Africa Photo by Hu Chen

Central African Republic Driving Guide

Central African Republic is a unique beautiful country. Explore all of it by driving when you get your International Driving Permit

2021-07-28 · 9 mins

While it may be ludicrous to think of traveling to regions with often menacing portrayals in news reports and documentaries, you will be surprised to find out that the African continent, despite its troubled history, possesses so much more worth deserving of love and admiration. With that being said, a trip to the Central African Republic will make your visit to the second-largest continent on Earth worthwhile.

Bangui, its capital city, showcases an impressive waterfall nearby called Boali. The Baka people attract tourists for their unique cultural practices. To access such a country's natural wilderness and pristine rainforests, driving in the Central African Republic helps you explore the country at your own pace, hassle-free. With comfortable driving comes legal conformity, and getting an international driver’s permit (IDP) prevents unnecessary mishaps involving local authorities.

How Can This Guide Help You?

Driving in a foreign land can get quite intimidating. This comprehensive guide is drafted with all the necessary information to aid in your worries about being a clueless nomad who simply wants to explore everything there is to see. You’ll be able to get to know the country more, its culture, and what makes it worth visiting. In terms of driving in the Central African Republic, a summary of driving laws, driving directions, and where to rent a car, as well as securing an international driver’s permit (IDP), are included in this travel guide.

You'll also know some of the world's best travel destinations that you can visit alone, or with your friends or family members. As you can already tell, this guide is a long read but is comprehensible and helpful, so take your time as it will be worth it.

General Information

The Central African Republic, as its name suggests, is a Central African country. The CAR is blessed with natural minerals like gold, diamonds, oil, and uranium. It’s home to incredible national parks, with fantastic wildlife that easily captures hearts, especially tourists who love rhinos, buffaloes, lowland gorillas, and huge forest elephants. Some say it’s the best place in the world to see butterflies, and it pretty sure is

A primate safari in the Central African Republic is almost like experiencing National Geographic first-hand but in real life, with more thrill, seeing nature at its most primitive, ever so divine state. If you love the wilderness, you will love it here as you’ll discover more of nature’s wonders. The CAR will serve you a taste of an authentic African adventure.

Geographic Location

Formerly Ubanghi-Shari under the French colony, the Central African Republic, though not precisely at the center of the continent, is a landlocked country in Central Africa. Outside its borders is Chad to the north, Sudan to the northeast, South Sudan to the southeast, Cameroon to the west, the Democratic Republic of the Congo to the south, and the Republic of the Congo to the southwest.

Languages Spoken

There are two official languages spoken in the Central African Republic: French and Sango. The latter is one of the Creole-based spoken languages in Africa on the Ngbandi language; it’s native to the Ubangi Region people. Sango is a lingua franca first widely used in 1988, and about 80% of the CAR’s population speaks it today. Other languages spoken also include Baya (Gbaya), Ngbaka, Banda, Sara, Kare, Mandjia, and Mbum.

Land Area

The Central African Republic has a total land area of 622,984 square kilometers, and it’s the 43rd-largest country in the world. Its size is comparable to Ukraine which is next to the rank. The country is somewhat larger than France and slightly smaller than the state of Texas. Most of its landscapes consist of savannas, while the Sahel covers the farthest north, and an equatorial forest lies, a forest and savanna ecoregion in the southern portion.

Much of the county is rolling grasslands, dusty deserts, and dense jungles. The seemingly infinite Sahara in the northern region has zero pollution, enabling you to see clear and bright night skies. It’s interesting to know that the Central African Republic map resembles Burkina Faso’s, a fellow African nation. It makes the two countries look like long-lost twins at birth in “The Motherland.”

History

Situated at the center of the oldest civilizations known to humans, mineral-rich Africa, the Central African Republic was colonized by the French during the Scramble of Africa in the late 19th century. After gaining its independence in 1960, autocratic leaders began ruling the government to establish a monarchy. A cry for democracy in the 1990s led the nation to have its first multi-party democratic elections in 1993. Political rivalries persisted even after attaining its liberty, following a series of civil conflicts and dictatorships.


The infamous regime of Emperor Bokassa I later renamed the country the Central African Empire. The country had gone through a long course of democracy threats, coups d’état, and civil wars involving neighboring countries. There’s a proverb quoted by its citizens which goes, "When elephants fight, the grass suffers; when elephants make love, the grass still suffers,” expressing their weariness of the general lawlessness, continued social chaos among its contending elites to gain power.

Government

The Central African Republic has a Republic form government, in which it formally performs in the frameworks of a semi-presidential republic. Its chief of state is the president, and the head of the government is the prime minister. Its constitution was reformed in 2015, which provides for the set-up of the senate and electoral authority, as well as requiring choices made by the president and the prime minister, to be approved by the ministers.

The country’s population of 4.8 million comprises several ethnic groups, including Mbaka and Yakoma peoples, each taking up 4% of its population. About 7% of CAR’s inhabitants identify as Mboum peoples who fled and originated from Cameroon’s highlands. About 33% identify as Gbaya, 27% identify as Banda, 13% identify as Mandjia -- all make up the majority of its population. Sara people take up the remaining 10%, while Greeks, Portuguese and Yemeni live throughout the country, with a small French population living in the capital city of Bangui

Tourism

Tourism in the Central African Republic is having a hard time booming due to political instability and conflict. Its troubled history and the battle between neighboring countries also greatly affected the tourism industry of the country, negatively. It’s one of the least-visited countries in Africa, but it’s one of the richest countries when it comes to natural gems and minerals, culture, and wildlife.

The farthest south of the county is home to equatorial rainforests that shelter wildlife from big mammals to birds. The country offers some of the best places you can visit in Africa, giving you a peek into the extraordinary lives of the tribespeople of CAR.

International Driver’s Permit FAQs

Driving in the Central African Republic makes an incredible wildlife safari. To truly get to know a country and access the top tourist destinations, renting a car is always an excellent way to do this no matter which country you’re visiting. To drive a rental car, you will be required to secure an international driving permit (IDP). An IDP is useful in international travel and is required to get around the country; otherwise, you can end up in jail.

Securing an international driver’s permit is cost-effective in the long run; it saves you from unnecessary mishaps involving authorities in any countries you plan on driving in. Your IDP can take you further wherever you want without dealing with the inconvenience that commuting brings and provides flexibility with your own time and movement

Is My Native Driver’s License Valid in the Central African Republic?

Unlike some nations that may allow you to drive with your native driver’s license alone for a specified period unless you’re Central African yourself, then you cannot use your driver’s license in the Central African Republic. Instead, it supplements your international driver’s permit application, and you are always required to carry it with your IDP and along with other essential documents. An IDP from the International Drivers Association (IDA) grants you the right to drive in the country legally.

To secure an international driver’s permit, you must possess a valid driver’s license and upload a copy of it to the IDA’s website, along with a passport-sized photo of yourself. For shipment of your IDP for driving in the Central African Republic, the zip code for your home address needs to be indicated in your application form so that the IDA can mail the physical printed copy of your IDP to you.

Does an IDP Replace My Native Driver’s License?

The driver’s license and IDP role might be some of the things that confuse folks around foreign driving subjects. To answer this, an IDP does not necessarily replace your native driver’s license; in fact, it serves as a supporting document to be eligible for an international driver’s permit. It is worth noting that an IDP translates your native driver’s license into twelve widely-spoken languages commonly understood by local authorities in over 150 countries.

An IDP explains to a local officer in the Central African Republic that you are driving in the country legally, without having to speak the language. It also qualifies you for a rental car as most car rental companies require you to possess such a document.

Do I Need an IDP to Drive in the Central African Republic?

You do need an IDP to drive in the Central African Republic. The country has somewhat loose visa requirements; some do not even need to obtain one to enter the country. And while it’s easy to set foot in this African nation, getting around does not always come easily unless an international driver’s permit is present. Always carry your IDP with your driver’s license and identification cards, such as a passport or any government-issued ID.

Although the necessity for an international driver’s permit depends on the bilateral agreements and treaties between your home country and the country you plan to drive in, securing an IDP is essential when driving in the Central African Republic. It helps lessen your worries, providing you a smooth driving experience.

When Will I Use My IDP?

If you love going on international travel with full freedom, not worrying about tiring commutes, then your IDP is the key to do it. Most car rental companies in CAR ask for your international driver’s permit to let you rent their vehicle, whatever kind of car you’d like to drive. Since your IDP translates your native driver’s license, it is easier for local authorities to understand that you're legally driving in their country.

How Long Is My IDP Valid?

The validity of your IDP depends on where you avail your license. The International Drivers Association (IDA) offers swift online processing at affordable prices, ranging from $49 for a one-year validity, $55 for a two-year validity, and $59 for a three-year validity. Not only is an IDP granting you a license to get behind the wheel for up to three years, but you can also use the same IDP when you drive in other countries you wish to visit in the future, as long as it’s still valid.

In case you lose or misplace your IDP in the country where you’re currently driving, the IDA replaces your IDP with a new one, and you’ll only shoulder the shipping cost. Just contact the customer service and provide your IDP number and name, then the IDA will send you a link to pay the shipping fee. Your license will be reprinted within 24 hours and mailed to you internationally without extra cost

Renting a Car in the Central African Republic

Driving in the Central African Republic by car makes your travel comfortable; you wouldn’t need to keep up with commute schedules, no need to squeeze your luggage in, and you can freely hit the road off-grid. There is nothing like the freedom of driving your rental car, especially if you often make changes with your whereabouts. Get ahead of your driving adventure by booking in advance online.

There are also car rental options where you can have them pick you up at the airport. You just got to find the type of vehicle and deals that suit your travel purpose and budget.

Car Rental Companies

So, you have your licenses ready, and you are excited to hit the road, but the question is, where do you rent a car to drive in the CAR? Many business travelers hire taxis to get around the capital city Bangui, but even cabs can get quite costly. To get the best of your budget, you can just rent your vehicle and self-drive. Internationally recognized car rental companies like Avis and Europcar have customer desks at the international airport.

Vehicle Types

Most tourists explore the wilderness of the Central African Republic. You'll mostly encounter a dirt road in the dry season, which remains open for passage but can be challenging to tackle, and only a small portion of the country’s roads are paved. To ensure you can get past the hard roads, consider getting a four-wheel drive vehicle. These types of cars are often sturdy, and you don’t have to worry about stressed tires.

The same advantage goes in the rainy season, where roads can get muddy, and your tires sink in the dirt. Consider getting car insurance to cover any damage cost for your rental vehicle.

Car Rental Cost

The cost of your car rental fee depends on the kind of vehicle you will rent and the inclusions that come with it. Pick-up cars at the airport typically cost more, so booking outside the area is recommended. It’s best to always monitor the car company’s latest policy on pricing to get the best deal

Age Requirements

The age requirement for renting a car in the Central African Republic can depend on the car supplier you hire. Statistically, younger drivers cause more road accidents, and since this is one of the risk concerns, most rental companies will require you to be at least 25 years old to rent. If you are below the general age requirement, you can still rent a car, but it depends on the car supplier

If you are 21 years old and want to rent a car, most rental companies will require you to pay the young driver’s fee. And since the younger drivers tend to claim higher insurance when they get into an accident, the extra fee covers the higher risk the rental companies might be taking by allowing you to rent a vehicle.

Car Insurance Cost

The cost of your car insurance depends on where you get your rental vehicle. Most car suppliers include insurance within their fee, so it’s best to read the car rental company’s latest policy. If the rental fee does not include any waiver programs, find a better car supplier, or you can purchase insurance separately. You can arrange add-ons for safety amenities like a spare tire, camera, and airbag

Car Insurance Policy

Car insurance is an integral part of renting a car, especially that the Central African Republic’s roads are difficult to traverse. Most rental companies include car insurance within their fees, and it’s essential to get to know the inclusions before signing. Most prices include collision damage waiver (CDW). When driving in the Central African Republic, news of crimes in remote areas should serve as a caution, so consider hiring a rental car with theft and collision damage waivers if you plan to drive outside urban areas.

African Road Photo

Road Rules in the Central African Republic

“When in Rome, do as the Romans do,” a famous proverb says. But in the case of the Central African Republic, there are traffic rules you must adhere to, even though they are not very strict about it. Like many foreign drivers wishing to hit CAR’s roads, there are essential rules that you need to follow to encourage Central African Republic traffic safety for you and your fellow drivers. When driving in the Central African Republic, a summary of road rules includes which side of the road to drive on, their legal driving age, their seatbelt laws, and whatnot.

Attacks on foreign tourists, not by gorillas or wild animals, but by individuals wanting to steal or rob you, are frequent in remote areas. There may be rare, specific incidents of violence, so take extra caution when visiting the country. It is highly risky so ensure that you are well-equipped with safety measures and only drive during the daylight.

Important Regulations

As a foreign driver, it’s your responsibility to respond to traffic regulations as pay of respect to the country’s traffic laws. Fastening your seat belt is essential for safety, as well as drunk driving, and the use of a hands-free device. Knowing where to park also saves you from unnecessary headaches with local thieves that victimize tourists.

Seat Belt Laws

Neglecting seatbelts is one of the leading causes of road accidents, which sometimes result in fatality. Seatbelt applies to all passengers and drivers when hitting the roads of the Central African Republic. The law requires all new and imported cars with front and rear seatbelts. When you’re traveling with a child, there’s enforcement of the national child restraint law on driving, which disallows younger passengers to be seated in the front seat. Children must always be seated at the back of the vehicle with a proper seating system.

Drunk-driving

It is no surprise that drunk driving is one of the leading causes of fatal accidents in general. When you drive, maintain a blood alcohol content (BAC) limit of 80 mg per 100 ml of blood. This limit applies to both experienced and novice drivers and CAR’s general population. Drink moderately or don’t drink at all if you want to make it out safe. Not only are you saving yourself the trouble, but you will also save others. If you are drunk, have someone to drive you.

At checkpoints, officers will ask you to blow through a breathalyzer just to check if you’ve complied with the BAC limit. When you’re drinking beer or any alcoholic beverage, it’s hard to tell whether you’ve gone below or beyond the limit, so consider thinking about safety and not consume any at all.

Hands-free

The Central African Republic has very loose traffic law enforcement. But for your safety, use a hands-free device while driving as police may pull you over if caught talking or texting while driving, among other minor violations.

Parking

When parking, consider pulling up your vehicle within an area where visible security is present. Do not attract thieves by leaving your valuables if you must get out of your car; crimes related to robbery are frequent in the country.

General Standards

According to Kayak, car rental companies in the Central African Republic have only manual transmission cars. When you’re driving in the Central African Republic, quiz yourself whether you’re equipped enough to hit the road, especially at night. Assess if you’re taking enough safety precautions before driving as most roads in CAR are challenging to drive on, and hazards are always a concern.

Speed Limits

The speed limit in urban areas is 60 km/h, while the maximum speed in rural areas is 110 km/h, though local authorities can modify speed limits. Going beyond the maximum speed limits in dedicated areas is against the CAR’s traffic laws. Because of the country’s stressful situations revolving around crimes and violence, travelers are advised to access only the urban areas, specifically central Bangui.

Driving Directions

Traffic laws in CAR are generally disregarded and have little to no attempt to enforce them. You’ll see authorities policing busy intersections in Bangui but are often idle. Road accidents often occur at intersections without traffic controls—practice self-protection by paying close attention when approaching intersections. Do check if any vehicles are coming from all sides as motorcycles may pass through without warning or signal.

Traffic Road Signs

Transportation regulators create traffic signs to manage traffic flow. You are likely to see traffic signs in the CAR’s urban areas, while signs are non-existent for the rest of CAR. There are limited traffic signs and traffic lights you can see in Bangui and a few other signs to tell drivers ahead when approaching an intersection, when to stop, and when not to park. Some traffic signs you will see include:



  • do-not-enter
  • octagonal stop sign
  • no parking
  • school zone
  • red-border triangular intersection
  • stop sign
  • intersection

Right of Way

Most roads in the Central African Republic are poorly maintained, unpaved, and have one-way lanes, even in the capital city of Bangui, so the discussion on who has the right of way is not always clear. According to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association (NHTSA), it pays to first know that none ever has the legally designated right of way. It depends on the driver of a certain circumstance to yield the right of way.

Most African nations require you to be at least 18 years old to drive a vehicle. Depending on what kind of vehicle you will drive and its weight, the age requirement can be minimized to 16 years old for motorcycle drivers. Some may require a minor age to be supervised by a licensed driver who has a driver’s license for more than a year, and yet to obtain an actual driver’s license, you need to be at least 18 years old.

The required driving age is almost the same as drivers in most countries in the world. A legal driving age grants you a valid native driver’s license, which is later useful when applying for an IDP to drive in another country.

Laws on Overtaking

As you may already know, the Central African Republic’s traffic laws are loosely imposed. Being on the road is a blessing, as you’re able to get to where you want to go, so always practice safety and adhere to the road rules. If you aim to overtake another vehicle, make sure that you do so with caution. Always signal your fellow drivers about your plan, and let them know of your presence on the road.

Driving Side

As a former French colony, drivers in CAR drive on the right side of the road. This law is the opposite for most British colonies that drive on the left side. European countries like the United Kingdom, Cyprus, Ireland, and Malta still drive on the left side. If you’ve driven around the United States, you should be familiar with which side to drive when driving in CAR.

Be mindful when driving and always follow this traffic rule, no matter where you drive in the world. A wrong turn can get you penalty points, or worse, your enjoyable road trip could turn into a horrific accident

Driving Etiquette in the Central African Republic

Before driving in CAR, ensure that you have proper safety measures in case you get stuck in the middle of the road in the event of a car break down or natural hazards. Most of CAR’s rural roads are poorly maintained, so if you can, avoid accessing roadways in remote areas for added safety. Imagine the worst-case scenarios that could happen while you’re on the road, and consider the following measures to overcome them and get around and back safely

Car Breakdown

Car breakdown is a common problem drivers encounter. Make sure you have tools with you to repair your vehicle as spare parts, and reliable mechanics are hard to find within and outside Bangui. When you’re driving alone, and your car breaks down, it is almost inevitable to panic as images of violent attacks start to cloud your thoughts. If your car breaks down, slowly pull over to a safer side of the road.

Due to safety risks for foreign civilians in CAR, stepping out of your vehicle may not be safe. If you feel threatened, call the police at 117 and do not move until the cops or Gendarmerie arrive. Another option is to phone your car supplier to help you with your situation, and most importantly, remain calm as panicking does not help so much.

Police Stops

Traffic police patrol around Bangui and they may just pull you over for drunk driving or using a mobile phone while driving. If police stop you, calmly pull over your car, roll down your window, and politely communicate with authority. If they ask you for your documents, show them your ID, passport, international driver’s permit, and car insurance. If you believe the police have no business stopping you, don’t be afraid to ask questions.

Police in the Central African Republic is typically recognizable with police cars and uniforms. Unless they are not in an on-duty police suit, do not mind stopping your car for anyone. If you feel threatened, you can always phone the police hotline.

Asking Direction

It’s easy to get lost in the country’s remote areas as street signs and markings are limited to non-existent. If you feel lost, stop your car and don’t move any further. Some regions in CAR may not have good cell service, and the chances are that you won’t be able to call your car rental supplier for help. When driving in the Central African Republic, maps won’t help so much, so whenever you feel like you’re losing track of your direction, you can approach and ask locals politely for driving directions.

Due to the influence of French colonization, many nations in the Sub-Saharan region speak the French language, along with two or more languages. CAR locals speak both French and Sango as their official languages. You do not have to go on full-French or Sango with them, but knowing a few phrases helps. When asking for a driving direction, here are a few helpful phrases you can use to approach locals.:

In Sango, you say:



  • Balao - Good day / Good evening / Hello
  • Balao monsieur - Hello sir
  • Balao madame - Hello ma’am
  • Pardon - Sorry! / Excuse me!
  • Tonga na nyen - How are you?
  • Mbi gbu gere ti mo - Please
  • Singila mingi - Thank you very much
  • Sengue - You’re welcome

In French, you say:

  • Bonjour - Hello/Good morning
  • Comment allez-vous? - How are you?
  • Excusez-moi - Excuse me
  • Où se trouve la station de métro la plus proche? - Where is the closest metro station?
  • Où est…? - Where is…?
  • S'il vous plaît - Please
  • Pardon - Sorry
  • Que veut dire ça? - What does that mean?
  • Merci beaucoup - Thanks a lot

Checkpoints

The presence of police and Gendarmerie outside urban and major cities are rare, but checkpoints can occur at any time in CAR. If you see one, coordinate with the local authority if stopped. Checkpoints will ask you to perform a breathalyzer test to see if you are adhering to the drunk driving law. Be aware of police officers who appear to be intoxicated at checkpoints as sometimes they would engage in bribery to let you pass.

Some days you may see a group of young men building a checkpoint on the road, know that this is pretty common, and they may ask you for money as compensation for their work. These groups are not associated with the local authorities, and they are just there to finesse their way to make quick cash. Be aware of them at all times; if you feel threatened by them, call the police hotline at 117.

Other Tips

A lot of things can happen on the road, so to avoid such stressful situations, you must always practice preparedness. Also, being vigilant and alert with responding to such events can alleviate distress. Below are precautions you may want to consider before and while driving.

Before driving

  • When driving in the Central African Republic, maps won’t help much with directions, so always have someone with you who knows CAR well.
  • Check if your rental car is properly maintained and works well, so you can consult with your provider for a fix or replacement if there’s an issue.
  • Test your headlights and adequately position your rear views
  • Tools to fix your vehicle and spare tires are essential when your car gets stuck or breaks down.
  • Have sufficient fuel supply with you while driving.
  • Always carry a first-aid kit, food, water, satellite communications, and an extra battery or a power bank.
  • Drive only during the daytime.

While driving

  • Follow basic road rules even if CAR has little to no enforcement; it is for your safety.
  • Avoid driving in remote areas as much as possible. If you must, don’t go by yourself.
  • You may spot groups on the road, and they sometimes set up a checkpoint. Don’t mistake them for police and be aware that they are not the authority; avoid these guys by traveling only during the daytime.

Driving Conditions in the Central African Republic

Driving in a foreign land can be as daunting as learning how to drive for the first time. It takes knowledge, patience, and extreme vigilance to get around CAR, get back safely, know what to expect in traffic situations, have the patience to deal with difficult roads, and be mindful. In contrast, driving will take you to a safer road trip. It’s crucial to be well-aware of the driving conditions in the country before you set off.a

Accident Statistics

Due to low road maintenance and lack of traffic law enforcement, coupled with irresponsible driving, road accidents rank 11th place as the leading causes of death in the Central African Republic. The latest WHO data published in 2018 shows that road traffic accidents in the country had reached 1,482 with 2.68 percent of total deaths. The age-adjusted death rate puts the Central African Republic in the 34th spot in the world at 32.34 per 100,000 of its population.

The lack of road infrastructure comes with a lack of framework for imposing regulations for drivers to follow on the road. The country’s poor road culture and traffic management make road accidents one of the leading causes of death in the country, among known diseases.

Common Vehicles

Many visitors take a taxi or cab, but even this is not safe as scams and robbery are prevalent. Due to poor road conditions, visitors who wish to get around Bangui and take on a safari road trip often hire a 4WD as these types of vehicles can endure stresses when accessing difficult roads. Locals use bikes, motorcycles, boats, and buses, which are poorly maintained, as their primary forms of transportation in CAR, and there are currently no train stations found in the country.

Toll Roads

Major highways in the country remain underdeveloped, and tolls on the sometimes impassable urban roads don’t exist. In the Central African Republic, many roads are taken over by armed checkpoints, so instead of toll booths, they may require EZ-Pass documents like the one from the World Wildlife Fund, if you have it. Other times, cash will be required for you to continue on your way.

Road Situations

Generally, roads throughout CAR are poorly constructed, and a majority of them remain underdeveloped. There are only a few good roads across the country that's why it's highly recommended to rent 4-wheel drive vehicles Unpaved roads are common outside major towns and remote areas. Pedestrian lanes are not marked and traffic signs are non-existent except in the capital, Bangui. During the rainy season, roads tend to become impassable due to flooding and lack of drainage systems.

When you drive in CAR, you will learn that getting to your destination takes much longer due to sudden vehicle disablement on the road, unforeseeable traffic in busy streets, and checkpoints. Always be careful when driving around urban areas.

Driving Culture

With locals driving in the Central African Republic, quiz or training for qualifying drivers is little to none. Commuting is not advisable due to many motorcyclists, minibus, and taxi drivers neglecting the road rules, risking a passenger’s life. If you see a large crowd gather at a road accident, do not get into it as the situation may turn violent. All are direct results of the lack of constraint by police officers on traffic laws.

Despite local drivers disregarding the rules, kindly be a law-abiding tourist. It’s always good to practice adherence even if there’s little enforcement, especially in foreign countries.

Other Tips

Below are tips and other information that can serve as a guide to get around CAR safely. Knowing the best time to drive in the country, or whether you can drive at night or not, or if you can drive around safely as a tourist, and familiarizing yourself with the metric system, are essential knowledge you can apply.

Are They Using Kph or Mph?

Like most African nations, except for Liberia, you’ll see the speeds in kilometers or km and speed limits in kilometers per hour or Kph. When driving in the Central African Republic, Kph may be confusing to non-metric users like American drivers. Still, if you have driven in most European countries before, this should not be as challenging to you. You can always have a converter application installed on your mobile phone if you have trouble understanding speed limits.

Is It Safe for Tourists to Drive?

When driving in the Central African Republic, news involving incidents of roadside theft, violence, and crime may induce fright. Still, such problems generally occur in the northern part of the country and rarely go down in the forest and wildlife, which are likely your main destinations when traveling. Like many other African nations, the Central African Republic struggles with such problems to date, rooted in a hunger for power and extreme poverty.

Despite the dreadful headlines that you may have read on the news, the country is embraceable for its abundant wildlife and untouched, natural beauty. After all, every nation on Earth has its fair share of safety issues, but with precautions, you should never let fear keep you from indulging in adventures the CAR has for you.

Can I Drive at Night?

Under no circumstances, avoid driving at night as road hazards, pedestrians crossing the roads, and other vehicles can be difficult to see as some motorists lack adequate headlights. Driving at night is extra hard, as missing traffic lights outside Bangui are also a problem. Almost all exteriors of CAR are poorly lit. Gauge yourself if you must drive, and ensure that you are armed with safety equipment.

When Is the Best Time to Drive?

The rainy season starts from March to November. During the southwestern monsoon season, the daily temperature hits from 66 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 19 to 30 degrees Celsius. Northeastern winds bring in the dry season in October and end in March. During the dry season, sand and dusty harmattan storms occur in the Sahel-Sudanese, extreme north of the country. CAR struggles with dry air and dry river basins during the dry season

The rainy season starts from March to November. During the southwestern monsoon season, the daily temperature hits from 66 to 86 degrees Fahrenheit or 19 to 30 degrees Celsius. Northeastern winds bring in the dry season in October and end in March. During the dry season, sand and dusty harmattan storms occur in the Sahel-Sudanese, extreme north of the country. CAR struggles with dry air and dry river basins during the dry season

Things to Do in the Central Africa Republic

While an exciting safari into the wildlife and wandering around the country’s pristine nature brought you to CAR, you may be wondering what more can you do while you’re here, whether it’s volunteering or starting up a business. Whatever you plan to do, there are essential factors you need to know before you venture into a new life in the Central African Republic.

Drive as a Tourist

Driving in the Central African Republic as a tourist is doable. Ensure you have all the proper documents like your driver’s license, international driver’s permit, and any other travel documents you’ll need to carry on the road. Most car rental companies would ask for an IDP, especially if your native driver's license is not printed in English. An IDP from the International Driver’s Association makes renting a car easier.

Work as a Driver

You can apply as a driver or driving instructor in CAR as long as you obtain a work visa. As a foreigner, there are specific regulations you need to follow to acquire a job in the country. Foreign nationals who wish to be employed will need to provide the following documents to secure a visa to work in CAR:

  • A letter of invitation provided by your sponsoring employer; the company should be based in CAR
  • Passport with six months of validity with one blank page
  • A letter from your employer stating that you will leave the Central African Republic as soon as your contract ends
  • Two identical and colorized passport photos of yourself with a white background
  • Two duly completed and signed visa application forms from the consulate
  • A yellow fever vaccine certificate
  • A copy of your flight itinerary
  • Payment for your visa fee

Work as a Travel Guide

The high unemployment rate in CAR drives locals to pursue any job vacancies available, so it’s difficult for foreign nationals to land a job in the country as employers prioritize skilled locals over foreign travelers. If you want to work as a tour guide, you must obtain a work permit. You must go through the same processes mentioned above. Any engagement in paid labor must be done under CAR's immigration law.

Apply for Residency

Unlike other nations in the African continent, applying for residency in the Central African Republic may not be a wise decision as the nation is still struggling with instability. Most Central Africans fled to other countries as refugees as tension in the country continues to get worse, and the lack of access to humanitarian aid is limited. When things get better in the future, new doors of opportunity to thrive could open.

Other Things to Do

As mentioned earlier, the low employment rate in CAR inspires locals to apply to any openings in the job market. But you can always try your luck in landing a job with a registered company in the country. Remember to always obtain a work permit, and that your employer is aware of the documents and processes you need to go through to work in the country.

What Other Job Opportunities Are There in the Central African Republic?

Life in the Central African Republic is hard, and the country is almost unknown to the world. It may be difficult for foreign nationals to land a decent job here, but if you want to seek opportunities that fit your skills, job openings are common in the fields of aid, conservation, and tourism. To qualify for these jobs still requires you to obtain a work visa.

Top Destinations in the Central African Republic

Despite the country’s current safety concerns revolving around political turbulence, the Central African Republic is still worth visiting. There is just so much that you cannot miss: its French colonial vibe, its alluring nature untouched by the Westerners, and of course, the elephants, rhinos, gorillas, and many other creatures that are guaranteed to awaken your love for Africa.

Bangui

The city is the country’s capital, located on the banks of the Ubangi River. Tourists love to come to Bangi as it offers a peek into its rich culture with a vibrant nightlife and central market. Bangui makes you experience city life, with a twist of nature.

Things To Do

To make the most out of your visit, there are impressive establishments here you can check out, or you can simply pick out the stuff you like from artisan markets around.

  1. Pick up hand-crafted traditional mementos at Bangui’s artisan market.

    Many traditional products are sold around Bangui. Crafts such as woven products, musical instruments like the xylophone-like balafon, pottery, and many other hardwood carvings are carefully crafted by locals' creative hands.
  2. Visit the sacred Big Mosque of the local Muslim community.

    Another religious establishment you can explore is the Notre Dame of Bangui, an elegant red-brick cathedral built in the 1930s. With two towers on both sides of the facade and an icon of the Virgin Mary situated at its three-door entryway, its symmetrical architecture and interior will impress you. You can also attend a mass inside the church.
  3. Explore the small town of Boali.

    Located just near Bangui, the small charming town of Boali showcases a spectacular waterfall at 250 meters wide and 50 meters high. The Boali waterfalls coming from the Mbali River will have you wishing you could have that relaxing view forever. Soak up the attraction by grabbing a seat at a riverside restaurant. The waterfalls look like separate small falls during the dry season, but it becomes an impressive waterfall, powerful enough to supply a hydroelectric power plant nearby in the wet season.
  4. Take a stop by the megaliths at Bouar.

    If you’re coming from Bangui to Cameroon, take a stop by Bouar. Ever wish to see the Stonehenge of Great Britain? This small town has it for you, but it’s Tajunu, a group of 70 megaliths that are said to be a mark of burial grounds dating back to the neolithic ages. These stones can stand as high as 5 meters or about 8 feet tall and are as old as Stonehenge. Visiting the place is like a step back in time, seeing ancient Africa.
  5. Take a relaxing time on the banks of the Ubangui River.

    You can rent a sailing boat to explore the river, or simply have a drink beside the waters and watch the fishermen as they throw nets into the water, and pick their next catch. If you want more thrill, you can go further down the river to see the powerful waterfalls that flow into the Ubangi.

Traditional African Villages

The Central African Republic is the heart of Africa, so it is expected that it boasts diversity not just in the wildlife, but also in culture and tradition. It’s always been good practice for Central Africans to preserve their identity, as they are unique in their own way. Visiting the traditional villages of Africa will renew your admiration for all things simple and tranquil.

Things to Do

Tourists who have a love and appreciation for traditional African cultures will love exploring the villages of Kembe, Mbaïki, Lobaye, and Zinga.

  1. Get a taste of the simplicity of life in Kembe.

    The traditional African village of Kembe houses locals with mud-brick huts and thatched roofs. The river nearby called the Kotto River would impress you with its V-shaped waterfall. Visit the town and have a taste of its simplicity, with locals bathing and doing the laundry in the river. You can play along with children who love spending leisure time in the river and fight its strong current, admiring nature at its finest.
  2. Visit Mbaïki’s rich coffee plantations.

    The roadway to Mbaiki from Bangui is the best in the Central African Republic, but driving at night is not advisable. Located southwest of the country, this area within Lobaye is worth exploring for its coffee and timber production. Visit the locals’ plantations and gain more knowledge about how local farmers cultivate such agricultural products. When you drive in the area, note that you will need to pay a fee to use the road.
  3. Get connected with the Pygmy people of Lobaye.

    Just 100 kilometers away from Bangui, the region of Lobaye shelters indigenous forest tribes like the Pygmy people living in small, low hut homes made out of lianas, and roofs made out of leaves. Visiting Lobaye is another excellent way of experiencing the simplicity of African village life. Explore their coffee plantations, learn their way of growing and cultivating, and the secret to a great-tasting coffee.
  4. Discover the traditional wooden houses in Zinga.

    Located on the Ubangi River, the best way to reach the area is through a motorboat or canoe. The village of Zinga is a must-see for tourists visiting the rural areas of the Central African Republic. Although small with 1km in length and 300m in width, Zinga is a great way to experience African traditions by exploring wooden houses which are great examples of traditional Congo homes. Friendly locals here welcome you with smiles.
  5. Visit a national park in Bamingui.

    Situated on the banks of the Chari River, you’ll see townhouses, and you will also see the Bamingui-Bangoran National Park as the center of attraction here. The national park is home to a variety of species of mammals and birds.

Bayanga

Bayanga is a Sangha-Mbaere Prefecture and is home to the densest forest reserves in the Central African Republic. Tourists love coming here to get a sight of its diverse wildlife, such as gorillas, chimps, hippos, and many other creatures that made Bayanga their home. The Dzanga-Sangha Nature Reserve and Dzanga-Ndoki National Park are two of the key attractions here for people who wish to experience an adventurous wildlife safari

Things To Do

To make the most out of your visit to Bayanga, take a wildlife safari around its nature reserves. You can simply enjoy exploring the parks by getting up close with creatures that you won’t see every day. The village of Bayanga accommodates tourists with luxury lodges and guesthouses, suitable for tourists who wish to explore more of the parks’ attractions.

  1. Explore the Dzanga-Sangha Nature Reserve.

    It’s a protected area in Bayanga built in 1990, and one of the attractions tourists love in CAR. The site is perfect if you wish to get up close with the diverse wildlife as it shelters endangered species. Forest elephants, lowland gorillas, chimpanzees, and hippos are a few of the many creatures you’ll find here. You’ll see elephants feeding and mud-bathing on the grounds of the park, something you won’t see every day.
  2. Explore the Dzanga-Ndoki National Park.

    Established in 1990, this massive park is like those you see in Hollywood films. The park is full of elephants and other wild animals roaming around their natural habitat. The park attracts poachers who illegally hunt for wildlife creatures, but it’s still worth visiting. You can arrange a visit with guided tours, or if you want to do a national park hopping, there are tour guide companies who can arrange the tour for you.
  3. Go on a river cruise and hike through the rainforest.

    Taking a cruise in dug-out canoes is quite an adventure, as well. Aside from cruising, you can also pick medicinal plants with the Baka pygmy people. Hiking through the rain forest and spotting agile monkeys also makes a good wildlife adventure.

Man-made Landmarks

Waterfalls, dormant rainforests, diverse flora and fauna, and rich wildlife -- these are just some of the natural attractions brought in by nature. And just because something isn’t natural doesn’t mean it’s not worthy of appreciation. Man-made landmarks in the Central African Republic are worth seeing. Aside from Bouar’s megaliths, rock art, engravings and caves are must-see places when you visit the country.

Things to Do

If you’re into arts and love learning about the history behind one, you will be surprised to find out that rock art is abundant in the country. Expand your knowledge by discovering rock paintings, engravings, and petroglyphs in the Toulou shelter and Lengo cliff.

  1. See rock paintings inside the Toulou shelter.

    Located in Bamingui-Bangoran, Toulou shelter is a larger monolith with a big expansive shelter within. When you visit the shelter, you’ll see cliff paintings in colors red, black, and white. The paintings’ subjects are animals such as elephants and buffaloes. Other paintings show people.
  2. Discover petroglyphs at Lengo cliff art.

    Located in Mbomou, this ancient rock site has more than 500 engravings and hundreds of petroglyphs on a giant slab. The engravings you’ll find here show geometric symbols and animals.
  3. Uncover the history behind Kaga-Kpoungouvou caves.

    Located in Bamingui-Bangoran, Kaga-Kpoungouvou used to be a hiding spot for the Gbagga people who were attempting to escape from the slavery of sultan Senoussi. The caves were enclosed with giant stone slabs.

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