Difference between revisions of "Bangui"
Revision as of 09:35, 28 July 2013
Bangui is the capital of the Central African Republic. Bangui lies on the northern banks of the Ubangi River just below a series of rapids that limit major commercial shipping farther upriver, on the southern border. The navigable Ubangi River turns sharply south below Bangui and connects to the Congo River just south of the Equator near Brazzaville as its chief northern tributary. The river marks the border between the Central African Republic and the Democratic Republic of the Congo (DRC). The Congolese town of Zongo sits opposite the river from Bangui.
The Central African Republic is situated just north of the Equator and consequently throughout the year daily high temperatures rarely fall below 30oC. The rainy season lasts from May until October. Bangui, being in the south of the country and thus closest to the Equator, is slightly hotter and wetter than the northern parts of the country.
Bangui M'Poko International Airport (BGF) is the airport serving Bangui. It is located 7km (4 miles) northwest of Bangui. In 2004, the airport served 53,862 passengers. There are flights to Douala, Tripoli, Paris (once a week), Brazzaville, Yaoundé, Cotonou and N'Djamena.
Visas are required for all European (and probably most other) travellers, and should be obtained before arrival.
The arrival procedure is a bit long, requiring at least two queues to get all necessary visa stamps. Exit from the arrival hall is through "Things To Declare", with customs officers picking out passengers randomly for baggage check. Security guards check the luggage tags on the way out.
Be careful for pickpockets outside the terminal building, including people claiming to provide assistance.
Having a trusted source, such as a reputable hotel or known resident/colleague, provide a driver and vehicle to pick you up is recommended. The immediate area outside the arrivals exit is crowded with individuals offering rides, baggage carrying, umbrellas (if raining as it was when I arrived) etc. Very few of these individuals speak anything other than French so be prepared with a few well rehearsed, short phrasebook responses if you are not a French speaker. Traffic and road conditions in Bangui are never good...but at the time of writing (late July 2013) the condition of the roads was nothing short of horrible. Potholes and dangerously precipitous muddy shoulders make driving an adventure. The concept of 'staying in ones lane" is totally foreign to drivers in Bangui...where drivers seem to delight in swerving out in front of oncoming traffic to overtake slower vehicles. I strongly recommend using seatbelts everytime you get in a vehicle in Bangui (and everywhere else for that matter). At this time (late July 2013) the city is much quieter than it usually is, particularly at night - due to the unstable security environment, and the presence of bands of Seleka rebels who are not endearing themselves to the local population. Despite the drop in traffic caused by the precarious security environment, drivers must be super cautious to avoide hitting pedestrians who meander along the roadsides at night. Sometimes you cannot see them until it is almost too late.
Members of the international community in Bangui are advised to adhere to the curfew that has been imposed during night hours - but the hours of that curfew differe depending on who you speak to. The official government curfew is from midnight to 4am, but the United Nations have imposed an 8pm to 6am curfew on their people. The impact of this curfew has been to keep people off the streets when most of the security incidents have occurred.
The city centre lies near the river and features a large triumphal arch dedicated to Bokassa, the Presidential Palace and the central market. Lying 5 km further north, the heart of the residential area has the largest market and most nightlife. North of the city lie rolling hills.
Buy beautiful wood carvings, but do not be tempted to buy rare African Grey parrots that are being traded illegally in the town. You will be arrested if you do.
The city has a community of French expats, which translates into one of the best ice cream parlours in Africa; a supermarket that sells international (mainly French) delicacies, e.g. foie gras; and a really good Italian restaurant.
Four GSM-900 mobile telecommunications companies, Telecel CAR, Nationlink Telecom RCA, Orange CAR and MOOV CAR operate out of Bangui. State-owned Socatel is the principal telecom in CAR and Bangui, and is responsible for the operation and maintenance of the communications infrastructure.
Internet cafes in town allow users to access the internet, also using own laptop computers. Download speeds are acceptable and prices reasonable. MOOV provides GPRS/EDGE internet access with USB sticks for reasonable prices in whole Bangui and in major cities of CAR as well.
Le Grande Cafe in the city center has open free wi/fi and serves coffee and food.
MOOV and Orange phones can access GPRS/Edge networks if properly configured. Configuration is provided free at the telecommunication offices at PKZero. Speeds are generally EDGE, but may fade to G. GPRS is available in Bangui center, but fades out by PK12.
At the time of writing (April 2013) the entire city of Bangui and surrounding area are EXTREMELY DANGEROUS owing to the recent rebel takeover. any foreign nationals currently in Bangui should leave as soon as it is safe and possible to do so, and on no account should anyone contemplate travel to Bangui, or indeed the entire Central African Republic at this time.
It is not a problem to walk around, locals are not so pushy to sell stuff or beg for money however sometimes it happens. Always carry your passport with you, but not too much money if you're on foot.
A colour photocopy of your passport can be certified at the Hotel de Ville for a few dollars and is much safer to carry around than your passport.
Travelling with your own transportation is not a problem, even at night time, there are street lights almost everywhere in the downtown.