Office of Overseas Citizens Services in Washington, please e-mail: CARemergencyUSC@state.gov.
ENTRY/EXIT REQUIREMENTS: A valid passport, visa, and evidence of yellow fever vaccination are required for entry. Travelers should obtain the latest information and details from the Embassy of the Central African Republic, 2704 Ontario Road, NW, Washington, D.C. 20009, telephone: (202) 483–7800 / 7801, fax: (202) 332–9893. Overseas, inquiries should be made to the nearest Central African Republic Embassy or Consulate. NOTE: In any country where there is no Central African Republic diplomatic mission, the French Embassy has authorization to issue a visa for entry into the Central African Republic. The Embassy of the Central African Republic does not have a website.
The U.S. Department of State is unaware of any HIV/AIDS entry restrictions for visitors to or foreign residents of the Central African Republic.
Information about dual nationality and the prevention of international child abduction can be found on our website. For further information about customs regulations, please read our Customs Information page.
There are several restrictions on foreigners who wish to travel within the CAR. Both residents and tourists must ensure that they have proper paperwork with them at all times, and additional permissions for any travel outside of Bangui. Travel to the southwest in particular requires a permit for all foreign travelers due to the presence of sensitive mining areas. You are encouraged to check with the authorities in Bangui, such as the Gendarmerie National, about possible restrictions in the areas where you wish to travel.
THREATS TO SAFETY AND SECURITY: Indiscriminate violence and looting followed the March 2013 overthrow of the Government of CAR, and the new transitional government has been unable to provide for security in the capital Bangui or elsewhere in CAR. In the absence of basic law and order, criminality has sharply risen. Increased gunfire in the capital has led to several casualties by stray bullets.
Spontaneous demonstrations take place in the CAR from time-to-time in response to world events or local developments. We remind you that even demonstrations intended to be peaceful can turn confrontational and possibly escalate into violence. You are therefore urged to avoid the areas of demonstrations if possible, and to exercise caution if within the vicinity of any demonstrations. You should stay current with media coverage of local events and be aware of your surroundings at all times. Armed rebel groups, bandits, and poachers present real dangers, and the Central African government is unable to guarantee the safety of visitors in most parts of the country.
There have been repeated attacks on Central African and expatriate travelers throughout the CAR over the last 10 years. The continued presence of the Lord’s Resistance Army in eastern CAR poses a particular safety and security threat. Bandits, militias, and armed group activity throughout the country also threaten the security of residents and travelers. Travel in the interior is strongly discouraged.
Bangui itself, in addition to ongoing insecurity, also suffers from severely limited transport and medical options. Armed actors staff checkpoints throughout the city, frequently harassing local and expatriate travelers for bribes. The U.S. Department of State advises against all travel to the CAR. Please see the Department of State’s Travel Warning for the CAR for more information.
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CRIME: Crime remains a concern in the capital and has increased since the March 2013 overthrow of the government. You should exercise caution while traveling around the city and its immediate environs. Petty theft remains a problem in large market areas, particularly in the crowded markets near KM 5 on the outskirts of the city. Armed gangs may operate in outlying residential areas. During periods of civil unrest and conflict citizens engage in violent, sometimes deadly, demonstrations which include widespread looting, burning of buildings, and blocking of roads. In the interior of the country, there are frequent reports of armed robbery and kidnapping by highway bandits (called “coupeurs de routes” or “zaraguinas”), especially during the December to May dry season. When a crime does occur in Bangui, the victim may have to pay to send a vehicle to pick up police officers due to the shortage of police vehicles and fuel.
In many countries around the world, counterfeit and pirated goods are widely available. Transactions involving such products may be illegal under local law. In addition, bringing them back to the United States may result in forfeitures and/or fines. The Computer Crime and Intellectual Property Division in the U.S. Department of Justice has more information on this serious problem.
VICTIMS OF CRIME: If you or someone you know becomes the victim of a crime abroad, you should contact the local police and the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. We can:
The local equivalent to the “911” emergency line in the Central African Republic is 117, and you can call the Gendarmerie at 2161-2200.
Please see our information on victims of crime, including possible victim compensation programs in the United States.
CRIMINAL PENALTIES: While you are traveling in the CAR, you are subject to its laws even if you are a U.S. citizen. Foreign laws and legal systems can be vastly different than our own. Penalties for breaking the law can be more severe than in the United States for similar offenses. Persons violating Central African laws, even unknowingly, may be expelled, arrested, or imprisoned. Penalties for possession, use, or trafficking in illegal drugs in the CAR are severe, and convicted offenders can expect long jail sentences and heavy fines. Engaging in sexual conduct with children or using or disseminating child pornography in a foreign country is a crime prosecutable in the United States. If you break local laws in the CAR your U.S. passport won’t help you avoid arrest or prosecution. It’s very important to know what’s legal and what’s not where you are going.
Based on the Vienna Convention on Consular Relations, bilateral agreements with certain countries, and customary international law, if you are arrested in the CAR, you have the option to request that the police, prison officials, or other authorities alert the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate of your arrest, and to have communications from you forwarded to the nearest U.S. embassy or consulate. In some cases, U.S. citizens and other foreign nationals have been detained indefinitely without due process.
SPECIAL CIRCUMSTANCES: Photography: Taking photographs of police or military installations, airports, or any other government buildings, is prohibited. Unauthorized
photography may result in the seizure of photographic equipment by the CAR authorities. Police or other government authorities
can provide information and grant permission for photographing a particular subject or location.
Corruption: Corruption remains a serious problem among the CAR security forces, some members of which have harassed travelers for bribes. At night, the roads in the capital are often manned with impromptu checkpoints, at which police or soldiers ask motorists and travelers for money.
Banking: Banking infrastructure remains limited in the CAR, and facilities for monetary exchange exist only in the capital. Banking services were further limited following looting in Bangui in March and April 2013. There are no ATMs in the CAR. Exchange bureaus and banks normally accept dollars and euros, but not West African Francs (CFA). Credit cards are not used in the CAR, and purchases of goods and services are made in cash, including hotel rooms and airline tickets.
Same Gender Sexual Relations: Same gender sexual relations are illegal in CAR and the penal code criminalizes consensual same-gender sexual activity. The penalty for "public expression of love" between persons of the same gender is imprisonment for six months to two years or a fine of between 150,000 and 600,000 CFA francs ($295 and $1,185). When one of the participants is under age, the adult may be sentenced to two to five years' imprisonment or a fine of 100,000 to 800,000 CFA francs ($200 and $1,600); however, there have been no recent reports [in 2011] that police arrested or detained persons under these provisions. Lesbian, gay, bisexual, and transgender travelers should review the LGBT Travel Information page.
Accessibility: While in the CAR, individuals with disabilities will find accessibility and accommodation very different from what you find in the United States. Public infrastructure is generally in poor condition and sidewalks, buildings, and public transportation do not cater to special accessibility needs.
MEDICAL FACILITIES AND HEALTH INFORMATION: Medical facilities are extremely limited in the CAR, and the quality of care is unreliable. Sanitation levels are low. Many medicines are not available; you should carry properly labeled prescription drugs and other medications with you that will suffice for your entire visit.
Routine immunizations and protection from vaccine-preventable diseases such as yellow fever, rabies, polio, meningitis, typhoid, and hepatitis A and B are recommended. Malaria (predominantly P. falciparum) exists throughout the year and chemoprophylaxis is strongly recommended. Information on vaccinations and other health precautions, such as safe food and water precautions and insect bite protection, may be obtained from the CDC website. For information about outbreaks of infectious diseases abroad, consult the World Health Organization (WHO) website. The WHO website also contains additional health information for travelers, including detailed country-specific health information.
Tuberculosis is an increasingly serious health concern in the CAR. For further information, please consult the CDC's information on TB.
Insect-borne illnesses are of concern as is Schistosomiasis, an illness related to contact with fresh water. Insect precautions and avoiding freshwater are recommended.
MEDICAL INSURANCE: You can’t assume your insurance will go with you when you travel. It’s very important to find out BEFORE you leave whether or not your medical insurance will cover you overseas. You need to ask your insurance company two questions:
In many places, doctors and hospitals still expect payment in cash at the time of service. Your regular U.S. health insurance may not cover doctors’ and hospital visits in other countries. If your policy doesn’t go with you when you travel, it’s a very good idea to take out another one for your trip. For more information, please see our medical insurance overseas page.
TRAFFIC SAFETY AND ROAD CONDITIONS: While in a foreign country, you may encounter road conditions that differ significantly from those in the United States.
The information below concerning the CAR is provided for general reference only, and may not be totally accurate in a particular
location or circumstance.
In Bangui, road conditions vary, and many roads have large holes and degraded areas that prevent the normal flow of traffic. Only a small portion of the roads in the country, including in the capital, are paved, and many of the compacted dirt roads have been degraded. Drivers tend to prefer to drive on the smoothest portion of the road and ignore basic traffic laws, thus slowing the flow of traffic and increasing the risk of collision. The city of Bangui does have a public transportation system consisting of green buses and yellow taxis, though these vehicles are often dangerously overcrowded and very badly maintained.
Due to the risk of armed attacks on motorists in the northern, eastern, and western regions of the country, overland travel in these areas should be avoided. Any driving outside the capital should be only during daylight hours. Most remote areas in the CAR that are frequented by tourists are accessible only by four-wheel drive vehicles, although some roads are not passable at all during the rainy season, from May to October.
There are currently no distracted driving laws in effect in the Central African Republic, but police may pull over drivers who talk or text while driving for not following unspecific safe driving procedures.
AVIATION SAFETY OVERSIGHT: As there is no direct commercial air service to the United States by carriers registered in the CAR, the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration (FAA) has not assessed the government of the CAR's Civil Aviation Authority for compliance with International Civil Aviation Organization (ICAO) aviation safety standards. Further information may be found on the FAA’s safety assessment page.
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This replaces the Country Specific Information for the Central African Republic dated October 16, 2012, with updates to the sections on Country Description, SMART Traveler Enrollment (STEP)/Embassy Location, Entry/Exit Requirements, and Crime.