Chad Travel Guide
Sitting within the heart of the Sahel, Chad is one of the toughest countries in the world in which to travel. With an HDI (Human Development Index) rating that is the third worst in the world, its infrastructure is minimal, and the political situation can often be unstable.
Despite these very real challenges, the country is relatively peaceful at the present moment, making a visit by experienced travelers possible, if uncomfortable. If you are prepared to rough it for a few weeks, though, this country’s culture, history, natural attractions, and people will grant you an experience that may shift a few of your perspectives on life.
Currency: CFA Francs
Languages: French, Arabic, various indigenous languages
What To Do
Start your time in Chad by spending some time learning about its history at the Musee National N’Djamena. Located in the nation’s capital, this institution consists of four rooms dedicated to Chad’s prehistoric period, colonial times, recent times, and the culture and artistic heritage of this nation.
While periods of instability and civil wars have led to the tragic loss of many artifacts over the years, plenty of items such as axes, arrowheads, tribal masks, and musical instruments still remain.
Once you are ready to set off on an adventure into Chad’s wild hinterland, make Guelta d’Archei your first destination. An oasis found within the walls of a dramatic canyon, it has been the saviour of nomadic tribes, Sahara caravans, and migrating herds of animals for countless generations.
Despite being many hundreds of kilometres from similar populations of this reptile, crocodiles have thrived here for eons, feasting on populations of desert mammals stopping by for their last drink.
Additionally, rock paintings on the walls here bear witness to a substantial human presence throughout history, cementing the fact that even in such an inhospitable region, life can exist with even the smallest amount of water.
Those looking to go on safari in Chad will want to chart a course towards Zakouma National Park. Home to herds of elephants that have been dwindling (until recently) despite the best efforts of armed guards to stop poachers, this park also has significant populations of cheetahs, leopards, antelope, and 373 species of birds.
Since 2010, a deal struck with the EU has handed over management of the park over to African Parks (an NGO that runs more than a dozen parks across the continent)
Since then, populations of mammals within the park have been on the increase, restoring hope to a part of Africa that had been short on it for many years.
If you are looking for the adventure of a lifetime, consider planning a trip to the Tibesti Mountains. Located near the border with Libya, the constantly evolving security situation here will play a big role whether you will be able to visit, so consult with local guides on this matter once you arrive in Chad.
If all seems well, you will face a six-day journey by Land Rover from the capital, much of it over roadless plains. Once you arrive, though, the scenery will make these long days worth the effort.
When you get here, you may have the chance to climb these rugged mountains. The highest of the peaks is Emi Koussi, an 11,000-foot volcano that is the tallest peak in the Sahara Desert. At the summit, it gets so chilly that snows occasionally falls, despite being located firmly within the tropics.
However, getting to meet the tribes that call this region home will likely be the highlight of a voyage to the Tibesti Mountains. With only a trickle of foreign tourism to the region since the 1950’s (only 100 have climbed Emi Koussi in the past 65 years), you will be able to get a glimpse into a way of life that hasn’t changed in thousands of years.
While you are in the far north of Chad, take the opportunity to also pay a visit to the Lakes of Ounianga. Recognized as a UNESCO World Heritage Site for the absurdity of its very existence, all but one of these 18 lakes contain freshwater, despite being in a region that sees an average of only two millimetres of rain per year.
Refreshed on an ongoing basis by unfathomably deep aquifers that were filled up during a much wetter time many millennia ago, it has served residents and animals living in this part of Sahara well for countless generations.
What to Eat
Those looking to start their day in Chad with a traditional breakfast will want to have some La Bouillie. A porridge made with rice or wheat, peanut butter, and milk, it is served piping hot, giving you the energy to get going on a cold desert morning.
Want to have what is generally considered to be the national dish of Chad? Join the locals in having a bowl of Peanut and Squash Stew. Made with okra, sweet potatoes, peanuts, squash, tomatoes and other vegetables, it is a collage of flavours that will take your taste buds by surprise.
If you crave meat during your visit here, seek out some Jarret de Boeuf. A stew cooked with beef shanks and various vegetables over many hours, it will be exactly what your body needs after a tough day of travelling in Chad.