The African country of Chad is off the radar for most travelers, receiving only 81,000 international visitors in 2019. That means you will likely be one of the only people to enjoy Chad’s amazing natural wonders.
The main reason why people visit this country in Africa’s Sahel region is to check out the untouched nature. Spot wildlife in their natural habitats in the famous Guelta d’Archei Lake, an oasis in the Sahara, or Zakouma National Park.
But while it has amazing sights and rich history and culture, is Chad safe to visit? Here’s our expert take.
Is Chad Safe to Visit in 2023?
No. The country of Chad is an unsafe place to visit, and it is probably best to go somewhere else in Africa until the political situation calms down.
Chad has a lot of instability due to the volatile political situation and instability in neighboring countries, which causes terrorism and violence to bleed into Chad. Even if you ignore the political situation, Chad has a very high rate of violent crime, often affecting foreigners.
Countries vary in terms of the severity of the travel alert they have in place for Chad. Some, such as the United Kingdom, advise their citizens to reconsider non-essential travel to Chad and to avoid all travel to more dangerous areas.
Other countries, such as Australia, tell their citizens to avoid any and all travel to Chad. The verdict is clear: travel to this country is dangerous.
The primary concerns most countries list in their travel advisories for Chad include:
- Civil unrest
- Border conflict and skirmishes
- Other forms of violent crime
These conflicts often bleed over the borders into Chad. Armed groups from the neighboring Central African Republic often carry out raids over the border, while the border with Libya is heavily mined due to the conflict there.
Terrorist groups active in neighboring countries, for example, Boko Haram in Nigeria, will also affect the situation in Chad.
However, Chad has plenty of its own causes of instability that make it difficult to travel there. In 2021, the president since 1990, Idriss Deby Itno, suddenly died, plunging the country into instability.
His son, Mahamat Idriss Deby Itno, seized power in 2022 and established a Transitional Military Council (TMC) that promised elections but still has not carried them out.
There are still frequent protests and demonstrations against the government, and they often turn violent. The TMC has been condemned by organizations such as Human Rights Watch for violently suppressing protests against the delayed elections.
The power vacuum has also allowed armed groups, including terrorist groups such as Boko Haram and the Islamic State in West Africa, to flourish.
All this is happening against a backdrop of extreme poverty — HRW estimates that 42% of Chad residents live in dire poverty. For all of these reasons, it’s probably best that you hold off on visiting Chad for now.
Crime in Chad
As mentioned above, the political situation in Chad is very unstable; there are lots of armed groups operating in the country, and a high percentage of the population lives in poverty.
These conditions create the perfect environment for crime to flourish. To get an idea of how much of a problem violent crime is in Chad, all we need to do is look at the homicide rate.
According to the World Health Organization, the homicide rate is about nine incidents per 100,000 people, which is higher than the global average.
The government is taking little action to lower the violent crime rate, whether by enforcing existing laws, making new ones, or creating social safety nets that might lessen the temptation of a life of crime.
People are also worried about other violent crimes in Chad. According to Numbeo, residents and ex-pats rank the threat of crime at 79.41 out of 100, which is a high level according to the site’s crime index.
They report high levels of many different types of crimes, including break-ins, muggings, vehicle thefts, and assaults. The loose grip of the government on authority and high levels of corruption create the perfect environment for organized crime to flourish in Chad.
According to the Global Crime Index, organized criminal groups in Chad are involved in all sorts of violent enterprises, including human trafficking, illegal mining, arms smuggling to and from the many conflicts going on in neighboring countries, and banditry.
Overall, the level of authority in Chad is low. That means that if you are the victim of a crime, it is unlikely that the authorities will be able to help you.
Plus, many foreign governments have a limited consular presence in Chad, so you can’t even rely on your home country to help you get out of a sticky situation.
Terrorism is the most common crime that foreign governments warn about in their travel advisories — and with good reason — as it is one of the most common and violent crimes in Chad.
In March 2023, the United Nations warned that the Sahel region, including Chad, was fast becoming one of the world’s epicenters for terrorism.
Several terrorist groups are active in Chad. Boko Haram is a Nigerian group that has carried out large-scale activities in Chad before, especially around the Lake Chad region.
The New Zealand government warns in its travel advisory about the risks of traveling to that region due to the high rate of terrorism by Boko Haram as well as the ongoing military operation against the terrorist group.
Boko Haram is the most active group in Chad, but other terrorist groups are just as dangerous.
Some other groups with presences in the country include Jamaat Nusrat al-Islam wal Muslimeen (JNIM), the Islamic State West Africa, Islamic State Greater Haram, and Al Qaeda in the Islamic Maghreb, to name just a few.
These groups can often count on mobilizing large international networks of resources, making them likely to carry out violent attacks. Terrorist attacks in Chad can take a few different forms.
One of the most common is suicide bombs. Terrorist groups will also kidnap foreigners and hold them for ransom, particularly aid workers, journalists, and other people perceived to be valuable.
Terrorists often target foreigners or places that they know foreigners frequent, such as hotels and restaurants in N’Djamena, so be careful when you move around. There is no way to prevent being the victim of a terrorist attack as they are random and unannounced.
Besides terrorism, other forms of violent crime are common in Chad. Organized groups are sometimes behind these types of violent actions, such as banditry, while others are just the fault of desperate individuals pushed into a life of crime.
One of the most common forms of crime foreigners experience in Chad is armed robbery. Foreigners are often targeted for robberies because criminals perceive (often rightly) that foreigners are going to be a much more lucrative target than locals.
The Canadian government warns its citizens about common violent crimes, including banditry, carjacking, and vehicle theft. Vehicle theft, in particular, is increasing in Chad.
The UK government warns that roads leading out of N’Djamena are often targeted since foreigners congregate in the capital and that during recent attacks, bandits have been bold enough to attack during daylight.
You can take a few precautions to minimize your risk of being the victim of an armed robbery while in Chad. Try to keep a low profile by not flashing any valuables and dressing conservatively.
Don’t walk around in N’Djamena — travel by secure car instead — and definitely don’t move around at night. If you’re leaving the capital, some countries recommend that their citizens look into hiring personal security.
None of these precautions is a guarantee that you won’t be the victim of a robbery. If you are attacked by bandits, hand over your valuables and focus on getting away safely.
Try to store copies of your ID and some spare cash in your accommodations, with friends, and elsewhere on your person to help you get home safely. The best way to prevent being the victim of an armed robbery in Chad, of course, is not to go at all.
Avoiding Bad Areas
Most of Chad is dangerous, but there are certain areas that you should definitely avoid. Most governments, such as the Irish Department of Foreign Affairs, list out the regions in Chad they think citizens should avoid completely.
Lake Chad used to be one of the main attractions in this country, but for now, it’s probably best to avoid it completely. The United States State Department warns that there is a very high risk of terrorist activity in this region.
Avoid traveling near any of Chad’s land borders. There are land mines along the border with Libya and Sudan that are unmapped, so you could wander into a mined area without knowing it.
In addition, armed groups often operate near the border with the Central African Republic. Certain regions of Chad have seen higher rates of unrest than others.
The northern provinces, including Borkou, Ennedi, and Tibesti, are unsafe, and governments such as the UK advise citizens not to travel there. The UK government also warns about higher levels of unrest in the eastern province of Kanem, on the border with Niger and Nigeria.
N’Djamena, the capital, is relatively safe, but it still experiences high levels of violent crime and is a frequent target for terrorist attacks.
Things to Consider
If you still want to travel to Chad, here are some other safety tips you need to keep in mind:
- Chad is a conservative Muslim country, so adjust your dress and behavior to fit in with local social norms.
- Same-sex relationships are illegal in Chad, and LGBTQ individuals are at high risk of persecution and discrimination, so avoid traveling there if you identify as such.
- Photography is illegal in Chad without an official government permit, even with a phone camera.
- Yellow fever vaccination is mandatory to enter the country, and you will need to carry your certificate on you at all times along with your ID.
Frequently Asked Questions
Here are some other questions you might want to know the answers to before risking it all to travel to Chad:
Is it safe to travel to Chad right now?
No, Chad is not safe to travel to right now. The country has been in turmoil since the death of the long-time president in 2021, and terrorist activity is increasing due to wider instability in the Sahel. It’s probably best to save your trip for some other time.
Is the country of Chad safe?
No, Chad, the country, is not safe. It has high levels of violent crime, including terrorism, and political instability.
Why is Chad a high-risk country?
Chad is a high-risk country for travelers due to the high likelihood that they will be victims of violence, whether that is terrorism or banditry. For residents, Chad is a high-risk country due to the high rates of endemic disease and drought, which is driving famine-like conditions.
Is it illegal to take pictures in Chad?
It is illegal to take pictures of government buildings, airports, and military sites in Chad, with no exceptions. For all other photography, taking photos without a government permit is illegal.
Do they speak English in Chad?
The two official languages of Chad are French and Arabic. People usually speak one of the over 100 local languages besides that, but rarely English.
So, Is Chad Safe to Visit?
It’s probably a good idea to postpone any trips to Chad you had planned. The country is one of the global hotspots for terrorism and is experiencing other forms of violent crime on top of a politically unstable situation.
But fortunately for you, there are hundreds of other locations that offer similar historical and cultural sights that are perfectly safe to visit. Check out the many other amazing places to visit in Africa today.