Central African Republic

Latest update

This Advice was last issued on Tuesday, 21 October 2014.   This advice includes updated information in the Summary and under Entry and exit (the Central African Republic may take preventative measures to avoid the spread of Ebola, including border closures). We continue to strongly advise you not to travel to the Central African Republic. The security situation across the country, including Bangui, remains fragile due to ongoing serious and indiscriminate violence, activities of armed rebels and other groups and high levels of serious crime.

Central African Republic overall

Summary

  • We strongly advise you not to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to the dangerous security situation, activities of armed rebels and other groups and high levels of serious crime.
  • Serious and indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in the CAR since the overthrow of the Government in March 2013. Despite the presence of international security forces, the situation across the country, including in Bangui, remains fragile due to sectarian violence. There are reports of murder, sexual violence, looting and human rights abuses across the country.
  • We strongly advise any Australians remaining in the CAR to depart as soon as possible by commercial means if it is safe to do so. There are currently limited commercial options available. Land border crossings may close at short notice. The border between Chad and the CAR is currently closed.
  • If, despite this advice, you choose to remain in the CAR, you should have appropriate personal security measures in place, and stay in a safe place with sufficient stocks of food and water.
  • Given the dangerous and unpredictable security situation, we strongly recommend that you register your travel and contact details with us, so we can contact you in an emergency.
  • The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. The CAR may take preventative measures to avoid the spread of the disease, including border closures. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.
  • Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the CAR. Given the current security environment the Australian Government’s capacity to deliver consular assistance in the CAR is extremely limited. See Where to get help for more information.
  • Be a smart traveller. Before heading overseas:
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Entry and exit

The border with Chad is currently closed to all but returning Chadian citizens.

Visa and other entry and exit conditions (such as currency, customs and quarantine regulations) can change at short notice. Contact the nearest Embassy or Consulate of the CAR for the most up to date information.

The CAR is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a serious and potentially fatal disease preventable by vaccination. A valid yellow fever vaccination certificate is required for entry into the CAR. For more information about yellow fever, including Australian re-entry requirements, see the Department of Health website.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. The CAR may take preventative measures to avoid the spread of the disease, including border closures. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Make sure your passport has at least six months' validity from your planned date of return to Australia. You should carry copies of a recent passport photo with you in case you need a replacement passport while overseas.

Safety and security

Terrorism

Terrorism is a threat throughout the world. See our Terrorist Threat Overseas bulletin for more information on terrorism and our General advice to Australian travellers for tips on staying safe overseas.

Civil unrest/political tension

We strongly advise you not to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR) due to the highly unstable security situation, activities of armed rebels and other groups and high levels of serious crime.

The security situation continues to deteriorate. There are reports of ongoing violence, looting and human rights abuses across the country.

We strongly advise any Australians remaining in the CAR to depart as soon as possible by commercial means. If you require consular assistance you should contact the Australian Embassy in Paris +33 1 4059 3300 or the 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre in Canberra on +61 2 6261 3305. See under Where to get help for further information.

Serious and indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in the capital, Bangui, since it was captured by rebels in March 2013. Violence increased following the collapse of the new regime in December 2013. There have been reports of arbitrary arrests, rape and other forms of sexual violence. Peacekeeping forces and remaining law enforcement personnel are unable to ensure the security of civilians in the CAR. A curfew is in place in Bangui and restrictions on movement may be imposed in other parts of the country without warning.

Armed groups have been active across the country and many areas outside the capital are in a state of lawlessness. Foreigners, including aid workers, have been killed. The security situation is particularly dangerous in border areas.

The Ugandan Lord’s Resistance Army (LRA) has made periodic incursions in the southeast of the CAR, especially Haut-Mbomou province. Many people have been killed and thousands more have fled the region. Civilians continue to be targeted by the LRA in attacks.

If, despite our advice, you choose to remain in the CAR, you should have appropriate personal security measures in place and stay in a safe place with sufficient stocks of food and water.

Kidnapping: Foreigners, including aid workers, have been the target of kidnappings and violent crime in the CAR. For more information about kidnapping see our Kidnapping threat bulletin.

The Australian Government's longstanding policy is that it does not make payments or concessions to kidnappers. The Australian Government considers that paying a ransom increases the risk of further kidnappings, including of other Australians. If you do decide to travel to an area where there is a particular threat of kidnapping, you should ensure you have personal security measures in place and seek professional security advice.

Crime

Banditry and crime are common throughout the CAR. Serious and indiscriminate violence and looting has occurred in the capital Bangui since March 2013.

Random road blocks may be installed by local police and security forces or people posing as them. All groups may attempt to extort money from travellers through bogus fines or intimidation.

Humanitarian groups are a target for criminals seeking money, communication equipment and vehicles.

Money and valuables

Credit cards and other electronic forms of accessing cash are not accepted in the Central African Republic. There are no ATMs, even in Bangui. Several Western Union offices exist in Bangui but only a very limited number of banks. Hotels and restaurants catering to foreigners will only accept cash for payment.

The currency is the African Financial Community franc (XAF), also used in Chad, Congo, Gabon and Equatorial Guinea. The West African CFA franc is not legal tender in the CAR. Bangui is the only city where you can change money. Euros or US dollars can usually be converted into local currency. Care should be taken when changing money with any official or unofficial change agents.

If you are carrying significant amounts of cash, be extremely careful and, if possible, consider sharing the holding of it with your travelling companions.

Your passport is a valuable document that is attractive to criminals who may try to use your identity to commit crimes. It should always be kept in a safe place. You are required by Australian law to report a lost or stolen passport. If your passport is lost or stolen overseas, report it online or contact the nearest Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate as soon as possible.

Review the general advice to Australian travellers for further information on being safe and prepared abroad.

Local travel

Travel throughout the country is dangerous because of the presence of armed groups, bandits, poachers and illegal road blocks. Convoys have been attacked resulting in deaths of civilians and military personnel.

Roads in the CAR are in a very poor condition and have insufficient lighting making driving dangerous, especially at night. Most roads require a four-wheel drive vehicle. Fuel shortages are common. For further advice on road safety, see our page on road travel.

The rainy season is May to October when flooding may occur and some roads become impassable.

Borders may be closed without warning due to the presence of armed groups and risk of cross border incursions. In May 2014, Chadian authorities announced that the border between Chad and the CAR was closed until further notice to all but returning Chadian citizens.

Airline safety

There are very few commercial airlines which continue to provide services to Bangui.

The Australian Government does not provide information on the safety of individual commercial airlines or flight paths. See instead the Aviation Safety Network website for information on aviation safety in the CAR.

Please also refer to our general air travel page for information on aviation safety and security.

Be aware of your personal belongings and passports even within the airport terminal.

Laws

If you choose to travel to the Central African Republic (CAR), be aware that local laws and penalties, including ones that appear harsh by Australian standards, do apply to you. If you are arrested or jailed, the Australian Government will do what it can to help you but we can't get you out of trouble or out of jail. Research local laws before travelling.

Information on what Australian consular officers can and cannot do to help Australians in trouble overseas is available from the Consular Services Charter.

Police checks are common and failure to produce identity documents (or notarised copies) can lead to detention or falsified fines.

Unauthorised photography, particularly around military zones, military assets, military or police personnel, government buildings and mining leases is prohibited and may lead to the confiscation of cameras, fines and/or detention. A government permit is required for photography. Permits will not be granted for strategic sites such as the airport, military buildings and the Presidential Palace.

A licence is required to buy or sell precious gems. There are heavy penalties for illegally exporting precious gems.

Some Australian criminal laws, such as those relating to money laundering, bribery of foreign public officials, terrorism, forced marriage, female genital mutilation, child pornography, and child sex tourism, apply to Australians overseas. Australians who commit these offences while overseas may be prosecuted in Australia.

Australian authorities are committed to combating sexual exploitation of children by Australians overseas. Australians may be prosecuted at home under Australian child sex tourism and child pornography laws. These laws provide severe penalties of up to 25 years imprisonment for Australians who engage in child sexual exploitation while outside of Australia.

Information for dual nationals

Our Dual nationals page provides information.

Health

We strongly recommend that you take out comprehensive travel insurance that will cover any overseas medical costs, including medical evacuation, before you depart. Confirm that your insurance covers you for the whole time you'll be away and check what circumstances and activities are not included in your policy. Remember, regardless of how healthy and fit you are, if you can't afford travel insurance, you can't afford to travel. The Australian Government will not pay for a traveller's medical expenses overseas or medical evacuation costs.

It is important to consider your physical and mental health before travelling overseas. We encourage you to consider having vaccinations before you travel. At least eight weeks before you depart, make an appointment with your doctor or travel clinic for a basic health check-up, and to discuss your travel plans and any implications for your health, particularly if you have an existing medical condition. The World Health Organization (WHO) provides information for travellers and our health page also provides useful information for travellers on staying healthy.

Medical facilities throughout the Central African Republic (CAR) are extremely limited. Pharmaceuticals are in short supply and hygiene standards are poor. Doctors and hospitals generally require up-front payment before commencing treatment. In the event of illness or an accident, medical evacuation to a destination with the appropriate facilities would be necessary. Medical evacuation could cost over a hundred thousand dollars depending on circumstances.

The CAR is listed by the World Health Organization (WHO) as endemic for yellow fever. Yellow fever is a potentially fatal viral disease transmitted by mosquitoes, which is preventable by vaccination. We strongly recommend that you are vaccinated against yellow fever before travelling to the CAR. See the Entry and Exit section for important information about vaccination certificate requirements. For more information about yellow fever, see the Department of Health website.

Malaria occurs widely throughout the year in the CAR. Other insect-borne diseases (including filariasis and African sleeping sickness) also occur. We encourage you to consider taking prophylaxis against malaria and to take measures to avoid insect bites, including using insect repellent at all times, wearing long, loose-fitting, light coloured clothing, and ensuring your accommodation is mosquito proof.

Water-borne, food-borne and other infectious diseases (including HIV/AIDS, tuberculosis, cholera, typhoid, hepatitis, meningitis and rabies) are prevalent with more serious outbreaks occurring from time to time. We recommend you boil all drinking water or drink bottled water, avoid ice cubes, raw and undercooked food, fresh fruit and fresh fruit juice. Do not swim in fresh water to avoid exposure to certain water-borne diseases such as bilharzia (schistosomiasis). Seek medical advice if you have a fever or are suffering from diarrhoea.

The outbreak of Ebola Virus Disease centred in Guinea, Liberia and Sierra Leone continues to worsen. The CAR may take preventative measures to avoid the spread of the disease, including border closures. For information on regional travel implications, see the Ebola outbreak in west Africa travel bulletin.

Where to get help

Depending on the nature of your enquiry, your best option may be to contact your family, friends, airline, travel agent, employer or travel insurance provider in the first instance.

The Consular Services Charter explains what the Australian Government can and cannot do to assist Australians overseas.

Australia does not have an Embassy or Consulate in the Central African Republic (CAR). The Australian Government’s capacity to deliver consular assistance in the CAR is extremely limited. In an emergency you should contact 24-hour Consular Emergency Centre on +61 2 6261 3305 or 1300 555 135 within Australia or the Australian Embassy in Paris:

Australian Embassy, Paris

4 rue Jean Rey
Paris, France
Telephone: (33 1) 40 59 33 00
Facsimile: (33 1) 40 59 33 10
Email: consular.paris@dfat.gov.au
Website: www.france.embassy.gov.au/

See the Embassy website for information about opening hours and temporary closures that may affect service provision.

If you are travelling to the CAR, whatever the reason and however long you'll be there, we strongly recommend that you register with the Department of Foreign Affairs and Trade. You can register online or in person at any Australian Embassy, High Commission or Consulate. The information you provide will help us to contact you in an emergency - whether it is a natural disaster, civil disturbance or a family emergency.



While every care has been taken in preparing this information, neither the Australian Government nor its agents or employees, including any member of Australia's diplomatic and consular staff abroad, can accept liability for any injury, loss or damage arising in respect of any statement contained herein.

Maps are presented for information only. The department accepts no responsibility for errors or omission of any geographic feature. Nomenclature and territorial boundaries may not necessarily reflect Australian Government policy.