Chad

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Introduction to Chad

With one of the most painful histories in Africa, Chad is a nation with its foundations built on the precipice of conflict. A harsh climate, geographic remoteness, poor resource endowment and lack of infrastructure have combined to create a weak economy suceptible to political turmoil.

The country that was classified in the 80s as the poorest nation on earth is usually generously described as 'developing', and while there is a degree of stability and modernisation occurring in Chad, 'surviving' is probably a more apt term.

The cities are still interesting and relatively safe places to visit for the careful traveller - nightlife in the capital is thriving with many popular bars - but visitors should always stick to main routes and keep a low profile. Intrepid travellers are currently able to visit the capitals of ancient desert kingdoms and other attractions in the country. Amnesty International decries the continued use of torture and executions by the government and various rebel armies, but - if it makes you feel better - these atrocities rarely affect travellers.

Caution

Travellers should avoid the area bordering Sudan's conflict in Darfur, from which thousands of refugees are fleeing a humanitarian catastrophe. Rebel activity continues in the Borkou-Ennedi-Tibesti region in the country's north, which has been extensively landmined. The borders with Sudan and Libya are subject to closure without notice.

Full country name: Republic of Chad

Area: 1.28 million sq km

Population: 9 million

Capital City: N'Djamena (pop 700,000)

People: 200 ethnic groups including the Sara, Bagirmi and Kreish (31%), Sudanic Arabs (26%), the Téda or Toubou (7%) and the Mbun (6.5%)

Language: French, Arabic

Religion: Muslim (44%), Christian (33%), local tribal beliefs (23%)

Government: republic

Head of State: President Idriss Déby

Head of Government: Prime Minister Pascal Yoadimnadji

GDP: US$7.5 billion

GDP per capita: US$1,000

Annual Growth: 2.9%

Inflation: 15%

Major Industries: cotton, meat packing, brewing, natron (sodium carbonate), soap, cigarettes

Major Trading Partners: Portugal, France, India, Germany, Cameroon, South Africa

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Traveler Facts

Visas: All visitors require a visa. Visas for between one week and three months are fairly easy to obtain. From other African countries, visas are usually issued by the French embassy although you can't get a visa for Chad in Rwanda. Exit visas are required if travelling to Niger or Sudan.

Health risks: Giardiasis, fungal infestions, rabies, tuberculosis, schistosomiasis (bilharzia), diphtheria, malaria, meningococcal meningitis, typhus

Time Zone: GMT/UTC +1

Dialling Code: 235

Electricity: 220V ,50Hz

Weights & measures: Metric



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Events

Not known for its party atmosphere, celebrations in Chad are confined to Muslim feasts, especially Tabaski or Id al Kabir, and private, tribe-specific ceremonies. On Sundays in N'Djamena many of the bars practice a modern ritual called the pari-match. Here, a young woman or women will book the entire bar, hoping to make money from alcohol sales. She will invite all her friends and acquaintences, but won't mind a bit if a stranger turns up in the mood for a few drinks. This practice doesn't occur in Muslim parts of town (naturally), and is frowned upon by the government. Independence Day is celebrated 11 August.

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Best time to Visit

Because many of the roads in Chad aren't tarred, they become impossibly impassable in the wet season (June to September), so it's best to travel when it's dry. Between March and May, the average daily temperature of 45°C (110°F) also makes travel a little uncomfortable. From December to mid-February, the days are dry and warm and the nights quite cool, making this part of the year probably the best time to head to Chad.



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Currency / Costs / Approx. Spending

Currency: Central African Franc

Meals

Budget: US$0.35-$1.50

Mid-range: US$1.50-$3

High: US$3-5

Deluxe: US$5+

Lodging

Budget: US$9-$15

Mid-range: US$15-$20

High: US$20-25

Deluxe: US$25+

Roughing it in Chad is really roughing it. You can live in N'Djamena for very little money, but you'll be lowering pretty much every standard you possess. The mid-range hotels are often bordellos that charge hourly rates. This gives a fair indication of what the bottom end joints are going to be like. There are a couple of exceptions to this rule, so keep your eyes open and you might get lucky. Sleeping in a dorm and eating cheap street food will set you back less than US$15 a day. Less than US$10 a day extra will get you a room with a ceiling fan and a private bathroom, and dinner in a restaurant. Car hire is ridiculously expensive throughout Africa and hire cars aren't permitted across national borders. Taxis and buses are inevitably a better option, but if you really want your own personal road transport, you could pay up to $50 a day. Add this to a top-end room and oodles of pricey food, and you could plough through US$130 a day if you tried.

If you're arriving with euros or West African Francs, Air Afrique staff will often change your money for you if the bank is closed at the airport. Credit cards are only accepted at the two top hotels in N'Djamena, while travellers' cheques can only be changed at the BIAT bank.

Tipping is a difficult issue throughout Africa. Basically, if you look like a hitchhiker, take buses or shared taxis and eat at African restaurants, you won't be expected to tip. If you're clean-cut, you'll look rich; 10% in restaurants, hotels and taxis is considered appropriate. The same rule applies whether you're a westerner or a wealthy African.

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Attractions

Ndjamena

The Chadian capital's very good reputation before the civil war is slowly returning. Though expensive, Ndjamena has friendly people, great markets, interesting artisan goods and a thriving live music and bar scene. If police weren't shooting people in the street, it'd be almost perfect.

The city is divided into two sections, the European or administrative section and the bigger, more lively African section. Places of interest include the remaining exhibits in the Musée National and the vast Grand Marché. You might also catch the horseracing at the hippodrome on the weekend.

Abéché

Abéché is a facinating old town with an oriental appearance that features mosques, narrow streets, old markets and dilapidated buildings. Getting there can be a bit problemantic as the weekly flight from N'Djamena to Abéche is often cancelled so hitching a lift via truck might be your only option. It takes about three days.

Moundou

Chad's third largest city is another pleasant, friendly town. It's the home of the Gala brewery, makers of possibly the best beer in the Sahel. Despite 20 years of wars, massacres and strife, the brewery never closed. Moundou has a relaxed feel, with a couple of markets, restaurants and great bars.

Sarh

The capital of the south, and Chad's second biggest transport junction, Sarh appears at first to be a quiet, dull town. A step out into the humming nightlife, and you'll soon think differently. Sarh has much to recommend it, not least that it's one of the most hassle-free places in the country.

In town, you can rent a bicycle for a day, visit the central market and explore the museum. Two flights and three buses a week connect N'Djamena with Sarh. The bus takes about 15 hours.

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Disclaimer: We've tried to make the information on this web site as accurate as possible, but it is provided 'as is' and we accept no responsibility for any loss, injury or inconvenience sustained by anyone resulting from this information. You should verify critical information like (visas, health and safety, customs, and transportation) with the relevant authorities before you travel.

Sources: CIA FactBook, World FactBooks and numerous Travel and Destinations Guides.

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