Rejected by the French during colonial times and torn by civil war and a war with Libya since independence, Chad is about as troubled as a goldfish on dry land. Like a host of other African nations, the country's had a bloody hard time getting its political act together, with major ethnic groups all warring for power. For the past decade, power has been in the hands of Idris Déby, which marks relative stability compared to the previous thirty years. Areas of danger remain, but it's a shade brighter than the past.
Chadians are recognized as a friendly bunch, whose night life is as energetic and invigorating as they come. The three biggest cities, N'Djamena, Sarh and Moundou are the traveller's best bets for a peaceful, enjoyable holiday. Heading to other parts of the country can take a while, since Chad hasn't really had time to build up its tourist facilities.
For more than 2000 years, the Chadian Basin has been inhabited by agricultural and sedentary peoples. The region became a crossroads of civilizations. The earliest of these were the legendary Sao, known from artifacts and oral histories. The Sao fell to the Kanem Empire, the first and longest-lasting of the empires that developed in Chad's Sahelian strip by the end of the 1st millennium AD.
French colonial expansion led to the creation of the Territoire Militaire des Pays et Protectorats du Tchad in 1900. By 1920, France had secured full control of the colony and incorporated it as part of French Equatorial Africa. After World War II, France granted Chad the status of overseas territory and its inhabitants the right to elect representatives to the French National Assembly and a Chadian assembly. The largest political party was the Chadian Progressive Party (PPT), based in the southern half of the colony. Chad was granted independence on August 11, 1960 with the PPT's leader, François Tombalbaye, as its first president. In 1965 Muslims began a civil war. Tombalbaye was overthrown and killed in 1975, but the insurgency continued. In 1979 the rebel factions conquered the capital, and all central authority in the country collapsed.The disintegration of Chad caused the collapse of France's position in the country. Libya moved to fill the power vacuum and became involved in Chad's civil war. Libya adventure ended in disaster in 1987; the French-supported president, Hissène Habré, evoked a united response from Chadians of a kind never seen before and forced the Libyan army off Chadian soil. Habré consolidated his dictatorship through a power system that relied on corruption and violence; an estimated 40,000 people were killed under his rule. The president favoured his own Daza ethnic group and discriminated against his former allies, the Zaghawa. His general, Idriss Déby, overthrew him in 1990.
Oil exploitation began in Chad in 2003, bringing with it hopes that Chad would at last have some chances of peace and prosperity. Instead, internal dissent worsened, and a new civil war broke out. Déby unilaterally modified the constitution to remove the two-term limit on the presidency; this caused an uproar among the civil society and opposition parties. In 2006 Déby won a third mandate in elections that the opposition boycotted. Ethnic violence in eastern Chad has increased; the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees has warned that a genocide like that in Darfur may yet occur in Chad. In 2006 and in 2008 rebel forces have attempted to take the capital by force, but have on both circumstances failed.
At 1,284,000 square kilometres, Chad is the world's 21st-largest country. Chad is in north central Africa, lying between latitudes 7° and 24°N, and 13° and 24°E. Chad is bounded to the north by Libya, to the east by Sudan, to the west by Niger, Nigeria and Cameroon, and to the south by the Central African Republic. The country's capital is 1,060 kilometres from the nearest seaport Douala, Cameroon. The dominant physical structure is a wide basin bounded to the north, east and south by mountain ranges such as the Ennedi Plateau in the north-east. Lake Chad, after which the country is named, is the remains of an immense lake that occupied 330,000 square kilometres of the Chad Basin 7,000 years ago. Although in the 21st century it covers only 17,806 square kilometres, and its surface area is subject to heavy seasonal fluctuations, the lake is Africa's second largest wetland. The Emi Koussi, a dormant volcano in the Tibesti Mountains that reaches 3,414 metres above sea level, is the highest point in Chad and the Sahara. The region's tall grasses and extensive marshes make it favourable for birds, reptiles, and large mammals. Chad's major rivers—the Chari, Logone and their tributaries—flow through the southern savannas from the southeast into Lake Chad.
Zakouma National Park is located in the south of Chad, between the cities of Sarh and Am Timan. It is about 3,000 square kilometres large and was the first national park in the country, established in 1963. Although it is a park known for its wildlife, numbers have reduced seriously during the last decades, especially regarding the elephant population. Nowadays, things are getting better as more and more poachers are getting caught, but it is still insufficient to prevent it by government totally. The park is known for its elephant and lion population and dozens of other mammals and birds can be observed here. It has been nominated recently to become a UNESCO World Heritage site, but things have to improve much more.
Lake Chad once was one of the largest freshwater lakes in the world, but unfortunately it is slowly drying up and during some severe drought years it even was complete dry like in 1984. Normally though the lake can reach about 25,000 square kilometres during the rainy season. The disappearing of the lake will cause serious environmental and economic problems for the local people relying on the lake as a way to survive the harsh climate here. Near the village of Bol, where the lake never dries up you can out on the lake and see floating island as well as birds and a few hippos. Hire a boat with local fishermen at this town at the border with Nigeria.
The Ennedi desert is a good alternative to the Tibesti Mountains, which are still off limits. It is a fantastic desert area with prehistoric cave paintings, canyons, desert lakes and weird rock formations. Ancient sea arches are even weirder. Once Lake Chad reached this place. The sand dunes are particularly beautiful as well, especially at sunset. With some luck you might spot some animals like the Nile Crocodile, but unfortunately the Sahara lion is extinct now.
National Day is held every April 13 and is celebrated to honor Chad’s independence.
Like many other countries in the world, Chad celebrates Labor Day on May 1. Government offices and private businesses are closed.
May 25 is the celebration of Africa’s liberation from colonial Europe. It is observed in other countries like the UK, US, Tanzania, Spain, Kenya, and Ghana. There are plenty of street marches, school lectures and artistic rallies.
Chad’s Independence Day is celebrated annually on August 11. This public holiday commemorates the country’s freedom from France. Sports and political assemblies are common and delegates from around the world visit at this time.
The Feast of the Sacrifice, Ramadan, and Eid-al-Fitr are among the notable Muslim holidays in Chad. These religious events are celebrated by Muslim communities across the nation and honored by other Chadians. The dates vary with 2012’s festivities in August, but the traditions remain the same. During the holy month, Muslims fast from dawn to dusk. The End of Ramadan (Eid-al-Fitr) is celebrated with prayer, festivals and food.
Chad remembers the declaration of its republic status every year on November 28. This day is all about fun and festivities, regardless of your religion. Some local communities organize political assemblies and sporting events.
Chad is a hot and relatively dry country. Much of the country receives little or no rain at all. The north is extremely dry with a virtual absence of rainfall. Temperatures are high to extremely hot year round. Temperatures average between 28 °C and 32 °C during the winter months of November to February, dropping to between 13 °C and 18 °C at night. Summers are hot with April to August seeing average highs of 40 °C to 44 °C, topping 50 °C sometimes. Nights are balmy with around 24 °C. In the south, temperatures are a bit lower, but still high. The capital N'Djamena for example has average daytime temperatures between 30 °C and 35 °C for most of the year, March to May above 40 °C. Nights are mostly between 20 °C and 25 °C, only November to February is cooler, around 17 °C. In this Sahel area there is a single relatively short rainy season from June to September, July and August being the wettest months by far.
Toumaï Air Chad is the national airline of Chad and is based at N'Djamena International Airport (NDJ) near the capital N'Djamena. International destinations include Bangui, Brazzaville, Cotonou, Douala. Other airlines serving this airport are Tripoli, Paris (Air France), Johannesburg, Addis Ababa, Abidjan, Khartoum and Yaoundé.
Most overland travellers avoid Chad if they have their own car, but the southwestern corner of the country usually is safe enough to try your luck. Have your papers and insurance in order and expect tough persons at the border waiting for a bribe. The crossings to Niger and Cameroon are your best option if you want to avoid Nigeria which can be unsafe for overland travellers as well, especially in remote parts in the northern section of the country.
Minibuses and motorcycle taxis run from N’Djamena out to the border town of Nguelé. From there you can catch a motorcycle taxi over the bridge into Kousséri where there are regular minibuses to Maroua. You can also enter Cameroon further south, via Léré or Bongor.
4wd vehicles and trucks travel between N'Djamena and Nguigmi in Niger, via Mao. In Niger, there is onward transport from Diffa to Zinder and twice a week from Nguigmi buses go via Zinder all the way to Niamey.
To Nigeria is fastest through Cameroon via Maroua, from where you can take a bush taxi straight to Maiduguri or a minibus to the border at Banki.
Borders with Sudan and Libya are either closed, unsafe, or a combination of both.
You could take a boat across Lake Chad from Bol to Nigeria, but ask around first if it is running and safe.
Toumaï Air Chad flies between Abeche and N'Djamena. Maundou, Sarh and Mao might have connections as well, but don't count on it.
Roads in Chad are in a bad shape and only a few roads near the capital are paved. Other roads are pistes or gravel and are often impassable during the rainy season. Renting a car is possible but not recommended as rates are high, as is petrol (if at all available) and the safety situation has not been good over the last years, especially towards areas in the north and east. You will need special permission as well to travel further beyond N'Djamena. Traffic drives on the right and you need an international driving permit as well as official authorisation.
Buses travel between N'Djamena and Sarh in the dry season at least. Outside this season and to many other destinations, you will have to rely on pickups, trucks and the occasional minibus. Count on a long and uncomfortable trip. If you can fly, do that!
Citizens of the following countries do not require a visa: Benin, Burkina-Faso, Cameroun, Central African Republic, Congo, Cote d'Ivoire, Gabon, Equatorial Guinea, Mauritania, Niger and Senegal.
All others need a visa and an invititation. It is advised to get a visa beforehand at one of the embassies or consulates of Chad. Visas are usually valid for a month but can be extended once in the country. A valid passport, 3 application forms, 3 photos and a return ticket are required. The fee is about $100 for a single-entry and $150 (3 months) to $200 (6 months) for a multiple-entry visa.
See also Money matters
Chad uses the CFA Franc as a currency. The CFA Franc is divided into 100 centimes. Coins come in denominations of 1, 2, 5, 10, 25, 50, 100, 500 francs while banknotes come in denominations of 500, 1000, 2000, 5000, 10,000 francs
The exchange range is fixed at aproximately 656 CFA Francs for one Euro.
In Chad the Central African CFA Franc (XAF) is used which has the same vallue as the West African CFA Franc (XOF), but it's not possible to use both currencies in the same country.
Fourteen countries in Africa use this currency, eight in West Africa and six in Central Africa. The West African CFA Franc can only be used in Benin, Burkina Faso, Cote d'Ivoire, Guinea Bissau, Mali, Niger, Senegal and Togo, while the Central African CFA Franc can only be used in Cameroon, Central African Republic, Chad, Republic of Congo, Equatorial Guinea and Gabon.
Apart from NGO's, there are limited options in Chad.
The capital has university options.
The official languages in Chad are Arabic and French. The African language Sara is spoken in the south of the country.
Meat dishes are very popular in Chad, and foreign travellers speak highly of the meat (such as lamb). Food is usually eaten without utensils, and hand sanitizer may be a good precaution. Muslims find it offensive to eat with the left hand. If eating with or being served by Muslims in Chad, be sure to eat with your right hand only.
N'Djamena hosts a range of affordable options and more luxurious ones as well. Outside of the capital, options are rather limited and of lesser quality and include camping under the stars as well.
Tapwater is not drinkable; buy bottled water instead. If you venture into the desert, bring plenty of fluids.
See also Travel Health
Proof that you had a yellow fever vaccination is required upon entering Chad when you have been in a yellow fever country within 7 days of entering Chad. Still, it is recommended you get the yellow fever vaccination anyway, especially when travelling in the south. You have to have a cholera stamp (prove of the fact that you don't have that desease) when entering overland.
It's a good thing to get your vaccinations in order before travelling to Chad. The general vaccination against Diphtheria, Tetanus and Polio (DTP) is recommended. Also both hepatitis A as well as typhoid would be recommended.
If you are staying longer than 3 months or have a particular risk (travelling by bike, handling of animals, visits to caves) you might consider a rabies vaccination. Vaccination against Tuberculosis as well as hepatitis B are also sometimes recommended for stays longer than 3 months. When staying longer than 6 months, vaccination against meningitis might be recommended, depending on your contact with other people.
Like most African countries south of the Sahara, Malaria is prevalent in the country. Don't underestimate this tropical disease and take precautions. Buy repellent (preferably with 50% DEET), and sleep under a net.
Finally, other possible health issues include diarrhea and other general travellers' diseases like motion sickness. Watch what you eat and drink and in case you get it, drink plenty of fluids (to prevent dehydration) and bring ORS.
See also Travel Safety
Chad has experienced several bouts of political turmoil and jihadist activity in the past few years and, although the security situation has slowly improved since 2010, the UK and U.S. governments advise against all but essential travel to Chad. Anywhere outside the capital, N'Djamena, is highly dangerous, especially in the north and east - where special travel/movement permits are necessary. Travel overland between Chad and Sudan, South Sudan, the CAR, Niger, & Libya is dangerous and highly discouraged. There is also a fairly high level of violent crime in much of the country.
N'Djamena is relatively safe, although one should be wary of petty street crime and corrupt police/officials. Most border crossings are extremely difficult (Sudan and Libya not being a viable option) although the border crossings with Niger and Cameroon are relatively painless.
See also International Telephone Calls
The country calling code to Chad is 235.
To make an international call from , the code is15.
Chad's postal service is rather slow and not always reliable.
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