Advantages Different, off the normal tourist route.Can be fun if you know people there.
Disadvantages Logistic, administrative, accommodation nightmare and dangerous
Chad is a large Central African country with a poverty level population. N’Djamena is the capital and is only reached internationally by three major airlines, Air France (to Paris), Ethiopian Airlines (to Addis Ababa) and Cameroon Air (to Douala.).
You will need a visa to get there - the nearest visa to UK is Paris so you need to spend a day there for that un less you mail your passport which is always a dodgy thing to do.Overland, unless you are a trans-African overland specialist, is not easy; I have seen several vehicles and motor bikes doing it, but it is NOT for the faint-hearted.
The capital lies along the shores of the Chari River that flows into Lake Chad about 80 miles to the west. It lies on the southern fringes of the Saharan desert and has a mixed climate, lying on the northern fringes of the equatorial rain belt which reaches Chad in June/July and usually finishes in October. Cross country travel, while never easy for a variety of reasons is often impossible due to road closures and flooding during this rainy period.Apart from the banks of the Chari, the city is to all intents just one main street, about 1000m long, along which all the useful shops lie. It is not an attractive place, although individual villas and embassies for example have been developed to produce beautiful gardens, as much as can be seen behind heavily guarded walls.
Begging in the streets is almost epidemic during daylight hours, and street robbery is not uncommon, both day and night, but particularly away from the main road if you are on foot. African muggers are often drug addicts and will kill for a relatively small prize such as even a pair of Nike trainers.The French influence is still strong and is the main language of communication although locals will speak any number of local languages but also including Arabic. There is a roughly equal mix of Muslims and Christians. Although the President is a muslim, both religions are freely tolerated and there is a quite attractive cathedral on the edge of the city, close to the government buildings.
The international oil company ExxonMobil has made major oil discoveries in the south of the country and these fields are currently being connected by pipeline to an offshore facility on the Cameroon coast. Thus there appears to be plenty of wealth in N'Djamena in the shape of new 4WD vehicles, but these are nearly all owned by the privileged few Chadians who work in the Government and Oil Industry plus a large number of ex-patriates and their families who live there.The Meridien is the best hotel in town and the Novotel the second best and more easy to get into being larger. There are one or two other minor hotels but anyone going to Chad is advised to ensure they have confirmed accomodation before leaving their departure point.Taxis at the airport are dodgy and may not take you where you want to go.
Malaria exists and it is advisable to take Malarone, which is currently considered to be the best preventive. Medical care and dental facilities outside of the oil sector and French military, who have a garrison there, is sparse.For anyone visiting friends who are working there, and who have good accommodation, it can be fun for a week or so. Trips to the north, to Lake Chad are possible with some difficulty. (bribing officials who want to come with you) I have visited Lake Chad, hired a boat and had a wonderful day looking at the incredible scenery and bird life.
The hotels themselves have good restaurants and pools. A famous restaurant in town is the Carnivore which has a real cross section of Chadian life from the street girls at one end by the bar to the expensive restaurant at the other end serving some excellent steaks.The local beer is good too and in a restaurant it only costs a couple of pounds for a 1 litre standard sized African bottle or about 65p if you buy it in a store.
Make no mistake N’Djamena is not for the Euroland tourist. It can, and I repeat CAN be fun, if you have contacts there who can chaperon you around, but otherwise it is best avoided. Countries such as Malawi and Burundi at least have some stunning scenery which Chad really lacks on the whole.I will not detract from the Chadians themselves, who being born into poverty most of them, rich or poor, are all generally charming and friendly people. That on its own isn’t a good reason to go there.
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