What You Need To Know
Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic. The city of Bangui was founded by the French in 1889 and takes its name from the Ubangi River (spelt Oubangui in French). Located at the geographical center of the continent, Bangui lies on the northern border of the river, near the country’s southern border.
The country lies just north of the equator and daily temperatures often rise up to 30°C, with Bangui in the south slightly hotter and wetter than the northern parts. Bangui is more of a stopover and a gateway into the country’s top tourist attractions. One of the city’s highlights is the old town with its wide streets and colonial architecture. The old town was built by French settlers.
Bangui was once described as La Coquette (the beautiful city), it has gone through a series of turmoil which has greatly affected the country. At the moment, peace initiatives and concerted efforts are on-going to stabilize the country following a coup in 2013 which escalated into serious religious violence.
- CFA is the official currency (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.
Credit cards are not generally accepted, except in major hotels.
There are no international ATM machines and few estabilshments 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.
Since Bangui is situated 4° north of the Equator and 1,300 feet above sea level, its climate is humid and unchanging except during the brief, violent thunderstorms of the rainy season.
The average high temperature for March, in the dry season, is 92.5°F; the low is 67°F. Average rainfall is 5 inches in January and 6.5 inches in July; August has the greatest average rainfall at 13 inches.
The national language is Sango, but French is the official administrative language and is essential for business. Another 68 languages and dialects have been identified in addition to these.
Health and security
- Bangui has two large government hospitals staffed primarily by French and Central African doctors; most speak only French. Although the specialists at the hospital are often consulted, the in-patient facilities are not used because of the questionable sanitary conditions and nursing care. There is a private clinic that offers adequate in-patient care, and the French and Japanese embassies have medical facilities available to American staff. Several Chinese clinics are available throughout Bangui, offering both standard and traditional Chinese medical care. Serious cases are referred to medevac centers in Côte d’Ivoire or Europe.
- Several local pharmacies are fairly well stocked with French medicines. Eyeglasses can be ordered from one of the pharmacies but are very expensive and entail substantial delay. It is advisable to bring a spare pair of glasses.
- The potential for sectarian violence remains high. Indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in CAR since the overthrow of the government in March 2013. Despite the peaceful election of a new president in 2016 and the continued presence of a United Nations stabilization force, the security situation remains fragile. In the event of unrest, airport, land border, and road closures may occur with little or no notice.
Most travelers also avoid visiting the place due to its rather long arrival procedure with long queues when getting visa stamps. Travelers are also randomly picked by the officers to have their baggage checked. At the airport, you should be very careful as pick pocketers are many especially those claiming that they are offering assistance to tourists.
- 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.
- Snakes, scorpions, tarantulas and other spiders, ants, and mosquitoes make it necessary to take precautions when walking outdoors, including wearing shoes and using insect repellent, particularly at night.
- Make sure any taxi you get into has working doors and a complete exhaust pipe and that the windows go up. If you encounter a roadblock, do not give up your passport.
- Bangui is known for having very beautiful wood carvings that you can buy as a gift to your friends back home.
- A form of local brand known as mocaf is a must drink and despite being of high quality, it is cheap and thus very affordable to many beer lovers.