Entry requirements for visitors to Democratic Republic of Congo
Like most destinations across the world, a passport, visa and proof of a yellow fever vaccination should be a must to have if you are to cross into the Democratic Republic of Congo for your holiday. It hurts for you to get into DR Congo and at the end of the day you get arrested because of failure to present a valid passport or yellow fever card. You can obtain a visa from any of the Democratic Republic of Congo’s embassies or simply visit http://www.un.int/drcongo for more details. For dual nationals on safari to DRC, they need to be extra careful and take note of which passport they have to use to cross into DR Congo. To leave DR Congo, airlines will also need a valid visa for all destination states prior issuing you a ticket or permitting you to board. You need accurate entry stamp in the passport that you desire to use while on departure from Congo. For those who are not in position to leave the country on the passport they used to enter the DR Congo, they may not still be in position to proceed with their travel plan. The passport should be a valid for at least six moths from the date of entry into the Democratic Republic of Congo. A yellow fever vaccination is needed for all visitors above one year from all nations.
You will be required to be immunized against hepatitis A, as well as hepatitis B for all non immune visitors who might be exposed to blood or body fluids from unprotected sexual contact, from injecting drug use with re-used needles and syringes, from medical treatment with non sterile needles and syringes and many more risks. You may need vaccination against influenza especially for visitors above six months of age who never got a flue shot for the past twelve months.
Meningococcal vaccine is also required for you to take especially for those visitors who are likely to have close contact with the indigenous people around the dry season from December to June. Other vaccinations include polio vaccine for persons above 18 years and they didn’t get an extra dose of polio vaccine as an adult. You can also immunize against rabies, typhoid, tetanus, measles, mumps, rubella, cholera, Ebola, Marburg and many more if they are required of you prior traveling to the DR Congo.
Democratic Republic of Congo has few medical facilities. Outside the city center Kinshasa, western standard medical facilities are not even there; the public hospitals are broken-down and it not easy to find medication. For visitors on regular medication, you are encouraged to travel with some of your medicine that can take you up to time you get done with your vacation in DR Congo. You are also encouraged to get a compressive travel insurance which offers for medical evacuation to more advanced medical facility say in South Africa just in case of any emergency.
Democratic Republic of Congo is situated within Central Africa and features as the 3rd largest country in Africa. French is largely the official language in the DR Congo. Others include Kikongo, Tshiluba, Lingala and Swahili.
In terms of its currency, the DR Congo uses mainly the Congolese franc or franc Congolais (CDF). You can find banknotes ranging from 1, 5, 10, 20, 50, 100 and 500 francs and coins range from 1, 5, 10, 20 and 50 centimes. However, the commonly used range from 50to 100 and 200 to 500 francs. Other shops use symbol ‘FF’ which translates into 1000 francs. Visa and MasterCard are only accepted in big hotels within Kinshasa. Visitors’ cheques are as well not encouraged due to high commission fees and they are also limited to only Kinshasa city. As well, the US dollars are also largely accepted in DR Congo.
Refunds and cancellations
In case you want to cancel or change a vacation which had reserved before, you are advised to contact your travel company or agency. This means that you will discuss the aspect of refunds and cancellations with the tour company that you transacted with. A tour company either refunds or doesn’t give a refund to a visitor and the refund will depend on the agreed time between you and the company.
Just like any destination, visitor safety is a very critical factor that needs to be put into consideration if you are planning to spend your vacation in DR Congo. There are foreign residents who have been kept in police stations or their passports have been confiscated by local authorities following commercial disputes or immigration offences. This means that you have to be extra careful when dealing with commercial disputes and look for legal advice. Note that the Congolese authorities rarely meet their international obligations to notify embassies when the foreign residents have been kept because of these related issues. This means you have to make sure that you are in close contact with the family or friends and request them to notify the British Embassy Kinshasa as soon as possible just in case you are detained in DR Congo.
Be a ware of the street crimes and armed robbery. Usually, foreign visitors are at a higher risk of street robbery in Kinshasa mainly around the hotels and supermarkets in the centre of town. Robberies by gangs of street children are ever escalating and they can be aggressive, taxis, car jacking are not common but cases of such have been heard around the north and south Kivu as they target mainly the international community. Never walk alone in the streets at night at a time you feel like. Do not expose your valuables and cash where possible use a hotel safe to keep some copies of your documents especially the passport and they shouldn’t be in one place. In some cases, they use girls to attract visitors or camouflage like police and they arrest foreign visitors and at the end require money for you to be released.
The Foreign and Common wealth Office also warns visitors from taking trips to the provinces of Kasai, Kasai Oriental, Kasai central, Haut Lomami, Ituri, North Kivu, South Kivu, Haut Uele, Maniema and Tanganyika, areas to the west and east of Kananga without excluding Tshikapa and Mwene Ditu and around 50 kilometers of the border with the Central African Republic and South Sudan. You can pay a visit around towns like Goma and Bukavu as well as N’djili and Kimbanseke in Kinshasa. For this year, there has been an increase in military and police stop and search checkpoints in areas of Kinshasa mainly after dark. From July 2017, there have been cases of attacks from South Kivu province of Eastern DR Congo while several clashes have been reported between Congolese armed forces and militia groups in Uvira in South Kivu province. The political and security situation in DR Congo is still not certain following the national electoral commission announcement that elections will be conducted around December 2018. Avoid public gatherings and demonstrations and make sure that you follow local media for up dates of any planned protests.
Visitors in the Eastern part of Democratic Republic of Congo have been famous to be left very vulnerable due to their attempts to travel independently with no escort and this puts them under higher risks of kidnap or injured from armed persons. Given the limited infrastructure and insecurities around the Eastern side of the DR Congo, the British Embassy in Kinshasa is often barred from extending their consular help to British residents anywhere in DR Congo, and they mostly concentrate around the city center. This means that prior making a trip, make sure that you read through this travel tips keenly, keep yourself with up to date information especially about the safety and security of the country and subscribe to email alerts for more up dates. Usually, more up dates are always available in the UK in DR Congo’s Facebook page and twitter channel.
The border crossings between Rwanda and the DR Congo at Goma or Gisenyi and Bukavu or Cyangugu are now open between 6:00am to 6:00pm. Note that they are also liable to any short notice closure and visitors need not over depend on them as a point of exit from DR Congo. You may find challenges especially while crossing from Rwanda to DR Congo in case you didn’t regularize your residency status. Several insecurity cases have been reported around Lubumbashi and adjacent areas of Katanga. This also applies to borders with Burundi and Angola which are also bound to be closed at a short notice. Chances of tracking the mountain gorillas in the Virunga National Park in the North Kivu are restricted and armed personnel are at times very active in the park.
For road trips in DR Congo, you will be required to have an international driving permit and insurance for you to drive. Car rentals can be got within Kinshasa city but self drives are restricted. Most car rental agencies will only hire out the vehicle with a drive. Note that driving conditions in Congo are not the same like those in UK or European states. When you get off the city centers most of the routes may not be that better and you will need a four by four safari vehicle to help you navigate through the remotest routes during the wet season especially from September to May.
For rail travel, the railways in DR Congo have broken down and you may not use any. Around 2015 a refurbished route opened between Kinshasa and Matadi but services are not common.
The Democratic Republic of Congo lies on 2 (two) distinct time zones; the Central African Time-UTC+1 AND West Africa Time-UTC+2.
For electricity usage, DR Congo uses the standard European plug 220V/50HZ. Most electrical outlets are mainly type C, E and F Schuko and this means that you need a converter and adapter.
The calling code for the DR Congo is +243 and telephones are accessible around big towns. Cell phones are more reliable compared to landlines and international companies use them for their business. You can purchase a local SIM Card for your iphones or device but do not use a cell phone in public as this can put you at a risk of robbers.
Democratic Republic of is known for its most powerful volcano-Nyiragongo Mountain which is credited for its eruption effects especially the 2002 eruption that led to destruction around Goma area. However, local authorities, UN and local NGOs have kept on monitoring the mountain’s activity. Earthquakes have also occasionally taken place in DR Congo especially on 7th August, 2015 which came with magnitude of about 5.6 and mainly hit the eastern part of Congo leading to deaths and injuries for some people in Bukavu town. Around 2009, there was an earthquake of about 5 magnitudes.
Note that there are some departure charges of about $50 per visitor and a fee of 5000 Congolese francs on international flights and $10 per visitor on domestic flights. There are also official fees paid when checking in. You will be required to obtain an official receipt and a copy of each fee paid and hand in the originals on request to immigration and at boarding and the copies should remain with you.
Visitors who come with satellite phones, military clothing or GPS receivers may face it hard especially at immigration.
Respect local laws and customs. Do not take photos in public areas especially around the borders or military installations as this can put under higher risk of being detained. Journalists need not to carryout interviews or film with no local permits.
DRC features a number of wildlife species including the unique okapis that make up part of the 1500 endemic species. They are mainly situated around the Ituri forest in the northeastern side of Congo-Okapi Wildlife Reserve and they make up about 5000 individuals. Along River Epulu, the reserve refuges about 4000 elephants and 2000 leopards and many more species. The Virunga National Park features about 200 individuals of the rare mountain gorillas and Kahuzi Biega National Park as well as Maiko National Park offer refuge to the Eastern Lowland gorillas. There are also many more species including distinct chimpanzees and other primates as well as bird species for you to sight.
In conclusion, Democratic Republic of Congo is still recovering from political instability and this means that interested visitors need to first contact the embassy at their respective countries or get the alerts about the current security of the destination prior the actual travel date.